summer beer fest

The frozen washcloths helped. So did the shady trees. But the biggest relief from the sweltering heat was the beer. Because that is what this festival is about—beer. Specifically, Michigan craft beer.

Oh, I’ve read the negative reviews. The festival has gotten too big, too noisy, too full of casual drinkers who don’t know a pilsner from a pale ale. To which I say, what of it? This event, these two days in Ypsilanti, are about beer. Getting people to drink local beer—from the “gray beards” who have been brewing since before I was born to the people who were born the year I could have my first legal drink. It’s all about the beer.

And this year, I am once again proud to announce my top five beers of the 2016 Summer Beer Fest.

The Winner—Hands down, the Mauj Cucumber Lime Gose from Arbor Brewing Company won the day. It is what a mojito wants to be. It is what a refreshing beer wants to be. It is what all of us want to be. Perfectly balanced and absolutely perfect for the 105-degree heat index, this is the beer of the summer for me.

While I was at the Arbor booth, I asked Rene Greff which beer I should try, she immediately recommended this one. “It’s super refreshing for a day like today,” she said. “And Mauj means fun and frolick in Hindi and is the word one of our Indian partners uses for ‘cheers!’.” This fact just made the beer all the more enjoyable.

Other Amazing Offerings

Under the tutelage of brewer Gabi Palmer, Schmohz turns out very reliable, solid beers. This year, the women of Fermenta joined her to make a Mint Chocolate Chip Stout. At first, I doubted the idea of a stout on such a hot day, but I quickly changed my mind as I drank this well balanced beer. It was neither heavy nor syrupy sweet. The chocolate and mint tastes definitely came through, but they accented rather than overwhelmed the beer.

Another refreshing taste came from Griffin Claw’s And So It Goes. The brewery’s own Angie Williams recommended this gose beer, adding that it was brewed as part of the International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day. When I said that I didn’t want a beer that was too tart, she promised, “It’s got some tartness, but not enough to make your face pucker up.” That turned out to be the perfect description for this well balanced beer. Made with blood oranges, there was just the right hint of salt to add the ideal twang to this wheaty beer.

summer beer fest

Right Brain’s Cake Walk is made with Madagascar vanilla beans and that, like taking the road less traveled, made all the difference in this cream ale. Generally, cream ales are hit or mess for me—some are too heavy and sweet, others seem to have no taste. Right Brain, as usual, hit the perfect spot with this beer.

Pike 51’s Pulp Friction was another home run. I really, really try not to pick a beer based on its name; however, Pulp Fiction is one of my all-time favorite movies. Also, I have never been disappointed by a beer from Pike 51, so I figured it was worth a try to see if it lived up to its namesake and to the soul of Marsellus Wallace. The beer was labeled a “fruit beer,” but it was more of a shandy. A lightly malted wheat ale with just enough citrus made it the perfect beer with which to end the very hot festival. The soul of Mr. Wallace can rest easy in that briefcase.

Another summer beer fest comes to a close. But look on the bright side! Only 363 days until the next one!

 

Photography: Erik Smith

founders fest

Thousands spent last Saturday ringing in what’s sure to be a very hot summer at Founders Fest 2016. This year’s celebration of beer and music featured eight musical acts, food and goods from local vendors, and carnival-esque sideshows by Super Happy Funtime Entertainment.

 

In the stifling heat, imbibers promised to hydrate with a water for every beer and enjoyed rare favorites like CBS and Lizard of Koz as well as staples like Red’s Rye, All Day IPA, and Rubeaus. People refreshed themselves at water refill stations, which featured misters spraying cool water.

The block party went well into the night, ending at 11 p.m. Attendees ate, drank, danced, and sweltered. It’s likely that many spent Sunday nursing a sunburn and a hangover.

 

Photography: Steven Michael Holmes

odd side funk fest

A long overdue festival for Odd Side Ales finally popped its cherry on Saturday. OSA has been exploring the idea of a festival for quite a while now. They always liked the idea of having an outdoor anniversary festival, but since their anniversary falls on St. Patrick’s Day, the weather never seemed like something they would have on their side.

“So why not do it in the summer time, on the water, at a time when nothing else historically is going on downtown, while benefiting the city. We want to celebrate our success and thank our customers by throwing them a gigantic party,” said Reid Warber, OSA Tap Room Manager.

odd side funk fest

It took a bit of convincing when it came to pitching the festival to the City of Grand Haven. Warber had to firmly express that this isn’t just an ordinary beer tent—it isn’t Anheuser Busch with tall boys. OSA wanted to showcase local beer and local food. After three city council meetings, a few additional meetings with the city, a long check list and a lot of beer, they finally got the city’s blessing.

“I love watching Odd Side get better and better every year. I am excited for their first festival,” stated Brent Newville, OSA mug club member.

