It was an amazing weekend in Grand Rapids for the Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival. The weather was almost perfect with tons of sun, warmer temperatures, yet gusty winds to keep festival-goers in check that it is still February.
Plenty of people from all over the state of Michigan and Midwest, descended upon Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, MI to partake in the festival. When I picked up my media passes, tickets were still available for purchase yet the festival was packed with people throughout the day.
I enjoyed meeting the brewers, owners, beer representatives, and enthusiasts representing the breweries mentioned in The List – 20 Beers You Want to Try at the Winter Beer Festival (2020), along with seeing friends in the industry that I only get to see at Michigan Brewers Guild festivals.
Ken was on hand at the festival as an attendee and pouring for Austin Brothers Beer Co. He and I have very different palates when it comes to beer, so the following winners are varied, which we find to be a good thing. Beers are in order from lowest to highest ABV.
313 POLISH LAGER – Grand River Brewery – Jackson ~ Ken
313 Polish Lager is a light and crisp yet tasty lager that is easily accessible to any beer drinker no matter how long you’ve been in the game. This beer from Grand River Brewery was a welcomed break from all of the barrel-aged beers that were available on Saturday.
RELATED: Freakin’ Flight – 313 Day featuring 313 Polish Lager
Koeze Peanut Cluster Stout – Broad Leaf Local Beer – Kentwood ~ Ken
Affectionately called “Cream Nuts” on its cans, Koeze Peanut Cluster Stout was a hit at Winter Beer Fest! It is Broad Leaf Local Beer‘s collaboration beer with Grand Rapids candy company, Koeze. It did not disappoint with a hearty balance of peanuts and chocolate.
Octopus Was Very Scary – Cognition Brewing Company – Ishpeming ~ Ken
There were a ton of stouts available to try on Saturday. Cognition Brewing Company‘s Rocky Road brew had a ton of flavors for an Imperial Stout, including cocoa, almond, and marshmallow. Ken found Octopus Was Very Scary potent, balanced, and rich. And, you cannot go wrong with a Goonies reference.
BattleCat – Harmony Brewing Company – Grand Rapids ~ Ed
A new recipe and kick-ass name graced our presence on Saturday at the Harmony Brewing Company booth. Ben Isbell, head brewer, told me that you can’t go wrong with a beer name like BattleCat. I completely agree! The Hazy Norweigan IPA spoke for itself as it was very hoppy with notes of tropical fruit.
Barrel-Aged PARA/DIGM Wheatwine Ale – Frankenmuth Brewery – Frankenmuth ~ Ed
This barrel-aged wheatwine ale was so smooth and delicious. I found PARA/DIGM to be a solid balance between malty and sweet with a strong barrel finish. Frankenmuth Brewery continues to kill it with their beer festival selections, so give them a try when you see them next!
HELL-APA – One Well Brewing – Kalamazoo ~ Ed
When a wizard wearing an orange robe with beers on it is in the beer line helping festivalgoers decide which of the beers to get, you know you’re in for a special treat. The wizard ended up being one of the owners, Chris O’Neill, and he knows his product. Hell-Apa was such a unique beer and was one that I was not ready for, but thoroughly enjoyed.
One Well Brewing took an Imperial version of their Xalapa, a blonde ale brewed with no spice jalapeños, and barrel-aged it in a hot sauce bourbon barrel. The barrel and the hot sauce blended perfectly together to create such an approachable brew that I now want to enjoy it every time I have Mexican food, especially on Taco Tuesdays.
The next Michigan Brewers Guild festival is the inaugural Spring Beer Festival. It will be on Saturday, May 16 in Traverse City, MI. As most Michigan craft beer enthusiasts know this is the same day as the World Expo of Beer in Frankenmuth. It will be an interesting decision to see how festival-goers and breweries decide how to attend these festivals. Better on Draft will be covering both, so stay tuned for more details.