Spring has come to Wisconsin. How can you tell?
You may find frost on your tulips. The Milwaukee Brewers have begun another uneven season. And its time again for Milwaukee Beer Week and Madison Craft Beer Week.
The annual drinking festivals overlap this year, with Milwaukee beer lovers tapping kegs citywide April 22–29, and Madison drinkers following suit April 28–May 7.
Think of it all as one enormous pub-crawl from Lake Michigan to the state Capitol, with nearly 500 stops along the route.
Here are a few highlights from each week to whet your whistle.
Milwaukee Beer Week
The online list of events was still light at press time, but here are a few noteworthy happenings.
- Festivals of Cedarburg is sponsoring Cedar Brew Fest 7–9 p.m. April 21 at the Cedarburg Community Center, W63 N641 Washington Ave. Tickets are $28 in advance or (if still available) $30 at the door. Info: 262-377-3891.
- Made in MKE: The Best of Barrel-aged Beer Takeover will take over the Draft & Vessel, 4417 N. Oakland Ave., 6–11 p.m. April 22. Eight local breweries will send their favorite barrel-aged beers, including Milwaukee Brewing Company’s sherry-barrel-aged Grande Madame Barleywine, Good City bourbon- barrel-aged Density, Black Husky Birthday Beer and more. Info: 414-533-5599.
- Three-month-old Explorium Brewpub, located in the Southridge Mall, is hosting a five-course beer dinner 6:30–9 p.m. April 25, matching menu items with special-release craft beers from the brewery at 5300 S. 76th St., Greendale. Info: 414-423-1365.
- Still have a little Irish luck leftover from St. Patrick’s Day? Stop into the Red Lion Pub, 1850 N. Water St., 6–8 p.m. April 25 and meet Guinness Brewery “beer ambassador” Jimmy Callahan, who will preview new additions to the Guinness line. The first 20 people will receive FREE pints of Guinness Stout! Info: 414-431-9009.
- The Brown Bottle, located in the former Schlitz Brewery at 221 W. Galena St., is teaming up with Founders Brewing Co. of Grand Rapids, Michigan, to host Operation Brew Fest 5–10 p.m. April 26. The block party will feature live music and unlimited samples of 14 different Founders beers. A percentage of each $50 ticket sold goes to Milwaukee’s Center for Veterans Issues, dedicated to helping vets transition back to civilian life. Info: 414-539-6450.
Madison Craft Beer Week
The Mad City has been doing the beer festival thing longer, and it shows this year — with more than 350 events already registered.
Consider the following suggested events:
- Beer Week Eve kicks off April 27 with the annual Isthmus Cask Ale Fest 7–10 p.m. at the Madison Children’s Museum (really), 100 N. Hamilton St. Each $40 ticket purchases a limited-edition commemorative glass and unlimited samples from 25 different cask-conditioned ales. Participants include brewers from throughout Wisconsin. Info: 608-256-6445.
- Wondering about Japanese craft beer? (If you weren’t before, you are now.) Tavernakaya, Food Fight’s take on the Japanese tavern at 27 E. Main St. on Capitol Square, will host the Wisconsin debut of Coedo Beer, as well as feature brands Hitachino, Echigo and Orion starting April 28 and running throughout Beer Week or while supplies last. Info: 608-286-1548. Umami Ramen and Dumpling Bar, 923 Williamson St., also is participating in the Coedo debut. Info: 608-839-6319.
- Pop your sprockets, grease your chain and get ready for the Beermuda Triangle Bike Ride April 30, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The three-hour tour of Madison’s east side breweries begins and ends at Next Door Brewing Co., 2439 Atwood Ave., and includes stops at ALT Brew, 1808 Wright St., and One Barrel Brewing, 2001 Atwood Ave. Info: 608-729-3683.
- ALT Brew, producer of gluten-free beer, pops up again hosting the release of Rogue One Baltic Porter, this year’s version of Common Thread, an annual beer brewed especially for Beer Week as a joint effort by area brewmasters. Rogue One is being called UN-Common Thread and is being released at 3 p.m. at the tiny east side brewery on “Star Wars Day,” better known as May the Fourth (be with you.) Ah, it never gets old.
- Star Wars fans also may want to stop in at Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace, 2009 Atwood Ave., that day for a beer release party featuring House of Brews and Dead Bird Brewing. Themed selections include Yub Nub Ewok Celebration Ale, Double Bladed IPA, Vaderweizen and Uncle Owen’s Toasted Farmhouse Ale — the last one a bit of a dark joke for fans of the film.
- Raise a glass and maybe a little hell with Brunch Ass Bitches 10:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. May 6 at Morris Ramen, 106 King St. The meal and tasting of releases by Capital Brewing Company and Wisconsin Dells Brewing, both with brewery operations headed by female brewmasters, celebrates women in the industry while raising funds for Planned Parenthood. Info: 608-416-5547.
- Merchant restaurant, bar and retail store will host a May 4 dinner prepared by chef Jorge Guzman. In addition to serving as head chef at Brewer’s Table in Surley Brewery tasting room in Minneapolis, Guzman also is a Best Chef Midwest finalist in the current James Beard Award competition. Guzman will be working with Merchant chef Evan Dannells. Service begins at 6:30 p.m. at the restaurant at 121 N. Pinckney St. The five-course dinner paired with five Surley taps is $65. Info: 608-259-9799.
On the web
For more about the Milwaukee events, go to milwaukeebeerweek.com and/or download the free app for more information. For more about the Madison events, go online to madbeerweek.com.