OSA Funk Fest was a day spent showcasing funky music—Chris Wiser-The human jukebox, Plain Jane Glory, Starmen, and Mainstays—their beer, local food and a silent disco. Silent Disco? Yeah, I had no idea either. A 60’ x 40’ tent lined one corner of the festival, where  you could only hear the DJs via headsets. Throughout the later part of the day SoundIsRed, DJ JSUPP, Clark After Dark played separate sets, then at the very end, they all played together. You could tune the headset into three different stations to pick who you wanted. From an outside perspective you could not hear any music, but could see a lot of people dancing their butts off. Someone who loves people watching, which I admit is me, could try and figure out which people were listening to the same stations by their dance moves.

The beer list had summer in mind with different variations of IPAs: The Implication Triple IPA, Mango IPA, Blood Orange IPA, Pineapple IPA, El Dankerino Double IPA; Sours: Touch of Red, Sour Grapes, Funk Soul Brother; and even some heavy hitters like Hazel’s Nuts – Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with hazelnuts, The Nihilist – Barrel Aged Double IPA, and Mayan Mocha Stout – coffee stout with cinnamon, nutmeg and habanero, to name a few. Hipster Brunch Stout – Barrel Aged Stout with coffee, maple syrup and bacon had a special unannounced tapping at around 6pm.

“This is one funky fest,” stated Joe Wallace, OSA mug club member.

Saturday was the day to just get Funky—plain and simple. Festival goers were also seen playing corn hole, conquering giant jenga, hanging with friends, meeting new friends, and checking out the Better Drinking Culture booth. Better Drinking Culture is a grassroots movement with efforts to shift our culture’s relationship with alcohol to a healthier and more positive direction. If you scored a 100% on their quiz you received a free t-shirt.

 

“This festival has good vibes and a friendly crowd,” stated Shane Timmins, local resident.

The festival itself was ran by volunteers with a love for OSA.

“They are my favorite brewery. We first poured for them awhile back at the Microbrew and Music Festival in Traverse City and now follow them wherever we go,” stated Amanda and Heather Reno, Funk Fest volunteers/ ‘groupies’.

Some people who joined in on the fun were people just walking by, curious as to what was going on.

“This is just the beginning to what I have up my sleeve for the future,” stated Reid Warber, OSA Tap Room Manager.

 

Photography: Steven Michael Holmes

craft brewers conference

The Brewers Association held their annual Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo in Philadelphia earlier this month. The 2016 edition of CBC drew a record 13,600 attendees and 835 exhibitors from all around the globe to the Pennsylvania Convention Center for the largest brewing industry trade show and educational series in North America.



Many representatives from Michigan participated, demonstrating our state’s value in the business. Ambassadors from several facets our state’s brewing industry exhibited their wares, offered education, or attended the tradeshow to network.

From ingredients, to brewing systems and serving systems, to some of the best brewed products; Michigan companies provide nearly everything beer-related.

craft brewers conference

Motor City Growlers displayed a product called “The Craft Station”, manufactured at their plant in Sterling Heights. Steve Lemieux, President, describes it as a “self-contained growler filling machine, that also can be used to expand capacity for any bar or restaurant. It comes complete, everything you need to start up and run and have eight extra taps,” he said. Many of Motor City Growler’s employees are former autoworkers who have found second careers in the beer industry through this innovation.

 

Boyd Culver, founder and co-owner of Coldbreak Brewing in Cedar Springs, wanted to get their jockey boxes “in front of as many brewers as we could, and there’s no better opportunity than the CBC,” he said. “Most of the components are made in Michigan, and we assemble them right there in Cedar Springs. Everything we make is USA made, high quality, we put a lot of effort into it,” Culver added. “We’re very proud of what we do.”

Motor City Growlers

Psycho Brew of Greenville attended as exhibitors for the first time. “Last year we went to the one in Portland and kind of checked it out as spectators to see if it was worth coming here,” said co-owner Chris Breimayer. “We thought we would try it this year because there’s really nobody in our size bracket. Everybody’s got big equipment,” Breimayer said. Two barrels to 5 barrels are their most commonly produced sizes. On display at CBC was a 10 barrel system that was being delivered to Farmington on their way home from Philadelphia.

“Everything is made in Michigan, all local, we buy all the steel local as much as we can,” Breimayer said, minus a few fittings they aren’t able to get locally. “We’ve had a really good response,” he added.

Motor City Growlers

Psycho Brew has established themselves as a trusted name across the United States and internationally. “Most of our equipment goes out of state,” he said. “We’ve sent some stuff over to Poland, and Panama.” Breimayer said. They’ve placed three systems in Poland at three different breweries.

West Michigan breweries have utilized their systems as well. They ventured into bigger tank territory when they created Cedar Springs‘ 15 barrel equipment last year, and Elk Brewing hired them to outfit their new facility.

Craftwerks Brewing Systems, a producer of larger brewing systems, held down a prominent corner of the showroom floor. Barry Johnson, Account Manager, estimated it took 12 hours to set up their impressively sizable display of equipment. “This is the biggest show on the planet, as far as in our industry, and so virtually every brewer is going to pass through this hall.” he said.

Craftwerks products are made in Michigan from American steel. “Every dollar made stays in Michigan. When I go through the shop, I see the guys whose families are being supported by the stuff that we’re making,” he added as he motioned toward the display.

