The smell of smoky meat filled the air. A fresh breeze off the lake kept the heat from a beautiful sunny Wisconsin day at bay. I was handed a mug and stepped into the beer paradise that is Chetek Brew & Rib Fest.
When it comes to beer, this fest doesn’t mess around. No tiny 2 oz. tasters here. They give you a really nice regular sized beer mug. This was great because you could spend time socializing instead of spending your time trying to get your tiny glass filled a million times like at most beer events.
Speaking of trying to get your glass filled, there were virtually no lines! I think the longest line for a brewery I had to sit in was three people. In this day and age of event planners trying to grab as much cash as they can by totally over selling an event, this was a breath of fresh air. The event sold out, so this was totally by design. I can really respect that, in fact it kind of made me wish I hadn’t written this post! Hopefully things don’t change, or if they do the organizers keep the crowd to brewery ratio the same.
Ohhhh man, the beer! I live in Minnesota, so I love going to events in Wisconsin. It gives me a chance to try beers from breweries I can’t get back home. I had my fill of beers, but I’ll touch on just a handful of the ones that I really dug.
My favorite beer of the day was from Pearl Street Brewery in La Crosse, WI, the Raspberry Tambois. It is called Tambois instead of Framboise because it was named after Tammy, one of the breweries peeps. This was a tasty deep red fruity and bubbly beer. I had quite a few of these throughout the day. Well done, Pearl Street!
Next up, a tasty pilsner from Lazy Monk. Their bohemian pilsner is right on! This golden beer is malty but crisp and refreshing with the perfect amount of Saaz and Magnum hops. Definitely one of those “I could drink this all day!” beers.
Sand Creek Brewing Company out of Black River Falls, WI brought out the big guns! They had a whole beer trailer with close to ten taps! But as great as Sand Creek beer is, I wasn’t really after the beer. I hit up their hard lemonade. This stuff is delicious! And it isn’t like any of the craptastic national brand hard lemonades. I know, I know… This is supposed to be a beer blog. But when you are sampling so many different beers, beer fatigue can set in a bit. The hard lemonade is the perfect antidote to that. It’s a palate cleanser of sorts. And it is just damn good!
The last beer I will touch on is from Pitchfork Brewing out of Hudson, WI. This is one of my fav breweries. It is small, makes great beer, has really friendly staff, and is a great taproom to have a beer at, not to mention they make the best Brown Ale in the biz in their Barn Door Brown. I had a mug from their cask of Grain Witch Black IPA. It was dark, hoppy, roasty, and paired perfectly with the ribs!
Mmmmmmm… the ribs! Just walking into the place the smells make you start salivating in anticipation of the BBQ. But I wondered how they were going to get food out to a whole festival worth of people. Fast and efficiently, that’s how. Two lines, plenty of cheerful volunteers, and a system that worked both for distribution and for fan voting! 6 ribs, 6 stations in the line, 6 numbered slots in your “rib plate”. In no time the crowd had ribs.
After a bit of saucy clean up, the fans voted, the judges judged, and winners were crowned. The people’s choice award went to both Fred’s BBQ and Smokin Buddy’s while the judges named Burgies BBQ as their favorite. Really though, they were all dang good, even rib number one which was pretty dang spicy, but tasty.
So what is my take on Chetek Brew & Rib Fest? A perfect event! It was run well. It was not oversold even remotely. Everyone was having a good time. Great food. Great beer. Great location by the lake. Yo Chetek, Don’t. Change. Anything!