Category Archives: Events

The Great Beerd Run 2015

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, Traverse City, MI

This sounded like a unique event- a 5k run with beer stations on the course.  This year was the second year for the event.  Held in November so as to tie in the beard theme with no-shave November charity.  With the course going through one of the on-site golf courses of Grand Traverse Resort, mid-November also ensures runners aren’t competing with golfers for green space.

I came up the night before and stayed in the resort so I wouldn’t have a 4 hour drive ahead of a 10:00 am race start time.  I made a poorly thought-out choice of doing the breakfast buffet the morning of the race.  Sometimes they’re just too good to pass up, even if you know you don’t need all that food.  It was in the mid-30’s Saturday morning so it was going to be a fresh morning run.  As I was walking around checking out the post-race party tent, I heard the greatest exchange between a couple of women who had just registered for the race-

Woman 1, “It’s a run that has beer stations ON the course.  Of course it makes sense to have alcohol this morning before we start.”

Woman 2, “This is just the greatest event ever that we found.”


The race had about 300 – 350 people take part.  As we lined up to start, they reminded us that this was an untimed race.  Although there was a clock running, there was no chip timing keeping track of each individual runner as they crossed the start and finish time.  This of course was fitting with the crowd and the event itself.  They had people group themselves into 3 groups.  Racers lined up in the front, Runners in the middle, and Beer Conniseur’s at the end.  The group of racers only numbered about 20, so after we saw them off, the main group of us headed out next.

The run followed the golf cart path DSC_0465that wove around, up, and down through the hills of the golf course providing nice scenery.  Just before the first mile marker we had our first beer station.  As we got there, the table was covered with scores of small plastic tasting cups filled with the first beer, about 3 oz. size.  People lined up orderly, got their beer and then stood around a bit while drinking their sampler.  Once done people started up again down the path towards station #2.

The first beer was a saison of some sort by Beard’s Brewery, and I wasn’t a big fan.  As I continued on to station #2/mile #2, I was starting to regret the breakfast buffet and the sausage gravy biscuits.  It sloshed around in my stomach with that slightly sweet/sour saison beer making me wonder what I was thinking.  Station #2 was a good pale ale from Right Brain Brewery.  Right up my alley for beer style, I was starting to change my opinion of whether or not beer & running was OK to mix like this.


Approaching the 3rd/last beer station there was a giant hill.  Pushing myself up the hill and telling myself I couldn’t walk, I got to the top feeling quite exerted but happy to be at the Short’s beer stop.  My high hopes were crushed as I saw they had a pumpkin spice beer.  I understand that was probably in season, but I’m not a pumpkin or spiced beer fan- especially at the 3 mile mark.  But since I signed up to drink beer while running, I of course had to finish it.  I noticed most of the conversation around me was how most people didn’t like the beer.  But I didn’t notice a single person pour it out or toss a half-full cup in the garbage.  Apparently everyone else was of the same mindset that this was part of what they paid for.


At the end of the race, they had a DJ going underneath an open-air tent/canopy top.  You could get cookies, granola bars, bananas, bagels, water.  Once adequately recovered, you could go over to the DSC_0470beer table and collect your 16 oz. pour of one of about 10 different beers from either Short’s, Beards, or Right Brain.  I had an awesome pale ale by Beards, made with Galaxy hops.  It was fresh, slightly fruity, and nice and cold.  I thoroughly enjoyed it while sitting and soaking up some sun.

The question is- would I do it again?  Yes.  It was cool running on the golf course, and even though it was well into fall and the trees were all leaf-less, it was still nice outside.  It was also fun running outside in the cold weather.  I would probably follow the tip from some fellow runners we saw that instead of the small medicine cup-sized beer sample, somehow managed to have a full 12 oz. glass.  The trick they said was to first get a glass of water (bigger cup), drink that down, and then fill it up with 3 sample cups.  That would’ve been good for beer#2, but the small size was just fine for beer#1 and #3.

Short’s Bellaire Pub Visit


I’m a huge Short’s fan, so naturally as I found myself driving North, I figured out a way to work in a visit to the Bellaire pub.  It wasn’t my DSC_0447first visit there, so I pretty much knew what to expect.  I was curious if their expansion had opened yet, but it was still in the works apparently with a floorplan taped to the window and some “coming
soon” verbiage.  It was mid-afternoon on a Friday, and about 3:00 PM it wasn’t very busy.  I grabbed a seat at the bar and ordered a Huma Lupa Licious.  Probably my favorite Short’s beer if I had to pick, and whenever I’ve had it at the pub it has always been the best/freshest Huma.  As usual, it didn’t disappoint.

Knowing that I had to drive the DSC_044930-40 minutes over to Traverse City shortly after, I had to gauge myself.  Since I couldn’t decide on just 1 more beer to try, I went for a flight and got 5 different ones.  I saw on the chalkboard that they seemed to now be carrying a “mac n cheese of the day”.  I ordered that, and the Cheddar and Bratwurst was amazing, and for only $3 it was a steal.

After I finished my beers and mac n cheese, I spotted that they had Devil’s Lettuce 6-packs for sale.  This came & went through the local beer shops so fast that I never even saw it, I just heard I missed it all.  So I picked up one for me, and one for a friend.  I then also saw they were trying to move out their Oktoberfest beer, Noble Chaos and were therefore selling 12-packs for $9.99.  What a deal.  Got some of that, too…

Here’s how I rated the beers, Left to Right in the picture below:

  • Chocolate Wheat: 3 out of 5 Stars
  • Pontius Road Pilsner: 3 Stars
  • Noble Chaos: 4.5 Stars
  • The Village Reserve: 5 Stars
  • Alter Spalter: 4 Stars


Brad Birthday Bar Crawl 2014

Birthday Bar Crawl, Ypsilanti & Ann Arbor, MI

As my birthday was approaching, the wife suggested that we could go somewhere during the day since the kids would be in daycare/summer camp that day.  I’m sure she was thinking a nice summer patio lunch somewhere relaxing, and maybe a stroll through a park.  After about 30 seconds of thought, I knew what I wanted to do.  Our recent “tightening of the strings” on our spending meant I hadn’t been able to explore all the random new beer joints I’d heard or read about.  I shortly had a list of places in my head I wanted to go, and set about the task of stringing them together in some sort of logical progression.  Luckily some of them weren’t open during the day, and it got my list whittled down to a manageable length.  When Lora saw the schedule, she said, “You’ll be drunk by dinnertime!” to which I replied “Yeah, so?  It’s my birthday.  I’m allowed to be.”

