The 10th Annual Southern Michigan Winter Beer Festival took place on Saturday, May 1 in Jackson, MI.
The beer festival was held at the brand new American 1 Events Center in James J. Keeley Park, formerly known as the Jackson County Fairgrounds. The event space had both indoor and outdoor capabilities which allowed for social distancing to occur for the sold out event.
The Southern Michigan Winter Beer Festival usually occurs in March of each year. COVID-19 cancelled the event in 2020 after numerous rescheduling attempts were done over the course of the year. There was only one reschedule in 2021 and, thankfully, the event happened on Saturday. The festival was sold out with roughly 1,000 people attending.
With over 150 beer, cider, and wine selections available, our two person team was not able to try everything that this festival had to offer. A quick scan of the offerings, though, did indicate that a lot of the beverages were available at large chain grocery stores across the state. We focused our tokens and taste buds on drinks that we’ve never had before or wanted to take a risk on with our sample glass.
Our winners from the festival are listed below in alphabetical order by establishment name.
Blackgrass Ciderworks | Rochester Hills, MI | Cider | 6.5%
Selected by Ed | Editor in Chief and Lead Blog Writer
Everyone in the crowd kept saying that the Fineapple Cider from Blackgrass Ciderworks, the cider program of Griffin Claw Brewing Company, was “different” than what they were expecting. I thought it was aromatic and a crushable blend between apples and pineapples. It reminded me of Cellarmen‘s The Offering. This connection made perfect sense because the creator of these two great beverages is the same, Ian Radogost-Givens. I’m looking forward to finding and drinking more from Blackgrass Ciderworks.
Blueberry Cream Ale
Hillsdale Brewing Company | Hillsdale, MI | Cream Ale | 5.1%
Selected by Ed
Hillsdale Brewing Company brought three beers for festival goers to try – Unholy Hazy IPA, Blueberry Cream Ale, and the newest version of their Shameful Opportunist Scotch Ale. Out of the three, the Blueberry Cream Ale was my favorite. It had a distinct color from the blueberries and was an easy one to drink. This Cream Ale could be a great beer to enjoy all summer long whether you’re in the taproom down in Hillsdale or able to take it on the go to drink with others at a get together.
RELATED – Freakin’ Flights – Cream Ales (2020)
Meckley’s Peanut Butter Porter
Meckley’s Flavor Fruit Farm | Somerset, MI | American Porter | 5.4%
Selected by Ed & Ken
Meckley’s Flavor Fruit Farm brought out all the stops. They had a large table set up at the front of the outdoor tent and were in full force with both their ciders and beers. Spectacular cans with eye catching labels were on display and everyone was raving about the options available. The Peanut Butter Porter was smooth yet nutty with a hint of chocolate that lingered on the back end. Ken and I agreed that it was a solid offering from the Southern Michigan establishment.
Odd Brothers Craft Cider | Homer, MI | Hopped Cider | 6.5%
Selected by Ed
THE IPC was a hopped cider that checked the boxes for a hop head like me and still tasted like a cider. The green apple and hop pairing in this India Pale Cider worked well to create an excellent gateway cider to beer and cider lovers alike to branch out. The hops used in Odd Brothers Craft Cider‘s Hopped Cider were from High Five Hop Farm in Marshall. Gotta love a hometown brew like this one at a festival.
Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout
Terrapin Beer Co | Athens, GA | Milk/Sweet Stout | 6%
Selected by Ken | Founder and Podcast Co-Host
Winter beer festivals are always a great opportunity to see what kind of stouts breweries are cooking up during the winter months. It’s interesting that our top pick in of the Stout style was one brewed from Terrapin Beer Co out of Georgia! According to the Untappd description, the Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout “proudly uses cocoa nibs and shells from Olive and Sinclair Chocolate Company to give this beer its great taste.” Ken said the stout was sweet, but not too sweet and complex in all the right ways.
Disclaimer: Better on Draft received complimentary tickets to cover the festival.