I am writing of course about the 15th Annual Michigan Brewers’ Guild Summer Beer Fest. Whenever I sit down to plan out my summer the last weekend of July is always highlighted for me. Oh sure, there’s the Art Fairs and the opening of the beaches and water parks and Halcyon Sundaze—all of which are awesome—but the beer fest, man. The beer fest.
The beer fest represents the best of summer: a laid back park in Ypsilanti, live music, good food (Traffic Jam cheese, yum!), cool people and the best of Michigan’s brewpubs. Unless you dropped a naked Henry Rollins with a roll of hundreds in his mouth, I don’t know that I could be any happier.
It’s always a challenge to decide what to drink. And this year had an extra bonus: it was Boyfriend Ken’s Very First Beer Fest! I know, right? He took a half day from work and I was already bouncing around when he got home. He headed in to take a nap and said to wake him up at 3; at 2:30, I bounced in to tell him that it was almost time for the beer fest! Similar announcements happened at 2:40, 2:50 and 2:59. By the time we got our sunblock and water bottles ready, I was giving Tigger a run for his bouncy bouncy bouncy full of fun fun fun money.
Back to the challenge of finding what to drink. A few years ago, I focused on IPAs. Another year saw me looking for fruit beers and last year I concentrated on pepper and smoked beers. This year, I decided to make it a priority to get to brewpubs that I had never been to before and that I probably wouldn’t get to visit. This turned out to be a great strategy and, in no particular order, here are my standouts:
Malty Dog Brewery (Southfield), Dog Day’s Summer Shandy. This is a type of beer that sometimes tries to hard. I’ve had “shandies” that taste like Lemon Pledge and those that taste like sucking on a Lemonhead. Malty Dog, however, hit it right on the snout. The taste of lemons were balanced with malt in a beer that didn’t forget it was a beer; that is, it wasn’t like eating a Dolly Madison lemon pie.
Midland Brewing Company (Midland), Pine River “Smoked” Porter. Again, this is a style (smoked beer) that sometimes tries to hard. I’ve had smoked beers that taste like a barbecue grill, and that is rarely a good thing. This beer let you know it was a smoked beer, but also reminded you of its inherent porter characteristics. This would be a good beer for people who say they do not like smoked beers.
Olde Peninsula Brewpub (Kalamazoo), Stout Chocula. Yeah okay, the name drew me in. Normally, I sort of avoid beers that have cutesy names but this just spoke to me (in a Transylvania accent, of course) and I am really glad it did! This was a true chocolate beer in that it did not have underlying coffee notes (that I could detect). Boyfriend Ken loved it as he loves chocolate but does not love coffee.
Michigan Beer Cellar (Sparta), Apricot something. Yeah, okay, so the name of this beer is not listed in the guide and I never got the real name but suffice it to say that this was a delicious apricot beer. My brewing friends have let me know that using fruit as an adjunct can be difficult; my taste buds have confirmed this. Sometimes fruit beers taste like whatever the base beer is with very little fruit. This apricot beer tasted like apricots in all of their summer, yummy goodness. I believe Boyfriend Ken went back for seconds of this. (By the way, I just reread my comments about lemon beer and Jesus Christ am I picky or what?! Can’t be too fruity! Can’t be too beery! Gotta be little Miss Goldilocks!)
Tri City Brewing (Bay City), Lavender infused tripel. Another name that I can’t find in the guide, but holy cow was this a good beer! I was a little leery of lavender in beer, but the good folks at Tri City made it work. There was a light hint of lavender in the nose and in the finish, and it did not at all overpower the beer. This was one of the first beers that I had and it really set the bar for the rest of the day.
There were so many more wonderful beers that I tried and so many more that I wanted to.
Now. How many days until the Detroit Fall Beer Festival?