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Monday, Feb. 4, 2013

Mitten Fest Promises Strong Beer and Cold Weather

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For being the so-called City of Festivals, Milwaukee sure spends a big chunk of its year without the things. Our city’s festival season ends in October and doesn’t pick up again until April or May, leaving a long stretch without much in the way of major outdoor gatherings. Among those who dread the winter-festival hiatus is the staff of Burnhearts, the Bay View tavern that throws one of the neighborhood’s bigger street parties each summer in conjunction with Pabst Blue Ribbon. “That party is always so much fun, and we were talking about how much it sucks that we have to wait another year to organize another one,” explains co-owner William Seidel. “As we were discussing it, we realized we could just throw one in winter.”

And thus the seeds were planted for Burnhearts’ outdoor Mitten Fest 2013, an afternoon block party on Saturday, Feb. 9 from noon to 6 p.m. “We named it Mitten Fest because it’s what people are going to be wearing, since it’s winter, but also because both Wisconsin and Michigan look like mittens, and we’ll be featuring beer from both states,” Seidel says.

The festival’s beer tent will feature timed tappings of beers from the New Holland, Hinterland, Central Waters and Founders brewing companies, including many rare offerings like New Holland’s sour beer, Blue Sunday, or the Bourbon Barrel Stout firkin from Hinterland. Burnhearts also co-created a limited edition white IPA with Central Waters for the event. Scented with the coriander and orange accents of a wit beer, the IPA will be one of the comparatively lighter brews offered on a beer menu that tends toward strong seasonal offerings.

For those who prefer brandy to beer, Burnhearts will also be serving what must rank as one of the most unusual Old Fashioneds ever. “We got a used bourbon barrel and filled it with six cases of Korbel, simple syrup, cherries, orange peel and bitters,” Seidel explains. “There’s nothing more Wisconsin than a Korbel Old Fashioned—that’s the epitome of a Wisconsin drink, so we thought we’d make it even cooler by making it in a bourbon barrel. It’s been aging in a garage for months. Once we’re done with the barrel, Central Waters is going to take it back to brew a beer in it.”

The event will also feature live music from Jaill, Call Me Lightning and Football—there will be heat lamps on stage, so hopefully the bands’ amps won’t freeze—as well as a craft fair featuring locally made mittens, hats and scarves. There’s no cover, but guests are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items, gently used winter clothing or cash donations for the Hunger Task Force.

“We can’t stress enough that we really want people to bring donations,” Seidel says. “We figured that since we were having a party where everybody would be out in the cold, this would be a good opportunity to think about other people who are out in the cold as well.”