July 27-29: Okay, this is where the details start to get sketchy. I attended both days of the Michigan Brewers Guild's 10th Annual Summer Beer Festival. I was parked a few blocks away in the corner of the Corner Brewery's back parking lot, so I didn't have to drive. I tasted a lot of stunning beer, and I met a lot of fabulous brewers. Is that enough info? I didn't think you'd settle for that, so here goes...
Photo above was taken at the Corner Brewer (Arbor Brewing Company's Ypsilanti location) after the end of the festival but just before the Michigan Brewers Guild's 10th Anniversary party. L to R: Ron & Laurie Jeffries of the Jolly Pumpkin Brewery in Dexter, Ryan Hale of Corner/Arbor who was my email contact, Stacey Roth of Corner/Arbor, Matt Greff, Owner/Parter of Corner/Arbor, and Stacey's husband Tom Block.
On Friday of the festival I worked New Holland's booth as they were shorthanded. I made myself useful fetching ice for New Holland and Jolly Pumpkin. I had a great time serving beers because I like telling the little stories that go along with each beer.
New Holland's big draw was their Randall, which they called "The Hatterizer." They served their Mad Hatter Ale through the Hatterizer and customers came up to the booth saying, "Hatterize me." So we did. You can see their giant over-sized Randall in the photo above left.
FYI: As far as I know, the Randall idea was invented by Sam Calagione at Dogfish Head. It is a large filter cartridge housing packed with whole leaf hops, in this case Centennial, and the New Holland boys had two of them set up so they could swap out a fresh one every two hours.
Friday was also fun because ten minutes before the end of the festival the heavens opened up and it poured with thunder and lightening for a solid 25 minutes. That forced everybody under the tent right when we needed to shut off the taps. The photo above left was taken in the darkness under the tent as people crowded in and got cozy.
After the festival on Friday night, the New Holland crew dropped me off at my trailer as I didn't know my way around in the dark in Ypsilanti, and I sure appreciated that.
The next morning I made myself at home on the free wireless at Corner Brewery's pub and bartender Logan was kind enough to make me a cup of tea and share his bread sticks with me. After working on my blog and photos I walked over to the festival grounds to see if Corner Brewery needed my help at their booth. Found Stacey and Tom but they were all set with volunteers.
Stacey and Tom and I visited Joe Short of Shorts Brewery at his booth. (Photo on left, L to R: Tom, Joe and Stacey.) Tom and Stacey are newlyweds: they got married at the 2006 Great American Beer Festival!
Joe Short told us about his "Nice 'n Spicy" ale. He said that within a day or so after brewing his ale, he and his crew began zesting lemons and oranges. They kept at it until "there was enough in the fermenter," which meant about five days of on-and-off zesting. Then Joe cracked up a bunch of telecherry, pink, green and white pepper corns, and tossed that in for about two days. But only two days. Any more and the beer would have been too peppery. I can attest that the pepper was subtle and the beer tasted juicy in the citrus sense. Quite refreshing on a hot and humid Michigan day.
I also visited the Jolly Pumpkin booth where I met Owner/Brewer Ron Jeffries. I had heard great things about Ron's beers during this trip and my husband really wanted me to visit Ron's brewery, but I'd needed a rest day in Kalamazoo and had to skip my Jolly Pumpkin stop.
Ron had a nice collection of six or seven firkins pouring his unique sour beers. I was able to try five of his beers, Perseguidor #2, a blend of at least four beers aged in wood six months and then aged in the bottle (or firkin) another six months was my favorite. Hard to choose when each sour beer is so different from the next. Photo above of the Jolly Pumpkin crew, L to R: Sean Brennan, Laurie Jeffries, Ron Jeffries, and their son Daemon Jeffries.
Jolly Pumpkin's Bam Biere is a hoppy Saison type beer with an interesting name. Bam is their Jack Russell Terrier puppy who got bammed by a car and survived. Although Bam has a French name, most of the rest of Jolly Pumpkin's beers have Spanish names befitting their pirate-pumpkin-Spanish-Main theme. And in case you were wondering, no Jolly Pumpkin doesn't specialize in pumpkin beers each autumn!
I must mention that I ended up scheduling myself through Ypsilanti for this festival because Doug Beedy of Fort Street Brewery brought it to my attention via an email. Luckily, I hadn't scheduled the second section of my trip yet, so I just delayed myself visiting more breweries in Wisconsin and made it to Ysilanti in time.
Since Corner Brewery didn't need me to pour beer at their booth, I visited Rex Halfpenny who publishes the Michigan Good Beer Guide. Rex has a been a huge supporter of craft beer, and especially Michigan craft beer for a very long time. (Photo right.)
Then I wandered back to the New Holland Booth where Elvis was helping the crew pour beers. Elvis is plaster so he's pretty fragile. New Holland drilled a hole in his backside and the beer hoses come out at the taps along his right arm. In the photo below, L to R: Adam Le Claire, Alan Kort, Elvis, John Stewart and Brett VanderKamp. (Please send me an email if I got the order mixed up!)
Nobody who attended this festival could claim that Michigan brews whimpy beers. I even met a beer fan named Erik who drove all the way from Connecticut to attend.
On this chalkboard sign (below right) from Arbor/Corner Brewery you can see choices like Hoppelbock Barrel-Aged Dry hopped Czech Bock at 8% ABV and Cousin Jax Barrel-Aged Imperial Pale Ale at 10% ABV and 120 IBU. And Corner Brewery's Espresso Love Stout was silky good.
Another fun sign I saw behind the bar at Corner Brewery was this one (below left) that someone took a Sharpie pen to.
Corner does something I haven't seen anywhere else. They have a 10-gallon homebrew system for a pilot brewery called, "The Rat Pad." I've seen keg-based pilot systems, but what I haven't seen is that they let local homebrewers completely run the pilot brewery. The homebrewers brew anything they want and each Wednesday at 6:00 pm the pilot brew goes on sale. The day I left bartender Logan was going to brew his Pistaccio Porter on the system.
Back at the festival, at the end of the day I helped New Holland break down their booth. Elvis had to go into their horse trailer first. I heard Fred Bueltmann call out, "Mind Elvis's finger!" as they didn't want to break his plaster hand. Photo below right, L to R: Fred, Adam, Alan, Elvis and John Stewart. They closed a gate behind Elvis once they got him situated so that the kegs, taps, and ice horse troughs wouldn't roll into him.
Post-festival was the Guild's 10th Anniversary Party. I had saved a couple of bottles of sour beer to share with the Jolly Pumpkin brewers, so I broke out a bottle each of La Folie and Cuvee de Tomme. Everybody had a great time at the private party in the brewhouse, and I even got myself out to my trailer at a reasonable hour.
The next morning I called Corner Brewery and spoke to Renee Greff, Owner/Partner about finding a shower. After two days of hot and humid barrel-aged beer drinking, I was ready and Renee set me up at her and Matt's house.