Memorial Weekend marks the beginning of the summer season, and Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville celebrated with its 8th Annual Michigan Beer and Brat Festival on Saturday.

The festival has grown dramatically since it started eight years ago. “We started with around 200 people and 20 beers. This year, we’re expecting nearly 2,000 people,” said Tom Kramer, Public Relations Manager for Crystal Mountain.

Festival-goers were able to enjoy 99 different Michigan beers, meads, ciders and wines, alongside a large variety of locally made bratwursts.

The space was well organized, the atmosphere was enjoyable and family-friendly and live music kept the summer spirit alive. There was also a great exhibition of Michigan-made products.

Local markets including Pleva’s, Ebel’s, Maxbauer’s and Buntings brought their best brats. I particularly enjoyed the Asparagus-White Cheddar brat from Maxbauer’s alongside local grilled asparagus.

Breweries present ranged from well-established ones like Bell’s to smaller breweries like Brewery Ferment of Traverse City. There was also a large selection of ciders and meads.

Upon entering the festival, I was told Bell’s Brewery would be featuring something special.  Bell’s had six beers on tap, including my favorite summer beer, Oberon, and the exclusive stout, Black Note.

Black Note was indeed something special. The flavor and mouthfeel of Black Note Stout was unlike any other, in which Bell’s Expedition Stout and Double Cream Stout are blended and aged in oak bourbon barrels. The result is a complex cream stout which has a slight chocolatey taste with bourbon highlights.

Brewery Ferment was also at the festival and has gotten a lot of attention in the Traverse City area for doing things a little differently. They had Mitten Wit, 45th Parallale and Worker’s Daily on tap. I sampled 45th Parallale, a pale ale brewed with locally grown hops. To emphasize the fresh hop flavor, a HopRocket is used when serving 45th Parallale. The HopRocket infuses fresh hops into the beer as it is tapped.

“It’s my tribute to the hop heroes of the area. We are working hard to support local hop growers,” said Dustin Jones, owner of Brewery Ferment.

As the craft brewing industry continues to grow in Michigan, it is exciting to see breweries experimenting with both unusual and local ingredients. The Michigan Beer and Brat Festival proved to be the perfect venue to experience everything breweries from across the state have to offer for the summer season.

Memorial Weekend marks the beginning of the summer season, and Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville celebrated with its 8th Annual Michigan Beer and Brat Festival on Saturday.

The festival has grown dramatically since it started eight years ago. “We started with around 200 people and 20 beers. This year, we’re expecting nearly 2,000 people,” said Tom Kramer, Public Relations Manager for Crystal Mountain.

Festival-goers were able to enjoy 99 different Michigan beers, meads, ciders and wines, alongside a large variety of locally made bratwursts.

The space was well organized, the atmosphere was enjoyable and family-friendly and live music kept the summer spirit alive. There was also a great exhibition of Michigan-made products.

Local markets including Pleva’s, Ebel’s, Maxbauer’s and Buntings brought their best brats. I particularly enjoyed the Asparagus-White Cheddar brat from Maxbauer’s alongside local grilled asparagus.

Breweries present ranged from well-established ones like Bell’s to smaller breweries like Brewery Ferment of Traverse City. There was also a large selection of ciders and meads.

Upon entering the festival, I was told Bell’s Brewery would be featuring something special.  Bell’s had six beers on tap, including my favorite summer beer, Oberon, and the exclusive stout, Black Note.

Black Note was indeed something special. The flavor and mouthfeel of Black Note Stout was unlike any other, in which Bell’s Expedition Stout and Double Cream Stout are blended and aged in oak bourbon barrels. The result is a complex cream stout which has a slight chocolatey taste with bourbon highlights.

Brewery Ferment was also at the festival and has gotten a lot of attention in the Traverse City area for doing things a little differently. They had Mitten Wit, 45th Parallale and Worker’s Daily on tap. I sampled 45th Parallale, a pale ale brewed with locally grown hops. To emphasize the fresh hop flavor, a HopRocket is used when serving 45th Parallale. The HopRocket infuses fresh hops into the beer as it is tapped.

“It’s my tribute to the hop heroes of the area. We are working hard to support local hop growers,” said Dustin Jones, owner of Brewery Ferment.

