Monday, March 21, 2011

Brew Ski Festival at Boyne Highlands

“I hate winter.”

As a Michigander, I hear that sentence a lot. I’m guilty of saying it on more than one occasion. It’s pretty easy to understand that living in a land where winter arrives early to ruin Halloween, and stays late to ruin Easter (let alone St Patrick’s Day) would breed some contempt for the cold wind, icy roads, and long, dark nights.

Well guess what. It’s coming again next year, and you have three choices: run away, continue to complain, or come to grips with the fact that the price for living in a place without earthquakes, volcanoes, sharks, droughts, or hurricanes is a few chilly months and a tornado once in awhile. So bundle up, grab a beer, and find something fun to do.

Michigan even makes it easy for you. On Saturday, March 12th, the Boyne Highlands Resort hosted its second annual Brew Ski event, an outdoor celebration of beer and downhill skiing. In a collection of tents located at the foot of their beautiful ski trails, the Resort hosted dozens of breweries in an event to brings two communities – skiers and craft beer lovers – that may not traditionally share a lot of overlap.

I admit that I was originally skeptical about mixing a sport that typically requires at least a modicum of hand-eye coordination with craft beer. While the vast majority of festival goers drink responsibly, one would assume that getting on skis might exacerbate some of the side effects of enjoying craft beer. However, my fears were misplaced; people would ski down the mountain, warm up by one of the fires, enjoy a delicious bratwurst and sample some of the beverages available before repeating the process, and no ill effects were recorded. Laura and I even got in on the action by taking the zipline down the hill. Upside down.

The beer selections offered at the Brew Ski event differed slightly from what I’ve become accustomed to at the Michigan Brewers’ Guild sponsored festivals. The upside: beer from outside of our great borders. I admit that I occasionally enjoy beer brewed outside of the mitten, and it was new and refreshing to see some truly big names in American craft beer showing off: we sampled some beer from such names as Lagunitas (California), Goose Island (Illinois), Stone Brewing (California), Rogue Ales (Oregon), and Redhook (Washington), just to name a few. The downside: whereas I’m used to festivals being places where experimental and limited edition beers are showcased, most of the brewers were exhibiting their classics and most popular beer. This is not disappointing, as I’m certain many people (including me!) found something they had never tried before. And even if they didn’t, the old standbys from our favorite Michigan and outstate breweries are nothing to complain about.

Yes, winter sucks. Yes, it snows in Michigan. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the weather. Nothing helps turn the gray drab of a winter day into fun more than a few craft beers and an activity you enjoy. So pull those gloves on, wrap your ears up, stop complaining, and enjoy this state. If it’s going to be winter eight months a year, we sure shouldn’t waste it.

If you waste it, I will find you.

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