For those wondering if Milwaukee could kill an innocent person: this entry was almost, but not quite, filed from a gentlemen’s club near the cemetery right off of I-94. (If it’s any consolation, the previous night’s entry was filed from a River West tiki bar…but I digress.)

Day Two of the GLRBC was no letdown: indeed, many of the competition’s heavy-hitters turned out today, along with a startling cross-section of the general public. Apparently putting up signs advertising “free coffee drinks” all over town is totally persuasive. Go Alterra for making such a popular, awesome, joyful event come true in the Third Ward.

After a quick stop at the Milwaukee Public Market (it’s, uh, much like a…market, with stalls, and vendors?), I descended upon Day Two of the GLRBC with proverbial bells on. Jason Dama, of local (bronze-level sponsor?) chain Stone Creek coffee was up first. He boasted a signature drink of “spicy thai latte”, including peanut sauce with a chocolate syrup etching set to smooth jazz. I believe he also served this with shortbread!

The costume cult of Intelligentsia represented (again) next, in the form of the affable and talented Mike Phillips. Mike’s very heterosexual table setting and decor was spiced up by his take on the Mai Tai: an orange reduction in progress while he prepared his capps and espressos; followed by a combination of drinks set to mimic the traditional tropical cocktail, albeit within competition guidelines.


Looking over Mike’s table (Chemex, French press, martini glasses), I realized this guy’s entire table setting represented pretty much the entirety of my kitchenware for the last three months of my in-process-of-moving lifestyle. Huh.

Mike’s capps were nearly perfectly poured, and we were soon onto the next victim.

Trevor Corlett of Moon Monkey in Bourbonnais, IL, insisted his coffee drinks would “tell a story” — his signature of pumpkin puree, cream cheese and cloves frightened me greatly. But his confidence and judge’s-table-poured capps were impressive. Next time I send a monkey to the moon, it will absolutely be under the advisement of Trevor…

My secret favorite state of Ohio represented next with Shannon Savage of Dayton’s Boston Stoker cafe. Unfortunately all I heard of this guy’s performance was that he was using “raw honey from my own beehive”. Unlike a comment made at the Canadian Nationals…I think this guy was not kidding. Sadly, Shannon did not compete in a beekeeping costume. Can’t have everything I guess.


I spent about fifteen minutes in line for the Clover kiosk waiting for a paper cup full of delightful Nicaraguan coffee, served just in time to park my drink in a potted plant and start watching local hero Scott Lucey deliver his awesome, calm, unsurprisingly great performance.


To my shock and awe, Lucey led off with the inside scoop that his signature drink would involve the midwestern delicacy of frozen custard — “NOT ice cream”, as he would repeatedly explain. Between this and Colin Whitcomb’s recycled tulips, the glory of Lucey’s reign was clear. After giving the judges a brief history of custard (the 1933 World’s Fair in my own Chicago), he simply tried to reason with them, because hey, he had time to spare:

“It’s custard,” Lucey explained to the arbiters of coffee. “I mean. Come on. It’s good.”

And to those of you who know to ask — it came from Bella’s, not Leon’s or Kopp’s — mostly because it was closer and dude rides a dingle bike 365 days a year.

Moving on… Tayla Strader of Intelligentsia competed gracefully (to Sufjan Stevens) while making her mark on a “tiny soy latte with honey and cinnamon and peppers”. The honey was from New Zealand, so apparently not her own apiary like that Ohio keener.

Stephanie Stewart was up next, representing Rohs Street Cafe from Cincinnati — a nonprofit (!) staffed by impassioned volunteers. Stewart pulverized the crowd with a juicer and an array of Bosc pears and ginger. I didn’t taste this, but I probably should have.


No one doesn’t love a Justin Teisl, and one can only hope the artist-barista-Milwaukeean will take home one of his own trophies after his awesome performance today. Featuring a Kenya AA (paired for the sig drink with peach syrup, brown sugar and coconut milk), jT rocked the house hardcore. Despite the classic time-handicapping whipped cream charger, Tiesl came in way under time — the Presidents of the USA’s “Peaches” cueing up in the last twenty seconds, paced just right for him to clean his workstation, thank the judges, and call time at 15:00 exactly. Dude is all class. If you move out of the 414, come to NYC, okay Tiesl?

Competitor number 25 (!!) was Intelli’s Alexandra Switzer. Her gorgeous table setting was the tableau for something apparently fascinating (I only know from the audible excitement) she was doing with chocolate ganache — but I missed almost all of her presentation due to having let Tiesl squirt the remainder of his peach-coconut-milk-whipped-cream into my bare hand moments before. In the absence of a latte or a cruller, as others were better equipped with, I simply barehanded it, and then fought my way through dense crowds to the ladies’ room…


On my way back, I attempt to source Colin from Alterra’s signature Cinnamon Raisin Macchiato (like I said, sick fascination) — he’s working the fourth machine but the lines are way long. A couple in front of me is reading a pamphlet aboutthe Falun Gong — arguable a comparable niche interest to specialty coffee geekdom. Colin isn’t making his signature drink, but I do get a cappuccino in a Stone Creek cup. I note that although today is more crowded than Friday, at least the competitors are less phallocentric.