As the craft brewing industry continues to grow in Michigan, it is exciting to see breweries experimenting with both unusual and local ingredients. The Michigan Beer and Brat Festival proved to be the perfect venue to experience everything breweries from across the state have to offer for the summer season.

TRAVERSE CITY — If you’re looking to expand your knowledge in the world of beer, look no further than Brewtopia presented by Right Brain Brewery.
Brewtopia is a monthly educational beer and social group. It has emerged from the previous Beer B.I.T.C.H. Coalition, an education group for women brewers and beer lovers. Brewtopia is open to both men and women and provides a great opportunity to understand and appreciate beer in new and intriguing ways.
I attended the second Brewtopia meeting Thursday evening, which featured chocolate pairings. I’ve enjoyed beer with dinner, but have never thought of it as coordinating with dessert.
“We love beer. We love chocolate. And we think they go well together,” said Ryan Engemann, Right Brain’s Resident Beer Geek and Certified Cicerone.
The meeting began with Engemann teaching the group about the roasting and fermenting processes of both chocolate and beer — they are ironically similar in nature. Engemann and Right Brain bartender Jessica Laffin then served six courses of Right Brain beer and chocolate. With each course, Laffin explained the features of the chocolate and beer and why they were paired together.
The Menu:

  • Course 1: White chocolate pecan bark (from Kilwin’s of Traverse City) with Pecan Pie Whole
  • Course 2: Homemade chocolate caramel pretzel with Northern Hawk Owl
  • Course 3: Homemade peanut butter fudge with Thai Peanut
  • Course 4: Dark chocolate with dried cherries (from Chocolate Exotica) with Debauchery Wheat Wine
  • Course 5: Maya Truffle (from Grocer’s Daughter) with Fire Starter Chipotle Porter
  • Course 6: Moomer’s Mint Chocolate Ice Cream with Naughty Girl Scout

A little weary at first, I was pleasantly surprised at how well each pair complemented each other. The butterfat in the chocolate lingers in your mouth and reacts with the high carbonation of the beer. As it reacts, you experience bubbles dancing and cleansing your palate for the next course. My favorites were the peanut butter fudge with Thai Peanut and the Maya Truffle with Fire Starter Chipotle Porter.
Brewtopia truly was a new experience for me and brought about an even greater appreciation for beer. Each Brewtopia meeting has a different focus, with the first meeting featured cheese pairings. In the future, look for more food pairings, homebrewing tips, grain demos, guest speakers and more.
To get information on upcoming Brewtopia meetings and other Right Brain events, visit rightbrainbrewery.com.

TRAVERSE CITY — If you’re looking to expand your knowledge in the world of beer, look no further than Brewtopia presented by Right Brain Brewery.

Brewtopia is a monthly educational beer and social group. It has emerged from the previous Beer B.I.T.C.H. Coalition, an education group for women brewers and beer lovers. Brewtopia is open to both men and women and provides a great opportunity to understand and appreciate beer in new and intriguing ways.

I attended the second Brewtopia meeting Thursday evening, which featured chocolate pairings. I’ve enjoyed beer with dinner, but have never thought of it as coordinating with dessert.

“We love beer. We love chocolate. And we think they go well together,” said Ryan Engemann, Right Brain’s Resident Beer Geek and Certified Cicerone.

The meeting began with Engemann teaching the group about the roasting and fermenting processes of both chocolate and beer — they are ironically similar in nature. Engemann and Right Brain bartender Jessica Laffin then served six courses of Right Brain beer and chocolate. With each course, Laffin explained the features of the chocolate and beer and why they were paired together.

The Menu:

  • Course 1: White chocolate pecan bark (from Kilwin’s of Traverse City) with Pecan Pie Whole
  • Course 2: Homemade chocolate caramel pretzel with Northern Hawk Owl
  • Course 3: Homemade peanut butter fudge with Thai Peanut
  • Course 4: Dark chocolate with dried cherries (from Chocolate Exotica) with Debauchery Wheat Wine
  • Course 5: Maya Truffle (from Grocer’s Daughter) with Fire Starter Chipotle Porter
  • Course 6: Moomer’s Mint Chocolate Ice Cream with Naughty Girl Scout

A little weary at first, I was pleasantly surprised at how well each pair complemented each other. The butterfat in the chocolate lingers in your mouth and reacts with the high carbonation of the beer. As it reacts, you experience bubbles dancing and cleansing your palate for the next course. My favorites were the peanut butter fudge with Thai Peanut and the Maya Truffle with Fire Starter Chipotle Porter.

