Beerpocolypse is coming.
There’s an event in Madison every year, unlike any other events. Or maybe it IS like all of them, only to a magnitude that dwarfs them all. The Great Taste of the Midwest is like nothing you’ve ever seen before (unless you went to a previous year’s event). Tickets sellout within minutes almost 6 months in advance. Try buying a ticket on ebay at ten times the cost if you miss out… or for maybe $5-10 over the ticket value from a scalper at the venue an hour before the event… if you like to gamble.
When you mention this event to a cab driver they will either groan about the sloppy drunks that zombie around the city for twelve hours solid, or you’ll see money signs light up in their eyes.
The Great Taste is a beer festival. There are events at many local bars and breweries leading up to the Big Event every night of the week. On the day of, the event starts at around 2pm and only lasts 4 hours. A good portion of the attendees don’t last all 4 hours. If you have a ticket, you’re given a collectible 4 oz tasting glass and cut loose into a city park full of booths (approximately 150) that each have between 2 to 8 beers each.
I’ve only been an attendee once, but it was AWESOME. There was a huge bagpipe band, then there was a huge Big Band, and there was probably ANOTHER band, but I don’t remember because I was wasted. People were walking around with pretzel necklaces with huge smiles on their faces. There were even pregnant ladies there. People would look at them with pity, but they seemed to be enjoying the large variety of root beers and sodas.
Lots of people fell down. Uneven ground and footing mixed with all-you-can-drink beer.
There’s absolutely no parking at the event. You need to secure a shuttle, take a taxi, bike, or walk to get there. It’s only about a mile and a half from downtown, so it’s really not a hardship. The biggest problem would be making sure to keep track of the time to get your return shuttle ride… hard to do when you’re crazy-wasted. It’s also a pain to wait for the departure time if you know you’ve had too much and you want to leave early.
The event is hosted by the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild who has the wisdom and foresight to know transportation is an issue. To prevent people from parking near the event, getting drunk, then driving home, they cover taxi fares. Anyone leaving the site of the beer festival can get a ride to anywhere in the COUNTY (but not to a bar) for only $1, including attendees, organizers, and brewers. Unsurprisingly, this enables people to drink a lot more, but it also provides an insane amount of business for my company.
And the party doesn’t stop at the end of the festival. The year that I went I got my fill at the festival, took a cab home, napped, then went out for more brewery events. A lot of people just don’t stop for that nap and get REAL sloppy.
I don’t remember the order of days ranked for busiest, but this one is in the top two, if not the busiest. The other would be Halloween Freak Fest (not always on Halloween itself), but that day has a large lull in the middle. I can’t remember if that lull is as long as the festival lull (which is when people are inside the park drinking).
Taxis line up 20 deep to take people away from the festival, and any taxi not AT the festival is downtown or at the airport, also busy.
I can’t work the festival this year, which is going to make my wallet very, very sad. I have committed to volunteer at a different local event far enough away from the beer festival that I won’t see any of the traffic or drunks, which is a happy coincidence.
If you’re in Madison, please do everyone a favor and be considerate with your consumption, tip your cab driver, and drink lots of water. Have fun, but don’t have too much fun.