According to Johnson, the company scored several solid leads for sales and will share the wealth with smaller companies when it’s a better fit to do so. “When we quote out a system, if a beginning brewery gets sticker shock or just doesn’t have the funding to do it, I give them Psycho Brews’ number and say ‘call Chris at Psycho Brew. It’s going to be an incredible system to get into and I’ll talk to you when you’re ready to make the next step’,” he said.

Brian Tennis, owner of New Mission Organics and Founder of Michigan Hop Alliance, answered inquiries about sustainable and organic farming and small industry hop farms at the exhibit for Hop Growers of America, USA Hops. “We’re representing all the (hop) growers in the United States, not just Michigan, but Michigan obviously grows the best hops in the country,” asserted Tennis.

craft brewers conference

“To be part of this is a real honor. They asked us specifically; they wanted someone outside the traditional growing regions of Yakima Valley and Willamette Valley. Michigan is now the fourth largest hop growing region in the country and it’s top ten in the world,” he said.

Also taking place within the conference was the competitive World Beer Cup, highly regarded as the Olympics of beer. More records were broken with nearly 7,000 beers entered by over 1,900 breweries from 55 countries that were judged by an elite panel of accredited judges from 31 countries. Two hundred eighty seven medals were awarded overall, with 5 Michigan breweries among the winners.

A Gold medal, the highest honor in each category, was awarded to Black Lotus Brewing Company of Clawson in the category of Old Ale or Strong Ale for “Ninja Pirate”.

Silver was brought home by Mitten Brewing Company of Grand Rapids for “Triple Crown Brown” in the category of English-Style Mild Ale.

Three breweries earned Bronze medals. Wolverine State Brewing Company of Ann Arbor in the Smoke Beer category for “Raucher”, New Holland Brewing Company of Holland in the Belgian-Style Flanders Oud Bruin or Oud Red Ale category for “2014 Vintage Blue Sunday”, and River’s Edge Brewing Company of Milford for “Dirty Frank Stout” in the Export Stout category.

Many Michigan beers could be found on tap at various bars across the city. Pilot Malt House hosted a special tap feature at Fox and Hound, sponsored by the Craft Maltsters Guild. Three beers using their malt and other ingredients produced in Michigan were served. One was brewed in Ashburn, Va. at Lost Rhino Brewing Company for their fifth anniversary. They chose to brew a lager exclusively with Michigan ingredients for their celebratory beer.  The two brewed in Michigan were Crystal Falls Pale Ale at New Holland Brewing Company’s Pub on 8th with Steve “Bert” Berthel, and Besto Pils from Pigeon Hill Brewing Company in Muskegon.

Ryan Hamilton, Maltster, explained that the focus of the feature was to “showcase the terroir of locally produced malt, the sense of place manifested in agricultural products. The three beers that were there are one hundred percent pure Michigan beers, all Michigan ingredients. Bert’s [New Holland] actually including the yeast, that’s from Craft Cultures Labs.”

Worldwide, the craft beer industry continues to grow at a rapid pace, and Michigan is poised to be a large part of the conversation for the foreseeable future.

 

