Kick off Oktoberfest season with a magical hop harvest celebration! The 13th Annual Michigan Brewers Guild UP Fall Beer Festival on September 9, 2023, consistently outshines its festival siblings. Set in picturesque Marquette, Michigan, this is the beer event you won’t want to miss. Cheers to the festival that keeps raising the bar!
UP Fall Beer Festival
What’s the secret ingredient? It’s not just the idyllic setting. It is true Marquette is as quintessentially Michigan as it gets. But let’s give due credit to the Summer Beer Festival at Riverside Park in Ypsilanti —a natural beauty in its own right. Eastern Market, the backdrop for the Detroit Beer Festival, is an iconic setting, and let’s not overlook Grand Rapids, the self-proclaimed Beer City, USA, hosting the Winter Beer Festival. Finally, the newest festival is the Spring Beer Festival in Traverse City—another picture-perfect location in Michigan.
And then there’s the weather. Mother Nature was in a particularly good mood this year, gracing us with perfect conditions. It’s almost as if Scott Graham, the MBG Executive Director, struck a deal with the gods, devils, or whoever controls these things. But let’s not kid ourselves; the weather was equally splendid at the other festivals so far this year. (Here’s hoping I haven’t jinxed the upcoming Detroit Beer Festival on October 28.)
No, the real magic, I believe, is in the pilgrimage. It’s like a seasonal migration, but instead of birds flying south, it’s beer enthusiasts driving North. It’s a spectacle worthy of a David Attenborough narration. As early as Thursday, social media buzzes with posts of enthusiasts crossing the iconic Mackinac Bridge as if they are crossing into Narnia. By Friday, Marquette’s breweries are like the living rooms of eccentric aunts, filled with pre-festival parties that feature dancing, singing, and beer that tastes like woodland fairies brewed it.
Beer Festival Red Carpet
While we’re on the subject of enchantment, Jeff Daniels’ Audible Original podcast “Alive and Well Enough,” produced with his son Ben, is a must-listen for any Daniels fan.
In Episode 7, Daniels likens the red carpet to a global marketing platform.
He said, “The red carpet is important because it is international Facetime. You get to market yourself to the world at large. This is a good thing. How to do it successfully is quite another. First, you have to learn how to answer the same question over and over…and you have to make it look like it is the first time in the last hour and a half of interviews that someone has asked if you are excited.”
I burst out laughing when he said that. Of course, I was thinking about the repetitive questions brewers face at festivals. “Which beers excite you?” I’ve asked this countless times, naively thinking I’m original. Kudos to the brewers for answering with fresh enthusiasm, as if hearing it for the first time. Their patience is as endless as their beer varieties, so we raise our glasses. Cheers!
Without further ado, here is the UP Fall Beer Festival red carpet event.
While waiting for the gates to open at noon for the enthusiasts, I sat next to another Michigan Beer enthusiast. I was circling the beers Better on Draft recommended for the UP Fall Beer Fest, and he was telling me about the weather and beekeeping. Of course, I asked him, “Which beer are you excited about?” Without hesitation, he said, Kognisjon Bryggeri’s “Orb Ponderer Pomegranate Blueberry.” It’s a sour beer, and at his recommendation, I tried it. It was indeed a beer worthy of recommendation. I also tried their “Brenna,” a Creme Brulee Imperial Stout, which is rocking UNTAPPED at 4.16.
Kognisjon Bryggeri is a “newish” brewery at 1034 North 3rd in Marquette. You may recognize the team running it from Cognition Brewery in Ishpeming. In a 2022 interview, the owner, Jay Clancy, agreed that they were changing their feathers a little but still the same bird.
Silver Spruce Brewing
I asked Janelle Buttery, the Herder & Acquirer of all Things at Kognisjon Bryggeri if she had any beer recommendations. She advised trying Sliver Spruce Brewing’s Apricot Wild beer. I have to admit it was delicious, too. Their website describes it as “Mixed-culture sour blonde ale fermented with apricots, aged on French oak for two years.”
