madison craft beer week
This year's Madison Craft Beer Week is the first annual edition of the countywide festival. GAGE MITCHELL/Courtesy Madison Craft Beer Week

It’s hard to believe an event like the Madison Craft Beer Week never existed in our beer-loving city. But, prominently on the Madison Craft Beer Week website (madbeerweek.com), it announces that this year’s event, which began April 29 and will last through Sunday, May 8, is the first annual edition of the countywide festival. 77 Square spoke with one of the organizers of Madison Craft Beer Week, Jeffrey Glazer, also the founder and editor-in-chief of the website Madison Beer Review (madisonbeerreview.com), about how the event came to be and what to expect.

77 Square: This seems like a hugely ambitious, but well-organized endeavor. How did you go about putting this together?

Jeffrey Glazer: We started working on this in early December. Robyn Klinge, Bill Rogers, and I all decided, more or less simultaneously, that it would be cool if Madison had its own beer week. The concept has been popular around the country and we figured it was inevitable here. We thought we would take it on and keep its organization independent of any particular distributor or brewery.

77: How did you decide what to include? Did individuals/restaurants/stores propose their own events?

JG: Most of the events are the brainchild of the people hosting them. When we started talking to folks about putting events together we mentioned that having a diversity was certainly important, but we were very lucky to have such creative hosts!

77: How would you define a craft beer?

JG: The Brewers Association (the lobbying group for small breweries) defines “craft brewer” as an independent, all-malt brewery producing less than 6 million barrels. This limit was just raised earlier this year when Sam Adams produced over 2 million barrels (the previous definitional limit). ...

This is, admittedly, a hard question. Like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s pornography rule, the rule for participation has been “You know it when you see it”. We haven’t, yet, really had to address this question with participating breweries.

77: What has the feedback been so far?

JG: Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I was at Porta Bella... for the Potosi Tasting and Pizza Buffet and they had doubled their estimates for participation. So far our hosts have been very happy with the recognition and participation that they have received at their events. The attendees have found the events to be fun, educational, and interesting. Hosts as diverse as Brennan’s and Dexter’s Pub have all seen tremendous turnout for their events.

77: If you’re a beer novice, what could one expect to get out of this event? What about if you’re a beer expert/aficionado?

JG: There are great events for everyone. For example, Vintage is hosting a Beer Appreciation class for beginners and novices. ... Barriques has a tasting highlighting the nuances of aged beer. Most events, ... can be appreciated by just about anyone which is something that we felt was important. ... We have a whole festival around cask conditioned beer, and we have an event at the Avenue Bar during Friday Fish Fry. There is truly something for everyone.

77: Barrel-aged beers seem particularly big on the agenda — any reason why that is, or is it just a coincidence?

JG: A big part of the craft beer universe is beer that is barrel aged. I think it’s safe to say at this point that it is no longer a fad or a trend, but, for a brewery like Central Waters, a way of life and a point of pride. For some styles, particularly Belgian sour beers or American stouts, barrel aging can be a key component of the flavor of a beer much like barrel-derived oak is a key flavor component of a wine like Chardonnay. Breweries are starting to use a variety of different barrels that highlight and compliment the flavor components of their beer — for example, Tyranena’s Rye Porter Aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels.

77: Have you thought at all toward what you might like to include in future years?

JG: For the sake of managing the first year we excluded things like a passport and scavenger hunt and mobile app and shuttles and bus tours and opening ceremonies. Legislation has prevented us from showing off the entire homebrewing side of craft beer. Other events like movie festivals, cooking-with-beer demonstrations and grill-offs will definitely be seen in years to come.

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