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Craft Beer Week kickoff heats up a chilly day

The clock struck 5 p.m. and the crowd refused to wait one minute longer.

“Tap the habanero!” shouted out a fun-loving group of craft-beer aficionados at the fifth annual Kenosha Craft Beer Week kickoff party on Saturday at R’Noggin Brewing Co., 6521 120th Ave.

It was time to unveil Scorched Barrels, a tequila-barrel-aged mango habanero blonde ale and perhaps a perfect choice on a rather damp, chilly night.

“It’s going to warm people up,” R’Noggin co-owner Kevin Bridleman said. “Despite the weather not cooperating, everything else is going great.”

The event is organized by Public Craft Brewing Co., 716 58th St., Rustic Road Brewing Co., 5706 Sixth Ave. and R’Noggin. The weeklong festivities include several collaboration release parties, beer and dinner pairings, trivia and drink specials.

The week culminates with a Block Party Blowout on Saturday at Public.

Saturday’s kickoff party began at noon and went comfortably late into the night thanks to heated tents.

It featured the release of four beers:

Square N’Duh Nutz (salted caramel pecan porter)

Space Monkey Sucker Punch (sour New England IPA)

Dastardly Darling (apricot sour)

Scorched Barrels.

Patrons paid $5 to sip 12-ounce pours.

“I definitely looked forward to this event because I missed it last year,” said Brian Cashmore, 45, of Kenosha. “There’s such a good vibe here. Nobody cares about the rain. There’s good beer, good food and good people. It’s all good.”

Kai Anderson & The Pick-Ups was the first of four bands scheduled to perform, followed by Un-hich’D, Matt Meyer Trio and Kyle Young Music. Food was provided by Moose’s BBQ, Uncle Mike’s Highway Pub, Valeo’s Pizza, Olano’s Empanadas and Sandy’s Popper.

Evolving tastes

Kenosha’s Josh Colon started off with a Space Monkey Sucker Punch and stuck with it throughout the afternoon. The 29-year-old said he used to drink primarily domestic lagers before touring a craft brewery in Colorado.

“I always went with the basics — Bud Light, Miller Lite — and never tried to venture out much,” Colon said. “After I took the brewery tour, I tried some sour beers, which I never heard of before, and it kind of opened my mind a little. I saw (R’Noggin) had a sour beer, and it was the first one I went to. It has a little bit of summer to it.”

Cashmore said Scorched Barrels was his clear favorite. The beer is aged in a tequila barrel and offers a bit of mango on the front end with a tad of heat in the back.

“It’s fantastic,” Cashmore said. “Their regular version of the beer without the tequila is called Tan Cans. It’s one of my top-five favorites.”

R’Noggin’s most popular beer is Carpet Creature, a light vanilla cream ale.

“It’s an introductory beer that goes up against the lagers,” R’Noggin co-owner Jeff Bridleman said. “We call it our lawn mower beer. You can drink plenty of it on a hot day.”

For more information on Kenosha Craft Beer Week, visit www.kenoshacraftbeerweek.com.

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