Photography: Steph Harding

crystal mountain

“Memorial day is transformative,” says Brian Lawson, Director of Public Relations at Crystal Mountain.
Memorial Day in Michigan marks the beginning of summer, no matter the temperature. The focus is all about what’s happening. Boat docks are put in the water, summer cottages are opened and aired out, bikes are dragged out of the garage and tuned up, and people are heading north.
Up north, businesses are preparing for the masses — ready to welcome everyone with open arms to enjoy yet another stellar Michigan summer season. For Crystal Mountain, this means transitioning the winter mountain into a warm-weather resort ripe with summer activities.
To kick off the season, Crystal Mountain hosts their annual Beer and Brat Festival, celebrating 11 years this coming May.
“It’s a very smooth-running operation. We’ve been putting on this event for over 10 years now, so setup and preparation are all very familiar. And since everything is so hectic leading up to summer, it’s nice to have an event that the entire staff knows how to run and how to run well.”
Before the Beer & Brat Fest was a tradition, it was an idea. Back in 2005, the inaugural fest hosted three breweries and just over one hundred people, and this was a great success. It was a time when craft beer was just starting to rise in popularity, but the sudden boom of upstart breweries had not begun yet.
crystal mountain
“We featured Short’s Brewing Company, Bell’s Brewery, New Holland Brewing, and Founders Brewing Company. They were kind of the well-known breweries back then, and remain the top four today.”
The decision to pair brats with beer was a no-brainer. The elements of the event make up the quintessential Memorial Day in Michigan. “Most people mark this weekend with barbeque, beer, and backyards; and really, we just decided to create the ultimate backyard barbeque.”
The green space at the foot of the mountain is, indeed, the ultimate backyard. Everything you need to have a lovely day outdoors is right there at the resort — refreshing beverages, scrumptious food, live music, and even child care. Crystal Mountain offers a giant social event where everyone can just kick back.
And the best thing about this event? Every year it improves! Eleven years later, everything about the festival is just more. More breweries. More food vendors. More people. More activities.
“The development of this event goes hand in hand with the development of the resort. We’ve grown as a destination for up north-goers, which brings amazing growth and a loyal following to the fest. It has really transformed our Memorial Day.”
People looking for a more contained holiday weekend end up at Crystal Mountain. In comparison to bigger city destinations such as Traverse City and Petoskey, the resort offers a quieter community without having to sacrifice any amenities.
“We get a mixed crowd to the event. People opening their up north property. People celebrating the holiday. Locals. Visitors. Newcomers and event veterans. Runners from the Bayshore Marathon. It’s a really cool mixed gathering.”
Attendance exceeded 2,500 people last year, with over 30 breweries and various brat vendors. And as the crowd has grown, so have the food and beverage offerings. In the past few years, the resort has also started including Michigan wine, cider, and mead as well as beer, recognizing the growing interest in all things craft.
crystal mountainAs is tradition every year, most craft booths feature specialty pours—unique brews that are only offered so often. From Bell’s: their Hopsolution, a Double IPA made with many tropical and piney hops ringing in around 8% in gravity.
Another gourmet offering comes from Brewery Terra Firma (Traverse City). In collaboration with Traverse City’s Grand Traverse Conservation District, this brew will be a local-centric recipe using ingredients from donated community businesses: wheat from Grand Traverse Culinary Oils, hops from Fresh Roots Organic Growers, maple syrup from Out of the Woods Farm, and cherries from King Orchards. Furthermore, the brew will be conditioned in bourbon barrels from Traverse City Whiskey Co.
Other fun specialties announced so far will be Perrin Brewing Company’s No Rules Vietnamese Porter, a coconut imperial porter recipe conditioned in bourbon barrels, and Short’s Brewing Company’s Hot Loins, an experimental, pub-only brew featuring pomegranate, strawberry, raspberry, vanilla, honey and Long Jack.
There will be others announced as the event comes closer, and avid beer hunters will be pleased to add more rare beers to their taste collections.
If the event is not enough to get you there, one must consider that Crystal Mountain is also a brilliant home base for other summer activities. Over the years, the resort has developed its seasonal offerings, providing a comfortable landing spot for visitors all year. On the resort premise, guests can not only take advantage of the cozy lodging, drinking, and dining, but also a myriad of outdoor goings-on. Get your adrenaline pumping high in the air on their elevated rope course, or take a zip-line ride over their outdoor pool!
Even lacking snow, the actual mountain offers a lot of fun options as well — ride the Crystal Coaster Alpine Slide 1,700 feet down on a sled or take a scenic chairlift ride for some of the best views from the top. Other options include paintball, mountain bike trails, a golf course, climbing wall, disc golf, tennis, hiking, outdoor art installations, and more. If there’s an adventure you want to try, Crystal Mountain will provide.
“Once people are here, we try to offer them everything. We can handle almost all of it if that’s what they want.”
And even if cabin fever sets in, the resort also offers guidance for off-premise activities. In support of the community and other local businesses, Crystal Mountain makes sure all options are available. Take advantage of close proximity to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore—the resort will assist in paddleboard, fat tire bike, and kayak rentals so that you may experience the majesty of beautiful up north Michigan.
It’s also important to know that craft beverages don’t just start and end with the festival. The resort also sponsors tours to Stormcloud Brewing Company and St. Ambrose Cellars, boasting excellent options in beer, wine, and mead in the neighboring towns of Frankfort and Beulah.
So to check out the grounds and offerings, attending the festival is the way to go. There are still tickets available, with both General Admission and VIP options being offered. VIPs receive twice as many tokens and are allowed entrance into the event an hour early. For those who want to taste all of the rare specialty brews being poured before they run out, early admittance could be a real boon to your festivities.
Music for the event will be at the foot of the mountain under the chairlift. Local Michigan bands Scarkasm and The Vintage will be dishing out rock and roll all afternoon and into the evening for festival-goers’ enjoyment.
As tradition, the resort will also host the Twin Bay British Car Club, a unique offering that has always gone hand-in-hand with the Beer & Brat Fest. This year’s theme is sustainability, so alongside the classic models there will be a series of Electric Vehicles showcasing the fact that practicality can also be beautiful in design. All guests are welcome to tour the display and VIPs will have the opportunity to speak with industry officials.
“We embrace outside organizations in the community to take part in the event. It’s just something kind of fun and unique. This year we’ve called it ‘Back to the Future,’ honoring the club’s blending of traditional models with new ones.”
Combining all of the community, rare beer offerings, specialty food recipes, and summer activities, Crystal Mountain is the place to be for Memorial Day. If last year’s perfect weather and happenings are anything to measure it by, it will be a wonderful event. So come celebrate with their staff and other fellow guests to join everyone in ringing in the 2016 summer.

“The guests and staff have made this event what it is. They have made it a tradition.”
 
Sponsored by: Crystal Mountain

crystal mountain

“Memorial day is transformative,” says Brian Lawson, Director of Public Relations at Crystal Mountain.

