P<a hrefhttp://www.imagestation.com/album/?id=4290783181&p=4219558776&idx=128>sychProf and I headed out early on the drive from the little college town where we live to Ypsilanti, just outside of Ann Arbor, home of this year’s Michigan Brewer’s Guild Summer Beer Festival.
It’s an easy drive down 94, and we were pretty excited, though the sky was intensely overcast – a seemingly limitless expanse of dull grey. “I hope we’ll have some sun,” I remarked, though it didn’t matter much to us, being together, listening to some tunes by Wilco, and on our way to drink some good beer with some even better people. The contingent from Toronto, Josh Oakes (Oakes), Greg (GregClow), Greg’s friend Paul, and Scott (Publican) were to meet us there, along with two Mikes (with PsychProf makes three) from Indiana and Illinois, bigbadbear63 and redlem, and Joe (marinaro500) and his wife Allison. [<a hrefhttp://www.imagestation.com/album/?id=4290783181&p=4219559480&idx=118>The gang, <a hrefhttp://www.imagestation.com/album/?id=4290783181&p=4219558748&idx=131>again, <a hrefhttp://www.imagestation.com/album/?id=4290783181&p=4219558692&idx=136>and again] In fact, before we even arrived, Joe really set the mood for the day! When we called them via cell along the way to see if they had arrived yet, and PsychProf asked Joe what mile marker they were at, Joe joked, “The one with the big white tents!” We were also looking forward to seeing a couple of our local brewing friends: Steve from Kraftbrau (a fellow music lover – Kraftbrau is becoming quite the music venue, fyi - and really sweet person) and Trent from Dark Horse (one of the hippest brewers you’ll ever meet)…
<P>Ypsilanti is a pretty quaint place, full of flower boxes and large, well-kept brick Victorians. There were plenty of signs to the Fest, and we found a place to stash the car right away in a lot at the park, right next to the entrance to the venue. I wish I had taken a photo of the vehicle we were parked next to: an old Model-T, plastered with handbills promoting all sorts of right-wing causes, with a homemade billboard in tow, painted with same! Only in Michigan? I wish!
<P>We Ratebeerians met up and decided to make our base camp under what turned out to be the <a hrefhttp://www.imagestation.com/album/?id=4290783181&p=4219559436&idx=113>music tent (the band, The Flow, kind of a reggae fusion, was pretty good - perfect for the Fest really), and wow, did we have a great time, wandering out seeking brew after brew (to be had in exchange for the Fest’s official wooden “coins” – a 3 oz sample for one, and a 12 oz glass for four), bringing them back to rate, share, and discuss! All afternoon, people were relaxing around us, having a great time. Lots of folks brought their children along, and it was a really down-to-earth, college-town atmosphere.
<P>The mix of people was so interesting to me, and ran the gamut (as you can see in the crowd photos) from laid-back hippy-types wearing flowing clothes, patches and hemp necklaces, to preppies with their Hilfiger polo shirts and baseball caps. The common denominator was either a healthy hedonism or a genuine appreciation for beer – probably a bit of both! Interestingly, some of these “hedonists” were skeptical of the glasses a few of us were carrying around…at one point someone even remarked to PsychProf, “Hey, the wine festival is down the street!” though most people just seemed curious, and perhaps, to be thinking that we might have found a better way to experience beer!
<P>The first brew I tried turned out to be my favorite of the day, although part of that may be because, disappointingly, many of the brewers ran quickly out of their best (and special Fest) brews in minutes, after making us wait until 4:00 to taste them! It just wasn’t possible to beat all of the long lines, though of course Kalamazoo Bell’s was the worst (they brought a Bourbon Cask Conditioned Expedition Stout which Greg was lucky enough to procure, and raved about)! Because of this problem, myself and scores of others never got to taste the Bell’s, New Holland Brewing Company’s Blackberry Dragon’s Milk, or Kuhnhenn Brewing Company’s Rasberry Eisbock, all of which my fellow Ratebeerians raved about! (Though I did try Kuhnhenn’s Tangerine Wit, which didn’t taste like much of anything, much less tangerines!)
<P>Back to my highest rating of the day, and a recommendation if you ever have a chance to try it: Copper Canyon’s Saison, a lovely light, coppery orange brew with a funky, earthy scent, and a really nice, tangy flavor. Copper Canyon had nice barkeeps too, generous on the pour, and <a hrefhttp://www.imagestation.com/album/?id=4290783181&p=4219558705&idx=135>avid Mooney Suzuki fans as well! A close second for me was Michigan Brewing Company’s Celis Grand Cru, which was such a pretty lemon color, covered with froth. It had an earthy, lemony nose, and really opened up in your mouth. Sweet… sugar, sugar, sugar. I tried Big Buck Brewery’s Maple Porter, which was O.K., though I wouldn’t have it again (gave it a 2.9), but I mention them to give a big thumbs down to the tank tops their female bartenders were wearing, which proclaimed “Beerwench.” It was really off-putting, and a quite a surprise to me. It struck me as disrespectful not only to them, but to me, and to the other women at the Fest. Happily (since I want women to enjoy one of life’s greatest pleasures too), the crowd must have been around 40% female, and pretty much everyone I saw was drinking beer in abundance!
<P>Stoney Creek did something much more interesting, and female-friendly, in having one of their bartenders walk around with a black, vinyl, 45 pound backpack of beer, giving out samples! I spoke with her (they had her in a cool, kitschy outfit which made her look like Heidi-gone-Goth!), and she recommended their Pale Ale, which I then tried and found pretty tasty. Typical aroma, kind of hoppy and sweet. [<a hrefhttp://www.imagestation.com/album/?id=4290783181&p=4219558766&idx=129>ice sculpture]
<P>We were sad to see 6:00 p.m. arrive so quickly, that’s for sure! We Ratebeerians had such a great time together, drinking, talking, and joking around! I think we were all feeling pretty relaxed, and pretty lucky!
<P>Beer of the Fest, or at least a pretty unanimous choice for a very good beer, was Royal Oak Brewery’s Summer Wheat! And quote of the Fest has to go to <a hrefhttp://www.imagestation.com/album/?id=4290783181&p=4219558806&idx=123>Joe (marinaro500), who remarked about Bo’s Brewery’s 11.5% Extreme IPA, “It tastes like a melted candy bar made of hops!” Unfortunately he and Allison had to leave a bit early; but the rest of us headed to Ashley’s in Ann Arbor, a multi-tap (approximately 100!) right downtown, across from the University of Michigan and next to several cafes, record shops, and funky restaurants, where I had my 100th beer, Tripel Karmeliet, thanks to a joint recommendation from PsychProf, bigbadbear63 and Oakes!
<P>What a wonderful day! I can’t wait until next summer!