TRAVERSE CITY – Perhaps what makes the Traverse City Summer Microbrew & Music Festival a destination summer festival is that it’s about more than the beer.

Yes, music lovers meet beer lovers.

More than 50 breweries – as well as a cider, mead and wine court – will offer hundreds of samples Friday and Saturday at the third annual event on the Village at Grand Traverse Commons lawn.

“We view it first as a celebration of beer,” festival director Sam Porter said. “We are also open to cider and mead and that industry especially since it’s so connected to Northern Michigan.”

The other big piece, according to Porter, is the music, with ongoing performers on the entertainment stage – including chart-topping folk rocker Martin Sexton, Grammy-nominated New Orleans brass brand Rebirth Brass Brand and festival funk favorites Euforquestra, among many others.

“We look to this as kind of the big music festival value,” Porter said, adding that it’s a unique concept to mix quality craft microbrews with legitimate music headliners. “One of our goals is to reach a larger audience.”

While about 85 percent of the breweries represented are Mitten-based, the festival is open to national microbreweries, which Porter says also sets the event apart from many other annual beer festivals. The brewers themselves are not charged table fees to participate in the event, and are treated “like the artist on stage.”

“I take a little bit of pride in not preaching to the choir,” he said. “We want this to be one of the top festivals (the brewers) choose to go to.”

New to this year’s festival is a “Silent Disco Tent” – a party installation that has gained massive popularity at such acclaimed music festivals as Bonnaroo and Glastonbury. The silent disco tent allows up to 200 festival-goers at a time to dance to music broadcast via a FM-transmitter to wireless headphones worn by participants, giving the effect they’re dancing in silence.

Popular local DJs and sponsoring local music venues trade off spinning music throughout the festival.

The festival runs 5-10 p.m. Friday with a Pint Night-themed evening, including $3 craft brew pint specials. Headline performances include Sexton, Euforquestra, Grand Traverse Pipes and Drums and Jam Rek drummers. The silent disco tent is open all night, and festival-goers can also visit the food and merchandise vending areas.

On Saturday, an expanded festival experience goes from 4-10 p.m., with more than 50 breweries and 200-plus flavors of beer, cider, mead and wine. With admission, each person receives a commemorative festival cup and five tokens, which each can be exchanged for a 7-ounce sample. Additional $1 tasting tokens are available.

Live music from Rebirth Brass Band, Barrage, Euforquestra, Ella Riot, That 1 Guy, Grand Traverse Pipes and Drums and several other are the day’s entertainment. Local food vendors and brew-friendly pub grub, an MSU Extensions Educational Tent featuring workshops on beer-related topics, the festival’s popular Hop ‘N Brew tasting shack, the silent disco tent and special partner activities and events are also planned.

“We’re working hard with a great group of volunteers,” Porter said. “We really hope the beer-loving community embraces this festival.”

With 5,000 anticipated attendees during the weekend, festival tickets are on sale at Oryana, Zamar Guitar, Jack’s Market, Tilley’s Party Store, and online at www.porterhouseproductions​.com. Tickets are $30 in advance/$35 at the door for Friday and $40 in advance/$45 at the door for Saturday. The festival is open to attendees ages 21 and up, no exceptions.

