TRAVERSE CITY — For the fourth year, Traverse City Microbrew & Music Festival took center stage at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons on Aug. 24 and 25 — a two-day event that featured more than 200 different beers being poured.
The festival kicked off with a concert and a “pint night,” featuring music headliner Dierks Bentley. Saturday, though, was all about the beer.
In addition to some regular staples being poured by breweries like North Peak, Odd Side, Atwater and Frankenmuth, Oktoberfests were amongst the highlights of this year’s festival.
We sampled Bell’s, Frankenmuth’s and Atwater’s versions of Oktoberfest. Bell’s Octoberfest — distributed this year in draft format only — poured a hazy orange with a creamy white head. The aroma had a subtle sweetness, and a subdued hop aroma with some minor spice. Taste-wise, this highlighted toasted, nutty malts, with a pleasant, caramel sweetness. The brew contained a very creamy mouthfeel with some mild carbonation. Bell’s version featured a wonderful balance, with a touch more sweetness than some of the others we tried.
Frankenmuth’s version — simply named Oktoberfest — elaborated on the toasted element even more. The malt profile was more complex than commonly seen, but the brew still had great balance. Toasted, bready malts and some herbal spices made for an overall refreshing brew with a bit of a bite to it.
One of our favorites of the day was Atwater Brewery’s Blöktoberfest, a Marzen with a greater focus on malts. The medium bodied brew is dominated by sweet caramel and toasted malts, and is very smooth with a pleasant, creamy mouthfeel. It finishes similar to the initial taste, with a bit of herbal spiciness present.
For the Detroit-based brewery, Blöktoberfest shows its commitment to its distribution-first method.
“We started canning, last year, our Grand Circus IPA and Lager,” said Matt Cebula, Atwater sales manager. “It’s better for the beer to can it — people won’t take bottled beer everywhere.
“Our taproom isn’t the main focus of what we do…the main focus is distribution.”
Atwater is scheduled to bring in six new tanks in the coming weeks, doubling its capacity to the 16,000-17,000 barrel range by the end of the year.
As we see at so many festivals, seasonals aren’t the only special brews available. Jolly Pumpkin brought its De Viento, a beer that was specially brewed for tornado relief in Dexter, where the brewery is located.
In addition to Michigan breweries, Goose Island, Crispin Ciders and Sierra Nevada were among some national brews also pouring at the festival.
The next Porterhouse beer festival, the Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival, is slated for February 9, 2013.
Alex Brown contributed to this report.