The 2022 Brewers Guild Michigan Summer Beer Festival was a craft beer enthusiast’s paradise featuring over 700 beers.
23rd Annual Michigan Summer Beer Festival
After a two-year hiatus, the Michigan Brewers Guild 23rd Annual Michigan Summer Beer Festival was back. The beer community dusted off their beer gear and converged on Ypsilanti’s Riverside Park on July 22-23, 2022.
The Michigan Brewers Guild 25th Anniversary
This year is also the 25th Anniversary of the Michigan Brewer Guild (MBG). Because it is a significant anniversary, the reminiscing was cranked up to a 11. Long-time Michigan Craft beer supporters were sporting their vintage festival t-shirts. Commemorative pint glasses are available to purchase at member breweries, and the Great Beer State Documentary was released on July 23rd, celebrating the MBG 25th Anniversary.
What’s the fuss? If those 30 brewers had not met in 1997 to discuss creating a beer community Michigan may not have become the great beer state. MBG is now a member-based trade association representing nearly 300 breweries. Thanks to the guild, there is a thriving beer community and five Michigan beer festivals each year.
Why go to a beer festival?
Chas Thompson, an MBG volunteer, answered, “You can visit over 100 breweries and not have to drive all over the state.” He is 100% right. But it’s the celebration, the party, the music, the food, and spending time with friends which draws me to the festivals, but most important, interacting with the brewers.
“OMG!” was our reply. We did. It was delicious. I believe it is a gin barrel-aged beer. It was one of the first beers we sampled. But here was the cool part! After sampling North Center’s beer, we moved on to the next booth to taste Guardian Brewing’s Grand Crew Sour Ale. I overheard another enthusiast introduce herself to Kim Collins, the owner and co-founder at Guardian. Kim, who was busy pouring beer, took time to say hello and listen to the woman’s story. The woman explained she was a member of Fermenta. I lost what they were saying and was eavesdropping; it didn’t matter anyway. The point is this chain of interactions illustrates why I go to a beer festival; the supportive beer community.
If you are not aware, Fermenta is a non-profit organization. “It is a community of women and professionals who enjoy teaching others their craft and skills.”
Searching for Light Beer goes Sour
My bathroom scales suggested I look for light beers at the Summer Beer Festival. I found Short’s Brewing Co.’s Local Light. I am not a Lager fan, so I was skeptical. It was good, and I was encouraged. Unfortunately, my quest for light beers quickly turned sour. I forgot about the bargain I’d made with my bathroom scales when someone suggested Arvon Brewing’s beer.
Sour Beer, I think I love you
If someone had said before the Michigan Summer Beer Festival, “You are going to love the sour beers,” I would have thought they’d lost their mind. I’m now smitten with Arvon’s Grandma’s Sour House. Jay Green said, “They are making some tasty kettle sours.” It was all I could talk about. Grandma’s Sour beer is made with vanilla, granola, graham crackers, walnuts, almonds, coconut, blueberries, raspberries, and lactose! It tasted more like a smoothie than a beer. This will not sit well with my bathroom scales.
Sours were pretty much all I drank from that point forward during the Summer Beer Festival. A few other exceptional sours were:
- Speciation Artisan Ales’ Doc Flamingo’s Neon Soomthie with mango
- Burzurk Brewing’s Grand Crew Ale – Sour Beer
- Ogma Brewing’s King Mango
- Unexpected Craft Brewing’s You’re My Sour Lemon Blue
- Mothfire Brewing’s Barrel Aged Ruby Mist sour beer was more like a mixed drink than a beer.
All were delicious, but Arvon’s will always be the one which I will consider my first love.
They are not our kids, but we call the brewers from Ogma Brewing and Grand River Brewing our kids. It was a treat to have them next to each other in tent two. Chuck couldn’t get enough of Ogma’s beer and had a Doom Claw while chilling after the festival on Friday.
I could try to explain Ogma, but their video does a much better job.
Archival Brewing is located in the heart of Michigan Beer Territory in Belmont, Michigan, between Grand Rapids and Rockford. Their beers are ancient, as in brewing the old recipes like the AEgir’s Wreath, a Sahti. If you are unfamiliar with Sahti, it is a Finnish type of farmhouse ale traditionally flavored with juniper.
They also brought to the Michigan Summer Beer Festival, Duke Says Nein. They describe it as follows, “The Duke of Bavaria was ultimately the reason for the Reinheitsgebot, otherwise known as the German Purity Law, effectively putting out of production brews such as the Kottbusser. Brewed with the traditional wheat, oats, honey, and molasses, The Duke Says Nein is a gold medal award-winning clean ale with Kölsch yeast. Light and refreshing.”
You get a great beer and a history lesson! If that wasn’t enough, the food at Archival is exceptional. But wait, it gets better. Their Biergarten and restaurant are breathtakingly beautiful.
The red and white checkered tent marked the spot for Stiggs Brewing, where they were serving beer near the river. They too brewed a Grand Crew beer. Theirs was a Belgian Golden Strong Ale. You may be wondering about the Grand Crew beers. The MBG encouraged breweries to use Michigan-grown ingredients to brew a beer for the festival to celebrate MBG’s 25th Anniversary. While asking about the Stiggs Grand Crew beer, we asked Mike if there were any events we should add to our calendar. He mentioned the Boyne City Pirate Fest from August 6-14. We also made plans to visit in January 2023 to brew another beer with them. We had a great time brewing Camping with Uncle Charlie last January.