 First Stop– Red Rock BBQ, Ypsilanti


We had to start off right with some nourishment.  I’d heard lots of people talk about the great beer selection and the BBQ here, so figured this was a good place to ease my wife/designated driver into aviary_1403629617931the whole “birthday beer tour” event.  We got there a little before noon, and as luck would have it Tuesdays were $2 beers or something.  You could opt for the 22 oz. for $3, which sounded fabulous to me– after all, it was my birthday!  The place was pretty quiet for lunchtime on a Tuesday, but they had a great beer menu.  It had a great exposed brick interior and giant bar in the middle.  However, I was a bit disappointed that the beers had a slightly sour taste to them, I aviary_1403627879699assume from draft lines that weren’t kept regularly clean.  I had a New Holland Full Circle and an Odd Side Ales Citra Pale Ale.  The food was OK, but not as great as a lot of other Detroit area BBQ joints.  The service was good and our server was efficient and friendly.  It’s too bad about the beer lines.  With such a great line up of beers, I had higher expectations.

Second Stop– Arbor Brewing Microbrewery, Ypsilanti


A short trip down the road and we were at Arbor Brewing Microbrewery (until recently called Corner Brewing).  The inside of this place had a great feel to it with the high ceilings and a wide variety of seating options around.  They had some interesting sandwich/hot dog options, but since we had just ate, I stuck to the beer.  They had the usual Arbor Brewing beers here, and I had a Buzzsaw IPA.  I’d had this before, but had mix results from what I’d bought at the store.  It had been amazing the first time I bought it, and mediocre the other times.  Knowing that from the source it was IMG_20140624_134202907_HDRusually the best/freshest, I ordered one.  Jackpot.  It was delicious.
We relaxed on a comfy couch with a coffee table next to it.  If we had been in the mood, they had a bookcase full of stacks of boardgames.  This would be a great place to hang out and burn a whole afternoon.  There was a large outdoor beer garden area, but we stayed inside on the comfy couch.  The beer was so good and atmosphere inviting that I would’ve ordered another one, but we had more stops to go.  After all, this was a distance run, not a sprint today.

Third Stop– Biercamp, Ann Arbor

IMG_20140624_145355994_HDR  IMG_20140624_145117766_HDR

This place had a cool name, for sure.  Reading about it on their website, they sounded unique with their in-house smoked meats (jerky, bacon, pastrami, etc), all from local sources that treated their animals well (of course until they killed them and served them up for us to eat…).  Amongst their meats, they had some minimal offerings to enjoy while there.  They had 2 sandwiches (pulled pork, and I believe a brisket), and 2 beers on tap.  The beer was made on a 1-IMG_20140624_145309874barrel system, so they made just enough for their store here and could change it up about every week.  We eyed up some bacon, beef sticks, and pastrami to take home, then I got a beer (Vienna IPA) to enjoy at one of the picnic tables out front.  It had the visual appeal of a kind of roadside rest stop you might find up North somewhere.  But the tables were a bit too close to the road and the constant flow of Ann Arbor traffic didn’t really help the atmosphere, it kind of distracted from it.  But I enjoyed the beer and the sun.  I then used their port-a-potty which was the fanciest one I’ve ever seen.  It had a little sink in there, had flowers hanging, doilies, different scented soaps, etc.  Truly amazing.

Fourth Stop– World of Beer, Ann Arbor


As we found a spot to park on the street, it was starting to look gloomy.  The close proximity of our parking spot would pay dividends on the way back.  The World of Beer was very close to campus.  The little short block of shops had everything you’d expect on a college IMG_20140624_152630262campus– bookstore, late night cookie delivery store, some fast food, and a bar.  But World of Beer is definitely more sophisticated than any bar I ever went to in college.  Rather than $0.50 drafts on some
randoIMG_20140624_155816723_HDRm weeknight, darkly lit, and rather smelly, WOB was the opposite.  Bright, open, and fresh looking, it was very inviting even though it was mostly empty.  They had a big draft menu (about 40 beers, and a ton of stuff in bottles/cans).  They had some interesting stuff on draft.  I tried the Southern Tier IPA on Nitro.  After all of the interesting bubbles went away, it tasted pretty good.  I also had a really good collaboration IMG_20140624_155419254_HDRbeer from 2 Fort Collins, CO breweries (New Belgium and Odell).  It was the only place I went to that gave me a birthday beer for free, which was cool.  But your free beer was a tasting size glass of a beer.  Which you could get free anyway, just saying you wanted to try a beer because you couldn’t decide what you wanted.  Either way, it was a nice gesture.  With the big windows facing the street corner, and the high ceilings, it made for a nice and open feel for hanging out and wandering through the beer menu.  I IMG_20140624_152724675don’t know if on a more popular timeframe this would overrun with college kids or if it’s geared more towards professors and graduate students.  Either way, I finally made it here, and it’s a nice clean place to explore a variety of beers.