Memorial Day in Michigan marks the beginning of summer, no matter the temperature. The focus is all about what’s happening. Boat docks are put in the water, summer cottages are opened and aired out, bikes are dragged out of the garage and tuned up, and people are heading north.

Up north, businesses are preparing for the masses — ready to welcome everyone with open arms to enjoy yet another stellar Michigan summer season. For Crystal Mountain, this means transitioning the winter mountain into a warm-weather resort ripe with summer activities.

To kick off the season, Crystal Mountain hosts their annual Beer and Brat Festival, celebrating 11 years this coming May.

“It’s a very smooth-running operation. We’ve been putting on this event for over 10 years now, so setup and preparation are all very familiar. And since everything is so hectic leading up to summer, it’s nice to have an event that the entire staff knows how to run and how to run well.”

Before the Beer & Brat Fest was a tradition, it was an idea. Back in 2005, the inaugural fest hosted three breweries and just over one hundred people, and this was a great success. It was a time when craft beer was just starting to rise in popularity, but the sudden boom of upstart breweries had not begun yet.

crystal mountain

“We featured Short’s Brewing Company, Bell’s Brewery, New Holland Brewing, and Founders Brewing Company. They were kind of the well-known breweries back then, and remain the top four today.”

The decision to pair brats with beer was a no-brainer. The elements of the event make up the quintessential Memorial Day in Michigan. “Most people mark this weekend with barbeque, beer, and backyards; and really, we just decided to create the ultimate backyard barbeque.”

The green space at the foot of the mountain is, indeed, the ultimate backyard. Everything you need to have a lovely day outdoors is right there at the resort — refreshing beverages, scrumptious food, live music, and even child care. Crystal Mountain offers a giant social event where everyone can just kick back.

And the best thing about this event? Every year it improves! Eleven years later, everything about the festival is just more. More breweries. More food vendors. More people. More activities.

“The development of this event goes hand in hand with the development of the resort. We’ve grown as a destination for up north-goers, which brings amazing growth and a loyal following to the fest. It has really transformed our Memorial Day.”

People looking for a more contained holiday weekend end up at Crystal Mountain. In comparison to bigger city destinations such as Traverse City and Petoskey, the resort offers a quieter community without having to sacrifice any amenities.

“We get a mixed crowd to the event. People opening their up north property. People celebrating the holiday. Locals. Visitors. Newcomers and event veterans. Runners from the Bayshore Marathon. It’s a really cool mixed gathering.”

Attendance exceeded 2,500 people last year, with over 30 breweries and various brat vendors. And as the crowd has grown, so have the food and beverage offerings. In the past few years, the resort has also started including Michigan wine, cider, and mead as well as beer, recognizing the growing interest in all things craft.

crystal mountainAs is tradition every year, most craft booths feature specialty pours—unique brews that are only offered so often. From Bell’s: their Hopsolution, a Double IPA made with many tropical and piney hops ringing in around 8% in gravity.

Another gourmet offering comes from Brewery Terra Firma (Traverse City). In collaboration with Traverse City’s Grand Traverse Conservation District, this brew will be a local-centric recipe using ingredients from donated community businesses: wheat from Grand Traverse Culinary Oils, hops from Fresh Roots Organic Growers, maple syrup from Out of the Woods Farm, and cherries from King Orchards. Furthermore, the brew will be conditioned in bourbon barrels from Traverse City Whiskey Co.

Other fun specialties announced so far will be Perrin Brewing Company’s No Rules Vietnamese Porter, a coconut imperial porter recipe conditioned in bourbon barrels, and Short’s Brewing Company’s Hot Loins, an experimental, pub-only brew featuring pomegranate, strawberry, raspberry, vanilla, honey and Long Jack.

There will be others announced as the event comes closer, and avid beer hunters will be pleased to add more rare beers to their taste collections.

If the event is not enough to get you there, one must consider that Crystal Mountain is also a brilliant home base for other summer activities. Over the years, the resort has developed its seasonal offerings, providing a comfortable landing spot for visitors all year. On the resort premise, guests can not only take advantage of the cozy lodging, drinking, and dining, but also a myriad of outdoor goings-on. Get your adrenaline pumping high in the air on their elevated rope course, or take a zip-line ride over their outdoor pool!

Even lacking snow, the actual mountain offers a lot of fun options as well — ride the Crystal Coaster Alpine Slide 1,700 feet down on a sled or take a scenic chairlift ride for some of the best views from the top. Other options include paintball, mountain bike trails, a golf course, climbing wall, disc golf, tennis, hiking, outdoor art installations, and more. If there’s an adventure you want to try, Crystal Mountain will provide.

“Once people are here, we try to offer them everything. We can handle almost all of it if that’s what they want.”

And even if cabin fever sets in, the resort also offers guidance for off-premise activities. In support of the community and other local businesses, Crystal Mountain makes sure all options are available. Take advantage of close proximity to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore—the resort will assist in paddleboard, fat tire bike, and kayak rentals so that you may experience the majesty of beautiful up north Michigan.

