The Annual Michigan Summer Beer Festival is a gathering that any true lover of craft beer should try to attend at least once. With more than 800 (yes, you read that right - eight HUNDRED) different beers to choose from, there is definitely something for everyone. Of course it would be impossible to try every type of beer you wanted to try (not that there aren't those who don't put in a serious effort, myself included), which is why I think it's a good idea that you pair up when you attend a festival of this caliber.
My partner this year was Detroit's own craft beer examiner, Eric Stevens, who also doubles as Charlotte's newest craft beer examiner as well. Between the two of us, I do believe that we were able to sample a good portion of the festival's offerings. While we definitely went after the old favorites like Shorts, Bell's, Founders, Hopcat, Atwater, we were also excited to try some of the lesser known breweries' creations. This pairing was pretty perfect (alliteration!) because unfortunately, I'm not into IPAs and he doesn't care too much for wheat beers, so we were able to offer each other perspectives of beers we didn't really want to try. Here are some beers that really stood out and, if you ever have the chance to try, you definitely should.
- Sherwood Brewing Co.'s Cukuler Ale. Cucumber and beer aren't two things I think should go together, but they often do. There were some other cucumber-flavored microbrews here, but this one was probably the best of them all.
- Tapistry Brewing Co.'s Mr. Orange. Hard not to hear Stealer's Wheel and picturing Michael Madsen going nuts on some poor dude while sipping this concoction that was made with blood oranges, chamomile and rose hips.
- Brewery Ferment's Vacationer's Daily. Cream ale with lime peel. 'Nuff said.
- Original Gravity's 440 Pepper Smoker. I love any beer that adds heat to the mix. This smoked amber had a subtle, yet yummy jalapeno taste - not too hot, but enough to let you know it was there.
- Griffin Claw's Wicket Wit. This wasn't a complicated beer, after all it was a sour witbier. But this was my absolute favorite beer out of all the ones I tried. Hands down.
- Grand Rapids Brewing Co.'s Philanthropist. Here's a beer you can really feel good about drinking. You can love people while also knowing the ingredients in the beer are all organic. Isn't that special?
- Kuhnhenn Brewing had two beers that I didn't exactly enjoy, but they get honorable mentions because of their names: The Fluffer, a session IPA, and Penetration Porter. I really have no idea what they were trying to get at there. (Heavy on the sarcasm.)
While there were certainly many other beers, those are the ones that stood out the most. However, beer festivals are never just all about the beer. Food must be had and I would be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to the spectacular cheese plate offered by Traffic Jam and Snug. This place is billed as one of Detroit's overlooked treasures and I would tend to agree. If you're ever in the area, make this place one of your stops.
One of the main attractions of this year's festival was Dark Horse Brewing. Every year their set-up is something to see and makes you feel like you should run off and join the militia or something. This year they felt like the big dogs of the festival with their bi-level "tent" that was complete with air guns to shoot out t-shirts to eager fans and a six-foot block of ice from which you could fill your glass with Dark Horse Brewing beer. Again, though, with all the camo and long beards, it seemed like there was going to be some overthrowing of a government.
All-in-all, the 17th Annual Michigan Summer Beer Festival was a hit. People were happy, drinks were plentiful and everyone seemed to be having a good time. The absolute best part of the festival was running into so many Ohio people. Some people came up from Ohio to enjoy the beer while others were transplants. It's always nice to see that there is such a deep love of craft beer that it is able to overcome any ideas of what side of the border is better (cough...Ohio...cough). But in all seriousness, as a stranger in a strange land I was welcomed with open arms by the people of Michigan. We Ohioans will hopefully do the same as people from up north start to trickle down to see what all this noise is as our city's craft beer presence grows more and more.
See you next summer, Michigan! Cheers!