Why we line up insanely early in the morning for Great Taste tickets

In Microtones, our newsletter-first column.

In Microtones, our newsletter-first column.

Photo by Mark Riechers.

Photo by Mark Riechers.


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Waiting in line for Great Taste of the Midwest tickets isn’t really about me anymore. I’d be fine chancing it and trying to grab a ticket in the field of resellers waiting in front of the festival grounds at the annual beer festival in August at Madison’s Olin Park. But when you have a crew, you need to make arrangements that require waking up at 4 a.m. and lining up outside Cork ‘N Bottle.

I kind of hate calling it a “crew” because it’s not a tacky exclusionary exercise, really. We have people we bring in for Great Taste who we need to take care of. And we have people who live here in town who do the same. Together, we form a camp of Great Taste acolytes that we’ve curated, recruited and populated yearly. It adds the fun factor that escalates the festival from “drunken time trial to drink the rare beers” to “beer summer camp starring all the breweries you love and some you’ve never heard of.”

Objectively, the most informative beer festival event I’ve ever attended was at the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado, at a food and beer pairing event held just off the show floor. It was hosted by an expert who explained how to choose food items that bring out the complexity of sour beers, how to curate ales, lagers, sours and stouts in order to best represent their flavor profiles, and generally how to better appreciate the complexity that can be found within individual beer styles. But the most fun I had that weekend was after all the pretension was done and we managed to drink the beer leftovers from that event with a gaggle of staffers from the event. The lesson? Advancing “beer culture” necessitates eating your vegetables (i.e. learning to more deeply appreciate what they’re drinking, and the complexity of the flavors within it) and gobbling up the sweets (the high ABVs and the bombastic blasts of hops, malt, or sweet, delicious nibs.)


How does this inform Great Taste season and the people I waited in line with this past Sunday? Well, however you glean your beer culture, you need to do so outside of a single brewer telling you what’s good. Especially if that brewer is potentially up for sale to a megabrewer on the DL. That necessitates a crew. So if you have to wake up at 4 a.m. to make sure you can all assemble to track down rare beers in August, you do so.

Mark Riechers has also written about what beer culture can teach other creative communities


New this week:

Rooftop Cinema, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s whimsical summer series of experimental films, is back in June and Grant Phipps has the preview.

Madison electronic producer Cop Circles has a new single, a collaboration with fellow Madisonian Mr. Jackson.

On our podcast, Phoebe Schlough talks with artist Hannah O’Hare Bennett about her May-June residency at the Madison Public Library’s Bubbler space.

There are Bucky sculptures everywhere and we can’t help but think there are better uses of Madison’s resources.

The whole Bucky on Parade thing also inspired a weird fiasco at Isthmus.

Elsewhere on the Madison internet: Tiana Clark published a poem about signs Madisonians buy; Heavy Blog Is Heavy premiered a new song from Wisconsin metal/prog/punk outfit Poney; hardcore legends Negative Approach will play a June 29 show at the High Noon; Los Lobos will play this year’s Fete De Marquette.

This week’s Madison calendar: Communication, a new east-side DIY space, has a soft-open event. Guitarist Richard Hildner Armacanqui explores jazz and Latin music. Half-Stack Sessions hosts a punk-charged spring showcase. Gentle Brontosaurus celebrates a new album. David Byrne makes a rare visit. And more.

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