I know Summerfest is more about the music than it is about beer tasting. But a massive amount of beer is consumed during the 11-day run, which starts June 27.
I spent 13 years slinging Summerfest beers back when the Grebe family ran the Miller Oasis beer tents like a finely tuned machine. And during that time serving the masses, I learned a lot. Let me share a few simple beer tent rules/mantras that if followed can make Summerfest slightly better for beer pourers and beer drinkers alike.
There’s no such thing as a free beer.
Don’t ask a Summerfest beer pourer for a free beer. At least a dozen clever souls ask for one each day. It’s no novelty.
Stacking cups isn’t cool.
Collecting empty beer cups underneath the beer you’re currently drinking isn’t necessary. The “tower of power,” “beer gauge” or whatever it’s called is both silly and structurally unsound after the seventh or eighth beer.
If you want less foam, try asking.
A little secret...beers are slightly foamy at Summerfest on purpose (kegs go further by foaming a few beers). But if you say please and ask the beer slinger nicely to fill it all the way up, most good pourers will oblige. Improper ways of asking are: "Don't put no head on that beer," "I'm paying a lot so you'd better fill it up," "Fill it all the way up or I'll punch you in the nose." (I heard each one during my career.)
Patience is a virtue.
On crowded nights it can take a while to get a beer. Most Summerfest patrons understand this and wait patiently in line for suds. Those that get unruly run the risk of being escorted out by Summerfest security guards, who are some of the best in the business.
Pricing isn’t set by the beer pourer.
Whining about Summerfest beer prices to a beer pourer is like complaining about the cost of an airline ticket to a flight attendant. Beer pourers don’t set prices, they just abide by them.
Tip your loyal beer server.
A generous tip early in the evening will be remembered by those with tap handle savvy, and your next wait in line may not take as long. On busy nights, beer pourers work pretty hard, and they welcome even a couple of quarters as a sign of appreciation.
Never walk directly under the Sky Glider.
No explanation needed.
The Audacious Beer and Cheese Celebration taking place of the weekend at Nixon Park in Hartland is a dream for those who like beer and cheese pairings. From 3 to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday you can sample 32 styles of cheese and 99 bottles of beer (please don’t try all of them) in the massive tasting tent. When the sun goes down, the Night of the Barrels begins – with 11 taps (highlights include New Glarus Black Top IPA and barrel-aged New Holland Dragon’s Milk) pouring from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Tickets are just $30 at the door.
If Friday works better for your schedule, there’s a Friday Flights pairing of Sartori cheeses and Leinie’s beers from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Certified Cicerone Grant Holtackers will be on hand to answer any beer questions. Check the website for ticket availability.
Leinenkugel Brothers Come to Town
Leinie’s is celebrating its 145th birthday by cramming Jake, John and Dick Leinenkugel in an Airstream trailer and sending them to Milwaukee. The Leinie’s trio’s “Road Trip” hits Summerfest on Thursday, June 28 from 2 to 7 p.m., and heads to Miller Park on Friday so Jake can throw out the first pitch at the Brewers-Diamondbacks game. On Saturday, the Airstream will be parked at the Harp (113 E. Juneau St.) while the Leinenkugel clan helps clean up the Milwaukee River.
Barley Pop of the Week
I don’t think I’ve mentioned a beer from Tyranena Brewing yet as a beer of the week. After tasting Scurvy IPA, I wholeheartedly apologize. The pale ale is made with orange peels for added citrus flavor. Scurvy also has a nice hint of bitterness which should please hop heads. It’s a tasty choice and does quite well on a summer day.
Resident beer aficionado and email newsletter author “Grynder” tells me that Goose Island Imperial IPA is making the rounds in Milwaukee and is definitely worth trying. As of last weekend it was available at Romans’ Pub (3475 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.).
The beer garden in Estabrook Park opened last week.
Esquire listed Sprecher Black Bavarian in its Beer-Drinking Guest’s Guide to Summer as a good choice to go with a burger. Who am I argue?
Monday, June 25: The third installment of the Best of Milwaukee Beer Dinner is being held at Tess (2499 N. Bartlett Ave.) at 7 p.m. Call 414-964-8377 to see if last-minute tickets are available (I’m guessing they’re not). But if you miss this one, there are two dinners left.
Friday, June 29: Three Cellars provides the craft beers and Bartolottas provides the hors d’oeuvres for a special tasting at the Boerner Botanical Gardens (9400 Boerner Dr., Hales Corners) from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $35 and be purchased here.
Saturday, June 30: Taste weiss beers at Three Cellars (7133 S. 76th St.) from 1 to 4 p.m.
Saturday, June 30: The Leinie’s boys will be handing out samples at Discount Liquor Waukesha (919 N. Barstow St.) from 10:30 a.m. to noon.