My Today Show Moment – Beer Sampling at Lambeau Field

So much for my 15 minutes of fame – this was 1 minute 44 seconds, but I’ll take it! I got the email last week from New York that the Today Show needed a “beer expert” to talk about Wisconsin’s beer tradition and do a beer tasting for the big lead up to NBC’s coverage of the NFL season opener between the Green Bay Packers and some other team, from New Orleans I guess it was. A search on Wisconsin beer guide led to my road-trip guidebook. I called them back immediately to agree and then spent the rest of the week leading up to it stewing over what beers to use, changing the list at their request, gathering pint glasses and sorting out where the beer would be and who would pick it up. It seemed like not a big deal, but I lost sleep even wondering what I could say about 8-9 beers in a segment I was told would last only about one minute. It would take that long just to sip them!

I also became part of a rumor mill when the news broke. Some miscommunication lead me to believe I’d be at the pre-game kickoff production with Al Roker, but it turned out it was only The Today Show which would go live from Lambeau Field early that morning. Note that only a Packer fan could say: What? I won’t be at the Packer game? I’m only going on live nationwide on The Today Show? Well, OK, I guess that’s alright. [shrugs, stares dejected at his shoes] But by the end of the week I was getting emails from various people trying to sort out what was really going on, and the Green Bay Press-Gazette had printed that Al Roker and I would be at Titletown Brewery drinking beer. Or that’s what I was told anyway. (A confusion between Green Bay’s nickname and the name of a brewery? Yep.)

I gathered the proper glassware and some beer and set off to Green Bay Wednesday evening. Practiced drinking beer at Titletown that night — one can never be too careful — and got to the stadium at 6:30 am along with my friend Tom Ristau, another practiced beer drinker, who would help me carry things in, take some photos and just generally share in the awe of being inside Lambeau Field without 79,000 or so others.

So it all went well, though we didn’t get through all the beers in 1:44. I was mildly disappointed that despite the hype for pre-game performances by Kid Rock, Lady Antebellum and Maroon 5, my name somehow didn’t pop up. But it was quite amusing to listen to the walkie talkie of the guy who drove me around in a golf cart beforehand. “Where’s my beer guy?” “I’ve got the beer guy” “The beer guy is waiting in the tunnel.” “The beer guy will go first. Then cheese. Then the brats.” I was lucky. The cheese guy got cut off and the brat guy was lost completely when the broadcast failed. I asked my handler what happened (and paused before making a snarky joke, Are you using AT&T?) He explained some technical riff raff, and much to my amusement, he said AT&T handles the uplink. (Worst company ever.)

Here are some photos from the experience and at the end of this post is the clip. Don’t blink or you’ll miss half of it. ;)

Tony Dungy was on hand!

Al doesn’t actually like beer and doesn’t really drink. He made his obligatory sips though.

The production is pretty intense. The team scrambles about, and while folks like Matt and Al are friendly enough, they are constantly moving about, checking notes, and taking cues. Al is a bit more jovial; Matt looks quite serious unless he’s on camera or pausing to say some nice things to fans.

The Today Show hosts take a moment to don some Cheesehead apparel. Al wore his Packers jersey the whole time.

I had to pour the beers ahead of time, but not too soon so that the head would dissipate. And then I had to pause for the last two glasses (Lakefront’s Pumpkin Lager and Ale Asylum’s Hopalicious) and wait for my cue to pour for a teaser shot before my segment. I still haven’t seen that as it wasn’t part of the posted clip. I decided against going slapstick and spilling it all over around the glass like a drunk.

Al Roker and a glass of Capital Brewery’s Oktoberfest. The production guys and I had to finish most of these glasses after the segment. We couldn’t hardly pour them into the grass, right? We raided the cheese guy’s table and lined up for brats as well. Now that’s a Wisconsin breakfast.

And for my troubles, the Green Bay Packers gave me a Super Bowl ring. Yeah, sure. Actually, the field manager was kind enough to let several of us pose with his. 3.35 carats worth of diamonds on this thing. Wow.

And the Fake Favre, an impressive look-alike, was on hand for the show as well. That’s the real ring though.

And if you missed the clip, here it is! (One of these links should work even if you have a Flash-unfriendly Apple product)

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