Tour End

I had originally planned to hit Chelsea Ale House as the final stop, as that’s been on my list for awhile.  Unfortunately, all of my previous stops were conspiring against me and I took longer than planned at each.  Since we didn’t have enough time to go out to Chelsea, down a beer, then drive back and get the kids from daycare, we instead opted to hit the grocery store and get something for dinner.  Luckily that store was Whole Foods in Ann Arbor, and they had a craft beer bar in the middle of the grocery store.  So I enjoyed one more pint (of some Michigan beer I can’t remember right now) and walked around and “helped” pick out some good groceries for dinner.  Birthday beer tour drew to a close.

Planning and Putting on a Beer Event

Michigan Beer Film Showing in Farmington, MI


I’ve had ideas of what would make a cool beer event for years.  I’d always think to myself, “It would be really cool if they did this.”  I would briefly get excited about organizing such an event myself, but would quickly lose my motivation as I started to think about all the tasks that would have to be done, and just getting started.  This time was different.


After seeing The Michigan Beer Film downtown Detroit at the Fillmore in November, I came back thinking I could bring that to downtown Farmington and rent out the Farmington Civic Theater.  I started thinking about how to incorporate beer.  I talked to my wife about it, and Lora was supportive.  Instead of extinguishing my early enthusiasm, she started talking about logistics of the event.  We quickly started to pull together something that had some structure and seemed like it might work.  The key was figuring out the money side of it.

Lora called the Civic Theater andSAM_1063 got their prices for theater rental.  I started a spreadsheet with various costs.  The next key was figuring out how many people we expected to come so we could figure out expected revenue to offset the costs we had come up with.  To get these estimates, I took the Detroit Fillmore showing of MI Beer Film attendance, as well as attendance numbers at the Craft Beer tasting night of the Farmington Harvest Moon festival, and then walked in & out various factors that would make our event turn-out either higher or lower.  Armed with predicted attendance numbers and costs, it showed on paper we could make it work.  Then we had to go convince others.

SAM_1064I started out talking with the pub, Cowley’s where we planned to hold the beer end of things to convince them it was a good thing.  In the process, I also talked to Rex Halfpenny who has a monthly craft beer tasting at Cowley’s.  Together, we fleshed out more details of how the event would work and brought some more legitimacy to the effort.  Rex suggested bringing in Paw Paw Brewing and said he’d called the brewer out there to see if he could get them on board.  Lora & I talked to Rhino Media and told them about the plan, who was involved, and got them involved.  Tim Cowley then got on board as well, and we had an official event.

After agreeing on pricing and how we’d handle the money from ticket sales amongst all parties, I set up the event on EventBrite to officially start selling tickets, created a web page as a branch off of and got into promotion gear.  I posted to every craft beer website that seemed reasonably well-put-together and had a calendar of events.  I sent messages to people that Tweeted about craft beer in Michigan and had a decent number of followers.  We wrote press releases and worked with local media to get our story told in online or printed form of various newspapers.  We went to a number of good liquor stores around the area and asked to put up posters and/or leave a stack of postcards with event info on them for people to see when they paid at the counter.

I also got 2 good beer stores in the SAM_1066Farmington area (Meadows Fine Wine on Farmington Rd, and Royal Liquor on 8 Mile Rd) sign on to be event supporters and get their name added to the posters/postcards in exchange for financial support.  I also arranged with the Paw Paw distributor to make arrangements with these 2 stores to get some Paw Paw beer in bottles delivered to them since Paw Paw didn’t have existing bottle distribution contract set up with anyone in Oakland County yet.  And lastly, at Rex’s January tasting at Cowley’s, he & I both said a few words about the event, passed out post cards to everyone there, and sold a few tickets that night.

After that, it was a lot of waiting for ticket sales to get going.  I didn’t have the ability to track how many people visited my web page with the description of the event, but I could see how many people went to the EventBrite site.  Slowly sales started to trickle in, and in the last 2 weeks leading up to the event, we sold 50% of the tickets.  It was great seeing it go so well, and actually get attendance up to 178, which aligned right with where we expected it to be based on the early on projections I had done.

SAM_1067The night of the event, Lora & I sat at a table by the door and checked people off a list that had bought their tickets in advance.  We gave them wristbands so they could get into the theater when we walked over there, tickets for their 3 beers (full 16 oz. pints), a beer menu of the 4 Paw Paw beers we had on tap, and coupons the 2 supporting liquor stores had made up for $$ off craft beer purchases at their stores.  On the back of the menu, I had maps to both locations and made mention that these 2 stores had special arrangements to carry a limited amount of bottled Paw Paw.  Talking with these locations afterwards, they’ve had a small amount of people cash in on the coupons (surprisingly), and the beer has been selling, but it hasn’t flown off the shelves or anything.  Both stores were pleased with the advertising they got out of it and the additional traffic they got, so that’s good.

SAM_1069While we were checking people in, up on stage Rex Halfpenny, Kevin Romeo (Director of MI Beer Film), and Trevor Klimek (brewer at Paw Paw Brewing) were talking about beer and the movie to the massive crowd.  Later, some people mentioned that in the back they had a hard time hearing them because of all the noise and just the speaker up front by the stage.  But that was just one or two people.

Lora went ahead of me to the theater to help manage ticket collection and getting people in for the show.  We comfortably filled the 275-seat theater.  Obviously we weren’t at 100% theater capacity, but every row had people, and people sat in their groups they came with, not having to be elbow-to-elbow.  I’d seen the movie twice before that, but it was still enjoyable.  Everyone pretty much hung on to the end of the full 2 hours (although several people later shared the thought that it could have been shorter and accomplished the same thing), and then maybe about half of the group went back to Cowley’s to cash in any remaining beer sample tickets or to buy additional rounds.

