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crystal mountain

Memorial Day weekend: a weekend that boasts endless activities, events, and happenings under the hopeful curtain of a warm spring sun. Barbeques, boating, backyard hangouts, downtown strolls, outdoor festivals. So, how does one choose what to do?

The staff at Crystal Mountain think people shouldn’t have to choose—they’ll be there waiting with beer, brats, music, and a welcoming community that Saturday, May 27th, when their 12th annual Beer & Brat festival kicks off at four o’clock.

 

 

“What we found with our festival is that it’s a good time of day,” says Brian Lawson, Director of Public Relations.

“A lot of people might do an early BBQ or might be opening their cottage that morning, and by the time four o’clock rolls around, they’re ready for a little bit of fun. People can cap off their busy days with some fun and relaxation at our resort.”

The relaxation and fun are guaranteed! Crystal Mountain has hosted this event for going on 12 years, with attendance and activities growing every year. To make things extra special, the resort is celebrating their 60th anniversary. To the resort staff and surrounding community, this casts an even brighter light around everything in 2017.

The festival itself will offer its usual awesome array of Michigan craft—local brat vendors, breweries from all around the state, and local musicians.

Skarcasm, a power trio hailing Traverse City, will be returning this year with some original sounds and rock’n’roll covers. Joining them will be newcomers to the lineup, Lookin’ Back, a Bob Seger tribute band who consider themselves a forward-looking group united to perform Seger’s hits at their highest possible standard.

“This band makes it a point to invite Bob Seger to all of their gigs. And they play certain covers in the same key he would, so if he did happen to show up, there would be a smooth transition into him joining in,” says Lawson.

While enjoying the music, festival goers can enjoy the many smells and tastes offered under the food and beer tents. Honor Family Market, Buntings Cedar Market, Maxbauer Market, Ebel’s, Kaleva Meats, Sander’s Meats, and Mikowski’s Meat Market & Deli will be providing the traditional brat fare and sides, and all are local Michigan markets.

Like the Michigan craft industry in general, Crystal Mountain increases in number of breweries represented every year. And for this 12th year, the event boasts the highest number of first-time-in-attendance breweries, including: Pigeon Hill Brewing Company, Creston Brewery, Big Lake Brewing, Tapistry Brewing, Oddside Ales, Roak Brewing, and Latitude 42 Brewing Company.

“The combination of music, breweries, and the brats are a great way to start the summer. Having it all focused on Michigan makes it special, too,” says Lawson.

And what makes this event unique? It’s perhaps the small details that actually have a huge impact on atmosphere.

“We have a cool venue at the base of the mountain, which I guess is kind of obvious. But as a resort, we tend towards a different atmosphere than most. We’re very family friendly and are surrounded by a tight knit community that has grown up here alongside us. The sense of community—it feels very inclusive here. You can just kind of feel it,” says Lawson.

The event offers a child care camp if parents want to slip away for a bit and set up a blanket on the lawn with beers and brats in hand.

The annual Tesla car show will also happen again this year, but event attendees will now have the opportunity to talk to Tesla and Chevy representatives while test driving on-site the morning before the event.

And although the event happens Saturday, Crystal Mountain will extend the fun into Sunday this year. For the first time, the resort will be hosting Micros on Mountaintop, a Sunday afternoon mini-beerfest at the top of the mountain. The event caters to the 400+ North Mitten Race runners who will be completing their 5k, 10k, and half marathon distances early that morning—but anyone is welcome to buy admission to attend later that afternoon. Local brews, food, and music will greet attendees as soon as they step off the chairlift!

Memorial Day weekend traditionally launches all of the resort’s summer offerings. Mountain biking, golfing, rock climbing, archery (new!), chairlift rides, local craft tours to Iron Fish Distillery and St. Ambrose Cellars, guided rides on the Betsie Valley Trail into Frankfurt—where one can stop at Stormcloud Brewing Company—these are just some of the options available to resort guests.

When visiting, be sure to check out the newest addition to the resort—a brand new section dedicated not only to more rooms for guests, but also a market and restaurant.

