Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday Weekly: Off again to the gentle embrace of a bluer state.

I’ve updated this previously published essay from 2009 to incorporate recent events. Otherwise, what was true last year remains valid this year, and the Great Taste beckons.


We’re packing tonight for the annual NABC company jaunt to Madison, Wisconsin, and another educational and entertaining immersion in the city’s unequaled craft beer celebration, the Great Taste of the Midwest.

As oft times before, the Great Taste takes place on a single Saturday afternoon at a pleasant wooded park alongside Lake Olin, affording a gorgeous view of downtown Madison in what I fervently hope will be reduced humidity, compared to this dastardly Louisville summer of 2010.

There is no equal to the Great Taste, at least in our region. It is a savory, savvy, well behaved, open air forum for enjoying the liquid benefits of America’s craft beer revolution. Each year, hundreds of ales and lagers are available for sampling, many rarely seen, because for the Great Taste, participating breweries bring their “A” teams. Few seasonal beer festivals inspire such good-natured competition among breweries. Lucky ticketholders cherish the liquid rewards.

And “lucky” these ticketholders surely are, because if they’re inside the fence, they’ve beaten the odds. The Great Taste sells out months in advance, and last-minute road trips are discouraged unless you have an “in.” One possibility for those without advance ducats is a thriving “resale” market near the entrance, because what better way to espouse good ol’ capitalistic values than negotiating with a scalper, who probably voted for Glenn Beck’s favorite backdoor socialist, Barack Obama?


That’s right: There’s a leftist tinge to Madison. Apart from the wonders of its one-day craft beer fete, the city’s fair-minded, intrinsic liberalism never fails to impress this unrepentant Social Democrat.

When one considers the strong likelihood that frothy right-wing politicians like Kentucky’s mercifully departing Jim Bunning habitually refer to Wisconsin’s state capital as “The People’s Republic of Madison”, it’s a reminder for people of my persuasion to go there whenever possible, investing early and often in the local beer-making economy, and recalling that in political terms, Kentucky remains apparently forever (and lamentably) “in the Red.”

2009 was my visit Madison since the Hoosier state finally turned a pale shade of blue, albeit it tenuously, thanks to Obama’s ascent to the White House. In the tumultuous months following my most recent trip north, Southern Indiana has seemed possessed by a steady crescendo of loony tea baggers, unapologetic Nativists, freaky fundamentalists and intolerant cretins of all shapes and sizes – unhappy with their own irrelevance, and determined to make someone pay.

It's the sort of phenomenon that makes me scoff, and also thirsty.


I recall the time when a Bank Street Brewhouse customer asked one of our servers to explain my political beliefs in light of the red stars on the shiny new brewing equipment.

Our man on the floor made a game effort to interpret these complex threads of geopolitics, economics and the art of brewing, and to phrase them in a snappy sentence that is reproducible on a bumper sticker for a Lexus, and yet the customer remained unimpressed, writing this on his charge card receipt:

“Tell your Commie boss to share the wealth.”

Harrumph! I share the wealth of beer knowledge every day, and just in case this man wasn’t joking (right wingers are so lacking in a sense of humor that Vulcans seem positively Bavarian by comparison), I circulated this memorandum to staff on the topic of what to say when someone asks such a question.

The proper answer is: “We don’t care what sort of ‘ist’ he is, just as long as he keeps signing the paychecks.”

As always, I’ll drink a beer for everyone while in Wisconsin. Readers, don’t forget to support your local breweries. Their machines kill fascists, and they’re your chief bulwark against creeping swillism.

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