SAM_1072At the after-event at Cowley’s the same 3 speakers were up there, and people asked assorted random questions about the film or about the MI beer industry.  I had held back on my personal sampling of the beer until the after-event, other than one very delicious KUA (Kalamazoo Urban Assault) Pale Ale that I enjoyed while checking people in at the start.  Unfortunately, it was gone by the time the after-event came around.  I tried the Vanilla Bean Porter, but wasn’t a big fan of that one.  I did have a St. James English Mild, which I had tried before, and knew that one was good.  Satisfied, I walked home, pleased with the success of the event.


Michigan Winter Beer Festival 2014

 Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival

February 22nd, 2014, Grand Rapids, MI


Ticket sales for the 2014 festival were crazy.  We knew the trend from previous years with it selling out in record time, more quickly each year.  2013 Sold out in 13 hours.  So Kevin & I were prepared.  There were 4 of us going, and they were limiting sales to 2 tickets per person.  Sales went live on the web at 11:00 am on a Sunday.  We immediately tried buying tickets and ran into massive delays and purchase pages timing out before we could complete sales transactions.  Eventually we got through and were some of the lucky ones in the 3 hour frenzy.


We followed the pattern we’ve worked out for the Winter Festival of driving out Saturday morning to Grand Rapids, attempting to check in to the hotel, then getting layered up in our outdoor cold gear and grabbing a quick bite to eat in town.  The city was offering bus transportation to & from the festival this year, so we bought tickets for that rather than going the taxi route.  Standing in the massive long line waiting to get in, I took a mental note that next year, rather than being the guy standing there jealously watching someone drink a beer, I’d be that guy drinking a beer.  I still find the pretzel necklace thing too trendy for my liking.  I tried going the route of a bag of beef jerky and granola bars.  But that was just a pain in the backside having one more thing to lug around.


As we got in through the gates, the sun was shining and a lot of the massive amount of snow that mother nature had dumped on us in Michigan this year was melting and running away.  So the parking lot was a mix of giant ice chunks, hard-packed snow, and slush.  The wind was whipping so although the sun looked nice, it was a pretty chilly year.  We had the usual fun randomly going from tent to tent and SAM_1039finding a brewery that looked interesting but didn’t have too long of a line.  Everything we had was generally pretty good (ratings below).  We had planned that we would take one of the earlier buses back into town to avoid being over-alcohol’d and thus waste the Grand Rapids downtown nightlife.  So we took the bus back and got into our room and changed to slightly less wintery garb- but still warm enough for our walking tour.



5 Stars

  • Original Gravity, Southpaw IPA
  • Cellar Brewing, Monkey Wrench Imperial IPA
  • Hopcat, Son of Hoppo American IPA
  • Grand Rapids Brewing, Silver Foam


4.5 Stars

  • Dark Horse, Double Crooked Tree
  • Jamesport, Altbier
  • 51 North, Dogway IPA
  • Wolverine State, Gulo Gulo IPL


4 Stars

  • Paw Paw, Black Talon
  • Motor City, Winter Ale Barleywine
  • Griffin Claw, Norm’s Raggedy Ass IPA
  • Witch’s Hat, Big Doedish


3.5 Stars

  • North Peak, Wanderer
  • White Flame, Double Tap


3 Stars

  • Arcadia, Thunder Trail ESB


We had hoped that getting back early we’d be able to make it in to HopCat and get some of that delicious Mac n’ Cheese with chorizo and jalapenos.  As it turned out, we could get in, but not a table or chair to be found anywhere (or at least empty).  We walked around inSAM_1044 the area a bit, confronted my multiple places overflowing with people until we came to The Back Forty Saloon.  It looked decent enough inside, but in contrast to everywhere else, was pretty much empty.  The menu looked decent enough, and although the tap selection was far from inspiring, it of course had Founders on tap so we stayed.  The
burgers were really good, and the Founders of course delicious.  It started to fill up slowly by the time we were heading out.  Apparently it typically got busy later on as it had live bands playing country music on the weekends.


Next stop was what is always a mandatory stop, Founder’s.  It of SAM_1046 course was crowded, as it was also on other people’s list.  Luckily, we were dressed for walking around outside in the winter, and the recently added massive outdoor beer garden/deck had the propane heaters fired up and blazing.  So we enjoyed some outdoor fire/heat while sipping on our fresh Founders outside.  It worked out quite nice.


From there, we headed back across the giant parking lot and down the alley to Stella’s Lounge.  This place had a really feel to it, with a giant long bar running the length of the place, and a number of tables SAM_1054paralleling it with places to order food.  It had a kind of 50’s rock & roll bar feel to it with its colors of black, white, and red, and an interesting collection of 80’s era video game machines.  It was packed and there were people standing, apparently waiting for tables.  We saw a table at the end with no one sitting at it, but a giant stack of menus piled on the table.  We looked around, and there was no seating hostess, and it seemed to be first-come, first-served.  So we decided a giant stack of menus wouldn’t SAM_1052keep us from drinking so we sat down at the table.  A waitress quickly came along and cleared the menus and got us a round of drinks.
Shortly after we started to notice the dirty looks from those waiting.
One girl passed by our table on the way to the bathroom and called us table thieves or something and kept on going.  Later we talked to one of the angry mob to find out if they had a waiting list or a hostess or anything and they said no.  Basically everyone thought the end table was off limits because of the pile of menus so they had not sat down.  We were the target of their frustrated waiting when we took it upon ourselves to not be intimidated by a pile of menus.  After a couple of rounds, we moved on.


Next stop was Grand Rapids Brewing Company.  A new addition to Grand Rapids, they had set up shop on the same block on Ionia street as the infamous Hopcat.  They had re-done the interior of the bar to look like an 1800’s general merchandise store with lots of warm-colored wood and a beautiful bar.  OK, I suppose an old hardware SAM_1056store probably didn’t have a giant bar, but it seemed to go with the rest of it, that I just embraced it.  By this time, the multiple rounds were starting to weigh on me, so I opted for a lighter beer.  I found Sliver Foam, a 4.5% light lager.  It was amazingly delicious.  Tasty malt flavor, but very clean finishing, it went down so easily.  It was just what I needed at that point.  It was so good, it made me want to explore other beers on their menu, but I couldn’t bring myself to divert from something that was already proven to be a home run, and that was this light at this point of the night.


