The Royal Oak Music Theatre is one of metro Detroit’s top concert venues, but it was craft beer that took center stage on Saturday.

The theater hosted the fifth annual Royal Oak Craft Beer Fest, featuring more than 100 craft beers from a combination of more than 40 Michigan and national breweries. The event was presented by Parkway Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, and proceeds benefitted Camp Casey, a Royal Oak-based nonprofit organization that offers horseback-riding programs and therapy for children with cancer, sickle cell anemia and aplastic anemia. 

“We are thrilled to be a part of the Royal Oak Music Theatre Craft Beer Fest again this year since it’s a great way for our supporters to have a fun time while doing good,” said Camp Casey Community Relations Director Jessica Leroux.  

Leroux explained that the funds raised will help Camp Casey continue its three unique, cost-free programs: Horsey House Calls, in which the organization surprises a child with a horse on their doorstep; Cowboy Camp Outs, which are all-expenses-paid horseback-riding vacations; and Outlaw Outings, where new and returning Camp Casey families are treated to a fun night out.

In support of Camp Casey, Beer Fest volunteers donned their country best, complete with plaid shirts and cowboy hats, as they poured beer throughout the evening. 

Festivities kicked off at 6 p.m. for VIP ticket-holders, who had early entry to the event as well as access to theater’s balcony, where they could taste some rare and specialty brews. Some of the VIP offerings included Firestarter from Traverse City’s Right Brain Brewery, Yellow Snow IPA from Oregon’s Rogue Brewery, Palate Wrecker from San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing Co. and Totally Roasted from Spring Lake’s Vander Mill Ciders.

Newcomer Two James Spirits, which recently opened in Detroit’s Corktown, was also on hand with vodka, whiskey and bourbon samples; and Kalamazoo’s Bell’s Brewery had Hopslam available for those who missed out on its limited bottle release. 

Soon after general admission began at 7 p.m., the theater was bustling with enthusiastic craft beer fans, who each received a punch card for 20 samples. Attendees made their way through various levels of the venue — including the stage — trying Michigan favorites, such as Dragonmead’s Final Absolution, New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk and Dark Horse’s Crooked Tree IPA, along with some out-of-state stand-outs like Hard Root Beer from Milwaukee’s Sprecher Brewery and Hairy Eyeball Strong Ale from California’s Lagunitas Brewing Company. 

Festival-goers could also sample B. Nektar Meadery’s newest creation, Kill All The Golfers — a mead made with tea and lemon juice — or even try a beer lover’s twist on a classic cocktail — McClure’s Bloody Mary Mix with Founder’s Centennial IPA, garnished with a pickle. 

Food trucks from StrEAT Detroit, along with music from local acoustic duo Yorg & Sheehan — who played a variety of modern and classic favorites — added to the event’s upbeat ambiance. 

“The event was once again a tremendous success from both and attendance & experience standpoint,” said event coordinator Jason Dritsan of Liquid Events Detroit. “One thing I take great pride in — besides giving our largest donation to Camp Casey to date — is that the venue and setup provide for a more intimate tasting experience. Breweries continually told how much they appreciate the opportunity to interact with the attendees.”

With attendance reaching 1,300 beer enthusiasts, crowds were steady throughout the evening, proving that great beer and a great cause make a perfect pairing.  

To learn more about Camp Casey, visit camp-casey.org.