06 Mar A Great Opportunity to Show Off Indiana Craft Beer: Sign Up for Great Taste of the Midwest
by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap
A short list of reasons why breweries choose to pour at festivals – 1) increase their brand awareness, 2) entice new customers to their taprooms, 3) interact with their brewing brethren at social and professional levels, 4) get ideas for their taproom and brewhouse, 5) a particular event might be really fun.
I’m sure individual breweries have other reasons for pouring at individual events (owners know the organizers, brewer’s home town, etc.), but I’d like to add one more reason that should be considered by breweries – to promote Indiana craft beer in the wider world. Indiana does extremely well in regional, national, and international competitions and that helps to promote Indiana craft, but there are reasons that Indiana breweries choose to pour at GABF and similar events (yes, the convention matters, but they are also there to pump up Indiana).
With the above reasons as a foundation, I’d like to urge Indiana breweries to consider pouring at a prestigious festival in Madison, WI on August 12th called Great Taste of the Midwest (GTMW). It’s likely that many breweries know of it, and if so, I’m wondering why more Indiana breweries don’t participate. I also want to inform the public about it, so they can encourage their favorite breweries to try and attend.
While the increased brand awareness and number of people that they may draw to their taproom is lower at this event, they are not inconsequential issues. GTMW attendees are discerning, they are more likely to travel for beer/breweries, and they are more likely to post about brands/beers they find and like. We were first introduced to Lift Bridge Brewing in MN at GTMW, and have since visited; the same is true for Backpocket Brewing in Iowa.
There are 190+ breweries at GTMW, so interacting with fellow breweries and brewers is one of the big pluses for this event. There are side events the night before and after the festival that increase the camaraderie amongst breweries, and I have talked to several brewers/brewery personnel that have come back from GTMW with good ideas for their businesses.
Jerry Gnagy, head brewer at Against The Grain (a regular vendor at GTMW) told me, “The big plus is that they always treat the brewers with a great deal of care and want to make it fun not only for the attendees but for all the brewers and brewery representatives.” He added, “Hop suppliers put on a presentation a day ahead of time that helps educate on new hops and usage methods that have been extremely enlightening and helped improve our quality.”
Finally, he pointed in general and specifically why GTMW is so great, “the main idea is that this is where friends in the industry come to hang out not only at the festival but the day before at events, dive bars, etc. Madison is a wonderful town and the second weekend in August is a beautiful time to get up North and spend some time by the lake. From the complimentary bloody marys at the fest, to the barbeque dinner they provide at the end it is consistently the most fun festival to be a part of.”
It’s true, GTMW is just plain fun. The park is gorgeous, the people are pleasant, the weather is usually great, and the organizers really take care of the vendors. You drop your kegs off on Friday, they store them cold overnight, and then deliver them to your booth on the morning of the event. The stipends are very generous, so breweries do recoup a bit of the cost of participating and the proceeds from the event are used to support several local charities. Even more, the organizers are very good at helping out of state breweries on the logistics of pouring at the event. They help you with the paperwork to become an out-of-state beer shipper – they want this to be great experience for every brewery.
I hope that I have convinced several Indiana breweries to reach out to GTMW (contact them here) and ask to participate. However, just reaching out isn’t a guarantee of acceptance. LOTS of breweries would like to be part of GTMW, and they can’t just bring them all in every year. GTMW a highly desirable experience, and more breweries want to participate than there are spaces, but they do make room for some number of first-timers and repeat breweries. In 2022, there were 38 rookie breweries.
I talked to organizer Bob Paolino of the homebrew club that organizes the event about getting in to the event and other things. He said, “There is certainly room for Indiana breweries among the festival rookies, but it should be understood that it’s not automatic. And not getting in this year doesn’t mean someone won’t get in next year. I’ll also note that there are brewers who aren’t in the GTMW who come to Madison anyway and do tap takeovers or other events that weekend. There are several GTMW-eve events on Friday night that feature a number of breweries/brewpubs, some of whom aren’t exhibiting at the Great Taste.”
It may seem like a bit of work, but I’m telling you it’s worth it, and GTMW’s organizers (Madison Homebrewers & Tasters Guild), will give you a lot of help with it. Let’s show’em what Indiana’s got.