Craft brewers have learned some lessons in recent years, but are still bad at names, and that makes us happy.
It's the middle of August, which means one of three things for the people of Madison. You're one of the many locals moving in or out of an apartment, one of the vultures rooting through their cast-off trash, or you're getting psyched for the Great Taste of the Midwest on Saturday, August 12.
Hippy Christmas? More like Hoppy Christmas, am I right?
Wait! I didn’t mean it! Come back!
Organized by the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild, the Great Taste is the second longest-running craft beer festival in North America and attracts just under 200 breweries — and their cumulative 1,000-plus beers — to make camp at Olin Park for five hours of beery bliss.
It's by far the best-run and most enjoyable beer event in town, to say nothing of the region. It’s also relatively easy to get into even if you didn't land a ticket back in May before they immediately sold out, particularly because festival volunteers count shaming greedy ticket resellers as one of their pre-fest duties. so get on out there and enjoy it if you think your liver can handle that much malted madness.
We at Tone Madison have mostly opted to leave the sensible journalistic coverage of the event to folks like the Wisconsin State Journal's Chris "Beer Baron" Drosner and Isthmus' Kyle Nabilcy. But our turf? The more nonsensical aspects of the event, namely its goofiest and most egregiously named beers.
Thankfully, names this year have climbed out of the gutter, reflecting some much-needed discussions about diversity in the craft-beer world. Sure, Cameltoe, MILF, Bean Flicker, and Nut Smasher are all back again this year, but gone are more overlty scatalogical and sexist swills like Dirty Uncle Jim's Pumpkin Pie, Big Tiddy Assassin, Mr. Fister, Pussy Punch, Fluffer Session IPA, and Easy-Peasy Japanesey. The less said about The Brown Note the better (it actually tasted a-ok!). So, that's... progress!
But, overall, beer names are still weird and sometimes bad. Here's what's standing out in this year's guide.
$100 Yoga Pants (Corridor Brewery and Provisions, Booth 327)
From the Chicago brewery that brought you Wizard Fight (another awesomely named beer) comes this cucumber blonde ale. It does not in fact derive its brightness from citrus, lest you think they were stretching to squeeze some kind of Lululemon pun in there.
Beerdy McBeardface (Broad Ripple Brew Pub, booth 314)
You know what? I like Boaty McBoatface and I like the decidedly hirsute cut of this Russian Imperial Stout's jib. The clock's ticking until this becomes the William Hung of beer names, but we're not quite there yet, so let's enjoy it while it lasts.
Cherry Busey (Sun King Brewery, Booth 503)
Like Gary Busey, who won the Best Actor Oscar for The Buddy Holly Story, this Flanders Oud Bruin is an award winner (2015 bronze in its category at the Great American Beer Fest). Gary Busey went on to reprise his role as Buddy Holly in a gag for Celebrity Apprentice. Let's hope the cherry tang of this beer has aged better than the actor.
Don't Touch My Chandelier (One Barrel Brewing, booth 905)
As someone who impulsively touches any and all ornate light fixtures that pass within his reach (most recently, the one hanging over the Weary Traveler bar), this orange and coriander pilsner from One Barrel has got my number.
Fire Walk With Mead (Bos Meadery, Booth 219)
These guys are onto something. Based on East Wash, Bos released this bourbon-barrel aged cherry mead (infused with cinnamon and cayenne pepper) in conjunction with a screening of its namesale David Lynch film, so here it is again — the mead you like is about to come back in style at the festival. It joins a proud tradition of Madison-born beers like Funk Factory's White Lodge Reserve and Dweller on the Threshold. Now I'm just angry that NO ONE has made a Damn Good Coffee Stout?!
Hipster Whisperer (Dark Horse Brewing, Booth 918)
[whispers] "...no single cup of coffee is worth $16... it's never too early to start saving for your retirement... there’s no such thing as a “casual bowtie”... call your parents more often." It's unlikely that this American IPA from Marshall MI's Dark Horse Brewing will house-break the man-bunned cord-cutters among us, but it makes up for that by having three different kinds of hops.
I'm Sorry (Off Color Brewing, Booth 328)
Miserable In Mexico (Third Base Sports Bar & Brewery, Booth 123)
Cedar Rapids, Iowa's Third Base added chocolate and chili peppers to their aged imperial stout Miserable, so, yeah, the name Miserable In Mexico makes sense. While it sounds delicious, maybe find a way to not make me think of diarrhea?
Star Chicken Shotgun (Greenbush Brewing, Booth 417)
"I'll take Arbitrary Word Pairings for $800, Alex."
"Railway elastic menu. Nib haystack blonde. Salmon feast fridge."
"What are... things said by someone having a stroke?"
"Ooooh sorry, the correct answer was 'Things Greenbush Brewing almost named their flagship IPA…'"
Toy Boat Toy Boat (Vintage Brewing Company, Booth 901)
The double IPA so nice they named it "Toy Boat" twice!
A full list of beers, goofy and great alike, can be found at the Great Taste of the Midwest’s website and on the event's mobile app.