DRAFT PICKS: Summer suds showcases

There’s a lot going on in the World of Beer as we head into summer 2012.

A prestigious beer festival will be taking place in late July, but I thought I’d write a few words about it already since it pretty quickly gets really, REALLY hard to get advance tickets ...or any tickets.

The 15th Annual Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival will be taking place in Ypsilanti this year. The fest runs July 27 and 28 at the city’s expansive Riverside Park.

“The Beer Festival has been around just about as long as the Brewer’s Guild,” reports board member Scott Graham. “The Guild is a trade association representing Michigan breweries. We hope to create awareness of the more positive aspects of brewing and beer consumption. We want to help the art of brewing grow in a healthy business environment.”

An appreciation for beer and brewing has been growing steadily over the past few years.

“Over the past couple years, brewing in the state has really been booming,” Graham pointed out.

“We refer to Michigan as the Great Beer State. This state is noted both nationally and internationally as a place that produces high quality beer. We have a great reputation among our peers. This is certainly reflected in the Summer Beer Festival.

“Over the course of two days we will host 10,000 people - from both the area and around the world.”

Tickets have already been on sale since May 1. (Friday $30 in advance - $35 at gate if available. Saturday $35 in advance  -$40 at gate if available. And note that on both days organizers emphasize “if available.”)

“There will likely NOT be any tickets available at the gate,” Graham pointed out. “Saturday will be sold out much sooner than Friday. Tickets are selling much faster than they have any year in the past. People should be getting tickets fast ...very soon.”

According to the Brewer’s Guild website “The Summer Beer Festival is the oldest of the Michigan Brewers Guild’s four annual festivals ...and features more than 450 different beers from 60-plus different breweries from around the state.”

You read correctly - 450 beers to sample from more than 60 breweries.

“This really is a great way for someone who loves craft beer to get a sampling of some brews they might not otherwise find on shelves or on tap,” continued Graham.

“We like to see people find things they might not ordinarily get.

“The Festival is also a great way to introduce people to local breweries that may have newly opened, or that beer lovers may not know exist.

“This festival is great if you’re experienced, and it’s great if you’re a novice too.”

The festival is expected to sell out again this year.  The line for those waiting to get in on general admission, non-advance tickets can be impressive, and a lesson in futility. If you have any intention of going, GET TICKETS NOW.

As with most festivals of this kind, this is meant to be an adult gathering. You must be at least 21 years of age to enter the festival. Everyone will be required to show valid ID for entry. Children are not allowed in the festival excepting very small, immobile children who remain in a backpack or stroller.

“Fifteen drink tokens are included with admission and each drink token is redeemable for a 3 oz sample of beer,” note planners in the official festival flier. “Additional tokens will be available inside the festival for 50 cents.”

There is also a special Designated Driver entrance ticket available in advance on line for $5. Participants entering on Designated Drivers tickets are not allowed to drink beer.

A variety of tasty food items are available for purchase from independent food vendors inside the festival and there will be a diverse selection live music from a variety of local bands.

The festival will take place rain or shine.

Visit the Brewer’s Association blog at www.mbgmash.org for specific and up to date details.

Tickets are available on line to print at home on your printer and are also available at some member breweries and select retail outlets. Ticket outlets will be posted on the group blog, the MASH, as they become available at the outlets. www.mbgmash.org

And don’t forget, well before the Summer Beer Festival down south there will be a offering much closer to home as well.

The Pioneer reports tickets are already available for the inaugural Blues, Brews and Barbecues festival. The one-day event kicks off the 2012 Mecosta County Agricultural Free Fair from 3 to 11 p.m. on Sunday, July 8 in the grandstand area at the fairgrounds.

Advanced tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children age 12 and younger; and tickets purchased at the door are $15 for adults and $7 for children. Premium seats between the stage and the grandstand are $20. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Lions Club of Big Rapids, which is organizing the event.

There will be live music and great food vendors will be set up at the festival to serve finger-licking barbecue.

For more information or tickets to Blues, Brews and Barbecue, visit www.startickets.com or call (800) 585-3737.

Edmund Fitzgerald Porter

Great Lakes

Brewing Company

Cleveland, Ohio

Edmund Fitzgerald is really a well rounded porter, one of the more traditional brews although it is quite heavily influenced with a dose of coffee.

This fragrant porter pours a rich, rich dark brown, (virtually black), and creates a hefty head that lasts quite a while and is dark beige - almost a tanned leather - in color.

This substantial head helps in ‘advertising’ the roasted malt scents and the coffee overtones.

It really is a great smelling brew with a certain adventuresome aspect to it since, if you are really interested in the holistic enjoyment of beer, there is a lot to search for in this offering.

There is a wide range of malty hints tucked away behind the coffee-esque blast that one first experiences.

This is much richer than the traditional porter would indicate. Oftentimes, porter is a little more hoppy than this brew.

Porter first became popular in London in the 18th Century - a working man’s brown beer, not quite what the upper-crust would drink. In fact, the name originated from the fact that this was the drink served to porters - the guys who lugged and carried goods from place to place on the docks and through the streets of London.

Great Lakes has created a brew with something of a following. This was suggested to me by a reader in Osceola County.

It is smooth and creamy. Hearty and very well defined as a dark ale, but not so strong as to be off-putting to most voyagers.

Fitzgerald has considerable body. The coffee tones are so very evident, but there is a hint of chocolate as well.

It is easy and smooth to drink when moderately chilled - enough to bring out the sweetness and somewhat hide any acidy touches.

Despite being so creamy, there is a good bit of zesty kick.

In short, this is a well-balanced brew, that I might call a specialty porter.

I’d suggest this might be better served with roasted foods, than with grilled meats. It could well complement smoked meats or even a less demonstrative smoked fish.

Also, Fitzgerald could go well with a more pronounced cheese such as gruyere.

Galloway Porter

Epic Brewing


Salt Lake City, Utah

Galloway holds a lot of promise as you pour a deep, deep brown - like seriously aged mahogany.

There is surprising little head and what does form comes fast and leaves faster.

Galloway offers deep smoky scents that are so very, very tempting. There is an obvious full-bodied aroma filled with what can only be described as deliberate and well-considered malts.

While the first nose is sweet and malty, there is a demonstrative earthiness - kind of a deep, dark woods smell with the fresh sweetness of newly fallen leaves.

First sip is calming and exciting at the same time.

Calming because this has all the finely tuned qualities of a classic porter - a touch of ‘this’ peeking out from behind a touch of ‘that.’

Galloway is smoky, even a bit musty in the best of ways. There are rich caramel and chocolate aftertones, and defined hints of fine coffee.

Along with being ‘calming’, this brew is also exciting because Galloway is simply a great example of real artists packing everything they can into one brew without just creating a mish-mash of tastes and flavors.

Gosh this is GOOD!

There are some really fine things in life that make it just that much more enjoyable. This is one. (Some day I’ll offer my entire list! You might be surprised.)

Chilled to perfection, (and again, please don’t kill it with cold), I could sip this all night with someone willing to sit and discuss Merton or Kathleen Norris.

Try it, class. Please do.

For those who may not like porters, try this anyway. It is much like a rich, well-mellowed brown ale.

Set out a plate of thin, thin sliced ham and some Brie or Camembert.

Seriously, try this soon.