Thursday, August 01, 2013

Recap of Michigan Brewers Guild 16th Annual Summer Beer Festival

Written by  Dan VanderKooi
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Recap of Michigan Brewers Guild 16th Annual Summer Beer Festival

Ypsilanti’s Riverside Park is the home to Michigan Brewers Guild’s Annual Summer Beer Festival, one of several events hosted throughout the year. I’ve previously attended the Winter Beer Festival in Comstock Park, but this was my first year to check out the long-running Summer Beer Fest, and like many of the Brewers Guild events this year’s event was a sellout with over 6000 attendees. Note: if planning to attend one of these events, be sure to book your hotel weeks if not months in advance!
Coming in the Door at 16th Annual Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer FestivalThis year’s 2-day event was a massive affair featuring 83 breweries with over 800 beers. I attended the 2nd day of the festival, which while not every beer I wanted to try was available, several breweries held exclusive tappings via a time release schedule so to make sure to have something special whichever day or time one would stop to visit. Weather was mostly cooperative this year with comfortable temperatures and some occasional light rain (a few downpours preceded and followed the event.)

Dark Horse Brewing Co Booth at 16th Annual Summer Beer FestO.K. - With so many breweries and so many beers, everyone is going to have a favorite and I tried to focus on a few choice selections of my own to not get too overwhelmed by it all. One of my first stops was Bell’s which were not without a little controversy this year. On the heels of the event, Larry Bell threatened to pull out over an issue regarding a “dunk a brewer” fund-raiser for PAC (Political Action Committee.) Fortunately, for all involved, a compromise was reached and Bell’s was able to participate in the event bringing a few highly sought after brews. I tried the Uberon, a 7-month barrel aged Oberon, which I found to be quite intriguing. Other specialties include the Black Note Stout.

Dark Horse sought to gain attention with the sheer number of beers available, a whopping 99. The strategy worked for me, as I felt compelled to visit twice; 1st time for the Hedge Hop Heather Ale and a second trip for the 6 pairs of Legs Maple Porter (Bourbon-Aged.) Greenbush also stood out with their variety and number of beers including several barrel-aged beers, especially considering they are still a relatively new brewery. Founders brought along all their “big guns” with KBS, Devil Dancer, Bolt Cutter, and Doom all among the available selections. Shorts Brewing always is a highlight also both with their amazing world-recognized booth (honorable mention goes to Perrin’s beer truck,) as well as some fantastic out of this world concoctions. The PB & Banana Wheat made my list of beers to try this year and I was quite impressed. Another Peanut Butter beer tapped on Saturday that I was impressed with was the Peanut Butter Noir for Bastone.

Arcadia Ales booth at 16th Annual Summer Beer FestBrewery Vivant was on hand with one of my new favorites the Trebuchet D.I.P.A., as well as a Maple Ale and the former Michigan Beer Cellar, now under new ownership, used the festival to launch their new rebranding as Cellar Brewing Company and included a preview of their new Beer City Brewer’s Grove collaboration beer, an Apple IPA. Brewery members such as the B.O.B., Traffic Jam & Snug, and Grand Rapids Brewing Company were on hand to provide food as well as beer (like the B.O.B.’s Chipotle Mango beer,) as well as an Ice Cream cart provided by Sherwood Brewing. Live music was featured both days including The Detroit Sax Maniacs and the Austin Scott Band on Saturday. DJs and acoustic musicians were feature both days also..

The last year has been a record-breaking year for brewery openings and several made their debut for this year’s festival including some of my new favorites like Pike 51 ( I went with the Across the Universe – Imperial Pilsner,) and Rockford whose Cernunnos Wee Heavy Scotch Ale is one of my new favorites. Another brewery that just opened in time for the fest is Birmingham’s Griffin Claw which has a handful of sour beers featured in their initial lineup including the Berliner Weisse Raspberry – Belgian Sour. As the final day of the fest wore on, I missed out on a few breweries I had hope to hit, for instance a stop at one of my local favorites Odd Side Ales for a Bean Flicker Blonde but I certainly did not leave disappointed and am looking forward to the next opportunity to attend a Michigan Brewers Guild festival.

Dan VanderKooi

Dan VanderKooi

Dan VK has been following the Michigan Craft Beer scene since before Oberon has been available in 6-packs. Besides making the rounds at all the local craft breweries and beer bars, Dan also supports the local music scene, reads crime fiction, and enjoys playing volleyball with his wife and friends.