Monday, February 23, 2015

Top 20 Beers to try at 10th Annual Winter Beer Festival

Written by  Ben Darcie
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Michigan Brewers Guild 10 Annual Winter Beer Festival 

The now regionally famous Michigan Brewer’s Guild Winter Beer Festival is upon us yet again, welcoming thousands of people to 5/3 Ballpark in Grand Rapids for the tenth year of the festival. People come from all over the nation to join thousands of ever-enthusiastic Michiganders in the cold tundra to explore the very best of what Michigan beer has to offer.
The Guild is welcoming over 100 breweries and over 1,000 Michigan Beers to the park this weekend for sessions on Friday afternoon into the evening and all day Saturday. This is one of three Guild festivals that feature two day sessions, with the others being Summer Beer Festival in July (Ypsilanti) and the Detroit Eastern Market Fall Festival in Detroit.

Friday’s session is going from 3-7pm (2p for VIP/Enthusiast members), and Saturday’s session is going from 1-6pm (12p for VIP/Enthusiast members).

I've been asked back to make a top 20 list for this year's Winter Beer festival (#MIWBF15), and, as always, it proves a very difficult task. MBG festivals are considered by the breweries to be the epitome of beerdom as the year progresses, and every brewery pushes to bring their biggest and best beers to wow the crowds (which makes my task that much more difficult). The beer list is swarming with Barrel Aged brews, Imperial Stouts, Winter Warmers and all sorts of rare and exclusive beers to help warm your bones throughout the festival.

On how this list is compiled: I've spent a lot of time at festivals, and with every beer list release, I'm looking for unique and interesting beer that peaks my attention as a beer lover. You won't find KBS and Black Note on this list (even though they are going to be at the festival and are highly anticipated), nor will you find the familiars like Short's Bellaire Brown, New Holland Sundog, or 'blah blah' IPA – I'm looking for the unique, interesting and eye catchers that I, personally, want to check out.

Another note: This is just my opinion! I'm just a beer lover like you, and everyone's tastes are different. This is just a top 20 list of a guy who is passionate about all kinds of beer, and is looking for new, invigorating brew to try! You can always take the list and make your own list!

To show you how difficult it was to trim this list down, I've included my complete Runner's Up list. Usually I keep it to a few for that category, but I wanted you all to see how many unique and interesting beers caught my eye out of the phenomenal beer list for this festival. These were just the ones that popped out more than others, and if I included the list in its entirety, it would be massive!

That being said, off we go! Here's my top 20 list, presented in no particular order:
  • Bell’s – Honey Hearted – BA Two Hearted w/ honey, lemon & orange zest, champagne yeast
  • Wolverine BC – 2014 Massacre – Bourbon BA Imperial Dark Lager
  • Crankers Brewery – Torchlight Helles Lager
  • Short’s BC – Brew Ninja – Made with Yuzu fruit, Sorachi Ace hops, and Sake yeast
  • Darkhorse BC – Sour Plead the 5th
  • Rochester Mills Production - Snow Angel (Snow Dazed Winter Ale aged in Angel's Envy Bourbon Port barrels)
  • Fetch BC – Muscles from Brussels – Belgian Oatmeal Blonde
  • Pleasant House BC – Boris Johnson – White Stout
  • Grand River BC – Frozen to the Bone – Iced Sour Imperial Stout
  • Brewery Vivant – Wizard Burial Ground – Bourbon BA Belgian Quadrupel
  • Greenbush – Delusion Series, three offerings – Imperial Cream Stout aged in three different barrels, Journeyman, Templeton, and Koval.
  • Kuhnhenn – 1300 Miles to Home – Belgian Black Triple Rye IPA
  • Grand Rapids Brewing Co. – Philanthropist – BA Barleywine
  • Arcadia Ales – Big Dickicle – Iced Old Ale
  • New Holland BC - MI Nightmare (Sat 3p tapping) – Sour Poet Oatmeal Stout
  • Olde Peninsula Brewpub – Organic Twilight at the Summit – 100% MI Hop Spanish Cedar Aged Summit IPA
  • Stormcloud – “Fun With...” Barrel Aged Series, 3 offerings – Belgo Black IPA. Fun with Rum, Fun with Wine, Fun with Bourbon.
  • Pike 51 BC – Renegades of Funk – Barrel Aged Spontaneously Fermented IPA
  • Rockford Brewing – Shanty Warmer – Russian Imperial Stout
  • White Flame BC – Black Flame – BA Imperial Stout – Fri @ 4, Sat @ 2

  • Short’s BC / Starcut Ciders – Aurora Borealis – Sweet Cider Aged in Bourbon Barrels
  • One Well BC – Xalapa – Jalapeno Blonde
  • Cotton Brewing Co – Persistence – Continually Hopped IPA
  • Brewery Terra Firma – Scottish Moor Heather Ale
  • Our BC – The Tobacconist – Pipe Tobacco Porter
  • Blackrocks - Nevin's Double Headed Battle Polar Bear - Red IPA
  • Redwood BC – Hairy Lil’ Redhead Sista – India Pale Lager
  • Dragonmead BC – Russian Imperial Stout
  • Eternity BC – Strawberries ‘n Cream – Belgian Specialty Fruit Ale

Also, be sure to check out and support FERMENTA: MICHIGAN WOMEN’S CRAFT COLLECTIVE, who will be pouring 19 collaborative beers at this year’s Winter Beer Festival.

You can find their collaboration beers being poured at the following breweries:

  • 51 North Brewing Co.
  • Atwater Brewery
  • Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery
  • Boatyard Brewing Company
  • Brewery Ferment
  • Cotton Brewing Company
  • Eternity Brewing Company
  • Grizzly Peak Brewing Company
  • Harmony Brewing Company
  • Schmohz Brewery
  • The B.O.B. Brewery
  • Ore Dock Brewing Company
  • Our Brewing Company
  • Hudsonville Pike 51 Brewing Co.
  • Pleasant House Three Oaks & Pleasant House Brewing Company
  • Saugatuck Brewing Company
  • Unity Vibration Living Kombucha Tea LLC
  • Unruly Brewing Company
  • Witch's Hat Brewing Company

To find out more about FERMENTA: MICHIGAN WOMEN’S CRAFT COLLECTIVE, you can visit them on facebook at

You can find out more about this year’s festival at along with the full beer list! Most importantly, as of today, MONDAY 2/23, there are still tickets left for FRIDAY session. Get on it, they’re going to sell out before Friday’s session rolls around!

So much to see and do this year, cheers to another fantastic year, let’s raise a pint to MICHIGAN

Ben Darcie

Ben Darcie

Ben Darcie has been homebrewing since 2006 and is currently the Brewery Representative for Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids, MI. He also provides public and private Beer Education and is a Beer Writer for BeerAdvocate, I'm a Beer Hound and three other Michigan publications. He is also the founder of Experience Beer WM and the 9wk Grand Rapids Beer Tasting Class (est. 2010).