The Micro has 64 Wisconsin beers on tap at the State Fair
When you're sipping a Wisconsin-made beer in the middle of State Fair, raise a glass to Benno Weigel, the man who created The Micro craft beer bar 20 years ago.
"It wasn't like we had some genius plan," Weigel said. "The thing kind of just evolved."
Beer does that in Wisconsin: It evolves. In the first year of The Micro beers were limited to brews from Sprecher or Lakefront. At one point, California's Sierra Nevada joined the tap list. Now the state boasts more than 200 breweries and The Micro serves only Wisconsin-made beers.
Expansion didn't come without growing pains. In 2015, O'so Brewery in Plover, owned by Marc Buttera, then president of the Wisconsin Brewers Guild, complained that The Micro's fee to be included was too high and opted out.
This year, 18 Wisconsin breweries will be poured from 64 taps in two locations — The Micro near the Associated Bank Amphitheater and in the Wisconsin Products Pavilion. The Micro look has also evolved from an oversize tent to a full-on covered bar with stools and surrounded by tables and chairs that replaced random picnic tables.
Beers will cost $8.50 for a 20-ounce pour. That's 50 cents more than last year. Weigel said it's the first increase in three years.
Waukesha's Raised Grain will replace Lake Louie in the 2019 lineup. Lake Louie merged with Wisconsin Brewing earlier this month and Wisconsin Brewing is already on tap. The full menu includes Lakefront, Sprecher, Raised Grain, Wisconsin Brewing, MobCraft, Sand Creek, City Lights, Tyranena, Central Waters, Potosi, New Glarus, Good City, Stevens Point, Milwaukee Brewing, Door County, Titletown and Hinterland. Leinenkugel is also included. It was among the early beers poured at The Micro.
The Micro will open the fair with three specialty beers made exclusively for the 20th anniversary. Fair patrons can look for a Cucumber Melon Brut from City Lights, a Key Lime Pie Sour from Mobcraft and a Raspberry Wheat from Sand Creek named Berry Nice to Wheat You in a popular vote, said marketing director Liz Astemborski.
All of which suggests that beer tastes have also evolved.
"Used to be you couldn't give away an IPA," Weigel said. "We have a much more sophisticated customer these days."
Sophisticated? Customers still vie for a Keg Killer T-shirt, a symbol that a beer lover has ordered the last pint in a keg. The shirts reasonably come in only one size, which is large. But this year there are throwback T-shirts to celebrate 20 years that will be available for those who want to purchase a T-shirt but don't need to tell everyone that they emptied a keg.
The Micro, which counts Fridays and Saturdays as the busiest times, "is an intense place to work," Weigel said. "It's not just for anybody."
For the second year, beers will also be available in the Wisconsin Products Pavilion where beers can be paired with Wisconsin foods. Recommendations will be clearly marked.
New this year is the "Meet the Brewer" hour. Lakefront Brewery hosts the first one at 5 p.m. Aug. 1. MobCraft leads "Meet the Brewer" at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 2 and City Lights represents at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 5. Flights from the highlighted brewery will be available during "Meet the Brewer" with pre-sale purchase only. Flights will cost $8.50. Check the Facebook page for The Micro for details.