FRANKENMUTH — Paul Boissevain spent this past weekend trying to introduce more folks to his craft beer. It’s the same mentality Mark Lorenz embraced as he embarked on the annual World Expo of Beer.
Neither of the two Northern Michigan brewery owners necessarily planned to showcase any awards during the annual Expo, but both smiled ear-to-ear at having won awards.
“We’re out there making beers we like to drink,” Boissevain said of his Keweenaw Brewing Company, located in Houghton. “We’re not there for style — we’re there for something that makes you want another drink.”
“We’re very surprised, very happy,” said Lorenz, a member of Cheboygan Brewing Co., which took home a first place award for the brewery’s seasonal brew Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest, created by the brewery’s operation manager and brewmaster Tim Perry, was inspired by the 1976 Späten Oktoberfest bier from Munich, Germany. Although it was not available at the Expo (as it is a seasonal), Lorenz described it as orange in hue with a pronounced malt presence.
Meanwhile, Keweenaw Brewing Company captured second place in the American Ale category with its Lift Bridge Brown Ale.
“It’s one of our poor(est) selling beers,” Boissevain said. “The Brown happened to win because it fit a category.”
Since both Lorenz and Boissevain say their two breweries do not emphasize brewing for a style, fitting a category to win awards from the Expo was no easy task.
With nearly 300 beers available, the Expo packed Frankenmuth’s Heritage Park inside and out Friday and Saturday. It took less than three hours after doors opened at 3 p.m. Saturday before it became somewhat difficult to shift through the crowd and maneuver to various medal-winning beers.
The event also offered the opportunity for attendees to talk to brewers, owners, distributors and managers if they happened to track them down. Although Keweenaw has been open since 2004, the Expo is the perfect event for exposure (especially since some consider the UP another Mitten). For Cheboygan, the Expo was infinitely more important — it just opened last May.
Cheboygan used the opportunity to showcase its Lighthouse Amber Altbier and La Cerveza, which were both recently expanded into new distribution areas.
“Agreements have been established with Powers Distributing Company to market our products in the Oakland and Macomb counties in Southeast Michigan,” Lorenz said. “We will also begin distribution in the Lansing and East Lansing areas with the Dan Henry Distribution Co. beginning in May.”
Boissevain, who co-owns Keweenaw with Dick Gray, encourages visitors to make the trek to his taproom, a 30,000-square-foot rustic building with a deck wrapped around — he calls it “a real cozy environment.”
For those who can’t make the trip, Keewanaw beer is available at events like the Expo and is distributed in cans to three states (Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota) with production increasing every year. In fact, production has more than doubled since 2008.
“I’m glad the cans are taking off in the state,” Boissevain said, adding that cans always made sense for his brewery since it’s situated in an outdoor environment. “It’s better for the beer in the long run.”
The World Expo of Beer is Michigan’s largest beer sampling event, according to organizers. Its mission is to promote great beer, all-the-while raising money for charity (all proceeds are donated to charitable causes).