GRAND RAPIDS — Upon entering its fourth year as the Summer Beer Fest in John Ball Park, the WGRD team has admittedly revamped the whole concept behind the project.

The festival is now not only a charity event for the West Grand Neighborhood Organization, but it also has a new goal of “Trying to educate all of our markets with beer”, according to the live events manager, Angela Paasche.

“You do an event because you want to entertain, but also to educate,” said Paasche.

It certainly shows, even to newcomers to Grand Rapids such as myself.

The day kicked off with judging several beers coming from not only Michigan, but also Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont and Oregon.

Once the results were submitted, I ventured my way around the festival as guests began trickling in. Throughout the day delicious BBQ smoke was wafting through the air as hundreds of patrons tucked themselves under the large tents to suck down a few ounces at a time of delicious brews.

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Among the various beers that I consumed, I particularly enjoyed ingesting Crankers Brewing Company’s Ambrosia Honey Kölsch, Unruly Brewing Company’s Oats and Hoes, Griffin Claw Brewing Company’s Norm’s Gateway Session IPA and Gravel Bottom Brewing Company’s S’mores Stout.

“This is my first time (at Summer Beer Fest),” said Gravel Bottom owner Matt Michiels.“I wanted to be a part of the Grand Rapids beer scene and obviously we’ve got a lot our fellow brewers out here so I wanted to be a part of that…We have such a tight knit community of brewers here that, this is family, to be out here with all of them.”

Gravel Bottom also submitted several intriguing beer options in the beer contest — the Guava IPA, designed by home brewer Cody Dalton, the Coldbreak Pale Ale and the S’mores Stout.

“We really try to experiment with our beer often…You’re always going to find new stuff on tap at our place,” said Michiels.

Overall it was a beautiful day for a festival and the laid back atmosphere and good times vibe kept this tidy event rolling for hours. I genuinely look forward to attending again next year and observing how this Summer Beer Fest grows in their goal of beer education and the simple idea of having a good time with friends.

Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery