winter microbrew fest

Negative wind chills and endless amounts of snow couldn’t keep thousands from attending the seventh annual Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival on Saturday.

Each year, the winter counterpart to the Summer Microbrew & Music Festival lightens up an otherwise gray winter atmosphere. And, each year, the festival builds upon itself — converting The Sarah Harding Parking Lot into a microbrew winter wonderland. The festival remains unique and interesting even for those that return year after year.

winter microbrew fest

The vibrancy of the festival hails from a vast assortment of breweries, food, and music. For 2016, many favorites returned — including an eclectic collection of musical acts, Silent Disco, local food trucks, and the Rare Beer Tour. With music playing throughout the evening in multiple tents, festival attendees could choose their entertainment. Whether you prefer folk rock, bluegrass, polka, funk, or experimental music, there was something for you to enjoy. Live acts included That 1 Guy, Lowdown Brass Band, Billy Strings, TurboPup, and Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers.

The Rare Beer Tour made its way through the three beer tents, with a new “rare brew” being tapped every half hour. These rare beers were often exclusive or limited releases. This year’s Rare Beer Tour included Blueberry Pancake Milkshake Stout from Rochester Mills, Arcadia Ale’s Brown Cow, and Bell’s 30th Anniversary Ale. A schedule for the tour was added to the festival guide so attendees could plan out their stops.

“I can’t wait for Zangeif’s Bearhug from Short’s. Zangeif is a character from Street Fighter, so I have to try it,” said festival attendee Nick Gravlin.

With unique beer names and odd styles sprinkled throughout the festival, it was hard to find something not to be excited about. Both Short’s and Arcadia Ales featured sour stouts. These had the tartness you would expect from a sour, but were also balanced with the roasty notes of a stout. Many breweries also experimented with barrel-aging as well utilizing unique ingredients like bacon, marshmallow fluff, and Carolina Reaper peppers. Beer names ranged from Scary Jesus Rockstar (Dark Horse Brewing) and 600 Pounds of Sin (Short’s Brewing) to Hipster Brunch Stout (Oddside Ales) and Kilting Me Softly (Tapistry Brewing).

This array of styles could only come from a wide range of breweries. This year’s festival included over forty breweries ranging from statewide favorites to newcomers waiting to be discovered. Well established breweries included Founders, Bell’s, and Short’s as well as Atwater, New Holland, Jolly Pumpkin, and Perrin. Newer breweries included Lake Ann Brewing, Hop Lot, and Pigeon Hill Brewing. Hop Lot, which opened last spring with much anticipation, emptied its kegs well before the festival was over.

“The Winter Microbrew & Music Festival is always a great opportunity to try something new,” said another festival attendee.

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With blue skies, sunshine, and the end of summer looming, the eighth annual Traverse City Summer Microbrew & Music Festival captured the spirit of summer in Northern Michigan on Friday and Saturday.

This year’s festival atmosphere attracted thousands of people from near and far. Over the course of eight years, it has become known as a weekend filled with an astounding selection of brews, food, and entertainment. And each year, festival director Sam Porter aims to make the festival a bit more riveting.

“Over the two days we had over 7000 people attend including 300 volunteers, 140 musicians and over 75 brewery owners, reps and brewers,” said Porter.

This year’s festival featured over 300 beers, meads, and wines, contained four stages of live entertainment, and highlighted the an array of local food. Local faire was well represented, as well as national favorites. Michigan breweries, large and small, were represented at the festival. Breweries had favorites on tap as well as unique brews just for the festival.

The Rare Beer Tour was again part of the festival, giving attendees exclusive access to breweries’ most unique flavors. This summer’s rare beers included Rojzilla from Jolly Pumpkin (a sour amber ale), Incorrigible Reserve from New Holland (a white sour ale with Michigan berries), Canadian Breakfast Stout from Founders, and Every Wine Barrel Has A Silver Lining from Stormcloud Brewing (a saison aged in a Chardonnay barrel).

While many festival goers came to sample the best in beer, many others chose to attend to for the music. This year’s music lineup included included an eclectic mix of great talent. Acts included That 1 Guy, Billy Strings and Don Julin, Lowdown Brass Band, and Robert Randolph & the Family Band. The main act of the weekend was Grammy-nominated folk rock group The Avett Brothers, who drew in a large crowd at the end of the festival weekend.

The Silent Disco also returned this year with a few new twists. Now in its fourth year, the Silent Disco offers attendees a distinct dancing experience. Music is not blasted throughout the tent for all to hear. Rather, music is broadcast only through wireless headsets. This year, the experience became more dynamic with three-channel wireless headsets. Throughout the evening, two DJs and one live band played in the tent. Attendees were able to switch between the three diverse acts, giving them a customizable experience.

Those wishing to take their festival experience to the next level were able to this year with the addition of VIP tickets and Brew Camp. Those purchasing VIP tickets were given early access, a specialty VIP glass, and additional drink tokens.

Brew Camp extended the festival to Eagle’s Meadow in Empire, fifteen minutes from the festival. A full-weekend camping experience, Brew Camp included a late-night busking bonfire with intimate music performances and shuttle service to the festival.

“It was a new idea that offers a more affordable hospitality option that is a micro fest by itself. It’s great for folks that want to camp with brewers and musicians,” said Porter.

In fact, Porter plans to expand the Brew Camp concept at this festival and others around the country.

“This is a key element to creating a place for people to camp when attending a festival that is in the city or more urban,” said Porter.

Porter’s next events include an ArtPrize venue in a new green space park and the Winter Microbrew & Music Festival. The Winter Microbrew & Music Festival, which will also have some big changes, will be in the second week in February, in downtown Traverse City.