We also had a strange “table jumping” encounter at GR Brewing.  This place was also quite packed.  We found a rather large long table that could maybe seat about 10 people, but only had 7 people sitting at it.  We asked if they were using the other 3 chairs and they said no, so we sat down at the end.  We noticed some more dirty looks from people standing nearby.  A little bit later a waiter came over and said that there was a large group waiting for the table to free up and that we should leave.  Convincing him of the stupidity of leaving 3 empty seats in a place as crowded as this, we said that when the rest of the table left, we’d get up, too.  In the end, the waiting group had like 8 people.  So when the 7 left, we found another chair for them and they all had a seat.  They still grumbled and glared, which made no sense.  After being called unscrupulous by the waiter for failing to leave when the rest of the group did, we just got frustrated with it and left.


After a short stop back at The Back Forty Saloon, confirming they indeed did get busy and they also had a live band, we decided to call it a night.  One of my biggest disappointments was that the Taco Time across the street from Amway Grand Plaza Hotel was gone, and so was my late-night burrito fix after a full day of Grand Rapids Winter Beer Festival merriment.  We decided the best course of action was to replace the empty late-night burrito calories with more late-night empty beer calories so we stopped in at Flanagan’s Irish Pub that was SAM_1060nearby.  Nothing too exciting going on, other than listen to the bartender cut off the very drunk guy sitting at the bar next to us.  We know he must have been in bad shape for them to cut him off, yet still serve us.  Deciding we should bow out before receiving the same treatment, went back to the hotel and crashed.  At 12:00, it was probably one of the latest nights post-Winter Beer Festival, and it seemed to be a good balance of festival sampling and touring of the excellent Grand Rapids downtown nightlife.


Royal Oak Winter Beer Festival 2014

Winter Beer Fest

Royal Oak, MI, January 25th, 2014

I was able to get some free tickets to the Royal Oak Winter Beerfest at the Royal Oak Theater (cheers to Charles Psenka from Northern United Brewers).  I hadn’t been to the Theater in many years, since back in the late 90’s when it was 4th Street Asylum.  Those were some good times back then, with booming dance music, and guzzling ½ price Long Island Ice Teas…  But this was different, it was a craft beer festival.  Sporting a combination of Michigan brewers and national craft brewers, it was a promising line-up.


The beer festival I’m used to are the Michigan Brewer’s Guild festivals, and was what I was roughly expecting except for the mix of non-MI breweries, and it being indoors.  But it was quite different.  The attending crowd was different from the Guild festivals.  This was a crowd that largely seemed to be there for a night out on the town first, and the beer second.  True, it was an all-craft beer festival, so people obviously came for the beer.  But a lot of the people were dressed up for the nightclub scene.  I was shocked when I saw the first pair of skin-tight jeans and stiletto heels on a group of 3 girls.  I wondered at the choice of shoes at an event geared toward drinking & sampling a lot of beer.  As I continued to see this choice of pant-wear and teetering shoes, the novelty wore off and I wasn’t as shocked any more.


The vibe of the event was also different.  It brought back memories of 4th Street Asylum with groups of girls chasing after guys, and groups of guys chasing after girls.  The key differences were the lights were on, no booming techno beats, and everyone had a craft beer in hand.  It was an interesting mix, and something I didn’t think I’d see at a craft beer festival.  Maybe it indicates that craft beer is starting to become more accepted by larger masses and not just the fringe beer snobs.  Don’t get me wrong, you still could do the usual beer festival aspects of mapping out which beers you wanted to hit, hang out telling stories, and meeting other beer lovers.  Not everyone was “clubbing it”.


Unlike the Brewer’s Guild festivals, they didn’t have a token system.  Instead your beer list served as your beer bank with a number of printed circles corresponding to the number of tastings you had.  As you tried a sample, they’d either mark off a circle with an ‘x’, or use a hole punch.  They were much more adamant about punching/x-ing your circles off than the token gatherers at Brewers Guild festivals, but we didn’t run out of circles.  Plus as people left, they’d offer up their partially marked-off lists to add to our collection.


One big downer was the fact that most of the beer was not on draft.  We’d hit a brewery we wanted, and found a giant bucket of ice with bottles or cans sitting in them.  They would then open one and pour a sample into your cup.  I felt like I could be doing that at home.  Instead of thinking I got something special from Oskar Blues, they just grabbed a can like I had in my beer fridge at home and poured it into my cup.  One advantage I guess was that unlike at home, I could drink 2-3 oz. out of 10 different beers in a night (without wasting beer of course).


All in all, it was a good night.  The tickets were free, so I definitely can’t complain.  But I think with all the bottled/canned beer, and the semi-club atmosphere, I don’t think I’d go again.  Of course unless someone gave me free tickets…


Beer Bowling and Related Beer Game Stories

Beer Bowling and Related Beer Game Stories

 I don’t know if you’ve played the recently popular “beer pong”, or what we used to call “beer bowling” in college.  I always stuck to the beer bowling name because of how you set up the cups into the formation of bowling pins, and at our fraternity “beer pong” was a different game that was actually played on a ping pong table.  It had a similar concept to beer bowling, with each player having a cup of beer and if the ball went into your cup, you had to take a drink.  This was a sort of “add on” feature to normal ping pong which the game followed all other rules for.  It was never a big hit because ping pong itself wasn’t that popular at our house.  But regardless, it was “beer pong”, and the other was “beer bowling”.

