by Anastasia Penchi
In celebration of our distinctive palates, join us at the annual Between the Bluffs Beer Wine & Cheese festival, at the Southside Oktoberfest Grounds in La Crosse.
This event got its start at City Brewery, which is just down the road and has been a tourist attraction for years, offering the “World’s Largest Six-Pack.” Nowadays this fantastic festival features more than 200 quality brews, 45 types of wine from local and world-famous vintners as well as gourmet cheese and other yummy eats.
It makes sense, as a community that can appreciate the differences between City Brewery’s La Crosse Amber, Turtle Stacks Belgian Blond, and Pearl Street Pale Ale, and will gobble up Westby Cooperative Creamery Dill Cheddar, is also likely to enjoy La Crescent grape wine grown from grapes in Westby.
Preparation is key to maximum enjoyment of any event, so please keep the following things in mind if you are coming:
1) Dress in layers
The Southside Oktoberfest Grounds offers what I would consider an “outdoor event.” Yes, there are tents and places to get cover if it’s raining, but it’s all open air. If it is cold out and you are only wearing a fancy new “Between the Bluffs” t-shirt that you bought, you are going to be cold. Sure, the beer and wine will eventually warm you up, but what about that in-between time? If you are like me, you prefer having a jacket over that t-shirt and then tie it around your waist later as you warm up. Maybe it’s not a great fashion statement, but it’s better than being cold. Remember, this is April in Wisconsin, and we all know it can be in the 30s one moment and then 70 degrees later that same day. I have attended some years where I wished I had my winter jacket, and I’ve had years where I wore a tank top and got a sunburn on my shoulders. Be a Boy Scout. Be prepared!
2) Start with a good base
Yes, there is cheese – and plenty of it – and we Wisconsinites can make a meal out of our cheese, but that is not a good plan for this event. If the purpose is to sample many different types of wine and beer, you need to get a good base beforehand. Why not make a day of it and start with lunch in downtown La Crosse? We have many fabulous restaurants within walking distance of the Southside Oktoberfest Grounds. Trip Advisor gave Certificates of Excellence to the Waterfront, Buzzard Billy’s Flying Carp Café and Le Chateau, and there are plenty more restaurants nearby. The event doesn’t start until 2 p.m. Spend the day here. Have some food. Browse and shop in our wonderful downtown boutiques. Then come imbibe.
3) If you don’t consider yourself a wine or beer officiando, don’t worry.
This is a perfect festival for those who love to experience the subtle differences between ales and lagers, but it’s also a perfect festival for the inexperienced. It gives you the chance to figure out what dark beers you might like even if you are not a dark beer person. Maybe you think you don’t like wine, but have you really given the many different types a chance? Don’t judge wine based on a few sips of merlot at church. Moscato might convert you. It did me.
4) There is no need to drive home
If you haven’t noticed, La Crosse downtown developers like to build hotels lately. There are at least six outstanding hotels within walking distance of the Southside Oktoberfest Grounds. The Hampton Inn & Suites is one of the newest, and it’s so close you could probably ride one of their luggage carts back to the hotel if you overindulge. They also offer a free hearty breakfast, which will be important the next morning. Fest organizers are also offering free shuttle rides to host hotels and vouchers for the La Crosse County Tavern League “Safe Ride Home” program in a local taxi. Or if you prefer, call a friend. Just don’t drive.
5) Plan ahead
Tickets sell out in days, get them starting March 3, 2017
Check out the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BetweentheBluffs for more information on Tasters Eve. While you are at it, “Like” the page to get a heads up on dates next year. Only 3,000 general admission tickets and 500 VIP tickets were sold this year. Believe me, you want to be one of the lucky ticket holders next time.
Anastasia Penchi is graduate of UW-La Crosse and a long-time Coulee Region writer who has written for area newspapers and magazines.