“You won’t be able to miss it, [the new building], says Lawson. “It’s the new centerpiece of the village.”

The addition won’t be open for guest use until later in the summer, with the market and restaurant following in the fall, but Lawson says the plan is to have the Grand Opening coincide with their 60th Anniversary celebrations, a true culmination to a great year filled with new things.

In the meantime, kick off the summer in true Michigan style, by heading up north for barbeque, beer, and family at the Beer & Brat festival.

Tickets available on the Crystal Mountain website.

 

Sponsored by Crystal Mountain Resort

 

West-Michigan-Beer-Tours-Logo

ST. JOSEPH – If you’ve never really understood or desired to partake in the frenzy of Black Friday shopping, West MI Beer Tours is offering an alternative way to spend the day after Thanksgiving.

The brewery tour service is hosting a tour of three of the newest West Michigan breweries on Friday, Nov. 27. Guests will register for the tour at Buck Burgers & Brew in St. Joseph, where they will sample a flight of the highly sought-after varieties of Goose Island’s Bourbon County, a bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout.

Then, guests will have the opportunity to visit Tapistry Brewing, Cultivate Brewing Company, and Arclight Brewing, where they can taste samples and share pints while talking with the staff and touring the facilities. Once the tour is finished, guests are welcome to explore St. Joseph.

Tickets for the tour start at $59.

Those who aren’t from around St. Joseph can take advantage of a special rate being offered by the Hilton Garden Inn for guests of the tour. The tour will include optional pick-up and drop-off for guests who stay at the Hilton Garden Inn. Call (269) 926-5000 ext 4605 to book a room.

GRAND RAPIDS — The 2014 Winter Beer Fest, as always, was packed. By now, you all know the numbers. 89 breweries, 768 beers and a miraculous amount of portable toilets but somehow people still had to wait in line.

There were the perennial favorites like Founders and Short’s, with standards and fun one-offs and long, long lines. While we all know and love KBS and Short’s clever flavors like Carrot Cake, I sought out some smaller breweries by suggestion of the crowd at-large and found some gems that I wouldn’t have tasted otherwise.

Aaron Rzeznik, a brewer at Witch’s Hat Brewing Company, spoke with us about the brewery’s samplings and what Witch’s Hat is all about.

“This is our third year at the Winter Beer Fest, and as you can see (acknowledging the long line through the tent), it’s going pretty good. We are very excited to be there, there was a huge vibe before the festival. We’re pumped.”

Night Fury, an imperial stout at 10.2% ABV is one of Witch’s Hat’s seasonal offerings, and much of the hype beforehand was on the variations the brewery was bringing. The Cookies and Cream, which, yes, tastes exactly like what you think it would, was one of my favorites. “We use chocolate malt and a little bit of cocoa nibs that we age in after fermentation and actually coconut and vanilla bean, believe it or not. It’s a big hit, the keg’s gone now.” We got the last of it.

Aside from the Cookies and Cream, Witch’s Hat brought a bourbon barrel aged variety, a vanilla bean bourbon barrel aged Night Fury, and a Chocolate Espresso option, made with coffee beans from a roaster out in Leelanau Peninsula.  

“Quality is our focus, we like to experiment, and we are family oriented. We’re in a small town and that’s what we focus on.”

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Our next stop was Brewery Ferment out of Traverse City where we speak with Dustin Jones, bearded owner/brewer. “This is our first full year of the beer festival circuit. We heard so much about this place, so we had to come here this year. Each festival has different crowds, different feels, and that’s what fun about them. You get to know the idiosyncrasies between them, feeling out what the people want and getting to meet all the different people who come and support the things we do.”

We sample the Lady Belma, an Imperial IPA. “This is made from all belma hops — a brand new variety — so it’s pretty different from all the other IPAs you are gonna have. It’s a unique flavor,” he said. “We try to keep a good range of things, at the same time keeping an eye towards what’s popular. We also play around with a lot of other flavors. We have the Captain Scorch, a stout with ghost peppers. How hot is it? It’s really hot.”