I recently found out that you can play beer bowling with craft beer.  My previous experiences (in college) of course always were based on the cheapest, most easily available beer that could be found.  I was thrilled to find a use for the glass pitcher we had at home that had been calling my name ever since I got my kegerator, begging for me to find a use for it.  There’s always some excitement attached to a pitcher of beer.  I think just because it always means either a large amount of beer to be consumed, or a large number of people consuming beer.  And in both cases (in my experience) good times usually follow quickly behind.  But finding a practical use for a pitcher of beer at home has been elusive- until now.

In college we told ourselves you didn’t want to play with expensive beer because you go through so much of it so quickly, that it was a waste of money.  In reality, it probably was because we were in college and didn’t have money to buy expensive beer anyway.  Regardless, I confirmed that chugging down a Solo cup 1/3 filled with craft beer is an enjoyable series of beer drinks.  Although not a tulip-shaped glass like I personally attest makes good hoppy beers taste delicious by funneling that hop aroma at your nose while you drink, the Solo cup achieves the same result through different means.  With only the bottom part filled with beer, you end up having to tip the cup way back, and hence get your nose buried in the cup- soaking up all the hop aroma.  You never could have convinced me of this fact had I not tried it myself.

But back to beer bowling.  And now again stepping aside for another side story…  When beer bowling first came into our fraternity, it was not well-liked.  The game of choice was Whales Tales.  It was a fast-paced game played where everyone had a beer, and you sat in groups of 8.  It was a number-calling game where if the guy sitting 2 spaces to your right said “2”, that was your number and you had to quickly respond with a “Nay, XX who.”  Where XX was another number 1 through 7.  Essentially you were saying, “Not me, it’s the guy sitting XX spaces to my left.”  That guy would follow suit and so on, with the calls bouncing around.  It took some serious concentration to keep track of who was calling who, and if you messed up, you had to take a drink.  There were lots of ancillary rules that went with it to make it more complex, challenging, and sometimes fun.  But to some, the Tales players could be quite prickly and uptight while playing.  Some couldn’t stand playing with people that were too slow, or botched their calls too often.  Eventually, they’d also get annoyed with background noise that made it harder to hear the calls, so they’d seclude themselves somewhere quiet and shoot nasty looks at you if you stumbled in and stared making noise.  The Tales players did not like beer bowling.

Beer bowling was always a lot of fun.  You had 2 people on a team, and you faced off against another twosome.  It always made for fun partnerships, roping in whoever you could find wandering about in the house that had some time available to devote the pursuit of beer games.  And inevitably you had the back and forth banter and “talking smack” with your opponents about how lousy they were and how good your team was.  So in contrast to tails, there was a lot of noise and talking.  In our dining room, there could be up to 5 games playing at once, with a game made up of 2 folding tables lined up end to end, and each team’s 10 cups half-filled with beer making up their bowling pin triangular formation on the opposite ends.  You take turns bounding or throwing a ping pong ball at the other team’s 10 “pins”, trying to get the ball in one.  If you did, they had to drink the cup empty and remove it from the table.  You win the game by sinking all 10 pins of the opposite team first.  Losing team technically had to drink the winning team’s left over pins, but that rarely happened.

As much fun as beer bowling was, there were two marked downsides.  One was the sheer volume of beer you ended up consuming.  It wasn’t a game you could “pace yourself” at, you just basically drank when the ball landed in the cup- and a fair amount of beer at that.  If you were “lucky” enough to win, you’d keep the table and take on another pair- which meant more drinking.  The other downside was the mess it left.  A ping pong ball bounced back and forth along the tables after landing in cups of beer every now and then ended up leaving beer trails and sprinklings all over things.  And leaning over the table to get a closer reach to the cups on the other end of the table frequently led to cups occasionally getting knocked over and spilling their contents.  Finally, the leftover pins from the winning team that were rarely drunk ended up being stacked somewhere- along the window, on the floor, on a ledge hear, a heater there, etc.  All of this led to a sticky, stinky mess in the morning.  The Tales players never missed an opportunity to wail about the aftermath mess in the dining room the next day.

So with this long background behind us, I was excited and nervous about cracking open the “official beer pong” kit my brother-in-law brought over.  I of course remembered all the fun, but also remembered the fast path to high BAC, and the beer mess.  I no longer had a fraternity tiled, industrial dining room, I had a carpeted basement that we watch TV in and the kids play in.  But with finally finding an answer to that glass pitcher that had been calling me, I couldn’t resist.  The game was fun, I discovered the nifty Solo cup “beer snifter effect”, and there were no beer spills.  I did have stacks of beer cups with residual beer in them the next morning, but nothing to major to clean up.  So I can attest that beer bowling can still be fun as a grown-up.  Of course, make sure you aren’t driving anywhere afterwards…


Trick-or-Treating for Grown-ups

 Trick-or-Treating for Grown-ups


Over the past few years I’ve started trick-or-treating again.  Not because I want candy, but because we had kids.  I had a couple enjoyable years pushing the stroller around the neighborhood transporting my tiny trick-or-treater from door to door sipping a beer on the cool evening night.  The little cupholders they provide on strollers not only fit water bottles and sippy cups, they also can hold your beer.  And the little basket on the bottom served for storage of overflow candy, the extra layers of coats or gloves needed depending on the temperature on that particular Halloween, and also refills/empties for the “fuel” required for the stroller’s means of propulsion.  But I was always envious of those houses I came across where the adults were sitting out and having a good time in their fold-up chairs and the fall evening air- and throwing some candy into bags every now and then.  Our house never had the foot traffic on Halloween to justify sitting outside and partying, though.  I’d be more like the strange drunk guy sitting in the dark at the end of a dead-end street that everyone would be too scared to send their kids down to.  So I had to put that idea on hold.


