The weekend of October 26th through 28th was the perfect storm of beer events for craft beer enthusiasts in Southeast Michigan. The World Series descended upon the city, and despite a less-than-desirable outcome, downtown Detroit tailgating and bar-going was the norm. The Tashmoo traveling bier garten was in full swing, offering attendees a variety of carbonated libations, but best of all was the Michigan Brewers' Guild 4th Annual Fall Beer Festival, which this year was expanded to a two-day event in Detroit's Eastern Market off Mack Avenue.
The craft beer festival opened its gates to general ticket holders on Friday at 5:00 PM without being sold out - a case that is expected to change in years to come. Tickets could still be bought at the door, and if able to attend, this is the day beer drinkers could get all of the benefits with none of the pitfalls inherent to attending a widely popular event serving widely popular products. The evening was cool, the lines were short. Scheduled tappings of coveted treats, such as Bell's Black Note, a combination of Expedition and Double Cream Stouts aged in Bourbon barrels, were able to be enjoyed by all without having to wait in line. Many brewers were available for discussion, the pours were generous, and the wide array of offerings were able to be enjoyed without the cumbersome crowd.
Friday's portion of the event lasted until 9:00 PM, and this time of year, the sun set and darkness settled in for the last half of the evening - a first for a Michigan Brewer's Guild festival. The darkness required generators and light sources to be rigged in the tasting tents, but the night added a certain mystique to the evening, especially considering the festival consumed the weekend before Halloween. Many festival goers were dressed in costume and Dark Horse Brewing out of Marshall hosted a projector where a steady stream of scary movies entertained those with the nerves to watch and the patience to stand with empty glasses.
Though the sold-out crowd of a typical Brewer's Guild event was in attendance Saturday from 1:00 to 5:00 PM, it only illuminated the wild shift in popularity from festival to festival. This fall, the Greenbush lineup was the class of the party. Offering over 30 different varieties brewed right in Sawyer, including seasonals like Memento Mori Oktoberfest as well as yearly favorites such as the 1825 Belgian Strong Ale, the Greenbush line seemed to be never-ending.
The prevalence of seasonal beers was much greater this year as each brewer seemed to have at least one unique taster on tap. Kuhnhenn's touted their very solid Oktoberfest and All Hallows Pumpkin Ale as well as their Double Rice IPA, which won the gold medal at the 2012 World Beer Cup in the American IPA category.
Another theme this year was the spicing of dark beers such as porters and stouts. The roasted malts gave these beers almost a darkened caramel flavor, reminiscent of a pumpkin pie that had been overcooked. The key was a residual sugar content that balanced the roast and dryness of these beers. Sherwood Brewing put together a nice Smoked Pumpkin Porter, The Hideout out of Grand Rapids were sampling a Grand Pumpkin Milk Stout, and Detroit Beer Co. offered a twist on the concept with a Chocolate Pumpkin Double Porter.
Though a little chillier temperatures than what are typically encountered at the Fall Beer Festival, the camaraderie made the Eastern Market as warm as ever. This year's festival was more successful than each before it, and here's to the continuance of a two-day fall event and the inevitable lighting creativity we will see in years to come.