For the fourth straight year, crowds flocked to DeVos Place to attend the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival last week. And while wine and food were featured strongly, craft beer showed its ever-increasing presence at the event.
In its second year, the Craft Beer Hall showcased breweries from around Michigan, featuring everything from staple beers to unique fall and winter flavors. The festival ran Thursday to Saturday, drawing in an estimated 10,000 attendees.
One of the beers I was most excited to try during my visit Friday was from Traverse City’s North Peak Brewing Company. This past summer, they introduced Archangel — a crisp summer ale with loads of flavor. Following Archangel’s introduction, North Peak came out with Dark Angel Cherry Porter (5% ABV) this fall, which is just as it sounds.
Its dark cherry flavor gives way to the Cherry Capitol’s leading industry, and with its minor amount of hops it brings an interesting twist to the well-known flavor. The brew poured dark mahogany with a small head, and had a hint of cherry smell to it. If you’ve ever imagined tart cherries paired with a dark porter, this brew does very well at defining that.
One of the most impressive brews was from one of the oldest breweries in the state — Frankenmuth Brewery. While I was somewhat apprehensive to try its Pilsener (5.25% ABV) brew, I was overwhelmed by the crispness and subtle flavor that it contained. It definitely makes for a great summer brew in my book, featuring a slight citrus flavor with a low hoppiness. It poured a light gold transparency, with spring-like, floral smells.
Hints of woodsy and cinnamon flavors left Frankenmuth’s Munich Dunkel (5.1% ABV) best described as earthy. Smooth, it had a low head, pouring bronze, and had a slight bitter finish. It, in a sense, defined “the great outdoors.”
Dark Horse Brewing Co. brought the most beer to the event, including some of its holiday and seasonal specialty brews. One Oatmeal Stout Ale (8% ABV) was my favorite of the night — featuring a dark chocolate flavor that makes it the perfect brew for the winter season. The stout was perfectly black, pouring with a low head, and held a bit of a scotch flavor as well.
Dark Horse also served its Scotty Karate Scotch Ale (9.75% ABV), a strong brew with a heavy fruit and spice aroma. The flavor was slightly fruity and had a caramel front to it, finishing a bit bitter. This cloudy, dark amber brew poured with a medium head, featuring very full flavors that didn’t linger too long, but left a slight bitterness on the tongue.
Tri-City Brewing Company also brought an impressive number of beers. I tried the Brownhoist Brown Ale (4.8% ABV), and was instantly hooked. This was definitely my favorite of the event. The smells of nut and caramelized almonds immediately drew me in to the brew, only to be met with chocolate, caramel and a heavy almond-vanilla flavor.
I’ve always been a fan of brown ales, but the Brownhoist was like none other I’ve had — it held an immense amount of flavor that was both welcoming and satisfying. Sitting around the fire on a cold winter night, this is the beer I want to have in my hand.