MARQUETTE — It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person attending a beer festival must be in want of nothing (excluding, of course, more beer). But put said beer festival on the shore of Lake Superior, where the climes are agreeable, the scenery is picturesque, and the local humor is good, well, then you’ve got a downright euphoric attendee.
Such was the case at this year’s Michigan Brewer’s Guild U.P. Fall Festival in Marquette.
When asked their favorite part of this year’s U.P. festival, most attendees said simply, “It’s in the U.P.” Whether their responses were influenced by the view from Mattson Lower Harbor Park, the good-hearted nature of Marquette’s inhabitants, or the alcohol, brewers, staff and public alike had positive vibes for Michigan’s superior peninsula (in orientation, that is).
“This is my favorite beer fest. It’s a gorgeous setting, it’s a laidback atmosphere,” said Short’s Brewing Company Liberation Specialist Ryan Engemann, “and then being up in the U.P. with fantastic people — the attitude really can’t be beat.”
Laren Avery of Mountain Town Brewing Company, who sported a banana costume because “you can’t be too crazy at these things,” said, “I love the atmosphere, the fact that we’re right on the lake, you just can’t get this anywhere else in the state.”
The Fall Festival featured over 400 different beers from 60 Michigan breweries. Brews ranged from crowd favorites like Founders’ KBS to off-the-wall experimental beers like B. Nektar’s Troll’s Offering, which was described as a “pasty beer,” brewed with potatoes, rutabaga and carrots, and served with ketchup around the rim. With such a promising variety of local craft brews, the festival drew a sellout crowd of 4,000 attendees.
Upper Peninsula native John Orttenburger said he attended the festival to experience the availability of beers from breweries who don’t yet distribute to his area.
“You have to come out and try all the beers that you can’t always get around to trying. When [the breweries] all come to one spot, you have to go to them,” Orttenburger said.
Others came for the camaraderie, which was highlighted periodically throughout the day as the entire crowd raised their glasses and joined in on the roar of 4,000 voices.
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Several U.P. breweries, which are often less likely to show up to all of the Lower Peninsula-based festivals, made sure to attend this season’s festival.
“Most of [the festivals] I don’t make it to because I just can’t keep up enough in the summer to even go to them,” said Derek “Chumley” Anderson, brewmaster at The Vierling.
“The fact that the U.P. Beer Fest is in our backyard is fantastic,” said Blackrocks Brewery co-owner Andy Langlois. “To see people make the long trek from downstate, and to rekindle some friendships, and also to see our current customers out here enjoying some other breweries is a wonderful thing.”
Several U.P. breweries attended to represent the growth of craft brewing in the Upper Pensinsula. Marquette’s Ore Dock joined Blackrocks and The Vierling, along with other growing Upper Peninsula breweries like Soo Brewing Company out of Sault Ste. Marie, Jasper Ridge Brewery from Ishpeming, Houghton’s Keweenaw Brewing Company, Cooper Harbor’s Brickside Brewery, and Calumet’s Red Jacket Brewing Company.
With this year’s sold-out attendance, it’s safe to say the atmosphere and craft beer of the U.P. are no longer some of Michigan’s best kept secrets.
Local bands State 51 and Frank an Da Beanz entertained the crowd with covers of Neil Diamond, The Doors, Stevie Wonder and much more. The members of Frank and Da Beanz donned pink rabbit costumes and performed under a banner that read “#RELEASETHERABBITS” in support of Blackrocks Brewery, which has a staple cream ale called Grand Rabbits.
The festival also had local restaurants serving food to attendees, including pub food from Stucko’s Pub & Grill, fried fresh Lake Superior whitefish from the Gordon’s, and Indo-European food from The Rubaiyat Falafel.