TRAVERSE CITY – Perhaps what makes the Traverse City Summer Microbrew & Music Festival a destination summer festival is that it’s about more than the beer.
Yes, music lovers meet beer lovers.
More than 50 breweries – as well as a cider, mead and wine court – will offer hundreds of samples Friday and Saturday at the third annual event on the Village at Grand Traverse Commons lawn.
“We view it first as a celebration of beer,” festival director Sam Porter said. “We are also open to cider and mead and that industry especially since it’s so connected to Northern Michigan.”
The other big piece, according to Porter, is the music, with ongoing performers on the entertainment stage – including chart-topping folk rocker Martin Sexton, Grammy-nominated New Orleans brass brand Rebirth Brass Brand and festival funk favorites Euforquestra, among many others.
“We look to this as kind of the big music festival value,” Porter said, adding that it’s a unique concept to mix quality craft microbrews with legitimate music headliners. “One of our goals is to reach a larger audience.”
While about 85 percent of the breweries represented are Mitten-based, the festival is open to national microbreweries, which Porter says also sets the event apart from many other annual beer festivals. The brewers themselves are not charged table fees to participate in the event, and are treated “like the artist on stage.”
“I take a little bit of pride in not preaching to the choir,” he said. “We want this to be one of the top festivals (the brewers) choose to go to.”
New to this year’s festival is a “Silent Disco Tent” – a party installation that has gained massive popularity at such acclaimed music festivals as Bonnaroo and Glastonbury. The silent disco tent allows up to 200 festival-goers at a time to dance to music broadcast via a FM-transmitter to wireless headphones worn by participants, giving the effect they’re dancing in silence.
Popular local DJs and sponsoring local music venues trade off spinning music throughout the festival.
The festival runs 5-10 p.m. Friday with a Pint Night-themed evening, including $3 craft brew pint specials. Headline performances include Sexton, Euforquestra, Grand Traverse Pipes and Drums and Jam Rek drummers. The silent disco tent is open all night, and festival-goers can also visit the food and merchandise vending areas.
On Saturday, an expanded festival experience goes from 4-10 p.m., with more than 50 breweries and 200-plus flavors of beer, cider, mead and wine. With admission, each person receives a commemorative festival cup and five tokens, which each can be exchanged for a 7-ounce sample. Additional $1 tasting tokens are available.
Live music from Rebirth Brass Band, Barrage, Euforquestra, Ella Riot, That 1 Guy, Grand Traverse Pipes and Drums and several other are the day’s entertainment. Local food vendors and brew-friendly pub grub, an MSU Extensions Educational Tent featuring workshops on beer-related topics, the festival’s popular Hop ‘N Brew tasting shack, the silent disco tent and special partner activities and events are also planned.
“We’re working hard with a great group of volunteers,” Porter said. “We really hope the beer-loving community embraces this festival.”
With 5,000 anticipated attendees during the weekend, festival tickets are on sale at Oryana, Zamar Guitar, Jack’s Market, Tilley’s Party Store, and online at www.porterhouseproductions​.com. Tickets are $30 in advance/$35 at the door for Friday and $40 in advance/$45 at the door for Saturday. The festival is open to attendees ages 21 and up, no exceptions.

TRAVERSE CITY — From the Empire Spear beer brewed with asparagus to the Ancho Chili Double Dutch Chocolate porter, Right Brain Brewery doesn’t shy away from much at the brewing kettle.

Founded in 2007, the craft brewery has made a name for itself brewing some of the most innovative and unique beers in the state. After one pint in the warehouse-district brewpub, it’s immediately apparent that they take the name “right brain” to heart.

Almost everything in this pub — from the furniture to the beer mugs — strays far away from the ordinary. The walls are covered with an eclectic collection of local art that includes paintings, photography and everything in between.

Taking a seat at the bar, on a couch, or even a refurbished dentist’s chair, you’ll be drawn in by the social atmosphere of Right Brain. Instead of a bar lined with TVs, you’ll find patrons playing board games, throwing darts or simply enjoying the company of their friends over a beer.

Right Brain boasts an impressive line-up of rotating beers, including Will Power Pale Ale, CEO Stout and Black-eye PA to name a few. The “beer board” is well-populated, so finding something to your liking is never an issue. That said, Right Brain usually has a few extreme beers on tap for the more adventurous drinker.

Personally, I’m under the belief that the bourbon barrel is the best thing to happen to beer since yeast. That said, Right Brain delivers one of my all-time favorite barrel aged stouts — Distill My Heart Bourbon Barrel Aged stout.

Aged in Woodford Reserve barrels, this beer pours jet black, with a thin veil of tan head. Notes of vanilla and bourbon on the nose continue through a balanced body of roasted malts and coffee. If you get the opportunity to try this one, you will not be disappointed.

But I digress. This is July in Traverse City, and my most recent visit to Right Brain was for their summer line-up of fruit beers, featuring — you guessed it — cherries.

