West Michiganders are beer-loving, hardy, and generous souls. Attendance at Perrin Brewing Company’s 1st Ice Jam Winter Festival pretty much proves that. An event designed to showcase specialty and collaborative beers and benefit Kids Food Basket, whose purpose is “attacking childhood hunger to help young people learn and live well”, definitely drew crowds to Comstock Park Saturday afternoon.
Starting at 1:30 p.m. with the Frostbite 5k, approximately 500 bundled up, PJ-clad folks of all ages made their way around Perrin Brewing Company for a good cause. The $25 registration fee for the 5k was donated directly to Kids Food Basket, and served as admittance to the Ice Jam, starting at 2 p.m..
Others arrived later, with boxes of granola bars, fruit juice, and more to serve as entrance fee directly to the Ice Jam. Piles of requested food items grew inside the brewery and outside the Ice Jam tent entrance. That, or a $10 fee (with proceeds also going to Kids Food Basket) got you into the heated tents in Perrin Brewing’s back forty.
Food and drink tickets were a dollar a piece, with most brews at about 4 tickets each, well worth the price for the variety of beers available. Beers available on tap from Perrin included:
-98 Problems – IPA
-Bullet Tooth – barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout
-No Rules – Vietnamese Imperial Porter
-Poop Your Pants – Chocolate Bock
Some unique treats on tap were available as well, including Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale; distributed locally in MI in cans, but not on tap; and Cigar City’s Jai Alai IPA, which is not available at all in Michigan. These very special batches were actually brewed in Michigan, at Perrin, when brewers Tim Matthews of Oskar Blues and Wayne Wambles of Cigar City were in town to brew an Imperial Oatmeal Stout named ‘Triangulation’ with Perrin’s head brewer John Stewart.
In addition to the collaborative Triangulation each guest brewer brewed up a batch of their signature beers for us lucky Michiganders.
Connor Klopic, Brewer and Cellar-man at Perrin, shared the inspiration behind the event with MittenBrew. “We wanted to do something fun to bring people out during the winter when they are usually staying indoors, so we decided to partner with Kids Food Basket [for the Ice Jam]. We also have a bunch of speciality beers we are tapping and pretty excited about. And food, of course.”
The food tent offered brats and hot dogs, hot chocolate and cupcakes from The Salted Cupcake for little humans in attendance and those needing some protein or a winter warmer between their beers. Two Scott’s BBQ was also on hand with their food truck, for those craving pulled pork sandwiches.
In addition to a killer lineup of beer and food, the Ice Jam scored high points for their musical selections as well. Serving as a precursor to WYCE’s Jammie Awards, live music from some amazing West Michigan bands started at 3 p.m.. MC’d by reps from WYCE and Local Spins, The Mainstays opened the show, followed up Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish, Heaters, I Believe in Julio, and ended with headliner Mustard Plug. The heated tent and hundreds of dancing bodies (and the internal warmth provided by the beer) kept everything pretty cozy as the temperatures dropped throughout the evening.
Plenty of bonfires were scattered along the grounds outside of the tents, including a pretty massive one at Perrin’s Cigar Lounge out back. I do enjoy a good cigar, and I enjoy things more when I know a portion of proceeds go to charity. RRR Cigars headed up by Rick & Lisa Reynolds, provided hand-rolled cigars to attendees for $10, with donations also going to Kids Food Basket. Just one more unique aspect to this off-season backyard bash, and a pretty good pairing with hearty stouts like Bullet Tooth and Triangulation, too.
Kyle and Chris, Grand Rapids locals who were sharing cigars with us at the fire pit, shared their take on the day, “We had some friends running in the 5K today, and we came to support them. We didn’t run, we’re just here for the festivities,” Kyle laughed.
As far as the beers on tap, Chris mentioned that he was pretty excited to try Cigar City’s Jai Alai again, since the last time he had it was when he was in Tampa. Perhaps it invoked a feeling of sunshine and warmer days?
The charitable aspect had some pull too, and the uniqueness of the actual items being donated provided a concrete visual to the volume of attendance and the generosity of the attendees. “It think it’s fantastic that you have the option of bringing in actual items for donation for an entrance fee,” said Kyle. “Watching the pile of food grow, you end up feeling more a part of the event. You get to actually see the giving spirit of the people here today. It’s pretty awesome.”
We all know the feeling of the dragging, dreary, after-holidays winter season. No one wants to do anything but have the season end. The Ice Jam Festival might just be the good excuse we need to get out of the house between New Year’s and Winter Beer Fest. Because any time is a good time for delicious food, sweet music, charitable giving, and, of course, amazing beer.
Photography: Amee Rutan