If you want to try it, they’ve got it on tap in their taproom in Traverse City.
Better on Draft recommended Silver Spruce’s Oktoberfest. Chuck popped in to give it a try and reported back, and I quote, “A stellar brew that is PERFECT on this beautiful day!” Clearly, Chuck was super excited about this beer.
Our friend Christopher Lasher, Griffin Claw Brewing Co.’s Marketing Director and the owner of Super Duper Coffee, texted us during the festival and said, “If you find yourself near Manistique, it might be worth checking out Flatiron Brewing.” Flatiron was already on my list; I’d circled their Breakwater Haze. But I asked the person pouring what he recommended, and he said, “All My Apples.” It is a wheat beer with a sweet apple flavor. I’m not a sweet fan and almost went with the Breakwater Haze. On impulse, I got “All My Apples.”
I’m so glad I did. It was probably my favorite beer at the UP Fall Beer Festival. It was delightfully refreshing. There was a hint of apple. I could easily drink this beer all day.
Barrel + Beam
We set up camp in Barrel + Beam’s taproom the week before the beer festival. Our go-to favorite is their “Monarch” lager. Brewed with French malt and hops, it pairs well with most of the items at the Northwoods Test Kitchen. The Northwoods Test Kitchen provide the dining options at Barrel + Beam.
It was also on tap during the festival. Delicious. What am I saying, all the Barrel + Beam brews are delicious.
When asked, Chuck would recommend Stiggs Brewery’s “LumberJacked!” Described as a wheat wine, it is big and boozy and sumptious. Seriously, you really can only drink one. I thought mixing it in a beer cocktail with some ginger beer would be nice.
Chuck came over with a big smile after running around taking photos and exclaimed, “We’ve got to go to Cooks”. Stymied, I looked at him puzzled, thinking, “Cook what? We are at the beer fest.” He smiled, perhaps realizing that I thought he’d had one too many, and added, “We’ve got to go to Cooks Michigan; it’s in the UP; They have a new brewery called Latulip, and their beer is awesome!” as he finished the last swig from his cup with a satisfying sigh. Turns out that Chuck had enjoyed “The Legacy” a Biere de Garde from Latulip Brewing. Chuck described this beer as “Toasty, malty, and wonderful.” One thing is for sure with every Michigan Brewers Guild festival, we find great beers and then add yet another destination to our future travel plans.
Cedar Springs Brewing
I wanted to show David Ringler, Cedar Springs Brewing’s Director of Happiness, that I knew how to order an Oktoberfest beer. I eventually found myself at their booth. Of course, I got it wrong, and he helped me. Märzen (pronounced “M-AYE-R-T-sen”), he said. It was as delicious as I remember from our visit in August.
We have waited too long!
Our friends at Stiggs Brewing suggested Third Nature Brewing’s “Cukes of Hazzard,” their three times Best of the West award-winning EL Hefe – a basil cucumber smoothie. It was gone by the time we made our way to their booth by the water—the same thing with Superior Culture’s Seltzer. We found other amazing alternatives, but still.
Copper Hop Brewing
Copper Hop Brewing’s “That Raspberry Cheesecake Golden Stout” was highly recommended by several people. It, too, was gone, but we got “Operation Stein Grabber,” a lovely Oktoberfest also recommended by Better on Draft.
There is a lesson there, if you want it, don’t wait until 4 pm!
Chuck’s Quest for Oktoberfests
Speaking of Oktoberfest beers, Chuck was once again on the hunt for a delightful Märzen. He had no problem finding some humdingers. In addition to the stellar offering from Cedar Springs, Copper Hop, and Silver Spruce, Chuck proclaimed that “Therese’s Green” from Archival Brewing, “Oktoberfest” from Cheboygan Brewing, and the “KVCC Marzen” from Kalamazoo Valley Community College were the cream of the crop.