  • Cherry Pie-Whole: Right Brain collaborated with the Grand Traverse Pie Company to create an ale brewed with whole cherry pies. This beer pours a clean golden-amber, with a thin layer of white head that dissipates quickly. A pleasant nose of sweet cherries continues through a body of toasted malt with a fluffy mouthfeel. The cherries take the front row to this beer, rounded out by a very well-balanced body. An experimental success that is definitely worth trying.
  • Strawberry Fields: Served with a strawberry in the glass, this is lighter ale that pours a hazy golden straw with a very subtle pink tone. Nose of sweet strawberries fades a bit to a warm body of bready malts and a smooth mouthfeel. Carbonation lends to a pleasant crisp finish that lingers with the sweet strawberries found in the nose.
  • Dead Kettle IPA: A hazy, light amber beer with a clean hoppy nose of grapefruit and citrus. A pleasant malt body takes a seat to the predominate citrusy hop flavor. Lighter mouthfeel with good carbonation, the hops continue and round out a nice clean, crisp finish.

Want more Right Brain? Check out our video interview from the 2011 Michigan Summer Beer Fest!

TRAVERSE CITY — From the Empire Spear beer brewed with asparagus to the Ancho Chili Double Dutch Chocolate porter, Right Brain Brewery doesn’t shy away from much at the brewing kettle.
Founded in 2007, the craft brewery has made a name for itself brewing some of the most innovative and unique beers in the state. After one pint in the warehouse-district brewpub, it’s immediately apparent that they take the name “right brain” to heart.
Almost everything in this pub — from the furniture to the beer mugs — strays far away from the ordinary. The walls are covered with an eclectic collection of local art that includes paintings, photography and everything in between.
Taking a seat at the bar, on a couch, or even a refurbished dentist’s chair, you’ll be drawn in by the social atmosphere of Right Brain. Instead of a bar lined with TVs, you’ll find patrons playing board games, throwing darts or simply enjoying the company of their friends over a beer.
Right Brain boasts an impressive line-up of rotating beers, including Will Power Pale Ale, CEO Stout and Black-eye PA to name a few. The “beer board” is well-populated, so finding something to your liking is never an issue. That said, Right Brain usually has a few extreme beers on tap for the more adventurous drinker.
Personally, I’m under the belief that the bourbon barrel is the best thing to happen to beer since yeast. That said, Right Brain delivers one of my all-time favorite barrel aged stouts — Distill My Heart Bourbon Barrel Aged stout.
Aged in Woodford Reserve barrels, this beer pours jet black, with a thin veil of tan head. Notes of vanilla and bourbon on the nose continue through a balanced body of roasted malts and coffee. If you get the opportunity to try this one, you will not be disappointed.
But I digress. This is July in Traverse City, and my most recent visit to Right Brain was for their summer line-up of fruit beers, featuring — you guessed it — cherries.

  • Cherry Pie-Whole: Right Brain collaborated with the Grand Traverse Pie Company to create an ale brewed with whole cherry pies. This beer pours a clean golden-amber, with a thin layer of white head that dissipates quickly. A pleasant nose of sweet cherries continues through a body of toasted malt with a fluffy mouthfeel. The cherries take the front row to this beer, rounded out by a very well-balanced body. An experimental success that is definitely worth trying.
  • Strawberry Fields: Served with a strawberry in the glass, this is lighter ale that pours a hazy golden straw with a very subtle pink tone. Nose of sweet strawberries fades a bit to a warm body of bready malts and a smooth mouthfeel. Carbonation lends to a pleasant crisp finish that lingers with the sweet strawberries found in the nose.
  • Dead Kettle IPA: A hazy, light amber beer with a clean hoppy nose of grapefruit and citrus. A pleasant malt body takes a seat to the predominate citrusy hop flavor. Lighter mouthfeel with good carbonation, the hops continue and round out a nice clean, crisp finish.

Want more Right Brain? Check out our video interview from the 2011 Michigan Summer Beer Fest!

Russell Springsteen talks all things Right Brain during the 2011 Michigan Summer Beer Festival. Springsteen gives us an outlook into the start of the four-year-old Traverse City brewery, its inspiration of the famous asparagus beer, and the future of its brews.