It’s also important to know that craft beverages don’t just start and end with the festival. The resort also sponsors tours to Stormcloud Brewing Company and St. Ambrose Cellars, boasting excellent options in beer, wine, and mead in the neighboring towns of Frankfort and Beulah.

So to check out the grounds and offerings, attending the festival is the way to go. There are still tickets available, with both General Admission and VIP options being offered. VIPs receive twice as many tokens and are allowed entrance into the event an hour early. For those who want to taste all of the rare specialty brews being poured before they run out, early admittance could be a real boon to your festivities.

Music for the event will be at the foot of the mountain under the chairlift. Local Michigan bands Scarkasm and The Vintage will be dishing out rock and roll all afternoon and into the evening for festival-goers’ enjoyment.

As tradition, the resort will also host the Twin Bay British Car Club, a unique offering that has always gone hand-in-hand with the Beer & Brat Fest. This year’s theme is sustainability, so alongside the classic models there will be a series of Electric Vehicles showcasing the fact that practicality can also be beautiful in design. All guests are welcome to tour the display and VIPs will have the opportunity to speak with industry officials.

“We embrace outside organizations in the community to take part in the event. It’s just something kind of fun and unique. This year we’ve called it ‘Back to the Future,’ honoring the club’s blending of traditional models with new ones.”

Combining all of the community, rare beer offerings, specialty food recipes, and summer activities, Crystal Mountain is the place to be for Memorial Day. If last year’s perfect weather and happenings are anything to measure it by, it will be a wonderful event. So come celebrate with their staff and other fellow guests to join everyone in ringing in the 2016 summer.

“The guests and staff have made this event what it is. They have made it a tradition.”

 

Sponsored by: Crystal Mountain

shorts brewing

“You think about how you give your whole self to something. And this is it,” says Joe Short, looking around the new extension on the pub.

“It’s always surreal coming in the morning of the anniversary. This is the moment—the culmination of working so hard and so long. This is the tangible reality of all that. You can touch it.”

An hour before the gates opened to eager Short’s enthusiasts, Short’s staff were buzzing this way and that, setting up the magic that is the Short’s Anniversary Party. It has been 12 years, and although every year has its triumphs, this one definitely stands out.

shorts brewing

We’re sitting in one of those triumphs as we speak. Since November, the Short’s team has been diligently working on a new taproom extension adjoining the original pub. It’s beautiful and warm, and fits right into the veteran brewing company’s aesthetic.

“We did it all in-house with our own team. Good ‘old fashioned do-it-yourself work.”

The doors opened just in time for the anniversary, adding “a whole new element to the party.”

Indeed, it boasts long, community-style tables,—both inside and outside—space for games, and most importantly, a fabulous new line of taps, including a few hook-ups for cask-conditioned pours.

“The first thing I’m going to do after I finish the state of the brewery address is take a pour off the cask conditioned pulls. We have two pale ales and a chocolate wheat.”

Before festivities began, various Short’s team members kept popping into the space, obviously working hard to make sure everything was ready to go, but also taking the time to high-five Joe and pat him on the shoulder—small, familiar gestures that spoke to the great team surrounding this brand.

All of these elements of creativity, care, enthusiasm, and family are why so many people wait in line every year for this anniversary. Well, that, and for the excellent brews, of course.

Once the gates were opened, a happy crowd filled the space and filled their cups. There were taps everywhere—two trucks on the street, all three bars open at the pub, and a special gourmet hutch marking the center.

The beer was a mix of familiar and new, with classic standbys like Local’s Light, Humalupalicious, and Soft Parade. The party also featured Starcut Ciders and numerous gourmet options. Tip Ta Tip, a collaboration brew with Funky Buddha (Miami, FL) was one highlight pour, tasting like a good old-fashioned with notes of barrel-aged orange and cherry. Going with the theme of Karate Kid, Sweep the Leg Johnny was a warm brown ale that had been conditioned in bourbon barrels, combining with flavors of plum, fig, and brown sugar.

On the cider side, Erraticus 2 offered more of a gin and tonic cocktail feel, a wild apple cider aged in gin barrels. And the best kept secret that day was the mixing of Starcut Ciders’ Squishy with the pub brew Melt My Brain—cherry-blended cider mixed with a gin and tonic beer? Yes, Please!

In honor of the anniversary, a new Private Stache bottle release was available for purchase as well. Named Compression, this is a collaboration brew with the band Vulfpeck, saluting their return to the Bellaire stage. Band members all asked for something a little different and “funky,” so Short’s brewers created an American Sour Ale made from four blended barrel aged beers.

A couple hours into the party, everyone full of quality brews and tasty eats, Short called the crowd to attention at center stage. It was time for the legendary state of the brewery address, given by Short himself.

“I’m trying for more concise this year. I kind of rambled on at the last one, for like 45 minutes. I’m pretty excited about this year’s, but also really nervous,” he stated, holding a guitar in one hand and a piece of paper in the other (a list of 10 awesome things from year 12).

