Memorial Weekend marks the beginning of the summer season, and Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville celebrated with its 8th Annual Michigan Beer and Brat Festival on Saturday.
The festival has grown dramatically since it started eight years ago. “We started with around 200 people and 20 beers. This year, we’re expecting nearly 2,000 people,” said Tom Kramer, Public Relations Manager for Crystal Mountain.
Festival-goers were able to enjoy 99 different Michigan beers, meads, ciders and wines, alongside a large variety of locally made bratwursts.
The space was well organized, the atmosphere was enjoyable and family-friendly and live music kept the summer spirit alive. There was also a great exhibition of Michigan-made products.
Local markets including Pleva’s, Ebel’s, Maxbauer’s and Buntings brought their best brats. I particularly enjoyed the Asparagus-White Cheddar brat from Maxbauer’s alongside local grilled asparagus.
Breweries present ranged from well-established ones like Bell’s to smaller breweries like Brewery Ferment of Traverse City. There was also a large selection of ciders and meads.
Upon entering the festival, I was told Bell’s Brewery would be featuring something special. Bell’s had six beers on tap, including my favorite summer beer, Oberon, and the exclusive stout, Black Note.
Black Note was indeed something special. The flavor and mouthfeel of Black Note Stout was unlike any other, in which Bell’s Expedition Stout and Double Cream Stout are blended and aged in oak bourbon barrels. The result is a complex cream stout which has a slight chocolatey taste with bourbon highlights.
Brewery Ferment was also at the festival and has gotten a lot of attention in the Traverse City area for doing things a little differently. They had Mitten Wit, 45th Parallale and Worker’s Daily on tap. I sampled 45th Parallale, a pale ale brewed with locally grown hops. To emphasize the fresh hop flavor, a HopRocket is used when serving 45th Parallale. The HopRocket infuses fresh hops into the beer as it is tapped.
“It’s my tribute to the hop heroes of the area. We are working hard to support local hop growers,” said Dustin Jones, owner of Brewery Ferment.
As the craft brewing industry continues to grow in Michigan, it is exciting to see breweries experimenting with both unusual and local ingredients. The Michigan Beer and Brat Festival proved to be the perfect venue to experience everything breweries from across the state have to offer for the summer season.