Isthmus Beer & Cheese Fest: Fun Facts, Life Lessons


“There are so many plaid shirts here,” George murmured. It was true. In the many years that I’ve attended beer festivals, the scene has changed noticeably. Once almost exclusively the domain of rotund middle-aged males, these events now pull in younger, more diverse, and more attractive crowds. But there will always be plaid. Hipster glasses, semi-ironic facial hair, and plaid. Lots and lots of plaid. Naturally I fit right in.

This, of course, was the sixth annual Isthmus Beer & Cheese Fest. Indoor beer festivals are a welcome distraction during this horrid time of year, and I took this opportunity to learn a few things. So in addition to the aforementioned ubiquity of plaid, here are a handful of fun facts and valuable life lessons learned this past weekend:

– Do not drop your beer glass at an indoor event. The crowd will erupt in a roar of mockery and disapproval.

– I discovered that Capital brewmaster Ashley Kinart is a fan of “that holiday spice shit.” She described Capital’s Schwartz in a Box as “pretty much Fishin’ in the Dark [an imperial schwartzbier] with Chinese Five Spice and vanilla.”

– Word from Lake Louie is that Tom Porter’s series of session beers (all under 5% ABV) have been selling well… so well, in fact, that they didn’t have any to spare for the fest. The Arena brewery also has a handful of new releases coming up… March will bring The Twins, an 8% ABV (give or take) maibock. April will have Nudge Nudge Brown Ale (4.9% ABV). And May will feature Blue Peter, a 5.8% Dortmunder-style beer inspired by Heileman’s Special Export from back in the day.

Oliphant Brewing, in addition to having a pretty sweet logo, is creating some very… interesting stuff. I sampled the Milkman Man-baby, a fascinating weizen/stout/dunkel thingamabob.

– Vikings knew how to go out in style. Furthermore’s new Floating Fire is a 7.3% ABV smoked hibiscus rye IPA. It’s a complex, tasty brew that made me regret all of the times I’ve mocked Hagar the Horrible over the years.

– Thanks to Trixie’s Liquor, I learned that I have a refined palate. They featured a blind taste test of five beers: Schlitz, Haamm’s, Lake Louie Cream Ale, Potosi Pilsner, and Krombacher Pilsner. I don’t know if I got them all right, but I do know that I correctly placed Schlitz as tap number 4.

– And the most important lesson I learned the hard way… do not stand near the dump bucket. Much like a Gallagher show, you will get wet. My poor, poor plaid.