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A sold-out crowd of 3,000 flocked to the Detroit Zoo on Thursday to enjoy an evening of lions, tigers and beers.

Now in its fourth year, Zoo Brew gave guests the opportunity to explore the zoo after-hours while sampling beer from Michigan craft breweries. The event also included complimentary tram tours and live entertainment, as well as zookeeper talks at the otter, polar bear, wolverine and reticulated python exhibits.

“Our inaugural Zoo Brew in the fall of 2011 sold out, and the event has done so every year since. We added a spring event this year — another sell-out — and its popularity hasn’t waned,” said Detroit Zoo Communications Director Patricia Janeway.

“Zoo Brew attracts an audience that might not otherwise think of coming here, that being adults with no kids, so it provides a great opportunity for this segment.”

To help kick off the event, Atwater Brewery sponsored a “beer welcome” at the zoo’s front entrance. Visitors could stop and try Atwater’s Traverse City Cherry Wheat, and then make their way toward the main sampling area at the center of the zoo.

Atwater sales rep Matt Cebula noted that the brewery, which has been a part of Zoo Brew since the beginning, tries to partner with the zoo whenever it can.

“Zoo Brew has been wildly popular,” said Cebula. “It’s a good opportunity for people to be exposed to our beer.”

In addition to Atwater, nearly 50 craft breweries participated in the event, and many featured samples of spring and summer brews. Founders’ Rubaeus, Saugatuck’s Oval Beach Blonde and Bell’s Oberon were just a few seasonal offerings that helped visitors celebrate the warmer weather.

A number of ciders — including B. Nektar’s Slice of Life, Virtue Cider’s Red Streak, Uncle John’s Cranberry Cider and Vandermill’s Totally Roasted — were also part of the evening’s lineup.

Frankenmuth Brewery Sales Director Chuck Osberger said it’s been exciting to see Zoo Brew grow over the past few years.

“We were actually one of the first breweries to join Zoo Brew three years ago,” said Osberger. “It was an all-bottle event then. This is the first year we’ve brought all draft, which is pretty cool.”

Frankenmuth served four beers at the festival — Old Detroit, Tornado, Batch 69 IPA and Twisted Helles.

“We’re very enthusiastic to be involved,” said Osberger.

Anyone who missed out on spring Zoo Brew will have another chance to enjoy the festival this fall. The next Zoo Brew is scheduled for Sept. 26, and tickets go on sale June 16. For more information, visit www.detroitzoo.org/events/zoobrew.

Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery