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Wednesday, April 16,2014

Brew switcheroo

Lansing’s second music and beer festival this month settles on Adado Park

by Katy Barth
A few months ago, professional event organizer Sam Porter spotted a pile of empty beer cans after an event in East Lansing. Poking out from among the PBRs and Busch Lights, something caught his eye: a bottle from Grand Rapids-based microbrewery Founders Brewing Co. Most people wouldn’t give it a second thought, but for Porter, it was a sign of positive change in the way craft beer — and Michigan craft beer, at that — has gone mainstream.

“This is why we do beer festivals,” said Porter. “To put out Michigan craft beers and possibly change what students put in their fridges forever.”

Porter is the founder of Traverse City-based Porterhouse Productions and the creator of the Microbrew & Music Festival, a debut event coming to Lou Adado Riverfront Park this weekend. It’s the second time in less than a month that downtown Lansing will host a festival incorporating craft beer and bands: Beerfest at the Ballpark, jointly hosted by the Lansing Lugnuts and beer news site I’m a Beer Hound, attracted over 2,500 people to Cooley Law School Stadium on April 5, proving there is a demand for events like this.

“More beer bars and beer stores are selling craft beer now,” said Paul Starr, founder of I’m a Beer Hound. “It’s become very accessible. Even Meijer has a huge craft beer selection.”

Starr has hosted several beer and music pairings, but nothing on the scale of what the Microbrew & Music Festival is attempting: a two-day concert event featuring Michigan and national craft beer labels and internationally touring live acts, including O.A.R., DJ Logic and Dirty Heads.

“You walk in and there’s music and entertainment everywhere,” Porter said. “It’s like going to a great music festival with an open bar and 200 of the best beers around.”

Porter has refined the formula over the course of five fests with the same name in Traverse City.

When the Lansing event was announced last December, it was scheduled to take place in Adado Park. Fears of flooding after the winter’s heavy snowfall prompted a move to an undisclosed location in Old Town in March, but last week the festival was moved back to Adado. Porter demurred on the reasoning behind the double switcheroo, but said that Adado was the “preferred location.”

The musical line-up will also include local mainstays Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle and Frontier Ruckus (see page 24 for full lineup). Tickets include five 8-ounce pours of any of the 40-plus breweries in a custom tasting glass. Porter said music and craft beer are a natural pairing.

“(Music) creates that whole other level of wow,” he said.

Porter said community service is a built-in aspect of the festival; a portion of proceeds from alcohol ticket sales will benefit the Greater Lansing Food Bank.

“It will raise dollars for the food bank, it will drive and celebrate a new audience for craft beer, it will excite the market, it will put Lansing on the map, it will fill hotel rooms and it will reconnect friends,” Porter said. “It’s a musical festival in some hands and a great beer festival in others. Whatever (the audience) needs, they’re going to be satisfied.”

Other aspects to keep the crowd satisfied are the homebrewers’ IPA challenge, the sour beer tour and the rare beer tour, something that the event’s craft beer coordinator (what a title!), Katrina Jenkins, said would get the crowd and brewers especially excited.

“People will be counting down and chanting as the keg is being tapped,” Jenkins said.

The rare beer tour is secluded in a separate tent. Every 30 minutes a new brewery comes in, shares one of its beer and tell its story as the audience fights to get their questions answered before time runs out. Some of the the beers that are sampled will be made in small batches specially created for this event.

“Bud can’t come,” Porter joked.

When working on the beer list for the event, Jenkins had a few qualifications: The beer must come with a story and the brewery must participate in telling the attendees about its creation. Jenkins said it’s usually “a bunch of grizzled guys in beards” and “some awesome female brewers” that want to talk about their latest creations.

“I love a beer with a story behind it,” said Jenkins. “Every beer that’s poured at that event is created by somebody who put their heart and soul into it and cared so much about that product and the community they’re representing. You can taste the heart of it in every sip.”

“We love craft beer, period,” Porter said. “We are excited to raise a glass with Lansing.”

Microbrew & Music Festival

5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 18-19 (VIPs get in 4 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday) $40-160 Lou Adado Riverfront Park 300 N. Grand Ave., Lansing microbrewandmusic.com

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