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The 18th Annual Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival took place at Riverside Park in Ypsilanti on Friday and Saturday. Over 100 breweries gathered to deliver 932 brews for the celebration of our state’s wildly popular beer culture.

Hot and steamy weather didn’t discourage the thousands of exuberant attendees. Shade trees and numerous water stations helped folks keep their cool as temperature soared. Thankfully, rain held off until after official festival hours on Saturday.

Lines to enter the park began forming well before the gate opening times. Enthusiast Members of the Guild gained entry to the festival grounds an hour before the rest of the crowd, giving them a head start on the high-demand specialty beers that didn’t last long.

Within mere minutes of the early opening, members had descended on the Witch’s Hat booth creating lines 50 people deep, all hoping for a shot at tasting the brewery’s coveted Night Fury Imperial Stout variations.

“On Friday they were gone within an hour,” said Nancy Haas, owning partner.

Many breweries offered up sours, goses and other unique thirst quenchers for those who wanted something lighter.

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One Well Brewing from Kalamazoo brought a blonde jalpeño brew, Xalapa, that managed to have all the flavor and aroma of the hot pepper without the expected spicy heat. It was a surprisingly refreshing creation. Sliced jalapeños were available as garnish for those who wanted to amp it up.

“I never brew anything I know I’m not going to like,” said co-founder and brewer Chris O’Neill, who created the recipe.

His beers have gained a following, leading the company to explore expansion options less than a year after opening.

“Right now we brew four batches a week on average and we’re going to have to do more especially if we want to get into distribution. We’re already looking for expansion places,” O’Neill said.

Another intriguing strange brew was Cotton Brewing Company‘s The Cat’s Meow, a wheat beer with a subtle hint of earthy mint derived from catnip.

Arbor Brewing Company stood out from the crowd with its beer-dispensing vintage firetruck. As impressive as the restored truck’s appearance was, the real attraction for many fans was the larger than usual list of sour beer offerings. Velvet Hammer 9, usually only available at the microbrewery one day a year, was served to those who were quick enough to score it during the timed releases.

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