BATTLE CREEK — The herds keep growing at Bonteboktoberfest. This year a record-breaking crowd attended the beer tasting and fundraising event at Binder Park Zoo. In many corners of the venue, it was standing room only — but that just made for a better view of the animals.
Beer, cider, wine and even mead were offered at 17 different watering holes. In between tastings, carnivores could feast at the burger and brat buffet and then migrate to the big tent and groove to the sounds of Funktion.
All the big cats were there — Founders, Bell’s, Short’s — but patrons seemed to flock in the greatest numbers to sample brews from rarer, more exotic species like Boatyard Brewing, Latitude 42 Brewing and Griffin Claw Brewing. B. Nektar also created a buzz with the four meads they had on tap.
The featured beers ran the gamut from light to dark. Most breweries had at least a couple summer beers on hand — an IPA or two and maybe a fruity wheat ale — which were fitting on a humid night which felt more like August than October.
Every booth, though, had something a little darker for fall or winter. There were plenty of pumpkin ales and oktoberfests, along with some browns like the smoky, malty Bonfire Brown from Saugatuck Brewing Co.
For those who couldn’t, er, “bear” the summer and were looking forward to hibernation, there was the 4 Elf Winter Warmer from Dark Horse. This was one of the darkest and most interesting beers on hand, being creamy with a thick cocoa-colored head and not much carbonation. In the nose and mouth it offers a deep and wide palate of Christmasy spices like cinnamon. You’ll probably want a few of these on your shelf for December.
You should also keep an eye out for Arcadia’s Bonteboktoberfest beer (though we’re not sure how many can be seen in the wild). This is a special edition brewed for the event, a deep amber beer with a mild, pleasant scent of vanilla and spice. It’s smooth in the mouth with notes of caramel and malt that turn a little on the tongue and down the throat.
With a bottle of this on the way out the door, and a wider acquaintance with local beer and not-so-local wildlife, it’s safe to say that all the party animals at Bonteboktoberfest this year had a wildly good time.