A winter plagued by the polar vortex couldn’t keep thousands from celebrating the craft brew community Saturday at the Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival.

The festival, now in its fifth year, has become a regional favorite and features a large selection of beloved Michigan breweries and live musical acts. Festival organizers added many new features this year to keep the festival interesting and engaging for the evolving craft brew community.

Festivities began Friday night at the first Brewer’s Dinner at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. The dinner featured 11 pairings and was hosted by Fred Bueltmann, Beervangelist and Partner at New Holland Brewing Company. Upon arrival, guests were given a ticket package which allowed them to visit each pairing station at their own will. 

“The casual format was conversational for the guests as well as chefs and brewery personnel,” Bueltmann explained. “I like that the chef who created each dish was there to talk to, so we could hear their thoughts on the pairing and the techniques behind the dish.” 

Bueltmann designed the experience so that attendees could take the time to explore various flavors. I started my adventure with Dirty Bastard Fire Roasted Chili, paired with Founders Brewing Dirty Bastard. Each featured a bit of spice and smokiness which complimented each other perfectly.

I chose to try the pork tenderloin paired with New Holland’s Night Tripper as my main course. The pork tenderloin was seared with a cocoa and cayenne rub and was topped with a Night Tripper infused pork stock reduction. Night Tripper is an Imperial Stout with a deep roasted flavor. This roasted flavor came through beautifully in the pork reduction. The cayenne rub gave a spicy kick at the end, which left a need on the palate for another sip of Night Tripper.

Dessert being my favorite part of a meal; I couldn’t wait to try the Blueberry Stout Crumble Cupcakes paired with Dark Horse Brewing’s Tres Blueberry Stout. Pastry Chef Stephanie Elwell left the blueberries out of her batter and instead chose to use the Tres Blueberry Stout to build flavor. Filled with a stout blueberry jam and topped with a cream cheese mousse, the Blueberry Stout Crumble Cupcake was the perfect way to end the Brewers Dinner.

This creative and innovative energy carried over into the Microbrew & Music Festival Saturday evening in downtown Traverse City. Bueltmann made another appearance with food truck pairings on the TC Cycle Pub. Additionally, festival goers could follow the exclusive Rare Beer Tour while enjoying a wide range of live music throughout three heated tents.

The first ever Rare Beer Tour made its way through the festival by tapping a new exclusive brew every 20 minutes. Sixteen small batch brews were featured from breweries throughout the state including Bell’s Brewery, Short’s Brewery and Brewery Vivant.

As excitement built for the tour, lines formed and chants could be heard for Petoskey Brewing’s Wookie Kisses. An imperial stout that was aged for nine months in bourbon barrels, Wookie Kisses had a wonderfully complex flavor. With rich roasted flavors of chocolate and coffee, it finished nicely with hints of bourbon.

Tyde-One-On by Beard’s Brewery was also featured on the tour. It was a barley wine hybrid with strong herbal and caramel malt flavors. Opened just over a year ago, Beard’s Brewery has found great success as a smaller brewery in Petoskey. Brewer Peter Jon stated, “It’s a great industry. It’s growing, but it’s not overly competitive.”

In fact, the expanding industry has brought about many opportunities for collaboration. Beggar’s Brewery, which opened in November, collaboratively brewed its Private Eyes Dunkelweizen with the Microbrew & Music Festival team. Private Eyes was a full bodied dunkelweizen with a lovely balance of clove, banana and hints of earthiness.

The Michigan beer community has vastly grown over the last couple of years. This year’s Microbrew & Music Festival wonderfully represented the creative ways in which it has evolved.

“I loved talking with so many people that were having fun trying new things and enjoying an evening of adventure with beer and food,” Bueltmann stated as he reflected upon the weekend’s festivities.

PETOSKEY — If you’ve been to Northern Michigan and have ever driven on M-119 north of Petoskey, you’ve passed the building numerous times — whether you were going to Harbor Springs in the summer to shop, the “Tunnel of Trees” in the fall to see the orange and yellow in the leaves or Nub’s Nob in the winter to shred the slopes.

If you looked to the right, it was always there, towering over the highway. For a while, it sat empty — a majestic structure with no purpose; however, after nearly a century, Petoskey Brewing has reclaimed its territory.

THE BUILDING

It began in the late 1800s. The Old Brewery, as it was called, was used to brew Petoskey Sparkle beer. According to the Petoskey Brewing website, the building was shaped by the brewing process of the time. At four stories tall, the brewery relied on gravity to move water, wort and beer through the production process, starting at the fourth floor with a large water tank, moving to the third floor where fire-brewing took place, and then down to the second and first floor where fermentation and packaging occurred.

In 1915, the brewery closed when the county was voted dry four years prior to prohibition. It’s been a while since then, though, and it was time to restore it to its rightful purpose.

Owners Patrick Dowd and Lou Gostinger met in 2009 after they had both sold their previous businesses and decided to make the Petoskey and Harbor Springs area their full-time residences. Their idea for the brewery grew from their interest in drawing others to the area, along with a couple acts of fate.

“The fact we had one of Michigan’s oldest brewery buildings in our backyard, and it was for sale, only added fuel to our idea,” Dowd said. “The earth, moon and stars aligned in 2012 when we purchased and renovated the ‘old Petoskey brewery’ building and hired our talented head brewer, Brett Emanuel.”

Although the restoration process was challenging, the brewery maintains modernity with the vintage appearance of the old building.

“Our goal was to preserve the natural character of the building while making it a comfortable place to enjoy a beer,” Dowd said.

THE BEER

Petoskey Brewing strives to set themselves apart from the rest of the brewing market in Michigan by focusing on quality. With Emmanuel’s attributing his roots to HopCat — assisting to open the craft beer bar and brew their beer — and also working for Jolly Pumpkin and Arcadia Ales, they are familiar with what quality is.

“We make good beer — period,” Dowd said. “Our commitment from day one has been on quality, consistently.”

Just as the original Petoskey brewery had chosen its location because of the natural artesian water source it sat on, Petoskey Brewing also takes advantage of this resource.

“Lou and I were committed to finding the best water for our beer,” Dowd added. “Our well driller spent the better part of a week, ultimately drilling through three other aquifers, finding our deep artesian well. Our water is pure and unadulterated. It comes from our well, through a particulate filter and into our hot liqueur tank.”

When it comes to the type of beer that is brewed, Petoskey Brewing also makes a conscious effort to set their beer apart from others.

“Northern Michigan does not have a lot of exposure into the craft brew world,” Emanuel said. “For that reason, we try to be as true to the nature and craft of brewing as possible,” noting that they focus on traditional English and Belgian beer styles.

THE FUTURE

During the first full year in business, Petoskey Brewing produced nearly 3,000 barrels of beer. The brewery is expanding its brew systems in the short-term to raise their production about 30 percent, but are planning to expand their production even more in the long-term.

“We have a larger expansion in planning as we speak which will take us to around the 10,000 barrel mark,” Dowd said. 

Regardless of the plans to expand their production, the brewery has no ambition to go outside of the state of Michigan with distribution.

So where can you find Petoskey beer in the state? With production limitations, the majority of their beer can be found right around the 45th parallel and north — in Gaylord and the greater Traverse City area — although some can be found seeping into the Grand Rapids and Detroit areas.

Right now, Horny Monk Belgian Ale, Mind’s Eye PA (IPA) and North 45 Amber Ale have been released in keg and 16 ounce can formats. Just recently, the brewery released Petoskey Sparkle American Lager in keg format, and plans are to put that and the brewery’s Hopsessed Double IPA in cans this spring.

To see where you can find the nearest Petoskey Brewing beers click here.