Monday, July 28, 2014

Recap of Fourth Annual Summer Craft Beer Fest at John Ball Park

Written by  Dan VanderKooi
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recap summer beer fest 2014

This year was my third visit (out of four) for John Ball Park’s annual Summer Craft Beer Fest, and also my first time to participate as a judge in the blind taste test challenge. With ten categories, and being my first beer judging experience, I was a little apprehensive I might be chosen to judge a style that wasn’t my favorite, or at least not my personal area of expertise. However, my fears were not justified as the first category bestowed upon my group (which also included fellow beer blogger Bryan Esler of Mittenbrew) was the coveted top spot for IPA (India Pale Ale)....
....and without further adieu, here are the top award winners as determine for each category:
  • IPA: Midnight Hoppyness from Knee Deep Brewing Co., of Auburn, Calif.
  • Stout: Powerline Porter from Latitude 42 Brewing Co., of Portage.
  • Experimental: Funk Buddies from Pike 51 Brewing Co., of Hudsonville.
  • Fruit Beers: Illusive Traveler from The Traveler Beer Co., of Burlington, Vt.
  • Lagers: La Cerveza from Cheboygan Brewing Co., of Cheboygan.
  • Pale Ales: Cold Break Pale Ale from Gravel Bottom Brewery, of Ada.
  • Cask Aged: Mr. Mayhem from White Flame Brewing Co., of Hudsonville.
  • Hard Cider: Red from Sietsema’s Orchards & Cider Mill, of Ada.
  • Wheat: Railyard Raspberry Wheat from Mount Pleasant Brewing Co., of Mount Pleasant.
  • Brown Ale: Murican Brown Rye from Unruly Brewing Co., of Muskegon.

This year also featured a photo opportunity with the popular DrinkGR social networking group, which I was happy to take advantage of, meeting up with many fellow connoisseurs of the local craft beer community including DrinkGR founder Mark L. Curtis himself. DrinkGR is not just a hub for the local beer scene but includes all local cider, mead, wine, spirits, and etc. Mead and cider were both represented at this year’s fest. Non-local beverages were represented as well with a handful of top picks going to non-Michigan breweries including the IPA from California’s Knee Deep Brewing which faced stiff competition from the likes of Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale. (I know, it may have been a blind taste-test but I was there and blindfold or not, Two-Hearted is a great and immediately recognizable IPA!)

On the band stage this year included all local pop from Tyler Howe, punk/pop/rock from The Campanellis and throwback blues from Upstage Crew. Food vendors included A&E Barbecue, Crooked Goose, FireRock Grille, and Arturo’s Tacos which my wife & I went with for nourishment. Arturo’s was more than happy to provide a vegetarian option for my own dietary preferences. FireRock Grille will be holding their own beerfest in Caledonia on August 23rd. I faced a tough decision after sampling 16 IPAs which beers to try at the festival but local favorites for me included Cranker’s, Cellar Brewing, and Odd Side Ales. If you’ve not been to Summer Craft Beer Fest in the last year or two, the festival is really coming along as the signature must-visit Grand Rapids summer beer excursion.

For more information DrinkGR Facebook Page and FireRock Grille beerfest Facebook Page.

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.