The next 35 minutes were packed with amusing, surprising, and heart-warming things. Short praised his family, both at home and at work, and pronounced them his proudest achievements.

He then turned to every person in the crowd and spoke the words, “I’m calling you all out to be awesomer.”

Like the karate kid, he told us, Short’s emblazons the gusto and synergy needed to achieve great things. “It symbolizes my life and the life we’ve all created here.”

And then Joe Short stopped speaking and started singing instead.

With a mix of bandmates from The Crane Wives, The Go Rounds, and Vulfpeck, he sang about family, about his legacy, about the glory of Humalupalicious and the importance of hops—“Aroma! Flavor! To have beer without hops/we would all not be here!”

In a performance of “Shine On,” he and guest patron May Erlewine inspired each other to sing about a passion and drive that life takes to succeed. It showcased that while this business can be fun and freeing, it takes hard work and commitment.

Even on this anniversary day of celebration, Short is looking to the future. Half of the funds made at the event goes back into the Bellaire Downtown Development Authority. He has a “Joe Short Legacy Plan” involving building restoration, historic attractions, more parking, affordable housing, trailheads, and more community space.

“It takes one person to throw the seed, but a whole village to get it done. I guess I’m the seed,” Short states. “The seed to be awesomer.”

 

Photography: Kaitlyn Rickman

no rules

All bets were off when Perrin Brewing Company announced this year’s No Rules bottle release would have no limits.

The attendance for the No Rules Release Boondoggle on Saturday, March 26 reaffirmed the hype the beer earned after its first bottle release in 2015. The event’s name suggests Perrin might’ve been a little surprised by what they had gotten themselves into.

no rulesNo Rules’ overnight success last year was backed by a 100-point score on RateBeer and a world-class, near-perfect rating on BeerAdvocate. Its fame owned the secondary market with a national trade value that was so surprising it earned its own hashtag, #tynr (thank you, No Rules), from the Facebook group West Michigan Craft Beer Enthusiasts.

Connor Klopcic, Perrin’s Assistant Brewer and PR point man, confirmed No Rules was brewed with the same recipe as last year, which highlights a sweet combination of coconut, cinnamon, and turbinado sugar. This 15% Imperial Vietnamese Porter did undergo one change, however. The difference this year is that more first-use barrels were used to aged the beer during its 4-to-6-month nap, in addition to reusing a small selection of barrels from the last batch. Klopcic wasn’t at liberty to share what brand of bourbon barrels are part of their formula. “That’s on our double secret probation list,” he said.

Klopcic knew it’d be a double-edged sword to disclose the volume of No Rules produced for this year’s release. “We made a little bit more than last year, but probably not enough.” The challenge to satisfy demand is complicated by one variable in the process. Klopcic said, “It’s the people. We just don’t know how many were going to show up.”

When asked the obvious, Then why no limits?, Klopcic relayed Perrin’s simple and effective marketing approach — “To be consistent with the beer’s name.” Without any intention of instigating the no-holds-barred chaos that might ensue, Klopcic sincerely advocated Perrin’s position, “People should be able to buy as much as they want.” He qualified that by adding, “We actually want the beer to be drank.”

Is there a silver bullet solution for managing high-profile bottle releases — one that satisfies everyone? Or, are breweries damned if they do, damned if they don’t? Winning over public commentary across social media can be daunting, regardless of whether it’s a pre-sale ticketed event, entry via lottery, capped allotment or as daring as a no limit free-for-all.

There’s almost always going to be someone in line behind the person who buys the last bottle. If you haven’t already been that person, you probably will be eventually. And, when that time comes, being gracious and constructive always looks better on us than being quick to criticize with a counterproductive rant. For the premature skeptics, Perrin accomplished with tact and effortlessness what many condemned them for even attempting. If you disagree, let The Dude remind you, “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”

Perrin rewarded their Pub Club members with a one-hour head start, giving them the opportunity to purchase their bottles starting at 10 a.m. Memberships spiked the week of the release after word got out that they could be purchased over the phone. Klopcic lost count of how many new members joined just days before. He said one group of ten guys, who all bought in, arrived together on Friday, with many others coming in from out of state. The consensus among general admission guests, queued in a separate line, was the hope that they wouldn’t be limited to only enjoying draft pours of No Rules, which were also available. They wanted the bottles.

Pub Club members and friends, Eric Sertyn and Larry Bishop, who traveled from Shelby and Troy, respectively, made the 160-mile plus drive to be the first in line at 9:30 p.m. – the night before. They both intended to buy six cases each. Sertyn, who had never experienced No Rules before, said, “I heard how awesome it is, and have been chasing it ever since.”

When asked what they were going to do with their bottles, Bishop shared, “We’re going to spread the love with friends in and out of state.” Sertyn added, “We treat this like we’re all in the same community.” When the doors opened at 10 a.m., both guys humbly walked over a red rug Perrin laid down that really tied the taproom together, and successfully got their beer.

