Second Only to the GABF
The Great Taste, now in its 16th year, is the second longest running beer festival in the country, behind only the GABF. It is put on by the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild, the local homebrew club, with plenty of volunteer help and cooperation from the city and other public organizations. The proceeds go to community radio WORT (need we say more?).
As at other events that were considerably smaller not many years ago, you may talk to those who will say, “You should have been before it got this big.” Yet, you can still buy a Lawnmower Beer T-shirt directly from Broad Ripple Brewpub (Indianapolis) owner John Hill and talk to him about his India pale ale (definitely not a “lawnmower” beer).
You won’t usually find Kalamazoo Brewing owner/spiritual leader Larry Bell pouring beer, although you can pay your dollar and try to send him for a cold swim in the dunking tank. Bell deserves at least some of the credit for helping the festival keep its rowdy edge.
The civilized side of the event―the food is a lot better than at too many other festivals, there are wandering musicians, the demonstrations are always interesting, and kids have plenty of room to roam―has helped it grow, but not at the expense of allowing boisterous celebration. Regulars come to enjoy a variety of “big” beers, such as the vintage barley wines that Great Dane Brewing in Madison will haul out. These people ride the bus because they know they’ll drink enough that they shouldn’t be driving.
Breweries post times when special (usually strong) beers will be released. Kalamazoo Brewing started the practice in the early days of the festival by offering a small quantity of “Psychobrau.” As its release time neared, those in attendance would begin to chant, “Psy-cho, psy-cho,” the cheer growing louder and louder with each syllable.