As Wisconsin craft beers go, it doesn't get more ubiquitous than New Glarus' Spotted Cow.
The farmhouse cream ale with the cute frolicking calf label is on tap in the Up North-iest roadhouse tavern and in the cooler of the big-city-est convenience store. I mean, it's even won a Wisconsin Beer Bracket crown.
The beloved symbol of Wisconsin gets the documentary treatment in "Tale of the Spotted Cow," which has been playing here and there around the state since its premiere at the Wisconsin Film Festival on April 10.
It returns to Madison tonight for a screening at the Overture Center's Capitol Theater at 7 p.m. The $15 ticket includes the screening of the 38-minute film, plus a Q&A with New Glarus co-founders Deb and Dan Carey, and, of course, a beer. I'm presuming Spotted Cow will be served, but if you're up for something 180 degrees from that, the new R&D Wild Bitter will also be available.
Speaking of which...
Wild Bitter bottle release
It's technically not a Beer Week event, but this bottle release does bear notice for the beer geeks around town (and, really, around the state). This is New Glarus' first release of an "R&D" limited experimental beer outside the weekend of the Great Taste of the Midwest. Those sales were huge events, with hundreds of people lining up hours early to ensure they could purchase bottles of Very Sour Blackberry (2013) and Wild Peach (2014).
The Wild Bitter sale -- the first of four R&D releases this year -- began Thursday with far less fanfare. Only a handful of people were in line when sales began around 9:30, and walk-up sales of the bottles continued well into the late afternoon.
Who knows what Friday and Saturday will bring -- the presence of more out-of-towners seems likely -- but that slower pace bodes well for more passingly interested beer aficionados.
And that, not casual beer drinkers, is the target demographic for Wild Bitter, an imperial India pale ale that underwent spontaneous secondary fermentation to pick up wild yeast and other bugs floating around New Glarus' Riverside brewery where it was born.
My tasting notes based on a sample bottle provided by New Glarus bear that out: Wild Bitter pours a frothily carbonated hazy orange, with a dry aroma heavy on barnyard funk that reminded me a lot of another wild-fermented beer, Green Flash's bygone Rayon Vert Belgian pale ale. But the aroma turns over to a solvent-like chemical note as the beer warms, one that dominates the beer's flavor as well. That mineral spirits-like character lays over the underlying beer from sip to finish, lingering along with ample hop bitterness. You have to look deep to find hints of the underlying imperial IPA; this is a showcase for Brettanomyces-like funk on overdrive.
If that sounds like your bag, the 500-milliliter bottles are $10 each, limit two per person. Sales will begin no later than 10 a.m., and while New Glarus hasn't said how many bottles will be allocated each day, Deb Carey did tell me allocation will be evenly spread among the days and roughly similar in number to last year's release, which saw 1,500 bottles of Wild Peach drop each day.
OK, enough New Glarus. There's a lot else going on around town tonight in the second Friday of Madison Craft Beer Week. To wit:
Drinking in Central Wisconsin: Dexter's Pub has had one killer tap takeover after another this week. The parade of great beer continues today with the 24 taps split between Stevens Point-area neighbors O'so Brewing and Central Waters, both of which have fantastic high-end offerings. Tap list is here. 301 North St., opens 11 a.m.
Free unicorn rides: Listen, I don't know what this really is, but the event at The Free House Pub in Middleton is called Karben4 Unicorn Rides, and it says right here there will be a unicorn, the mascot of Fantasy Factory IPA. I can't vouch for that exactly, but I can say that a new seasonal release called Max, a fish fry that includes K4 beer as ingredients and chatting with K4 co-founder and brand guru Alex Evans do sound pretty appealing. 1902 Parmenter St., 4 p.m.-midnight.
Hello, Woody: Check out Deschutes Brewery's traveling barrel-shaped beer trailer, Woody T. Barrel, stops at the Come Back In. Woody and crew will be pouring six beers, including the limited imperial holiday ale Jubel and an unnamed beer typically poured only at the Deschutes pub in Bend, Oregon. Live music will be playing on the patio, which sounds pretty darn good considering the forecast. 508 E. Wilson St., 5-9 p.m.
Green Bay to Madison: The Side Door Grill & Tap welcomes Badger State Brewing from Green Bay, a brewery that's been growing steadily in its home market and has eyes on bottle shops and taps throughout the state. Madison's MobCraft also will be on hand, with a total of 11 beers from the two breweries, as well as reps from each to meet and greet. 240 W. Gilman St., 5 p.m.-midnight.
Beer in books: Beer Week meets the Wisconsin Book Festival when Chicago-based beer guru Randy Mosher -- founder of 5 Rabbit Cerveceria and architect of Berghoff's recent makeover -- talks in depth about the subject of his latest book, “A Beer for All Seasons.” This free event includes a tasting of seasonals from Wisconsin Brewing. 5:30-7 p.m., 201 W. Mifflin St.