Yep, it’s pretty damn hot, like the hot that makes you want to drink more to make the hot go away. Brewery Ferment also used the same stout base made with salted caramel that had a much anticipated release time of 3 p.m.

MittenBrew also sampled the Big Busty B.A.R.B — a barrel aged rye barleywine, and a few of Ferment’s sours.

Brewery Ferment seems to really love its sour beers, which was great because we also love our sour beers. We tasted their Cornucopi-Ale, a cranberry wheat sour and their Spring in Sri Lanka — a sour stout with green cardamom and bitter orange peel.

When asked to sum up Brewery Ferment in three words, there wasn’t any hesitation. “Local, small and unique,” Jones answered.

We are definitely glad we stopped by Ferment’s booth.

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One booth over from Brewery Ferment we stop and chat with Greg Korson, one of the owners of Tapistry Brewing. “This is our first year at the Winter Beer Fest — we’ve been around for eight months, so it’s perfect timing,” he said. “We’re located in Bridgman, right on Lake Michigan, about 15 minutes south of St. Joe.”

We sip on Happy Colored Marbles — a Belgian Oatmeal Stout, one of the 20 beers Tapistry brought with them. The beer styles run the gamut, and really, that’s what they are all about.

“One of the big premises [of Tapistry] is the combination of artistry and chemistry, that’s how we look at it. There are hundreds and hundreds of different styles of beers, and we try to teach people about each of them. That’s part of what a microbrewery does, right? We provide education,” said Korson. “

“There’s all these different type of flavors and styles, and that’s why today we’ve got these taps that all different types of beer beers. If it’s an English style beer, we use all English grains, English yeasts, English hops, even modify the water to get the same profile of London, say. If we are doing an American pale ale, we’re just playing at that point so we’ll do whatever we want.”

Korson laughs and we sample The Hypnotist — a Dark Saison with smoky undertones.

If you are in the Grand Rapids area, you may be able to find Tapistry on tap, but you’ll have to wait until Friday if you are in Lansing or Ann Arbor.

“The vibe here in incredible, I mean it’s incredibly cold for one, but the people and sun have helped a little bit. The crowds are great, the reception has been great, and everyone is loving the beer.

“It’s been a fun little ride so far, and this is a great kickoff.”

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I run into Jenna Arcidiacono, owner and Chef at Amore Trattoria in Grand Rapids between beer tents.

“I got here at 10:30 so I could have breakfast with the Arcadia Food Truck and went on in with these two hookers,” laughs Arcidiacono, pointing to Grand Rapids photographer Terry Johnston.

This is my first year, and it’s been fun. This is Big Willie from White Flame, she holds up her cup, a double IPA and its really nice. My favorite so far.

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To finish out our round of interviews and taste-testing, we stop by Blackrocks Brewery, based out of Marquette on the shores of Lake Superior. Chatting with Andy Langlois, whose official title is Co-Founder and Brewsician, he shares his thoughts and beer at his second year attending Winter Beer Fest.

“As always, it’s fantastic. Craft beer drinkers are a wonderful breed of people who enjoy a good Michigan made beer. It’s just fantastic to see a lot of familiar faces and meet new people.”

In addition to bringing some interesting one-offs like Whiteout — a black brew with fennel seed, Blackrocks was excited to share the three beers they are canning — the 51K IPA, Grand Rabbits Cream Ale and Coconut Brown.

“[Canning is] a really exciting thing for us, and we are really kind of blown away that we are at this point. We are just now distributing UP-wide, and we’re sending a pallet here and there to the Grand Rapids area,” said Langlois. “What I’m most excited about is the crew we brought down with us. There’s a lot of good guys here, and to bring a crew of seven guys down from a small brewery to an event like this — we’re really enjoying Grand Rapids.”

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If you weren’t lucky enough to score a ticket to the sold-out festival, mark your calendars for the Summer Beer Festival in Ypsilanti, slated for July 25 and 26. Tickets go on sale May 1; details can be found at mibeer.com.