Then we moved to a new house, and with closely-spaced houses with lots of families/kids living there, I knew my time had arrived.  First step in the plan was to gracefully bow out of chaperone role for the kids and ensure the wife would cover.  Check.  Next was to line up a companion for the chair-sitting-candy-passing duty.  Got my brother-in-law, check.  Then I scraped together some random bits of the kids toys to pass as some half-hearted Halloween costumes for my fellow candy dispenser and I.  A hat, a sword, some fake hair, a toy gun, and that was all set.  I rounded up some music to add to the festive environment, and the necessary folding chairs.  Last on this list, but first in my plans was the beer.  I loaded up my cooler with all my orphaned beers in the beer fridge from 6-packs I bought of some new beer, but didn’t care for it after I drank the first one.  These things tend to sit around a very long time, so this was a great opportunity to clear out some space for future beer exploring (and future 6-pack orphans, surely).


We took up our positions on the front porch with the candy bowl nearby.  It was cold, rainy, slightly windy evening, so generally pretty crummy for trick-or-treating.  We had a sporadic group of people coming by.  Most adults stayed at the sidewalk out by the street and sent their kids up to the door.  As we hailed to them, “Do you want a beer?” they all said “No” from the safety of the sidewalk.  Probably thinking the sooner they got out of this gloomy night of walking around in the cold, the better.  In the end we only had one taker.  And we were surprised at how naturally he responded to the offer of a beer.  “Do you want a beer?”  Then without a pause, “Yep.”  He then had us pick it out for him from the potluck in my cooler, open it, and hand it to him so he could continue to carry his young tot on his shoulders from door to door.  It was almost like he was expecting us to be sitting there and handing out beer.  I’m glad we had one customer, but I would have almost preferred if he was a bit more happily surprised, like “Oh wow man, what a cool idea!  I would love a beer!”  But I got rid of one more beer than I would have otherwise.  Plus, the two of us gave my beer orphans a good home.  What was interesting, is several beers that I had previously pushed aside and relegated to my orphan shelf in the beer fridge, I actually enjoyed.  I don’t know if they aged well after sitting in my fridge for over a year, if I was having a bad taste bud day the first time I tried them, or my taste had changed.  Anyway, it was fun for the two of us- and that one guy with a tiny Spider Man on his shoulders…



Farmington Harvest Moon Festival 2013

Harvest Moon Festival Beer Tasting,

September 26th, 2013, Farmington, MI


We really enjoyed last year’s Harvest Moon Festival in downtown Farmington, so I had my eye out for the advertisements.  It was the same pattern as last year, with a beer & wine tasting on Thursday SAM_0940night, a dance Friday night, and then a kids family fun event Saturday afternoon.  We decided to go with the Thursday night tasting event.  It ran from 6 – 11 pm.  We got there around 8:00, and there were a lot of people there.  It wasn’t crowded or anything, but definitely a lot of people.  This year they had expanded to take over the full Riley park square in downtown.  Last year, they had the pavilion and the area south of it.  This year, they took over the grassy area north of it as well.


They had the same arrangement of beers under a tent on tap with maybe 2 or 3 beers from a brewery all mixed in along several tables, with volunteers doing the pouring.  The area next to the tents had a number of tall tables for standing/leaning, while resting your drink on something.  Wine was under the pavilion.  Schoolcraft College had their Culinary School students putting on the food.  This had doubled in size and they had several different entrée options, plus some desserts and sides.  We shared both the pulled pork on a pretzel roll, and the chicken soft tacos.  They were awesome.  On the grassy side of the pavilion, they had some tables and chairs set up- both under the open sky and under a large tent.  They also had 3 small campfires set up with hay bales & chairs surrounding them, and a guy singing and playing acoustic guitar through the sound system.  He was very good.SAM_0944

Same as last year, the evening was perfect weather for being outdoors.  That early fall, where the nights are just starting to turn chilly, but not downright cold.  There’s a freshness in the air you can feel and smell, and it makes it nice sitting outside.  The campfires were new this year, and they were very cool.  They were small portable fire pit things and they had a big common pile of firewood.  Each fire pit had its own bucket of water, I guess in case the fire spread to the hay bales or something.  I was amazed when someone announced they thought the fire needed another log and then walked off over the pile on the side of the park, grabbed a log, and brought it back and put it on the fire.  SAM_0946I was amazed that the wood was freely acceptable, and that there wasn’t like some kind of official “fire tender” person who’s job it was to put wood on the fire.  I’ve been too long exposed to the “nanny state” of things, where to protect everyone from even the remotest possibility of doing something that might injure yourself, you’re prevented from doing it in public.  Of course to protect themselves from all of the maniacs out there that sue someone because they can, and they can get a ton of money for it in the process.  I can be as crazy, stupid, and reckless as I want to be in my back yard, but once I go in public, I guess I’m just used to turning off my brain and not having to think about making decisions about something that might hurt me.  Anyway, realizing we were being treated freely like responsible adults, it was great.  Almost thrilling even.  We picked firewood ourselves, decided when to put it on, when to adjust it, etc.  It was almost the highlight of the evening.

