Beer-goers flock to Fifth-Third Ballpark
Over 35 local breweries took the field (rather, the parking lot) of Fifth-Third Ballpark on Saturday, showcasing over 200 beers to the West Michigan community. The sold out Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival featured brews from all over the state, offering a variety of options for beer-goers.
While myself and a fellow beer lover, Joey, battled the cold, 30-degree weather on Saturday morning, I discovered a few new beers, and got to taste some old favorites as well.
Dark Brews: There were three beers that immediately stood out to us, two of them available to us from Holland. A barrel-aged stout of New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk provided a rich, smooth taste with an extra hoppiness. Followed closely behind was the 2009 Night Tripper Imperial Stout, also brewed by New Holland. Both had hints of caramel and chocolate, and went great with our lunch.
Another honorable mention would have to be Old Boys’ Brewhouse (Spring Lake), which produced the Dog’s Bane Chocolate Stout and the Old Boys’ Brown Ale. Both were full of flavor, and had a great consistency.
Light Brews: Though not our favorite type of beer, there were a few light brews that hit the mark. Jolly Pumpkin’s (Dexter, Ann Arbor, and Traverse City) Baniper was a “classic farmhouse Bam Biere aged on Juniper berries.” It wasn’t too light, meaning there was still plenty of flavor. The golden beer had a bit of hoppiness to it as well.
Another light standout was the Bee Sting Honey Rye, by Walldorff Brewpub (Hastings). As you might’ve guessed, the brew featured a hint of honey surrounded by a light, malty flavor.
Morning Brews: Sampling beer at 11 a.m. is quite different from ordering a pitcher at the bar when you’re out on a Friday night. We were tempted to try a few morning brews, but weren’t too impressed. I started with the Espresso Love Breakfast Stout (Corner Brewery, Ypsilanti), a rich, brown brew that was overwhelmed by an espresso flavor. Joey had a similar experience with Short’s (Bellaire) Cup a Joe Coffee Stout. While I’m plenty used to morning brews such as these (and often enjoy them), these just seemed to be too far out there, offering way too much of a kick.
In our books, it seemed to be an easy bet which beer sat at the top of the festival — New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk. But we were pleasantly surprised by a few other brewing companies as well, including Old Boys’ Brewhouse and Jolly Pumpkin.
All in all, the Winter Beer Fest was a huge success. It was flocked full of people, and by the time we arrived shortly after 11, the line was nearly 200 people long. The festival had a great environment; we enjoyed the out of the blue “man-yell” heard throughout the tents, and appreciated the warm fires. And while there weren’t as many food options as I would’ve liked, what we ordered was pretty good for ballpark food (Joey’s turkey leg was talked about the entire afternoon). Plus, with 15 free samples for every ticket, you can’t go wrong.