Tent – Check
Tons of layers to stay warm and dry – Check
Campfire – Check
Beer – Check
Friends – Check
No, I’m not making a packing list for camping. I’m crossing off everything the Michigan Winter Beer Fest had in 2019. The lingering campfire smell IS STILL present on my coat and hat from the wonderful wintry weekend with Michigan craft beer!
My weekend began Friday evening at the Winter Beer Fest AFTER DARK party at Craft Beer Cellar Grand Rapids. The craft beer bottle shop and bar showcased several of the Winter Beer Fest’s breweries and offerings throughout the night.
The event was standing room only as people met up with old friends and made new ones to play board games, drink delicious Michigan craft beer, and socialize with representatives from the featured breweries on tap.
Brian Beaucher, co-owner of Craft Beer Cellar Grand Rapids, was very excited for the crowd and beers available. He was quick to mention that Benji Jacobs from Haymarket Pub & Brewing was the original organizer for the event. Benji told me that he “wanted there to be an after party hangout and collaboration event between breweries from across the state”. He also mentioned that it was another great way to end the first full week of Craft Beer Month GR.
The event ended up having a solid showing of breweries and cideries, along with a meadery involved as well. My favorite beer from the event was Rochester Mills Brewing Co.‘s Milkshake IPA (pictured above).
The 14th annual Michigan Winter Beer Fest was hosted at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, which is ten minutes north of downtown Grand Rapids. The event was one of the four major festivals that the Michigan Brewers Guild throws every year. Michigan boasts 350 breweries that have seating and almost 150 of them were there on Friday and Saturday. There were over 1,100 different beers to sample, and everyone was bringing their best and their newest creations.
Here are some highlights from Saturday’s sold out festival:
There were plenty of intriguing costumes on display Saturday ranging from those looking to stay warm with snow pants, heavy duty boots, and camouflage to those looking to be the center of attention or a photo op, such as a few Yetis, Bugs Bunny from Space Jam, and, a gentleman dressed up in pineapple attire including an inflatable pineapple strapped to his back.
Even the band, the Concussions, were sporting their usual skeleton masks as they provided us with sounds of “surf and instrumental rock-n-roll from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm.
In addition to the giant white event tents set up to house plenty of brewery booths underneath them, a couple of breweries brought their own set ups to show off and attract people to their location to sample their beers.
Clark Gill, owner of Aberrant Ales, was excited to show off his new trailer. The trailer’s sides had a spray painted scene of Aberrant’s hometown – Howell.
Ore Dock Brewing Company of Marquette had a large wooden structure set up outside of it’s space in the event tents beckoning people to come on over.
The Michigan Beer Community
It was great to visit with a few of the breweries that I’ve covered since starting at Better on Draft and it was nice to meet people from breweries I’ve been wanting to check out or have just heard about.
I met up with Josh Rake from Rake Beer Project as he was pouring for Speciation Artisan Ales where he did a collaboration with them – Mycoplasma. It was available to sample as well. Rake shared that progress on Rake Beer Project’s space in downtown Muskegon is coming along nicely. He’s been excited to share pilot batches with a growing number of supporters and fans, too.
Phil Tomson from Big Hart Brewing Co. was great to meet and talk to. Big Hart was MIBeerBox‘s featured brewery for February. Phil said he was hearing from a few people, besides myself, about the upcoming visits to Hart to check out the brewery and enjoy a few of their beers. I’m planning on visiting this summer, so stay tuned on that…
In general, the crowd at the Winter Beer Festival was amazing. People were friendly as we stood in line together for beer, food, and the bathroom. Even when Mother Nature reminded us that she was in charge with a steady rain, everyone was accommodating as we bustled from one beer tent to the next to try more beers.
With the Better on Draft crew being present on Friday and Saturday, we had the chance to sample a wide spread of beers from all over the state. Here are our top takes:
What was your favorite beer from Winter Beer Fest 2019? Did you check out any from The List – 20 Beers You Want to Try at the Michigan Winter Beer Festival? Let us know!