But since I didn’t go there to make a campfire, I suppose I should talk about the beer.  They had about 65 different beers, ciders, and meadsSAM_0938 on tap.  Maybe 1/3 of them were Michigan beers, 1/3 were craft beers from out of state, and the last 1/3 was some from the bigger brewers- domestic and international.  It was a fun mix.  We enjoyed reading the “craft-beer-like” descriptions of Molson Canadian and Pilsner Urquell.  We got to try a Sam Adams specialty brew that we heard is only available on draft.  Unfortunately(?) it was delicious.  This of course is unfortunate because that means I can’t go buy it at the store in a 6-pack and enjoy it at home.  But I did enjoy it at the festival.  I also got to talk to the local Michigan sales rep of Epic Brewing (based in Utah), so I heard a bit of the back story to their new beer they brew in Colorado.  Apparently Utah beer laws don’t allow brewers to have a taproom with their own beer in Utah.  So they built a taproom in Denver, CO so they can serve their beer on draft to their followers.  Interesting.  They gave you a little 3 oz. plastic taster mug that you could fill for 1 SAM_0936ticket ($1).  Or if you paid 5 tickets ($5) you could get a 12 oz. clear plastic cup filled with your favorite.  That option obviously isn’t the budget-wise option, but as fun as it is, you do eventually get tired of drinking your beer out of oversized thimbles.  However, I stuck to the ticket-at-a-time game with my miniature beer mug.  That way I got to try more beers.  Below is what I tried, and my ratings for each:

5 Stars

  • Epic Escape to Colorado, Epic Brewing Co
  • Lagunitas IPA, Lagunitas Brewing
  • Spiny Norman, Right Brain Brewery


4.5 Stars

  • Grumpy Monk IPA, Sam Adams
  • Huma Lupa Licious, Short’s Brewing
  • Fluffer IPA, Kuhnhenn


4 Stars

  • Crown Jewels, Dragonmead
  • Apricot Ale, Pyramid


3.5 Stars

  • Gubna Imperial IPA, Oskar Blues


Tashmoo Biergarten

Tashmoo Biergarten, Detroit, MI


Tashmoo biergarten is a local Detroit entity.  They’ve been around a couple of years and have a unique offering to Detroit area beer lovers.  They do an outdoor beer garden exclusively in the fall.  It’s always outdoors, and they limit themselves to the fall time of year.  As they’re getting more popular word of mouth, I frequently hear people talking about or asking if/when they’re going to expand their season.  Last year, I heard they were contemplating starting in summer, but that didn’t happen this summer.  Although I suppose mid-summer is probably technically summer rather than fall.  Anyway, the other unique aspect is they don’t have a permanent location.  Most of their events have been held on empty lots in East English Village neighborhood of Detroit.  They bring in picnic tables, board games, some bean bag games, a bar (of course), and then some local food vendors.  They stress being local in all aspects- the location, the beer offerings (all Michigan brewers), food (local restaurants or food trucks), and people.

They draw in the crowds by way of “virtual word of mouth”.  Of course, way of mouth these days includes actual word of mouth, Twitter, Facebook, news articles, blogs.  So I knew I wanted to go to one of these events, but due to their varied location and non-standard schedule, I had to just wait and hope I’d catch word of the next event.  Twitter came in handy.  They announced their date a couple weeks in advance, then the location about a week or in advance.  This one was going to be on Belle Isle, which was a new location for the Tashmoo event (I think).  It was on the lawn of a historic house there, aptly called The White House.  Guess what color it was?

I hadn’t been out on Belle Isle for several years.  It was a nice Saturday afternoon, with a mix of clouds & sun overhead, and a nice warm fall temperature.  But being post-summer it seemed, the island was largely empty.  Great big wide roads, huge grassy expanses for picnicking or playing football, BBQ’ing, etc.  There were pockets of people here and there, but by and large it seemed under-utilized.  Things were clean and grass was well-maintained, but people just simply weren’t there.  Of course, I was just concerned about who was at the White House, so I just drove by and observed the emptiness.  The event was from 12 – 6 pm, and we got there around 2:00.  You buy tickets at a table up front which you use for drinks.  We bought drink tickets and got in the large line.

We had plenty of time to check the place out because the line was extremely slow.  They had the tables set out and people were playing chess, checkers, Candyland, dominos, etc.  There was a cooking station where People Pierogi’s was serving up 3 different stuffed pierogis.  The small bar was set up with the kegs hooked up to Igloo cooler boxes serving the beers on tap.  They had 3 or 4 on tap at a time, and had 6 or 8 varieties they planned to rotate through the day.  It was nice to hang out in the yard, with the historic 2-story White House as a backdrop.  Being fall, the bees don’t know what to do with themselves, so they were around looking to scope out the trash cans, and any beer.  SAM_0932The coasters on the tables served as top-hats to keep the bees out, rather than as preventers of water-rings on the tables.


Now back to the line.  It started out fine, standing and talking, and enjoying the nice fall day.  We mosied along a bit chatting and taking in the scene.  After a while, it started to dawn on us how slowly we were actually covering ground.  I tried to push the impatience out of my mind, but it was coming on strong.  Soon, the people around us started to talk about how long they’d been waiting, how long someone else had been waiting, how long the line was, etc.  Several minutes and a few inches farther along, the discussions changed- SAM_0928somewhat.  Instead of the people in front of us talking about how slow the line was moving, we had people coming up to their friends and saying how they needed another beer, but no one wanted to stand in line again for 30 minutes, so they were heading somewhere else in town to drink beer.  By the time we made it to the bar, I ordered my full allotment of 3 beers I had planned to spread throughout the afternoon and we carried them to the table.  We’d spent 30-35 minutes, and the line wasn’t getting any shorter.  It was actually getting longer.  Although people were leaving that had their first round there because they couldn’t take the line for a second time, there was also a steady stream of new people coming in, so the line never shrank.  It just kept filling up with new people.

Our sit at the picnic tables was nice.  The beer was good and fresh tasting, and it was fun trying to figure out dominos.  This game is much more complicated than it would appear.  I thought it was just something where you laid them out on the table and matched up numbers.  We tried that and it was really lame and really short.  So I decided to look at the rules.  There were about 6 different sets of game rules, all of them involving several paragraphs of rules.  I decided that was ridiculous, and the dominos just needed to go back in the box.  It was a decent distraction for 3 beers.  We were done, we’d eaten pierogis (delicious), and were not interested in standing in the even longer line now.  Luckily, I’d heard that Detroit Beer Company was having an anniversary party and all beers were $2.  So we were off…