GRAND RAPIDS — Last week’s Beer-A-Palooza was a breath of fresh air for someone who covers a lot of beer events.
Although the event is in just its third year, Beer-a-Palooza’s got everything going for it — amazing local beer, a buffet of tasty food and live music (that was actually good). And the price tag— $25 — was not too shabby (it included eight beer sampling tickets).
Hosted on the lawn of Mangiamo!’s restaurant 6-10 p.m. Thursday, the mini-festival offered beer from:
- Bell’s Brewery – Kalamazoo
- Founders Brewery – Grand Rapids
- New Holland Brewing – Holland
- Arbor Brewing – Ann Arbor
- Saugatuck Brewing – Saugatuck
- North Peak Brewing Company- Traverse City
- Brewery Vivant – Grand Rapids
- Dark Horse Brewing Co. – Marshall
- Goose Island – Chicago
“None of it would matter if the beer was lousy,” Mangiamo! manager Eric Teasley said. “We’re so fortunate to have a such great local brewers.”
Beer-a-Palooza attracted an estimated 150 attendees, which Teasley said was up from about 100 the past two years. The event was previously held in the nearby city of Ada at Thornapple Village Inn. After that restaurant closed this past year, Teasley was not about to give up on the event.
“I was fortunate enough to get a job here (at Mangiamo!) — I took the party with me,” he said, adding that attendance was likely up because of Mangiamo’s location in the middle of town.
While the beer was the primary draw to the event, music by the BeanPoles added color. Teasley described the band as “roots Americana.”
“Which I think is just perfect,” he said. “These guys have a pretty legit following.”
MICHIGAN BEER IS A GROWING INDUSTRY
Among the highlights of the event was chatting with representatives from the various breweries and Kent Beverage Company (distribution) about growth trends (mostly in retail distribution). Dark Horse Brewing Co. sales representative Mike Dewar shared about the Marshall-based brewery’s 66-percent growth from a 7-barrel system this past year to its new 20-barrel system.
“Our 20-barrel system is pumping out so much more beer than we ever imagined,” he said. “We can’t get enough out — it’s been a real interesting ride.”
The older 7-barrel system will be used strictly for the pub brews and various one-off brews going forward. Dewar expects the growth to continue at a similar pace for the brewery, which was founded in 1997.
Likewise, New Holland is trying to keep up with growing sales, according to Isaac Hartman, Michigan and Ohio Beer Ambassador, who said year-to-date growth is already at 25-percent for the Holland-based company.
“Interest in Michigan beer is at an all-time high,” he said, adding that New Holland will continue to focus distribution on Michigan with Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin following close behind. “We want to make sure we have beer for our local markets first.”
New Holland retails in 13 states.
I am hopeful for the continued success and growth of Beer-a-Palooza. I admit I’m almost apprehensive to talk it up too much because sometimes a well-kept secret makes for a smaller crowd. I love the intimate setting that allows you to strike up a conversation with another craft-beer lover without all the noise and distractions of a large crowd.
Still, in good conscience, I can only give one piece of advice: Mark Beer-a-Palooza on your calendar if you’re in West Michigan this time of year next summer.
Just one quick note: MittenBrew caught up with Saugatuck Brewing Company owner/brewer Barry Johnson, so stay tuned for our video interview coming soon.