TRAVERSE CITY — Local music, food and beer — a fine combination by any right, but in the setting of a beautiful evening in Northern Michigan they become something even better. The annual Traverse City Summer Microbrew & Music Festival is a celebration of the vibrant local culinary and music scene, with a sampling of some of best beer Michigan brewers have to offer.

Set within the grounds of the renovated state hospital (now known as the Village at Grand Traverse Commons), the increasingly popular festival is a playground for foodies and beer geeks alike.

The festival was a change of pace from the previous beer festivals I’ve attended, in that this one held a pretty equal emphasis on beer, food and music. That said, most of the breweries here left the barrel-aged and one-off experiments at home, something that I was initially not too excited about. Most everything that was present was something that I’ve either had before, or was readily available in bottles.

After a few samples of some old standbys, it got me thinking — having constantly been in the search for aforementioned barrel-aged monsters, I realized how spoiled I’ve become living in such an amazing beer state as Michigan. What has become the “norm” on the beer shelves in this state are some truly world class beers that are excellent, well balanced representatives of their respective styles.

I took this opportunity to stroll down hazy-memory lane with the old malty friends that got me started on craft beer in the first place. To twist a phrase from the side of Short’s Pandemonium Pale Ale, sometimes I forget to stop and behold the bitter hysteria.

Jolly Pumpkin — La Roja
An wild American amber ale, this beer is a perfect example of the signature JP funk. Pours a deep ruby red body with a thin, fizzy white head. Nose is dry and tart, with the sour funk from the wild yeast predominating. Its body features the lightly roasted malts you would expect from an amber ale. Slightly more acetic and tart than the nose, with another hefty dose of the brett funk. Finishes with the funk and bit of grapefruit from the hops. Very well-rounded beer and a great starter for those who have yet to delve into sour ales.

Short’s Brewing Company — Pandemonium Pale Ale
A beautiful, light copper colored body with a loose, fluffy white head. Its smell is a perfect mix of earthy hops and toasted malts. Toasted, biscuit flavors from the malt present throughout the body, with a pleasant hoppy finish. There’s nothing overpowering about this beer — it’s very well balanced — a beer you could easily have a few of on a hot summer day.

Right Brain Brewery — Black (eye) PA
A rich, dark tan head sits atop a midnight black body. The head leaves a gorgeous thin lacing the entire way down the glass. Roasted malts, chocolate and citrus hop flavors dominate the nose, continuing into the body. Tastes the same as the nose — roasted malts fade into a pleasant hoppy finish. A fantastic take on a relatively new style, this brew is a must try for stout fans who are looking for something a little lighter on the body during the summer months.