Brewtopia truly was a new experience for me and brought about an even greater appreciation for beer. Each Brewtopia meeting has a different focus, with the first meeting featured cheese pairings. In the future, look for more food pairings, homebrewing tips, grain demos, guest speakers and more.

To get information on upcoming Brewtopia meetings and other Right Brain events, visit rightbrainbrewery.com.

THOMPSONVILLE — Michigan beer, local brats and live music will take center stage this Saturday, when Crystal Mountain hosts the Eighth Annual Michigan Beer & Brat Festival from 4-5 p.m.

Amongst the breweries set to participate are Short’s, Right Brain, New Holland, Bell’s, Brewery Ferment, The Filling Station and more.

Admission at the gate is $10 per person. The first 1,000 people will receive a commemorative event glass. Several packages are also available, including $40 VIP tickets and lodging specials at the resort.

Tickets can be purchased online at crystalmountain.com.

Local food and drink will be enhanced by live music from The Outer Vibe, Brian Nolf and Jason & Nick. An after party is also slated to begin at the Vista Lounge beginning at 8 p.m.

Known for its creative brews, Right Brain Brewery is now putting creativity on its walls. The Grand Traverse Art Bomb, Intuitive Art Workshops and a student art show have all been featured recently at the Traverse City brewery.

I recently had the pleasure of participating in one of Right Brain’s art events. I attended last week’s Intuitive Art Workshop, which was operated by a recent Art Bomb participant, Ruth Ann McGrath.

“It’s more about the process than the end result,” McGrath assured me as I was struggling to finish my painting. “You want to get outside your comfort zone.”

Not being an artist myself, I don’t typically attend art events. However, the Right Brain atmosphere allowed me to get comfortable and, eventually, I was able to get outside that comfort zone. I was able to experiment with colors, brush strokes and ideas while enjoying craft brews and the company of others.

This relaxed and experimental art atmosphere is the vision of Leif Kolt, Right Brain’s “kickdog” and branding, events and marketing coordinator. He hopes to create an atmosphere in which non-traditional artists feel free to express themselves; a “utopia for counterculture,” if you will.

“The more stuff we do, the better chance we have to get the ball rolling,” said Kolt.

Right Brain started by hosting the Grand Traverse Art Bomb at the beginning of the year. Created by Ryan Walsh, the Art Bomb has become an annual commission-free art show.

Originally set to be a one weekend event, this year’s show was extended to last three months. Each week seemed to bring about a completely different show with its own flavor. Right Brain plans to host next year’s Art Bomb and hopes to collaborate more with Walsh to plan the event.

When asked about his vision for Art Bomb, Kolt stated, “I want it to be what ArtPrize is for the nation for Michigan.”

He hopes over time it will become a well-known event for indie artists throughout the state and will give those who don’t typically enter art shows a chance to display their artwork.

Currently, Right Brain has provided a similar opportunity for art students in the Traverse City area to display their work. The brewpub’s walls are now decorated with a wide variety of student art. Students range from kindergarteners to college students and represent a diversity of art, color and technique.

Right Brain has always welcomed people of all ages. At its smaller original location, it was typical to see families playing board games. The atmosphere has never been that of a bar or a typical brew pub. And as Right Brain continues to grow, it seems it will emerge as a community center for creativity and honest expression, while simultaneously incorporating new flavors into their beer.

TRAVERSE CITY — During a time of the year when Michiganders are tiring of the snow, Timber Ridge’s Suds & Snow brought excitement back to the season.

The seventh annual event was held Saturday, which paired favorite winter activities with microbrews and served as a fundraiser for Children and Family Services.

Upon entering the festival, I was greeted by a fun, casual atmosphere. In the main part of the event, attendees were able to sample beers from Bell’s, Saugatuck and Greenbush breweries. I sampled Saugatuck’s Bonfire Brown, an American Brown Ale that is intended to remind you of a campfire with friends and family. It had a nutty flavor with notes of chocolate and had a slightly smoky finish. Indeed, it paired perfectly with the bonfire right across from their booth.

