What will Michigan craft beer fans tolerate to celebrate the state’s popular offerings?
Ground so muddy even pallets sunk into it?
More samples than any single human could try?
Our party managed to avoid most of the rainfall, enjoying a summer festival decidedly cooler -- and muddier -- than several in the past. The air was dry and crisp, yet the sun still shone brightly for most of the events. Tents full of Michigan breweries stretched across the festival grounds farther than they’d ever been before, offering 800 different beers to tempt the palate.
No, I did not try all 800 beers. Pretty sure you can figure that out based on the fact that I’m still alive to write this.
We did, however, try a lot of beer. As we wandered from tent to tent, greeting old friends and new (everyone at the Summer Beer Fest is a friend, after all), we discovered treasures from all over the state.
Kuhnhenn Brewing, the eclectic Warren brewery known for its experimental beers, did not disappoint. They had a line of beer carefully crafted to taste like cocktails, with Mardis Gras themed offerings such as the Hurricane and the Sazerac. Rather than use spirits to achieve their desired taste, Kuhnhenn brewed beer based on flavors that would mimic the original cocktails’ profile, which made these offerings truly different from beer-cocktails or any other beverage I’ve had before.
White Flame, the first brewery in formerly dry Hudsonville, offered a deep, rich imperial porter aged in cherry bitters casks. This process imparted a cherry flavor that maintained its sweetness without becoming overwhelming, like a dry chocolate cake infused with a hint of cherry. This is one of my favorite stouts in the state.
Griffin Claw Brewing Company has exploded on the scene, offering a spectacular sour saison for review. The saison is such a fragile beer that souring it can sometimes result in a taste too strong, such that it hides the fruity tones, the yeasty bite, and the gentle but insistent hazy straw flavor. Griffin Claw hides none of this, allowing all of those beautiful summer flavors to be enhanced by the sour aging process, resulting in a perfect hot weather beer.
I am finding that I cannot say enough good things about Greenbush. This brewery never backs down from a challenge, and the selection they brought to the Summer Beer Fest was just fantastic. I had the
opportunity to try their imperial blueberry cream stout (Cabra Perdida), which does not show its cards all at once. The sweet, thick, creamy ale boasts just a whisper of blueberry; enough to remind you it’s there, but so faint that you may not believe yourself a few minutes later....prompting another swallow.
There were dozens more breweries with fantastic offerings: Hopcat’s sour beers were excellent, Pike51 had a fantastic Thai spiced beer, Bell’s bourbon aged Uberon brought a whole new dimension to a Michigan classic, and Rockford Brewing Company nailed the session ale with their Obsession Rye. Indeed, the beers available and the camaraderie that’s always present was in full force, despite the rain and the mud. Heartfelt thanks to everyone -- from the Michigan Brewer’s Guild and its many members to the people who come together to celebrate Michigan’s fantastic beer culture!
View the rest of our photos from this event here.