The great state of Wisconsin is well renowned for many things, including this year’s two wildly successful football teams and, perhaps most importantly, beer and cheese.

Combining two of the most quintessential items of Wisconsin commerce, the 2nd annual Isthmus Beer and Cheese Festival will satisfy eager consumers at the Alliant Energy Center Saturday.

Beer fests are somewhat common in Wisconsin, given stereotypical notoriety for alcohol consumption in the state, but this weekend’s celebration offers something new.

“There are so many beer festivals going on in the summer…we thought, let’s do something in the winter to shake things up,” said Isthmus Marketing and Events Coordinator Chris Majchrzak.

Majchrzak said coordinators wanted to make the festival unique from countless other festivals throughout the country, so in addition to holding it during a nontraditional season, they decided to pair beer with cheese, Wisconsin’s most famous food.

The event could be described as a farmers’ market with slightly different merchandise. It will feature more than 70 brewers and cheese makers from around the state, up from last year’s 50 vendors.

Breweries popular in Madison like the Great Dane Pub and Brewing Company, Capital Brewery and the New Glarus Brewing Company will be in attendance, as well as lesser known gems like Eau Claire’s Northwoods Brewing, Pearl Street Brewery and Dave’s BrewFarm from Wilson.

Likewise, cheese makers including Sugar Brook Farms, Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery and the Uplands Cheese Company – three of more than 20 vendors – will offer samples and purchases.

Attendees will be presented with statewide beer and cheese to taste and purchase, but that’s not all.

“Not only will they have the great beer there to sample, but a lot of the brewers themselves will be there, and you can talk to them about their beer and their process,” Majchrzak said.

Cheese and beer samplers can learn a unique perspective of where their favorite food and drink came from and can discover new favorites from the wide geographic array of vendors.

“Some of the beers don’t even have distribution in the Madison area; you can’t just go to the liquor or grocery store to buy it,” he said.

It’s the same situation for award-wining cheeses – although they are available at the festival, you won’t find some of them at any local business.

The festival will also feature two private pairing sessions costing $10 each. The first, hosted by Wisconsin Cheese and Potosi Brews, will showcase the most delicious beer and cheese combinations; the second, hosted by Ambrosius Chocolate and Furthermore Beer, will match the best chocolate with a variety of brews.

Metas and other snacks will also be available throughout the afternoon.

Union Cab will be providing free rides to the festival, as well as a discounted ride home to ensure attendees’ safety while giving them the opportunity to responsibly consume samples and purchases to their hearts’ desire.

In addition to supplying an afternoon of delicious food and drink and a great excuse to get out of the cold, the festival might help those in attendance decide what to bring to an already-planned Super Bowl party and expand the knowledge and taste for lesser known Wisconsin beer and cheese.

“It’s a good introduction to the high quality of products in Wisconsin that you can’t see every day,” Majchrzak said.

The festival will take place Saturday from 1-5 p.m. in the Alliant Energy Center’s Exhibition Hall. Tickets are available for purchase online at http://www.thedailypage.com/beercheese for $40. The festival is for beer and cheese enthusiasts 21 and older with proper ID.