Chuck wrote an excellent guide to the Oktoberfest around the State for MiBrew Trail, if you are looking for an Oktoberfest close to home.
Jay Green’s Recommendations
I’m pretty sure Beer Ninja, aka Jay Green, recommended Middle Coast Brewing’s “Fall Fest Pumpkin Beer” and the 51st State Brewing’s “Batty Millie Blueberry American Wheat Beer.” If he didn’t, someone did, based on my limited notes. These beers were certainly tasty and intriguing. Speaking of intriguing, not sure if Jay recommended it or maybe it was Brian from Hop Alliance, but the “Pumpkin Tripel” from Stormcloud Brewing was the cat’s pajamas.
Beer Fight Song
A Michigan Brewers Guild Beer Festival wouldn’t be complete without “The Michigan Beer Fight Song” by Fred Bueltmann. Our friend Jeff felt a swell of pride as he remembered the lyrics and joined Chas and company in another rousing rendition.
The Cask Tapping
This year, Barrel + Beam provided a cask of Oktoberfest beer. Co-founder Nick VanCourt said he realized Oktoberfest isn’t usually stored in a cask, but he figured it would be gone before the day was over. The honors of tapping the keg went to Julie, who is a Marquette resident and diehard fan of the UP Fall Beer Festival She hit the cask so hard it nearly flew off the table.
UP Fall Beer Festival Music
Superior Pipe and Drums
The Superior Pipe and Drums are perennial favorites at the UP Fall Beer Festival. Complete with the Scottish bagpipe, assorted drums, and a highland dancer; this troop escorted both the VIP enthusiasts and the general festival attendees into this paradise of beer. It was a true red carpet-welcome. As well as acting as grand marshals for the festival, the Superior Pipe and Drums wandered the grounds stirring our spirits with their triumphant music. You couldn’t help but be inspired to raise your glass and cheer for Michigan beer with every beat of the drum and call of the pipe. Clearly, the beer to hoist with this brave music is the “2-Trackin’” blackberry milkshake sour from ByGeorge Brewing in Munising.
Conga Se Menne
Take humorous tales of UP life, add in a heaping helping of reggae, and you’ve got the distinctively delightful Conga Se Menne. A story by Kristi Kates for Northern Express explains that their name is a play on the Finnish phrase “kuinka se mene,” which means “How Are You Doing?” After a handful of notes from this band, you’d answer, “Oh Yah! I’m doin’ swell dontcha know!”
The laid-back grooves were right at home under the bright blue skies. It was futile to resist smiling and wanting to sing along with “The Heikki Lunta Song”. Pass the dutchie, and while you are at it, hand me a “Totes MaGoats” doppelbock from Snowbelt Brewing.
If you are in need of a dance party, then look no further than DayDreamers. They kicked off their set at the UP Fall Beer Festival with a cover of “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley and never looked back. DayDreamers flicked a switch, and the crowd went wild. They had folks boppin, poppin, and all around grooving. If you weren’t moving, you were singing along with every song. With covers from Bruno Mars, Sublime, and a few that I had no clue about, the DayDreamers turned the UP Fall Beer Festival into a true party. I may have been shaking my booty while enjoying the ultimate party beer, “Grip It & Rip It” from Ore Dock Brewing, but I can’t confirm this scandalous rumor.
There are more pictures of the UP Fall Beer Festival. After you take a look, let us know what you think.
Become a Supporter!
We wholeheartedly extend an invitation for you to become part of our Life In Michigan community. Your support is not just appreciated—it is vital. It is the lifeline that allows us to continue unveiling the unique and captivating narratives that paint Michigan in its true, vibrant colors. Whether you buy us a beer or choose to offer more sustained support via our Patreon Page, every contribution enriches our mission.
If our content has resonated with you, we urge you to become ambassadors of our stories. Share our work on your social media, or forward a link to someone who would appreciate it as much as you do. We are grateful for your support in every form. It is you who breathe life into our cause and keep the spirit of Life in Michigan thriving.