GRAND RAPIDS — The DeltaPlex Arena opened its doors to BRU Fest on Saturday for eager and enthusiastic craft beer lovers. BRU Fest, created to raise awareness for the Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan (CLF) to a younger audience, is in its fourth year Michigan-wide and its first in Grand Rapids.
“We are excited with this being the first year and us being so new to Grand Rapids,” said Jackie McIntosh, CLF’s Assistant Director of Development and organizer of BRU Fest. “This is really our first Grand Rapids fundraiser since opening the new office [in Grand Rapids], and BRU made perfect sense to bring to BeerCity USA.”
The $39 entry fee got you an official BRU Fest mug, 10 drink tokens and five food tickets for burgers from Bagger Dave’s or wings from Buffalo Wild Wings. One drink token equaled a (very generous) half pour, so there were plenty of chances to try a good variety of drink during the evening.
Since the inception of BRU Fest, Bell’s Brewery has had exclusivity with the event. Over 20 beers were made available, including staples like Two Hearted, as well as some rarer and specialty selections like Harry Magill’s Spiced Stout.
Best of all? 100% of proceeds went to CLF. Drinking beer for a good cause makes it even tastier.
“All the product is donated — between them [Bell’s] and Alliance Beverage — and we are just so thankful that they partner with CLF, and that it’s something they want to give back to,” McIntosh said.
I particularly enjoyed the 2011 Cherry Stout, which was a great mix of tartness and chocolaty undertones. The ubiquitously loved Black Note Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout seemed to be a crowd favorite, as well as Hopsoulution, which had strong upfront hops and a caramelly sweetness.
The Uberon was interesting, some sort of crazy barrel aged Oberon with strong bourbon tastes and not much reminiscent of Oberon itself.
I tried all of the Jazz Series, a trio inspired by the Kalamazoo Jazz Fest and an interpretation on the Biere de Garde style. Le Batteur, a blonde with an almost too crisp, dry finish; Le Pianiste, its malt forward amber cousin; and Le Contrebassiste, the darkest of the trio, with a rich, slightly smokey finish that was my favorite of the bunch.
In attendance were beer aficionados, philanthropic folk who cared deeply about the mission of CLF, and individuals who were a healthy mix of the two.
Jennifer Pouhlman, owner of SIP Organic Juice Bar, was on hand, volunteering with many of her staff at hand.
“I’m passionate about CLF because they donate directly to the families who are afflicted with blood cancers. Eighty-two cents of every dollar raised goes directly to the families. The money is not going to research or miscellaneous funding pots, and that’s really important [to these families] to have that sort of cushion.”
Overall, BRU Fest is a reasonable way for people to donate to a cause they are passionate about without breaking the bank. With the several beers offered by Bell’s, it’s a good event for a great cause, and we can expect BRU Fest Grand Rapids to return again next year.