It’s a chilly, crisp day on the east side of the state; the type of day where the sun has yet to lose its battle against the clouds, and insists on sending welcoming rays of light through the bleak sky. The landscape is a stark contrast to our last adventure, with barely tamed natural wonders giving way to miles of asphalt, a horizon of sparkling blue water replaced by tall storefronts advertising meat and fish and appliances and other downtown items. It’s the Michigan Fall Beer Fest, definitely; but six weeks after
and a 450 mile trip south. Welcome to
the Marquette Fall Beer Fest! Detroit
The Fall Beer Fest housed at
Eastern Market has a feel to it that’s just as unique as any of the other Guild
sponsored festivals. Taking place only a few days before Halloween, right as
the colors in southern Michigan begin to peak, the festival channels that “end
of the harvest” energy into an exciting event.
Yes, it’s an event heavy on pumpkin beers, harvest ales, and barrel-aged-everything,
but if you weren’t expecting that then you don’t read stuff about beer very
Nestled among the vast selection of 450 beers (one for every mile separating
Detroit from …coincidence?) we found, as
always, a few big standouts: Marquette
Kuhnhenn Brewing, a stalwart mainstay at these events and no stranger to high quality, experimental ales, made a sweet and spicy sour pumpkin beer that was so strikingly delicious that someone literally ran up to us to have us try it…which in turn caused us to run up to other people. Kuhnhenn has always made fantastic sour beers, and this careful combination of bold pumpkin, balanced spices, and rich, natural sweetness all cut with careful souring made for a truly unforgettable experience.
Short’s Brewing seems to have achieved the semi-impossible. Their American IPA, ControversiALE (previously known as Hanging Frank), has been my favorite American IPA brewed in
Right Brain Brewing has always done well with vegetable beers. I’ve written before about their surprisingly refreshing asparagus beer, but this year they brought two fantastic saisons that showcase new flavors. For watchers of The Office, it should come as no surprise that Schrute Farms is a saison highlithing earthy and colorful beets. This beer retained much of its refreshing nature, with a striking color and an unmistakable fresh beet flavor. If you like beets, you’ll like this beer. If you don’t like beets, grow up. Right Brain also offered the delightful pun Cool Hand Cuke – a cucumber basil saison that I want to drink forever. The sweet cucumber and assertive basil combine for a beer that is delicious on its own, yet practically begs to be used in a gin cocktail.
Odd Side Ales knows its way around the Citra hop. Their Citra Pale is known statewide, and the brewer has taken this versatile beer to new heights with Bourbon Citra as well as Black Bourbon Citra. Both of these options blend the citrus and tropical fruit characteristics of the hop with a light kiss of oak and bourbon, resulting in two similar yet wholly unique examples of a bourbon aged beer showcasing the Citra. These beers are not thick, sweet, nor heavy; instead they use the bourbon flavor sparingly, an accent to the already great beer vs a distraction. It’s a perfect use of the flavor and a rare feat for many breweries.
When we first visited Brewery Ferment in April, I mentioned that some of their beers could use some polish. I’m elated to find that the polish has occurred in spades, and Dustin and crew brought forth some of my favorite beers at the festival, including the 45th parallale Pale Ale and a superbly spiced Ghost Pepper Stout called Captain Scorch.
With the fall colors tuned perfectly, the setting serene and a little surreal, you owe it to yourself to make a venture to Michigan's east side to sample the products here. The environment is spectacular, the beers are perfect, and the mood is phenomenal. Take a look around you, because the Detroit of 2013, for better or worse, won't exist for that much longer.