Back outside, Chris Klein, of Chelsea, was the first person in the general admission line. Klein made the two-hour drive, and was in line at 12:30 a.m. He said he survived on beer until the 28-degree temperature forced him to thaw out in his car around 6:00 a.m. He planned to buy four cases – two for himself, and two to share with friends in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, “…that is, if there’s any left,” he said with some apprehension.

Greg H made the drive from Chicago — first on Monday to join the Pub Club in person, then again on Saturday morning. Mr. H secured his place in line at 8 a.m. He intentionally traveled by himself in case he needed the passenger seat for beer. He wasn’t sure whether he was going to buy eighteen or twenty cases, and even tried to remove his back seats as an extra precaution. He said he’d even drive home with a case on his lap, if he needed to.

Mr. H joked sarcastically at first that he was going to “swim in it,” when asked what he intended to do with his No Rules. Then, as if he was trolling live, he said he was actually muling for friends, “going to keep forty bottles to drink out of a goblet with my name on it,” and then trade the rest.

Mr. H’s said he’d consider selling one bottle to the next person in line if in the scenario Mr. H happened to be the last guy to get any bottles. When asked what his thoughts were about anyone else who might miss out on the chance, he said, “Well, maybe if they didn’t stop on the way here this morning for breakfast or whatever they could’ve got in line before me.” I asked if that meant he was essentially giving everyone else the proverbial middle finger. He shrugged and said, “Yeah, pretty much.”

It’s to be noted that Greg H willingly agreed to have his full name published at the time of this interview. He was even advised, “You know I’m going to print this, right?” He acknowledged with approval. He has since reached out asking that we don’t publish his last name.

Mr. H’s smug humor was transparent, and his indifference for his fellow enthusiasts is disappointing. It’s precisely what the craft beer scene could use less of.

no rulesIn direct contrast to Mr. H, and contrary to what it may have looked like from afar, Stu Tingley, of Warren, and his friends, had a refreshingly positive attitude. By the time this story gets published, many will have already seen (and commented on) the photo circulating on the internet of their haul: twenty-four cases, stacked neatly in front of them and their SUV. That’s $5,215.51 in No Rules.

The first thing Tingley said, aware that he made his last name public, was, “Trust me, I’m not some mad man who’s trying to destroy his own life today.” His friend, Ben Rios, of Shelby, backed him up, “I promise, we’re not black market guys. It’s just that SO many people we know wanted a bottle.”

Tingley was serious in making clear that all 288 bottles were being divided among approximately fifty of their friends, and not being hoarded. He swore they were not marking up the price either. “Everyone is paying exactly $18 a bottle, that’s it,” he said.

Marc Alberda, of Hudsonville, might’ve been the most well-liked guy in line. This was his first beer release. He said, “I simply came out because of the buzz I’ve heard about the beer, and just wanted to have a good time.” Alberda got a hilarious round of applause from everyone in line as they watched a Perrin rep wheel out his beer on a hand truck. He bought one bottle.

no rules

The Perrin staff were a well-oiled machine. Whether it was Alberda’s modest bottle, the average guest’s few cases, or Tingley’s twenty-four case haul — the men and women of Perrin worked in sync to get as much beer out as possible, managing no limits with no problem.

“With so much hype this year, we can’t be anything but excited and anxious,” Klopcic said of the vibe among the staff leading up to the release. Angela, Perrin’s newest employee on the floor and seasoned server in the industry, wasn’t intimidated by the turnout. “I think it’s amazing. The energy in here right now is perfect,” she said.

No Rules bottles finally sold out minutes before 1 p.m. For anyone planning ahead, Perrin teased in their press release for the Boondoggle that there would likely be more bottles of No Rules in 2017. In the meantime, No Rules hit retail distribution March 28.

Party World and Rishi’s International Beverage both offered the relatively unconventional opportunity to call ahead and pre-reserve No Rules. Each bottle shop planned to receive a generous allocation, sharing a percentage of that at their discretion to those quick on the dial.

David Castor, manager at Party World, said they maxed out their list in about four hours. “Multiple cases were reserved by people out of state, who told me they were sending local proxies to pick them up,” he said.

Rishi, owner of Rishi’s International Beverage, said, “I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity, that I wanted to do whatever I could to share the love with those who follow us on social media. Everyone who I talked to over the phone seemed genuinely excited to have the chance to get some bottles.” Rishi, who posted the offer on his store’s Facebook page, maxed out his reservations in two hours. Any bottles that Rishi’s receives over and above what was reserved in advance will be available first come, first serve.

In an effort to continue celebrating its release, Perrin also sent representatives to three stores on March 28 to autograph bottles of No Rules.

Bryan Bastow, Quality Control Specialist, and Anthony Parker, Shipping & Receiving, were to visit Rishi’s International Beverage.

Eamon McCarthy, Cellarman, and Charlee Weatherwax, Brand Manager, were to visit Party World.

Connor Klopcic, Assistant Brewer, was to visit Ric’s Food Center, in Rockford.

Please contact each store directly to inquire about whether any bottles of No Rules might still be on their shelves.

 

Photography: Steph Harding