I miss a couple of competitors due to burnout/cookie sourcing: Ryan Knapp of Moon Monkey does an impressive and complex performance dedicated to Rwanda, including an African-themed costume and music. He roasts his own, which is likely more than anyone else from Bourbonnais can commonly boast. Ariel Johnson of Bloomington, IL’s Coffee Hound charms us all with a particularly midwestern “Oh, Gosh!” at some point. I’m tired. Elicia comments that I appear to be wearing out. I gotta pull it together.

At 3:10 PM the storied “Fourth Machine” is staffed by no less than four Intelligentsia kids — a maybe-fifth is just taking pictures of his co-workers. There are 24 people in line for espresso drinks, and one baby. Anastsia at the Clover booth next door is slightly less mobbed. Two Clovers for the GLRBC next year, ‘kay Coffee Equipment Co.? The lines for free coffee are down the hall and to the elevators. This is insane.


Shannon Smith of Stone Creek in MIlwaukee is competitor #28. She spends a great deal of time explaining the National Italian Espresso guidelines to her panel of judges, then pours a “Tirami Su Latte” to “Luck Be a Lady Tonight”.

She’s chased up by Miro Lomeli of Ypsilanti’s Ugly Mug cafe. Miro, like his colleague Otter, roasted his own blend — this a mixture of Ethiopian Harfusa, Nicaraguan, and, fuckit, I forget. His signature beverage (which I tried, but found lacked subtlety) included the intriguing components of pinecone extract (extracted simply by Zak Rye squeezing pinecones in his bare palm, I’m told…) and cherrywood-smoked milk (!!). Also, my nose would guess that the Ugly Mug posse has already gotten a pretty good drink on at this point in the mid-afternoon, which should serve to explain any A/V oddities in Zak’s video coverage of said competition entry…moving on…

Jon Nodler of Ancora Coffee in Madison, WI, looks like he’s from Madison: he also has four Gibraltar glasses and a butane torch on hand. Uh-oh!


The GLRBC’s final (but not at all least) competitor is the sole out-of-region entrant: Andrew Milstead of Kopplin’s Coffee in St. Paul, MN. Though it’s rumored that no one outside of specialty coffee really appreciates Kopplin’s, it’d be hard not to appreciate Andrew — a well-spoken, awesome dude whose introduction to the judges about how his role in coffee is to “showcase the hard work of others” comes off as totally earnest and unpretentious and common-sense.

His La Montana COE single origin espresso from El Salvador is introduced with comfortable and eloquent prose; he’s able to speak easily about the characteristics of his coffee. It’s entirely obvious he’s schooled at one of the country’s finest, most serious and shamelessly geeky cafes. His single origin chocolate and espresso signature shot is deployed just in time for the clock — no big deal since he’s not eligible for the finals, but still full of prestige (and flavor — it was tasty!) — since the other two out-of-regioners from Ritual Coffee evaporated at the last minute. No sweat — I’ll kick it with the 10,000 lakes crew any day of the week.

After a brief period of teasing and tantalization, the top six finalists were revealed. And it’s gonna be a grudge match: four Intelligentsians (Alexandra, Andy, Mike and Talya) versus the two notorious MKEs (Lucey and Tiesl). Though Intelli has the matching jackets and whoop-it-up-ism in spades, Alterra has the harsher vowels and the dairyland love. Who shall reign victorious? I can’t help but secretly hope jT and sL tie for first and have to come to brutal, violent blows on Buffalo Street for GLRBC bronze-cast-first-place-trophy custody rights. But either way — someone amazing is going to take home that trophy Sunday afternoon, and I may or may not get misty when it happens. (And lest my biases appear more loyal than they are, I promise get mistier if that person is offering me a free ride home to Chicago in the afternoon…)


Thanks to Alterra for the (weird) afterparty at the Ale House: most of us got out right before the U2 cover band, and it was kind of incredibly great to spend more time with so many midwesterners who have surely corrupted my vowels for days to come. Most people cut out early and responsibly, begging linen-washing duties or parental responsibility — but after downing a few pieces of fresh mozzarella and local sausage, I let myself be carried off by the wave of Reeboks with the straps, boots with the fur and..four wild kids from Ypsilanti. Uh, did anyone save that receipt from the strip joint for the SCAA to cover that? Zak? Christ, I gotta get up early in the morning. See you back at P.H. Dye.

One Response to “It’s Not Ice Cream: GLRBC Day Two”

  1. Anne’s distorted view of the NERBC « On the Road to Epiphany

    […] competitor’s glassware. I also was sharing a room with Justin Tiesl, so Liz’s famed Wisconsin crew kept storming through in much the same way my crew stormed through their space. Justin had some […]

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