TRAVERSE CITY — When craft beer is aplenty, a beer festival needs to make a unique statement; it needs to provide enthusiasts with new opportunities and experiences. This year’s Traverse City Microbrew & Music Festival, held on Friday and Saturday, did not disappoint.

The Microbrew & Music Festival has continued to evolve in its seven years, educating and entertaining the Traverse City community. With over 200 brews featured, along with a dynamic music line-up and a redesigned Silent Disco, this year’s festival had many opportunities for new experiences.

Festival-goers could find their favorites on tap, as well as try beers brewed with cucumbers, apricots, cherries, coffee, lemons and just about anything else you could imagine. Knowing that I could get my favorite brews outside of the festival, I set to try some of these experimental brews.

Odd Side Ales‘ Bright-Eyed and Banana Tailed was the first that caught my eye. Brewed with Dutch Bavarian Chocolate Coffee from Leelanau Roasting Company, this hefeweizen had distinct flavors of banana and chocolate. It took a few sips to figure out everything I was tasting, but I soon found myself enjoying this refreshing flavor profile.

“Everyone has an IPA; we like to try the weird stuff,” said head brewer Kyle Miller, when asked about the experimental brew.

Also known for trying “the weird stuff,” Short’s Brewing Company featured a wide array of brews. Gitchy Gitchy Ooh La La first got my attention with the title, but I was also drawn in by its description that included cucumbers. Gitchy Gitchy was a nice, light Kolsch style beer with an interesting balance of cucumbers, lemon and lilac. It was surprisingly refreshing and went perfectly with the 85-degree weather.

Griffin Claw Brewing Company had my favorite pumpkin ale, Screamin’ Pumpkin, on tap as well. Not quite ready for fall to hit, I opted to try the Triple Lemon Shandy. This tripel style beer had a medium body and a finish that tasted like lemon drop candy. Triple Lemon was another beer with an interesting flavor profile and was made perfectly for the summer heat.

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In addition to brews like these, the Rare and Sour Beer Tour gave festival-goers yet another way to experiment. These specialty brews were available for just 20 minutes and included Short’s Whiskey Sour, The Workshop’s Wrecking Ball Bourbon Barrel Nitro Porter and Founders’ KBS.

Along this tour, I tried a beer style I had yet to encounter: a sour stout. Leelanau Brewing Company’s Leelanau Line 5 was an impressive marriage of two distinct beer styles. Aged in special bourbon barrels, known as the “Funky Four,” Line 5 had all the great characteristics of a stout, with a sourness that lightened the taste and added complexity to the flavor profile.

Leelanau Brewing Company is currently a gypsy brewery and is brewing at Jolly Pumpkin. Charles Psenka Sr., chief liaison for Jolly Pumpkin, designed the brew and has given it significance within the community. Named after the oil pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac, Psenka is hoping to raise awareness about the risks of the pipeline.

“If you’re a human being and live on Planet Earth, you should be concerned about this,” he said, referencing the perseverance of natural resources in Michigan.

Psenka is working with the National Wildlife Federation, and has dedicated 100% of proceeds from Leelanau Line 5 to help preserve the Straits of Mackinac and to raise awareness of the risks of the aging pipeline.

This sense of community and outreach was felt throughout the festival, as all net alcohol proceeds were donated to the CherryT Ball Drop, which benefits charities and food banks in the Traverse City area. Porterhouse Productions not only aims to provide great entertainment, but also aims to promote awareness and give back to the community. It is festivals like this that bring a more vibrant culture to the Traverse City community.

Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery