It’s Monday, right? That was a weekend. I mean, a weekend. Brewers and bloggers and drinking, oh my. We headed up to Grand Rapids Friday afternoon and went straight to The Meanwhile Bar for the Bell’s Brewery takeover. 16 tap handles, all Bell’s, and one incredible Firkin. We still have no idea what kind of beer the “Real Ale Cask Firkin” was, but it was a definite highlight of the entire weekend.
Bell’s led into the Beer-Muda Triangle Pre-Fest kick off at Hopcat, where Dark Horse, The Livery, and New Holland were throwing down and we met up with Scott and Kristin Sullivan of Greenbush Brewing. I finally had a Dark Horse Thirsty Trout Porter, and if I could remember what the others were drinking I’d deserve a medal. A great rock-a-billy band played for our short hour there, and then we headed off to our final “destination” of the evening, Founders.
It was my first trip to Founders, and can I just say “wow?” Love them, love the beer, love the staff. Our friend Michael was kind enough to give us a pretty fantastic brewery tour, and as I sipped my pint of Porter, I saw the inner workings of just what goes in to making some of my favorite beers. A sip of J’s Kaiser Curmudgeon (oh holy my goodness) and a long awaited meeting with John from Michigan Microbrews and we were off to friend’s for some home time hanging to prepare for Saturday.
The beer fest itself was pretty much what you’d expect from hanging out in a beer-filled parking lot for a few hours in the snow. Cold, funny, with beers that ran the gamut from awesome to eh. My biggest question about pouring some high-gravity concoctions on a day like that is temperature. It seems impossible that the 13.5% ABV beer from Kuhnhenn (Barrel Aged Fourth Demential Olde Ale) is supposed to be consumed at 20 degrees. It’s just too cold for some beers to shine, but that didn’t stop us from trying the ones we couldn’t wait for.
Highlights? Blue Tractor from Ann Arbor, which sadly doesn’t bottle and doesn’t distribute, killed it with Liv’s Lager Imperial Pilsner. Founders Red’s Rye PA Firkin was incredible, and Dark Horse’s 4 Elf Winter Warmer didn’t disappoint. But we tried to stay to smaller breweries, and tasted some great stuff from Frog Island and Original Gravity.
I have to give my personal favorite to Right Brain from Traverse City, a brewery J and I discovered on our “honeymoon” and have loved following ever since. Their Barrel Aged Black IPA was well-balanced, flavorful, and just boozy enough.
We left a bit on the early side, with frozen toes and fuzzy heads, and a pretty strong sense that we like summer beer festivals a bit better. But the culture is amazing and crazy, and a full-on description of the pretzel necklace phenomenon is to come, I swear.
For me? Chefs have been rockstars, rockstars are rockstars. But walking around the parking lot at Fifth Third Comstock Park on Saturday, it’s amazing how much the brewers, especially in Michigan, have risen to that rockstar status.
And it’s pretty cool to see.
For tons of pictures from the fest, check out the Michigan Brewer’s Guild Facebook Page