Thursday, March 06, 2014

Recap of 2014 Winter Beer Festival

Written by  Dan VanderKooi
Rate this item
(2 votes)

This year’s Winter Beer Festival at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park was another one for the record books. A record number of breweries, a record number of beers, and of course, once again selling out in a record time of just a few hours. For an epic drinking excursion of this magnitude, a degree of pre-fest sustenance is desirable, and I found mine to be had at Brewery Vivant’s Brewer’s Big Breakfast. Menu items ranging from Chicken & Waffles, PB&J Crepe Cake, or signature Duck Nachos were paired up with Monk-Mosa’s (OJ & Farmhand,) plus all of Vivant’s speciality beer fest beers including the Love Shadow barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout made for a great head start for the big event.
The conditions were windy; cold but could’ve been worse with the sun providing just a hint of warmth for most of the day. I designed my personal beer list itinerary with an emphasis on newer breweries and avoiding some of the huge lines such as were to be found for legendary tapping like that for Founder’s KBS. While many breweries showcased their Barrel-Aged wares, I focussed on a select few and was rewarded with such gems as Cranker’s Barrel #1 Bourbon Porter and Bad Brewing’s Barrel Aged Hot Pepper Porter. With the cold, several of the pepper beers were tempting. I did not try but from what I understand Brewery Ferment’s Captain Scorch Ghost Pepper Stout set the bar quite high in regards to pure liquid heat.

For the festival itself, food was provided for by the Whitecaps Concession teams ranging from meat and veggie pasties to the obligatory beer fest staple smoked turkey legs. Even after a big breakfast, it didn’t hurt to complement our diets with some additional non-liquid sustenance after our first several beers. I was able to make most of the breweries on my list; highlights included Gravel Bottom which included a couple of homebrew-sourced recipes among their taps and Harmony with their Dark Ages Gruit and absinthe-themed Capricorn - a collaboration with local donut shop Propaganda. Word of mouth brought us to Witch’s Hat, and as always we missed out on a few beers/breweries that we’d hope to get to. Blackrocks Brewery was another I’d like to have hit based on word of mouth, and I made it to Stormcloud but missed out on the Cherry Dubbel which I’ve been wanting to try for sometime.

Collaboration beers were a great way to support multiple breweries; in addition to Rockford’s new year-round beer Paradigm M.P.A. (Michigan Pale Ale,) they were featuring the Polar Coaster; a collaboration with New Holland Brewing. Mitten Brewing also had their own Michigan sourced Bi-Peninsular IPA as well as the Ryelie Fingers collaboration with Our Brewing. Another standout for me was the Best Day Ever double-IPA from Osgood Brewing. Other big hits included the highly regarded B.O.B.’s Brewery Peanut Butter Stout and I had to show my props for my hometown Unruly Brewing which was one of 19 breweries making their debut at the fest. Their Oats N’ Hoes was another crowd-pleaser. Winter Beer Fest as always has set things in motion for 2014 which is sure to be another great year for Michigan Beer!

Dan VanderKooi

Dan VanderKooi

Dan VK has been following the Michigan Craft Beer scene since before Oberon has been available in 6-packs. Besides making the rounds at all the local craft breweries and beer bars, Dan also supports the local music scene, reads crime fiction, and enjoys playing volleyball with his wife and friends.