The summer festival season is shifting into overdrive. One of the early big events was the annual Michigan Beer and Brat Festival on Memorial Day weekend, held at the base of Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa in Thompsonville.
More than 2000 hungry and thirsty revelers descended upon the Resort to listen to the open-air tunes of local favorites Jason and Nick, followed by the rockin’ The Outer Vibe.
Six northwest Michigan meat markets provided gourmet-style brats, including jalapeno bleu cheese, Philly cheese, steak and mushroom, asparagus and cheddar, cherry pecan and even Hawaiian. Twenty-seven craft breweries, meaderies and cideries were represented. It was a testament not only to the Michigan craftbrew explosion, but also to the Traverse area food scene, which is much more than just the upscale restaurants establishing well deserved popularity in the region. This was a griller’s extravaganza.
Long lines prevailed all day at Lake Ann’s Acoustic Meadery, a creator of flavored honey wines, many made with local star thistle honey from Benzie County. Draft meads at about 6 percent alcohol were poured, using a Guinness-style draft system to interject frothy head and bubbles, yielding most refreshing beverages.
Cherry Buzz is a lightly carbonated, watermelon-colored wine, showing sweet cherry on the palate. Harmonic Buzz, a combination of Apple Buzz and Honey Buzz, was very clean. Pomegranate flavors shine through in Bluesberry, a blueberry and pomegranate infused honey wine with a very clean finish. This is a really nice summer wine with beer-level alcohol content. Raspberry, cranberry and jasmine tea form the components of Jazzberry. Red berry flavors kick in with tartness that is clean and refreshing. All of these seemed to be crowd favorites.
Michigan’s craft breweries, now numbering in excess of 90, were well represented at the festival and offered dozens of options, including widely known names along with relative newbies.
Each brewery offers styles and flavors to suit a wide range of taste preferences. Unless one simply isn’t a beer consumer, every taste preference can be accommodated.
Batch 69 IPA from Frankenmuth Brewery, with its deep color, cloudiness and hoppy presentation, was a personal favorite; smooth drinking, nicely balanced slightly sweet overtones and caramel nuttiness. Frankenmuth’s Hefeweizen, a cloudy medium-yellow wheat beer, showed citrusy overtones. It’s a refreshing, back-porch quaffer in a Summer Shandy style. Frankenmuth’s Pilsner was medium-gold color, with fruity aromas and a clean mouthfeel. Another good summer quaffer.
Odd Side Ales of Grand Haven presented incredibly distinctive beers. Citra was like Oberon on steroids, very full-flavored and deep blonde color. The components of Hodgepodge Cherry Coffee Vanilla Port were heavy in the nose, like sniffing a warm chocolate-covered cherry, with cinnamon and dominant cherry on the palate.
Mayan Mocha Stout was deep brown/black, with heavy cinnamon on the palate, leaving a zingy tingle in the throat on the finish.
North Peak Brewing Co.’s Furry Black IPA at 7.2 percent alcohol is two shades shy of Guinness, with dark caramel color, nutty, deep flavors and a smooth finish. North Peak’s Burly Belgium IPA, (6.8 percent) has a sweet, effusive bouquet and nicely balanced hops; it would be a popular house pour.
Many of these breweries, meaderies and cideries will be at festivals popping up around the state over the summer months. For more information about Michigan’s micro-breweries, brew pubs, beer and food pairing suggestions, summer festivals and great beer education, check out the Michigan Brewers Guild web site at www.michiganbrewersguild.org and pick up its very informative annual publication, “Michigan, the Great Beer State.”
For an extensive list of summer wine festivals, links to wineries and wine trails and access to the annual Wine Country magazine, check out the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council website at www.michiganwines.com
On deck: The annual Leland Wine and Food festival at the harbor in Leland on Saturday, followed by the Traverse City Wine and Art Festival on June 30. These are superb venues for tasting the new release wines of 2010 and 2011 vintages. For more information about these and other Traverse area events, visit lpwines.com and www.wineriesofoldmission.com.
Don’t miss out on the summer fun.
In Vino Veritas
(Michael Brenton is president of the Greater Lansing Vintners Club. His column appears monthly.)