The Great Taste is something that I have struggled to recap every year. There is so much that I forget about even the next day that I always think that I should have included. There is always someone's booth that I miss. Here's my take on this year's Taste.
I arrived on the grounds at about 11am, thanks to media credentials. Even this process seemed much improved over last year. We set down our stuff by the same tree as every year and started walking around the fest. With having the pre-party the night before, we obviously wanted to talk with the folks at Shorts, Central Waters, Nebraska and Lift Bridge. Things are at different states of ready when you get there early, so we try to say hello, but let the brewers finish up.
After chatting with everyone, it was time to really walk around and see what was what this year. Same amount of main tents, but the offshoot tents were a little different. Bell's and Goose Island had huge setups. Vintage had a huge setup with countless taps. Quite an impressive showing from the local brewpub. Shorts expanded on last year with spreading out the two boats and a merch booth in the middle. I never stopped by the Milwaukee or Leinie's setup.
This year we tried to get some pictures out to people waiting in line to whet their appetites. I was sort of successful as I figured out the new app on my phone to get it to share to twitter and both facebook accounts. I had it down by an hour in. Next year, it should be spot on.
Time to sample some stuff before the gates opened up and it got too crazy. The Pom Juliet and Marisol from Goose Island were both good. Brugge continues to be a highlight of the fest with all the great Belgians they bring. I get a sample of Spider and know I'm going back there early and often. Down the hill we go to hit up Kuhnhenn (again). I had already tried both the Straight and Tangerine Play in the Hay Wild Ales, so this time Mike and I finished up with that series, getting Mango and Blueberry. The whole series was great, but Tangerine was my favorite beer that I had tried to that point. I'm a sucker for both wild ales and Tangerines. Dave's Brewfarm's Rhubarb Saison was nice. Got a couple tastes of the always good Jolly Pumpkin stuff.
Towards the end of the time before the flood gates opened I worked my way through things I wanted to try at the cask tent. I really liked both Shoreline offerings. Unfortunately, the others I would've called highlights I can't remember and they were among the "TBD" beers from the program.
Time to get to the gates and capture the opening. Mike took video while I took a couple pictures. It always amazes me how they get so many people into the fest in such a short time period. From what I've heard from people that were towards the back of the line, it sounds as though they got six thousand people through the gates in 15-20 minutes. Quite the amazing feat that big fests like Great American Beer Festival could learn from.
Here are some quick observations from the time the gates were open.
- Goose Island doing Lolita and Juliet Sno Cones was a really cool idea, but their Bourbon County Bacon Caramel Corn stole the show over there.
- I wish the food was mixed in with the tents. Not sure why, but it seems like more work than it needs to be to go find the food lines.
- There were a few breweries with long lines, but I found the some great places with just as good of beers proved to be the way to spend your time. I never once waited more that 3 people deep at Brugge.
- I hope the fest stresses sample size even more next year. It was much improved over last year, but it's a waste when you are getting 4+oz of something and you really only need the 2oz taste so you can try more stuff.
- Lines for the bathrooms were very reasonable.
- Short's Carrot Cake tastes and smells just like Carrot Cake. It was shocking just how good it was.
- The Livery continues to impress me with the likes of Impeche and Tripel Weizenbock.
- Nebraska Barrel Aged Hop God is really good. Needed to confirm this from last year.
- Surly's idea to have carnival games with winners getting bottles of Five was pretty damn cool.
- Surly Two has lost almost all presence of cranberry, which is too bad as it's usually a highlight beer for me.
- New Albanian had a ton of good beers and the people seemed to know that this year. More of a line than I have ever seen.
- Too bad the rain wouldn't hold off for another hour.
Anyway, that's my take. I'm sure I forgot some stuff in here as I always do. The fest is usually my highlight of the summer and this year didn't disappoint. I've already put in my time off request for next year.