Since the first frost of last autumn, many Milwaukee-area residents have set their sights on the events of February 6. As the days became shorter, the holidays came and went, and the Packers season reached its exciting-yet-demoralizing conclusion, the annual Saturday of outdoor fun in Bay View still seemed so very far away. But believe it or not, Milwaukee, Burnhearts Mitten Fest 2016 is nigh!

This Saturday, a small parcel of Bay View will be transformed into the city’s favorite winter party, complete with great beer and brandy drinks, a varied grouping of outstanding local musicians, tasty food, crafts, charity, and an overriding sense of togetherness that just might help get us through the rest of winter. Entering its fourth year, the unexpected growth and immense popularity of the event has brought on some refreshing changes this time around. As the OFFICIAL media sponsor, Milwaukee Record assembled the following guide of everything you need to know about this year’s new, improved, and expanded (!) Mitten Fest.

Where am I standing?
We’re not going to lie. Yes, it’s probably going to be crowded. All good parties are. However, knowing Mitten Fest has grown exponentially in its first three years, Burnhearts’ brass have taken some steps to (somewhat) relieve the congestion. The Mitten Fest grounds will extend by about half a block, wrapping around the bar’s Logan Avenue side and past a few more houses. We’re told that the stage will be moved back and placed diagonally to be situated kitty-corner to Burnhearts. As a result, there’s going to be more room and a better vantage point to see the musical acts.

Who is playing again?
We unveiled the entertainment lineup about a month ago, but if you missed it or just forgot about it, you’ll be treated to arguably the best and absolutely the most diverse grouping of musicians in Mitten Fest’s short-but-storied history. Fun-loving country trio Whiskeybelles will open things at 12:30 p.m., followed by the entrancing rap stylings of Queen Tut at 2 p.m. The Milwaukee metal magnates in Moon Curse will play a rare outing at 3:30 p.m. before Midnight Reruns will bring the show home with material from their two near-flawless full-lengths starting at 5 p.m. Vanguard co-owner/Dope Folks co-founder/local treasure Chris Schulist will DJ between bands and after the show.

Are the drink lines going to be long?
Fuck, man. Probably. According to Facebook, about 7,000 people are either attending or “interested” in attending this year’s soiree. That said, citing the growth and the oodles of online complaints…about the free party he created to help break up winter, Burnhearts owner and festival organizer BJ Seidel took measures to increase the presence of beer vendors to at least somewhat limit time spent in line. In addition to the bar itself, there will be two beer trucks and three beer stands (up from two) staffed by more “beertenders” than ever before. The famed “Brandyland” booze garage will also be split into hot and cold sections in effort to speed up the process.

Yes, there will still be lines, but getting an old fashioned or some rare beers from Central Waters and Founders should be faster and easier than it was in past years.

What are these “rare beers” from Central Waters and Founders?
Like every Mitten Fest, Central Waters and Michigan-based Founders will be the beers of choice, granting a welcomed alternative from the stale Miller Lite and Bud Light Lime you’ll endure at many other fests later this years. Buckle up, craft brew geeks! Here’s the complete list of what will be on hand Saturday. We’re getting in line for some Mudpuppy Porter (on nitro!) once we publish this post.

Central Waters (inside Burnhearts)
• Klein Dood
• Mudpuppy (nitro)
• Quad
• Imperial Blonde
• Ouisconsing
• Glacial
• Scotch
• Honey Blonde

Central Waters (outside)
• Brandyland Old Fashioned
• Brandyland Ginger
• Black Gold
• Bourbon Scotch
• Bourbon Stout
• Bourbon Barley
• Horicon

Founders (inside)
• Double Trouble
• Centennial
• Porter
• Breakfast
• Rubeaus (nitro)
• Imperial Stout
• Dark Penance
• Red’s Rye

Founders (outside)
• Blushing Monk
• Big Lush
• Backwoods
• Old Curmudgeon
• Imperial Stout
• Project Pam
• All Day IPA

If you’d like an early taste of some of the Central Waters beers, Burnhearts’ sister restaurant, Goodkind, is offering some as part of a Central Waters dinner tonight (by reservation only).

Can I carry in my own alcohol?
No. Don’t be that person. If you follow the rules and keep things legal it means Burnhearts won’t be fined, meaning Mitten Fest can continue for years to come. It takes a village, people. If you seek a temporary refuge from the heavy and high-ABV beers, Seidel absolutely urges people to stop by other neighborhood establishments.

“We encourage attendees to patronize other Bay View businesses,” Seidel says. “It’s a good day for our community as a whole. We only ask that patrons understand that it is an unusually busy day for all of the bars and restaurants and to please be patient and nice to the employees of these businesses.”

Vanguard is just a stone’s throw away and pretty much the perfect place. Victoria’s (which is cash-only, mind you) has its charm as well. The Newport is a little bit off the beaten path, but worth every icy step. We’ve never been to Still Shakers.

And this is for charity?
Kind of. While Mitten Fest is viewed more as a party and means of dispelling the winter blues than anything else, there is an element of charity incorporated into the mix.

“The simple fact that some of us can afford to spend a bunch of money on warm clothes, street food, and luxury drinks while standing outside in February led us to partner with Hunger Task Force to help raise awareness and donations for those who struggle to stay warm and fed through the harsh winter months,” Seidel says.

Last year’s event brought in close to three tons of food, 80 giant bags of gently worn winter clothing, and approximately $4,500 in cash donations. Seidel says he hopes to match those numbers again this year.

Now that you know everything you need to about Mitten Fest 2016, we’ll see you there, Milwaukee!

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.