Want more Right Brain? Check out our review of its fruit beers!

TRAVERSE CITY — Looking for a unique venue for sampling your favorite craft beers from Short’s Brewing Company?

The Traverse Tall Ship Company is hosting its “Microbrew Tasting Cruise” every Sunday evening beginning this Sunday through Sept. 4 (6:30-8:30pm).

Along with the brews, pizza from Crusted Creations will be served. The cost is $50 per person and space is limited to 60 per sail.

“What an awesome beer adventure,” says Jon “Woj” Wojtowicz, Short’s Beer Liberator. “I’m really excited about the rest of the summer and couldn’t thank you enough for coming up with such an amazing idea.”

As the ship’s captain sails across Grand Traverse Bay, Woj (or another Short’s representative) will discuss and share four unique beer samples, and share Short’s brewing philosophy and role in Michigan’s overall craft brewing scene.

With a 60 passenger sailing capacity (24 overnight capacity), there is plenty of space for sitting and moving around the decks while under sail. While aboard the Manitou, passengers are free to leave the sailing to the experienced crew or lend a hand and learn the art of the sailor.

To make reservations for any of the 2011 Manitou sailing adventures, call 800-678-0383. Gift certificates are also available. For additional information about the Manitou, including its corporate charters, log on to www.tallshipsailing.com.

Being from Northern Michigan, I’ve gotten to know a few of the breweries quite well. There’s Short’s, Right Brain, North Peak, among others. But one that I never really explored, until recently, was Jolly Pumpkin Restaurant, Brewery, Distillery.

While Traverse City isn’t Jolly Pumpkin’s primary brewery (Dexter is home with another operation in Ann Arbor), the location still offers a variety of brews to soothe your taste buds.

Located right on Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City, Jolly Pumpkin is what you’d expect from a microbrewery. The setting is a relaxed, dark environment with multiple tables for conversation. Its bar area is small, but comfortable.

The main dining room has two giant chandeliers in the center — including one made out of a beer barrel. All in all, it’s a great place to enjoy some drinks with friends, and is a modern, yet comfortable outlook on a brewpub.

There are two regulars on tap for Jolly Pumpkin — Bam Noire and Bam Biere.

The Bam Noire (4.3 percent ABV) features a rich, nice finish, but still with enough hops to keep you awake. It’s certainly the furthest from being overpowering, but it’s a perfect companion to a hearty meal (or Jolly Pumpkin’s amazing potato chips).

Its amber color embodies a slight scent of fruit, but otherwise is a standard, dark ale. Being a dark beer drinker, I immediately thought very highly of this. It was smooth, but not syrupy smooth. It was hoppy, but not IPA hoppy. All in all, this brew has excellent balance.

Surprisingly, what I was really excited about was the Bam Biere (4.5 percent ABV). Named one of Men’s Health’s Top 25 Beers in the country, the light gold-colored ale is certainly a light beer, but features all the flavor and greatness I expect.

It featured a bit more of a hoppy finish than its darker cousin, but it ended on a much more smooth note than I initially expected. It had a hint of oaky-ness to it, and was paired wonderfully with my steak sandwich. I definitely sensed some cinnamon and nutmeg flavors, as well as some earthiness with a hint of fruit flavor. The Bam Biere is the perfect summer drink, reminding me instantly of the great outdoors, and definitely trumps the Bam Noire in my book.

In addition to its two beers on tap, Jolly Pumpkin also offers a wide array of bottled beers, as well as a semi-changing tap of cider and North Peak Brewing Company beers.

While it’s a bit off the beaten path, Jolly Pumpkin might not be the immediate brewery you’d think of when visiting Traverse City. But for anyone looking for a unique spin on a few brews, this is a great place to start.

Jolly Pumpkin Restaurant, Brewery, Distillery is located at 13512 Peninsula Drive in Traverse City.

