The Michigan Brewer’s Guild hosts four official events a year. The winter and summer beer fests, in
respectively, receive by far the most media buzz and attendance. Part of this stems from their attachments to
large urban areas, and part of it comes from their relative ease to attend;
both are just short drives from major Interstate highways, making them easy
destinations from Chicago or Detroit. The Upper Peninsula Fall Beer Fest,
however, does not have that option. Marquette, MI does not
have a population or a media presence the size of Grand rapids or Ypsi/Ann Arbor, and it
certainly doesn’t have a major Interstate highway connecting it to within a few
hours of two major metropolitan centers.
Despite being the largest city in the Upper Peninsula, Marquette
boasts about 10% the population of Grand
And yet I say that the Upper Peninsula Fall Beer Fest may be the best of the festivals.
|Who is driving? Oh no Unicorn is driving!|
The atmosphere was warm and inviting, and people were genuine and familiar and kind, and the beer was delicious:
At this point you may all think I’m just a shill for Greenbush, but I’m really not, and their beer really is that good. The raspberry porter stood out as an exemplary model for a complex, thought provoking beer that still begs to be drunk by the pint, not the sample. Plus they might win the award for longest distance traveled!
Hereford and Hops, the popular Escanaba brewpub, showcased a smoked jalapeno beer. Spice and pepper beers are becoming more popular, and this place really balances the fresh-sweet-spice of the jalapeño with the natural characteristics of a light blond ale. They also brought a Blueberry Lemongrass ale, which at 4% abv exhibited fantastic flavors. It was so good we had previously purchased a growler of the stuff to bring up to the
Lake of the Clouds.
Through either voodoo or sorcery or something more mundane, Griffin Claw is now brewing the original Screaming Pumpkin beer from the Michigan Brewing Company, which closed its doors in 2012. Does the beer taste identical? It’s been a year since I had it so I can’t speak with authority on that, but it’s close enough. This remains one of our favorite pumpkin beers.
Pike 51 really impressed us: they had a spiced rum coffee milk stout that drank like everything you love about alcohol – sweet yet bitter, thick and dark, and very smooth. They also brought the first dry hopped Belgian tripel I have ever tasted, and the cross-genre beer really worked!
Everybody understands that the barriers to entry for attending the U.P. Fall Beer Fest can get cumbersome. That’s why a successful Fall Beer Fest has less people than a Summer or Winter Fest. But that’s what endears it to so many craft beer fans; the people who go to the UP Beer fest really want to go there, they want it enough to make the trip from below the bridge or from the mountains to represent Michigan Yooper culture. The pristine views over
Lake Superior, the miles
of lush forest, and the crisp fall weather don’t hurt at all. When 2014 rolls around next year, and you've
got a vacation day or two that your boss doesn't want you to use, take them
then. Experience the raw splendor of the
Upper Peninsula, with a perfect party.