Food was also available in the main part of the event. Travino’s, Schelde’s and Red Mesa Grill were on site to offer small plates.

After enjoying a great brew, many people ventured down the snowshoe trail or played a few rounds of disc golf. New this year, a three-hole disc golf course was donated by Carly’s Playground (Mt. Holiday). Tilley’s Party Store also donated discs for the event.

If you ventured down the snowshoe trail, you ended up at the infamous trail station, where the atmosphere seemed to be more young and carefree. This is where most people seemed to stay, enjoying brews from Short’s, Right Brain and Schmohz breweries. There was also live music from a variety of favored local musicians.

It has been quite a snowy winter in Northern Michigan, and Suds & Snow utilized that in the best way they could. Most breweries, including Short’s, served over snow bars instead of tables.

“This is great. We didn’t have to bring ice with us this year,” said a volunteer from Short’s Brewery, which created the most elaborate setup for the event. Short’s also had two snow sculptures and a large tap setup.

I sampled Short’s Bloody Beer, which is brewed with Roma tomatoes. Not a big fan of Bloody Marys, I have been hesitant to sample the beer previously. However, I was pleasantly surprised. It had a strong tomato taste, but it was not overwhelming. It was lighter beer with a robust flavor and a hint of peppercorns at the finish.

I was also able to sample the Bone Crusher Stout from Schmohz Brewery. It has an intimidating name, but was one of the smoothest stouts I have tried. With a smooth chocolate flavor, it finishes with a nice balanced malt taste.

“This is a great event. And it’s in such a great place,” said a volunteer with Schmohz.

It was my first time attending Suds & Snow, and I have to agree. Timber Ridge Resort hosts a variety of great events throughout the year, and this has become my one of my favorites.

TRAVERSE CITY — During a time of the year when Michiganders are tiring of the snow, Timber Ridge’s Suds & Snow brought excitement back to the season.
The seventh annual event was held Saturday, which paired favorite winter activities with microbrews and served as a fundraiser for Children and Family Services.
Upon entering the festival, I was greeted by a fun, casual atmosphere. In the main part of the event, attendees were able to sample beers from Bell’s, Saugatuck and Greenbush breweries. I sampled Saugatuck’s Bonfire Brown, an American Brown Ale that is intended to remind you of a campfire with friends and family. It had a nutty flavor with notes of chocolate and had a slightly smoky finish. Indeed, it paired perfectly with the bonfire right across from their booth.
Food was also available in the main part of the event. Travino’s, Schelde’s and Red Mesa Grill were on site to offer small plates.
After enjoying a great brew, many people ventured down the snowshoe trail or played a few rounds of disc golf. New this year, a three-hole disc golf course was donated by Carly’s Playground (Mt. Holiday). Tilley’s Party Store also donated discs for the event.
If you ventured down the snowshoe trail, you ended up at the infamous trail station, where the atmosphere seemed to be more young and carefree. This is where most people seemed to stay, enjoying brews from Short’s, Right Brain and Schmohz breweries. There was also live music from a variety of favored local musicians.
It has been quite a snowy winter in Northern Michigan, and Suds & Snow utilized that in the best way they could. Most breweries, including Short’s, served over snow bars instead of tables.
“This is great. We didn’t have to bring ice with us this year,” said a volunteer from Short’s Brewery, which created the most elaborate setup for the event. Short’s also had two snow sculptures and a large tap setup.
I sampled Short’s Bloody Beer, which is brewed with Roma tomatoes. Not a big fan of Bloody Marys, I have been hesitant to sample the beer previously. However, I was pleasantly surprised. It had a strong tomato taste, but it was not overwhelming. It was lighter beer with a robust flavor and a hint of peppercorns at the finish.
I was also able to sample the Bone Crusher Stout from Schmohz Brewery. It has an intimidating name, but was one of the smoothest stouts I have tried. With a smooth chocolate flavor, it finishes with a nice balanced malt taste.
“This is a great event. And it’s in such a great place,” said a volunteer with Schmohz.
It was my first time attending Suds & Snow, and I have to agree. Timber Ridge Resort hosts a variety of great events throughout the year, and this has become my one of my favorites.


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