Sounding more like a dessert buffet than taplist, May the Short’s Be With You at The Pyramid Scheme highlighted some of the best Michigan beer has to offer with 15 unique brews from Short’s Brewing Company.
Arguably the most innovative brewery in the state, Short’s never fails to flex its creative muscles. Although the Elk Rapids-based brewery boasts an impressive series of year-round and seasonal brews, what really draws many beer geeks — myself included — is its one-off, experimental beers.
Between its Bellaire brewpub and several Michigan beer festivals, I have been fortunate enough to try many of these unique offerings. Wednesday’s event provided an opportunity to experience even more Short’s creativity. These are not your “typical” beers. And, even between the three of us at the table, opinions varied widely. Note: All beers were poured into a standard shaker pint glass.
Mamma’s Strawberry Milk

  • Appearance: Pours a dense, hazy reddish-brown hue with no head. Strawberries dominate with a dark fruit, malty sweetness.
  • Not your typical fruit beer — lacks the overpowering sugary sweetness you might be expecting. Instead, the brew presents a strong, pleasant fruit aroma and taste with a heavier, syrupy mouthfeel. It’s not something you can sit and drink four of, but a wonderful, unique offering that is definitely worth trying. The milk sugar and malt body with mild carbonation rounds out this beer nicely.

’08 Chocolate Raspberry Shorter

  • Appearance: Deep, opaque chocolate brown body, revealing a bright mahogany hue towards the edge of the glass. Thin, sparse layer of tan head.
  • Initially, it has a confusing alcohol aroma, which fades over time. Tart raspberries predominate the initial taste, but transitions to a sweeter raspberry with a bit chocolate malt on the end. With a lighter mouthfeel than expected for beer this dark, it has a moderate, slightly prickly carbonation. Not as much chocolate malt as the name may imply, but still present. A lighter beer than the deep color might lead you to think, but definitely something you could drink a few of.

Another Caucasian Gary

  • Appearance: Opaque, orange/amber with a thin white head.
  • The beer that I was perhaps most excited to try,  as I missed my chance during the Winter Beer Fest and it received rave reviews on Beeradvocate.com. Its aroma is unpleasant — smells of spent coffee grounds, not the nice roasted malt flavor you would find in a bigger stout — and carries over in the taste with a slightly sour, milky sweetness to it.  With a heavier mouthfeel (a little syrupy), ACG has good carbonation. But it’s not at all what I hoped for — this beer was just plain bad. Granted, it was brewed several months ago, and with the components of this beer I have to think that the aging process did not treat it well. Wish I could have tried this one months ago, as I get the sneaking suspicion it was an entirely different when it was fresh.

The Gambler

  • Appearance: Cloudy golden brown, thin layer of cream-colored head.
  • A bourbon-barreled IPA brewed with tea leaves, lending a tobacco quality to the beer, it has hints of smoke with a leather- tobacco scent that is apparent but not overpowering and capped with subtle bourbon notes. The taste brings a bright sweetness upfront, met with pleasant earthy hop bitterness.  A little more of the bourbon comes through towards the end, and it feels like an IPA in the mouth with a little lighter carbonation. Not my cup of tea, but very interesting — lots of flavors you wouldn’t encounter elsewhere.

Key Lime Pie

  • Appearance: Pours a bright orange/amber with no head.
  • Bright citrus, predominated by the scent of sweet limes carries into the taste with initial lime sweetness that transitions to a milky, malt sweetness.  It feels heavier than it looks and definitely has a chewier, syrupy quality to it. Overall, the sweet lime flavor balanced very well with the creamy body. Really, it’s a great beer — key lime pie in a glass.  On that note, it’s not something I could sit a drink all night, but a must-try for sweet, fruity beer lovers.

Carrot Cake

  • Appearance: No head whatsoever, completely opaque with a dark copper, earthy hue.
  • Based on scent alone, they weren’t kidding when they said Carrot Cake. Similar to the smell, the creamy frosting taste gives way to a smooth, bready malt sweetness. You can definitely pick up on the carrots as you would in a real carrot cake, but it takes the back seat to the sweetness of this beer (the point of carrot cake is to hide the veggies, right?). It has a creamy, heavier body that balances well. Much like the key lime pie, Carrot Cake hits the nail on the head. Liquid carrot cake.

The Pyramid Scheme is located at 68 Commerce SW in downtown Grand Rapids.