For my first beer festival since joining the Better on Draft Media team, I decided to tackle one close to my home in Midland and head over to the first-ever Great Lakes Beer Festival on Saturday, August 20, 2022. It was held at Dow Diamond, where the Great Lakes Loons Minor League Baseball team plays. More than fifty breweries from around the state sent beer, cider, meads, and spirits for people to enjoy on an amazing afternoon. MiBrew Trail hosted the festival, and they were excited to bring more beer opportunities to the central Michigan area.
All the brewery booths were hosted in the concourse behind home plate. When it started to sprinkle, I never got wet. The rain didn’t last long, though. Overall, the weather was mild in the 70s with a cloudy sky and gentle breeze. All in all, it was a nice day to walk around and try new brews!
The event was well-organized and went off without any problems. One representative expressed surprise at how many people were in attendance to the newer festival. While it wasn’t so packed that I couldn’t move around, there was always a small line at each brewery’s booth.
The Loons concessions provided several food options, while two local bands performed live music. The Detroit Lions’ game played on the Jumbotron (and they actually won!). The baseball field was filled with corn hole boards for a tournament to go along the beer festival.
Many of the breweries attended through their distributors only. This means the brewery sent beer in and volunteers handled the booths and the pouring. There was a strong showing from several Michigan breweries, big and small, near and far. Of the ones who came for the festival, it was an even split between those who brought jockey boxes and draft systems compared to those who brought cans. Either way, the beer was enjoyable, and the atmosphere was positive.
The Beer Community
As I made my way around the concourse, I spoke with a few brewery representatives and brewers, and met interesting new people. I talked with Amy of Pigeon Hill Brewing Company, who said she enjoyed how smooth everything was going from the exhibitor side of the table. She seemed excited about how many folks had shown up and hoped the festival would continue in the future.
I also chatted with Charles Osberger, Account Executive of ROAK Brewing and Dark Horse Brewing Co. We talked about the cool beers both breweries are working on. He encouraged me to check out Dark Horse’s New England IPAs when I head down to Marshall for their Oktoberfest event on Saturday, September 24th.
It was nice to speak with Tyler, the brewer for Loggers Brewing Company in Saginaw. He shared his own enthusiasm for the beer festival in the area of the brewery. We also chatted about how he fell into brewing while he was in college. Hear more about Tyler and Loggers Brewing on Better on Draft Episode 106 from 2017.
There was no way I was going to be able to sample each of the beers that each of the 50+ breweries brought to the event. From what I did try, there were four that stood out to me above the crowd. Here they are in alphabetical order by the brewery’s name.
Great White Buffalo
Griffin Claw Brewing Company | Birmingham | Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout | 12%
I tried two of Griffin Claw‘s beers. The first was Conflict of Interest, a New England-ish style IPA and the second being Great White Buffalo. The latter won me over by far. Sure, you get a lot of the chocolate and coffee notes as you’d expect, it was the caramelly bourbon melding with the vanilla that brought it all home for me. I sipped this one like I sip my bourbon at home and felt warmer for it.
Crooked Cap Kolsch
Innovators Brewing Co | Richville | Kolsch | 4.8%
As summer winds down, I am still enjoying a crisp, clean Kolsch, and this one was no different. Crooked Cap Kolsch had a nice and subtle fruitiness to make it just interesting enough to drink without being overwhelming. A refreshing beer!
As an aside, Innovators Brewing Co had the coolest booth, in my opinion. They brought all sorts of knick-knacks to decorate and catch the eye of attendees. Their items had a nautical, exploratory theme. There was a sextant, old books, large gears, and even an old diving helmet.
Pin Whacker Pils
Loggers Brewing Company | Saginaw | American Pilsner | 4.8%
After chatting with Tyler, I realized I needed to get a beer. Considering the options, I chose the Pin Whacker Pils. There’s nowhere to hide when it comes to a Pilsner or Lager; that’s where you can tell how important quality ingredients and brewing are to a brewer.
This beer had nothing to hide. This bubbly carbonation and well-formed head gave me more than enough to enjoy the clean, pure brew with a surprisingly-present malty-sweetness on the exhale. This is a beer I could drink several of and not get tired of it.
I’d also like to note that Loggers had a station for washing out your cup to help preserve the flavors of their beer. This was a nice touch and further spoke to the care they take in giving their beer its best chance to shine.
Petoskey Brewing | Petoskey | Cream Ale | 7%
Cream Ales are not my usual go-to, but when they’re done well, they’re always a joy to drink. Petoskey Brewing puts out good brews, and one of their most popular is Cranium Crush. Blueberry Crush is the blueberry version and is a dessert beer, if there ever was one. You get a subtle blueberry flavor with waffle cone and sugar notes throughout. It made me want to go out and get ice cream on my way home from the festival. Yummy!
Did you go to the festival? Have you had any of these beers? Let us know what you think in the comments below!