Let’s begin with an exercise. Close your eyes (metaphorically, if you literally close your eyes you will not be able to continue reading this paragraph which is imperative to this exercise). Clear your mind. Take a deep breath. Now, think. What is the most Wisconsin scene you can conjure to your mind? Does it involve a foot of snow being whipped around by bitter winter winds? Or a mob full of angry, overweight men wearing wedges of foam cheese on their heads shouting misogynistic vitriol about a quarterback’s love interest? People gathered around drinking beer and eating cheese curds while listening to a live polka band and playing a game of bags? Maybe just a field full of cows and cranberries as far as the eye can see? Alright, these are all fair scenes. And they all exist. But, what about this image. A warm, Saturday afternoon in the middle of June blocks from the shores of Lake Michigan, young, well dressed white people enjoying the weather and a sense of security afforded to them thanks to gentrification and “urban renewal.” Not exactly a typical image of Wisconsin. But honestly, this scene existed just alongside another one I laid out for you. And no, this wasn’t a party in the middle of a cranberry bog.
On this edition of Daze-of-Beer-Not-Going-As-Planned, we hit up the inaugural Curd Fest in Walker’s Point.
Upon entering the closed block that was reserved for the joys of Curd Fest, I was immediately overwhelmed with the sense of belonging. For the obvious reasons of course, I too am a white millennial also taking advantage of the gentrification and “cleanup” efforts put into Walker’s Point, a once grimy, industrial neighborhood south of downtown that is now enjoying a renewed interest in converting those old factories into breweries and urban lofts. Of course, during the walk to Curd Fest, I went on a rant about how Milwaukee’s “urban renewal” efforts are pricing out lower income families that have lived in those neighborhoods for decades and further showing the true nature of the people of Milwaukee. They are so dedicated to making themselves look good (which isn’t easy with Sheriff David Clarke and Governor Scott Walker kicking around) that they are furthering the city’s tradition of segregation. But, I digress.
The true sense of belonging, though, came from the feeling that while I have my issues with Wisconsin, with living here, this is aplace that truly shaped me. Curd Fest was one of the most Wisconsin things I could think of doing with my Saturday, and the thought of living somewhere else that does not place such a strong emphasis on drinking beer and eating cheese with reckless abandon on the first nice weekend of the summer broke my heart a little. Curd Fest was the embodiment of my essence. Milwaukee and I are one. We understand each other. We are both filled with beer and cheese and resentment and undeserved pride. Curd Fest was a prime example of that.
Instead of venturing out of my beer comfort zone, I started with my favorite beer at the moment, a Third Space Happy Place IPA. I wish I could tell you what this beer tastes like, but I can’t. Honestly, I think I am going to start referring to is as the beer of 2017. If I’m anywhere with Happy Place on tap, you know that’s what I’m going to order. Blessedly, I’m seeing it more and more places. Ashley also got a Happy Place at first, and Tim, I believe, got Lakefront’s El Wisco, which is their new Mexican-style beer. While I have not myself ever ordered the El Wisco, Ashley ordered it at Leff’s before a Brewer game and let me try it. My expert opinion? I’d rather have a Landshark. Also, there is something terrible inauthentic about thirtysomething year old hipster brewmasters in Milwaukee deciding that they want to brew a Mexican inspired beer. It would not kill you to just drink a Corona or Tecate, and while the El Wisco is a little more flavorful than those beers, I also think half the experience of drinking a light Mexican beer is just the absurdity of it. Which is why I love Landshark. (And yes, I know that Landshark is also an American beer masquerading as a Mexican lager but you know what? It’s funny. I drink it ironically. You shut up.)
While enjoying our drinks, we sat on the curb just watching people wander around. As I said, it was a beautiful day. Our second round was me drinking another Happy Place, Tim got some specialty drink or something?, and Ashley got an Old Fashioned. Like I said, Wisconsin. Aggressively Wisconsin. We bought some cheese curds and snacked on them on the curb. Around this time, we noticed that a lot of the breweries were running out of beer. Milwaukee Brewing left before we even got there. Lakefront and Third Space were both running low. Enlightened only had a porter left, which I drank and did not really like. There was another brewery there that I cannot remember. And, I will admit, if I was a good blogger, or even a competent one, I would have written down all the breweries in attendance. But I am not.
Also, important note. We all got very into a game of giant Jenga being played by four strangers. And I don’t mean we just casually checked in on it. We sat in silent rapture while they pulled their blocks and cheered when they were successfully re-seated atop the tower without it tumbling down. And it wasn’t just us. There were probably twenty people watching these strangers with the intense focus of nerds watching Olympic trampolining at a statewide trivia competition. Again, if I was a good blogger, I’d tell you who lost. But I am not.
In general, though, it was a nice afternoon. There could have been more cheese curds present an available considering that this was called curdfest but I think they will work on that in years going forward. I think there were only two curd vendors and no fried cheese curds in sight. And as previously mentioned, this was the one of the most Wisconsin things I could have done.