Tuesday, March 1, 2011

6th Annual Winter Beer Fest

Science has two terms for a huge group of people who patiently and cheerfully stand in line for the chance to spend five hours outside at the end of February in Michigan, making friends and idle chit chat as huge flakes of snow fall on their often bearded faces.

The first term is “crazy people.”

The second is the “Winter Beer Fest Attendees,” and given their dedication to and love for Michigan craft beer, one could say they are still crazy people. Crazy for beer.

Behold the amazing spectacle that is the 6th annual Winter Beer Fest, sponsored by our friends at the Michigan Brewers’ Guild. Six thousand people descended upon the parking lot at the Fifth Third Ballpark, splitting their time between the 62 Michigan breweries offering a total of 300 different and original beers for people to try. Braving a consistent snowfall, the attendees made their way from tent to tent, stopping occasionally to warm up by the fires strategically placed around the event or relinquish their claim to post-filtered beer at the wall of outdoor restroom facilities. Eighty-five restroom facilities, in fact.


The snow, which came almost completely without wind, was not unpleasant; fat, lazy balls of snowflakes pattered the beards and hats of everyone, creating an environment of wonder and celebration. Gentlemen drank out of mugs made from ice. Friends were made during the shared discomfort of standing in line to use the restroom. The only victim to the weather were the ubiquitous pretzel necklaces, which after a few hours inevitably became soggy under the onslaught of melted snow and occasionally spilled beer.

With 62 breweries in attendance, there was no end to the originality available from Michigan’s brewers. Dark Horse showed up in their double barreled fashion, boasting a tunnel of stouts for people to explore, in addition to a plethora of beers with such fascinating names as Whiskey Richard. Odd Side Ales, flaunting its skill in small batch beer creation, stepped up with some especially original ales, including Fig Brewton, and a very aggressive peppercorn ale. Right Brain Brewery up in Traverse City brought a delicious chocolate mint stout. Founder’s Brewing had – for a grand total of maybe 20 minutes – their world famous and devilishly hard to find Kentucky Breakfast Stout available. Kuhnhenn brought their signature super-experimental flair that included a crème brulee stout. Our friends at the Saugatuck Brewing company outdid themselves with a Neapolitan stout that literally tasted like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. The Big Rock Chop and Brewhouse had a fantastic raspberry ale. The list goes on and on; here is an incomplete list (the ones that we sampled) of the beers available:

Short's Carrot Cake Ale
Short's Almond Joy
Right Brain Dirty Girl Stout (chocolate mint stout)
Right Brain Pie Whole (amber ale)
Round Barn Grape Expectations
Millking It Productions AXL Pale Ale
Dark Horse Whiskey Richard Sour Ale
Dark Horse 4 Elf Winter Warmer
Dark Horse WGRD Ale
Saugatuck Neapolitan Ale
Saugatuck Vanilla Nutmeg Oatmeal Stout
Odd Side Fig Brewton
Odd Side Black Peppercorn Pale Ale
Kuhnhenn Bourbon Barrel Aged Fourth Dementia Olde Ale
Kuhnhenn Creme Brulee
Motor City Brewing Works Hard Cider
Motor City Brewing Works Strong Ale
Short's Strawberry Milk
Short's Raisin Apollo Double IPA
Short's Pineapple Ale
Blue Tractor Schakolad Weizen Chocolate Wheat
Blue Tractor Liv's Lager Imperial Pilsner
Corner Brewing Espresso Love Breakfast Stout
Corner Brewing Ryeclops Imperial “RyePA”
Big Rock Chop and Brewhouse Sour Raspberry
Big Rock Chop and Brewhouse Strong Scotch Ale
Frog Island Brewing Co. Moonsqualler Scotch Ale
Jaden James Brewery IPA
Jolly Pumpkin Bambic Special Blend
Jolly Pumpkin Chocolate, Pineapple, Chipotle, Rauch Biere
Lilys Seafood Grill and Brewery A Strange Oatmeal Stout
Lilys Yukon Cornelius Spiced Porter
Lilys O'Gradys Cherry Stout
Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout

As always, the high point of the beer fest was the community. Michigan craft beer brings people together in a way that ties in hard work, inventiveness, originality, emphasis on local business, and enthusiasm in such a way that everyone there really feels like friends with everyone else. It’s less of a sampling show and more of a family reunion.

Thanks to the Michigan Brewers Guild for organizing and putting on the event, thanks to the brewers for bringing their best and brightest on a snowy day, and thanks to the attendees for making the 6th Winter Beer Fest an immense success. Prost, Slainte, Skål, Cheers, and Salud!


For more of our photos from this event, click here.

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