3 Gatos Brewing
New to us was 3 Gatos Brewing in Wyoming, Michigan. They brought a Grand Crew Ale – New England IPA and their One Year Anniversary – Vienna Lager. Linus and Renta De Paoli purchased the Kitzingen Brewery in 2021. You are right if you think 3 Gatos has a bit of a European flair. Linus and Renta lived in Germany for a bit and before Brazil, where they were home brewers. Their Kolsch beer, What if Minskin was American? was one of Chuck’s favorite Summer Beer Festival beers.
While chatting with Diane and Pete Donofrio, long-time beer friends, I asked how they got connected to Bells? Do you work there? Their story is too just fun not to share. Diane and Pete met Larry Bell over a beer in the Soo (Sault Ste. Marie) many years ago when he was visiting his distributor at Moloney’s Alley. After the Bell’s tapping event, they took him to their local brewery, Soo Brewing Company, for a beer.
Diane said, “We asked if he’d like to check out some of our favorite neighborhood small bars where the locals and college kids hang out. Our next stop was The Frog with the lively college crowd. Mr. Bell treated many of them to some great Bell’s beer. Then we left for the quieter bar, The Downtowner, where we shared a few classic PBRs on draft. Days later, Larry messaged me, happy to say he got them to update their draft list a bit with some Bell’s Beer! We’ve been friends ever since. We’ve met some of the nicest, genuine, sincere, and darn right kindest humans over beer, and we are truly thankful for that.”
The Firkin Tapping on Friday night was particularly sweet. Magon and Jess Buter had the honor of tapping the firkin supplied by Kuhnhenn Brewing, the award-winning Simcoe Silly. Eric Kuhnhenn Senior said, “It will make you nice and mellow.” At 9% ABV, I believe he is right.
Saturday’s firkin of Arbor Brewings Euchre Pils featured another husband and wife team of MBG volunteers with Steve and Denise Andriola. Cheers to all the great volunteers!
Lewis Hensley, aka Louie Lee, kicked off the musical entertainment at this year’s Michigan Summer Beer Festival on Friday night. Lewis hails from Detroit and plays pop and hip-hop music adding a bit of country twang. His music was big on the thump and high energy. A few hearty souls braved the brilliant sunshine to jam with Lewis and his band.
Bird Into Bear
The blazing summer sun was just beginning to simmer down as Bird Into Bear started their set to close out the Friday festivities. These guys bring a sultry mix of jazzy jams perfect for a beer fest. While you sit in the shade sipping on a delicious Michigan beer, Bird Into Bear weaves a tapestry of sound guaranteed to make the beer that much more delightful. The band seamlessly shifted tempos and traded riffs while the nearby Huron river drifted along in the summer heat.
Kicking off the music for Saturday afternoon at the Michigan Summer Beer Festival is Wilson Thicket. If you are into the local Americana / bluegrass music scene, you will recognize members of this all-star group which includes Jason Dennie (mandolin/guitar/vocals), Aaron Markovitz (guitar, mandolin, vocals), Keith Billik (banjo), and Scott Kendall (bass).
Ever since hearing their song “3 Stones in the River”, I’ve been a big fan of Wilson Thicket. There is an undeniable emotive energy to their music. In traditional bluegrass fashion, each band member contributes to the riffs and licks. These wonderfully skilled musicians make their music come alive. The vibrancy and joy that Wilson Thicket emanates from the stage are palpable. While Wilson Thicket is a new band, they have an old soul that is easy to love.
The Michigan Summer Beer Festival wouldn’t be right without The Reefermen. You’ll find the band on the small stage out in the back forty of the festival. Each year they draw a crowd and this year was no exception. With the summer sun out in full, fans took to the shade to jam with The Reefermen. They cranked out their classic rock and blues-based originals as well as their amazing covers. Ripping into “The Wizard” and “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath added to the awesome.
The musical highlight at Michigan Summer Beer Festival was Laith Al-Saadi. The legendary blues musician and The Voice finalist put on a superb performance for fans gathered in the nearby shade. With a smile, Laith launched into his fiery originals such as “What It Means” and “How It’s Gonna Be.” His guitar and voice soared through the crowd with radiating energy.
Like many in the music industry, the pandemic hit Laith hard. His new album was recorded but was put on hold due to the pandemic and lack of touring opportunities. That didn’t stop Laith from treating us to a few tunes, including “Like A Dead Man in the Ground” and “I Should Have Questioned Her Motivations.” These new tunes are steeped in the magic of the blues. Based on these new tunes, the upcoming album should be fantastic.
Along with Laith’s originals, the band burned through some tasty covers, including Tom Petty’s “Runnin Down A Dream,” Eddy Floyd’s “Knock On Wood,” The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love,” and “Red House” by Jimi Hendrix. Laith and the band were in tiptop form and closed out the Summer Beer Fest in style.
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