On the beautiful, chilly Saturday morning of October 22nd, Seraphine and I braved the mean streets of Detroit’s bustling Eastern Market to hit up the 8th Annual MI Brewer’s Guild Detroit Fall Beer Fest.
We strolled through the entrance gates prepared for almost anything… hats and gloves to protect against the cold, pretzels (or in pretzel-hater Seraphine’s case, chips) to help soak up the booze, pens for keeping track of what we try, water for not dying, and of course our tiny plastic sample cups and pockets filled with silver tokens. The only thing that we found was overlooked was sunscreen, as it ended up being quite the clear, sunny day… the perfect kind of Autumn day to fill yourself with strong, warming, Michigan-brewed beer.
As you would expect, beer is a commodity there is no shortage of at the Fall Beer Fest. More than 80 Michigan breweries were pouring over 700 different beers that weekend. Our puny, carbon-based human bodies could never possibly sample something from every brewer, let alone every fantastic beer being served that day. Seraphine had a few pre-chosen selections to seek out, but my plan was a tad simpler… try whatever piqued my interest throughout the day.
We strolled past the numerous beer tents and stopped at any that caught our attention. And attention was certainly something many breweries were seeking. Shorts Brewing spewed fire into the sky while New Holland served from their enormous stainless steel beer trailer.
We stopped over at Ellison Brewery’s table and sampled their Tiramisu Stout… a dark, sweet brew that warmed us up quite nicely. I tried a Hogtoberfest from Commerce Township’s Kickstand Brewing, a festive dunkle this a nice hint of smokiness and thankfully no hint of hog. Railtown Brewing of Dutton served up a damn fine Peanut Butter Cocoa Porter, and the Headless Horseman Pumpkin Pie Ale from Northville’s North Center Brewing was quite delightful. Seraphine tracked down B. Nektar of Ferndale and sampled their Jasmine Green Tea IPA off of her hunt list while I got in the Halloween spirit and downed a sweet, cherrylicious Zombie Killer hard cider.
We ran into a number of amusing characters throughout the day, including a robed beer wizard and one of the folks at B. Nektar dancing it up in a comically large (and moderately unsettling) cat mask. We also took a moment to enjoy some of the live music being played at the back of the market. It was proving to be an interesting day. Pretzel necklaces were in wide use and although we’d brought in a number of salty snacks ourselves, something more substantial was in need, especially after catching a good whiff of the smoke wafting over from the food tent.
An enormous grill was on a constant rotation of brats and burgers, shepherd’s pie was on the menu from Detroit’s own Grand Trunk Pub and Slow’s Bar BQ was serving up some truly delicious smoked meats. Seraphine enjoyed the Mac & Cheese while I filled my guts with BBQ pulled brisket and sweet potato mash. The sustenance was much-needed, as there was much more beering to do and the day was growing short.
We headed into Shed 5, which was a warm refuge from the cool morning breeze. To my surprise, I ran into a good friend of mine, Josh, who was serving up beers for Gravel Bottom Brewery of Ada, a smaller operation that brews up some seriously solid beers. Their 100lb Pumpkin Ale is one to check out, as it’s a delicious pumpkin beer that thankfully doesn’t kick you over the head with an overdose of gourd. 100lbs must be the magic number. Afterwards I decided to mix things up a bit and sampled Brewery Vivant’s Stone Fruit Sour and a Red Nymph Sour from HopCat (both deliciously tart) for a bit of zest to balance out all of the darker, roastier brews I’d been sampling all day… and then immediately followed those up with one of the roastiest of beers, Barrel-Aged Plead the 5th from Dark Horse Brewing. Seraphine abstained from the sours, as they are really not her thing. Every beer isn’t for every person… hey, drink what you like.
Now, a word of sage advice: do yourself an enormous favor and purchase a Michigan Brewers Guild Enthusiast membership. Not only will you get $1 off your first pint at any MI Brewers Guild brewery (not to mention quite a few other perks), you get into any of their beer fests an hour early. It is money well spent, as the Noon early entry is primo fest time. No lines, no crowds. Once the floodgates opened at 1:00pm, things got a little crazy. Over the course of the day it became increasingly difficult to traverse the rows between tents to obtain more delicious liquids, and the restroom situation became quite bad, with massive wait times as way too many people crammed into Porta John Cove. Here’s hoping the organizers can find a better way to set things up for future Fall Beer Fests. Oddly enough, it turns out that thousands of attendees sampling more than 700 beers creates quite the need for easily and quickly accessible bathrooms.
As the day went on the temperature outside increased… or perhaps it was simply the alcohol in our blood increasing, guarding us from the chill. Either way, a breezy, somewhat cool morning turned into a gorgeous sunny day.
We stopped by up Grand Rapids Brewing Company’s tent outside of Shed 5 and sampled their Fall Off The Hayride, a very smooth, strong, and tasty imperial cream ale. As we made our way to the exit, we stopped by Unity Vibration to see what they had on the menu. Their Peachtree Holler Kombucha Tea, though a bit funky to the nose, was very refreshing, tasting of peaches and basil. It was also significantly sessionable, to say the least, as it only contained about 1% alcohol. It proved to be a wonderful palate-cleanser after a long day of strong, boozy libations.
The Detroit Fall Beer Fest is an event we would most definitely recommend to any lover of craft beer. It’s a wonderful day of fun people, delicious food and a staggering selection of extraordinary beers from the best breweries Michigan has to offer. Just be prepared to leave a bit sad, as you look through your festival program and see just how many beers you didn’t have the time or physical ability to sample. Seraphine and I spent 6 hours wandering this beer wonderland and we both left feeling like we’d barely made a mark, let along a dent, in the beer list.
As you walk through exit, back into the real world, just try remembering these reassuring words:
“There’s always next year.”