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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.

There was an eye-catching addition to this year’s Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival in Ypsilanti this weekend.

Marshall’s Dark Horse Brewing Company brought a giant wooden set up to this year’s festival which stood out and above the rest of the state’s 88 breweries in attendance. The brewery often drops some jaws with the amount of beer they bring to the festival, but this year’s included t-shirt guns and a giant ice slide for beer.

Above the wooden structure sat their “DHN” sign, for Dark Horse Nation, the brewery’s new TV show that begins airing tonight at 10 p.m. on the History Channel.

The rest of the festival was highlighted by the fantastic weather on Friday and Saturday, as some sweltering heat was subdued by light rain, brief cloud cover and a slight breeze.

The state’s breweries proved to be at the top of their game as the nation’s brewing industry continues to grow at a double-digit pace. Perhaps it was the choice in beer samples, but only one I couldn’t finish, with many being excellent.

Pepper beers were all the rage this year, or so it seemed. Some seemed too hot, while others mixed in the perfect amount of spice with the pepper’s flavor.

Arbor’s Flambouyant Wild Sour Red was an amazing lip-puckering experience. As were many of the beers Brewery Vivant brought to their table.

As usual, bigget breweries often had the longest lines, including Founders Brewing Co., which saw a noticeably long line begin to wrap around a tent for its KBS release at least 15 minutes before the scheduled tapping.

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Kuhnhenn took some Michigan pride to the festival with its Pure Michigan series, including beers featuring Michigan cherries, blueberries, peach and more Michigan ingredients. The brewery also brought a few of its spectacular signatures including DRIPA, The Fluffer Session IPA and Raspberry Eisbock.

Several breweries completely ran out of beer fairly early into Saturday. Right Brain was the first I heard go, so I felt lucky that I was able to try the brewery’s Cucumber Saison it brought, which was mighty refreshing during the summer festival.

I didn’t get to try the Rockford Brewing Company / New Holland Brewing Company collaboration, Solar Coaster, but was told it was a fantastic beer.

Saturday was capped off by a rousing performance by the Detroit band Sponge.