DRAFT PICKS: Beer is a festival

As summer sadly comes to a close, there is a flurry of activity on the beer festival scene. Luckily, many of the fests and celebrations are relatively close to home.

Celebrations such as Hops & Props on the River should draw a big crowd.

This is the second such celebration in Michigan’s Victorian Port City and should be a great time for all attending — especially beer lovers who will be able to choose from a fine selection of brews.

Twelve breweries will be highlighted during the weekend festival, and those attending will be able to sample from among 40 examples of the best brews Michigan has to offer.

The Keweenaw Brewing Company team will bring their Widow Maker Black Ale and Pick Ax Blonde.

Founders will be on hand with their popular Porter, Reds Rye and All Day.

Bells will be well represented with Two-Hearted Ale and their Best Brown.

And there will be plenty more — from hefty stouts to peppy ciders.

There also will be music for most of the afternoon and evening, and of course, the boats and boat parade.

Hops & Props on the River promises to be a great celebration of finely crafted boats, and exceptionally fine brews.

A week later, on Friday, Sept. 20, Big Rapids will be home to the eighth annual Germanfest held at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.

Germanfest will take place from 6:30 to 11 p.m. at St. Peter’s, located at 408 W. Bellevue St.

The festival is much more than many of the Oktoberfest-style celebrations held throughout the state, but it does maintain the best elements of Oktoberfest with great food and spectacular beers.

The price of admission includes an exceptional meal with traditional fare such as bratwurst, pickled herring and sauerbraten.

Note well ... organizers only sell tickets in advance of the festival and not at the door.

Four beers straight from Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany will be offered, as well as wines from the region around the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Tickets for beer and wine are sold separately from the dinner and admission ticket, and drinks will be limited to four per customer.

There will be lots of traditional “ooompa-ooompa” music throughout the evening, a dance floor for those so inclined, and a variety of ‘feats of strength’ and other contests for the entertainment of the crowd.

Tickets are $35 each and attendees must be 21 years or older. To purchase tickets, visit Cash and Carry Lumber or call Laura Viel at (231) 796-2511.

Finally, on Saturday, Sept. 28, beer lovers can head north to Cadillac for the now annual Fall Fever Craft Beer Festival.

Visitors are invited to celebrate the taste of autumn in downtown Cadillac at the city’s park alongside Lake Cadillac.

Events include a multi-tent craft beer festival, classic car show, live music and food and craft vendors for the adults.

Local produce and farmers will be on hand marketing their harvest goodies.

The Park opens at noon, classic car show runs from 2 to 5 p.m., craft beer, music and the vendors will be busy from noon to 11 p.m.

For more information, contact Fall Fever Festival Committee Chair, Joy VanDrie at 231 920-5189.

And now ... for something you can try at home!

Goose Island 25th Anniversary Ale

Goose Island Beer Co.


Obviously this brew is a celebratory batch. Twenty-five years to ... something. Whatever this Anniversary Ale is celebrating, it must have been important. Unfortunately, the label is more impressive than the contents.

This is Goose Island’s nod to a classic Extra Strong Bitter ale.

It pours loud and busy with a substantial head forming and disappearing just as quickly.

The brew itself is a rich amber leaning toward the reddish hue.

It really is quite inviting, but don’t expect a “red” just because this kinda looks red.

First sniff introduces us to a spicy blend with distinct hoppiness that is anchored to a refined malt base. There is a little bit of a tinny nose to this brew — just enough to give one pause and a touch of worry about the coming taste.

The first swish reveals that the nose wasn’t too far off in its evaluation.

The malted tones are right up front, with a strong sense of the hops right there as well. The tinnyness, (my tasting partner suggested more a copper taste than tinny), is easy to pick up on, but it does not distract too much as has been the experience in the past.

It’s not pleasing, but at the same time it isn’t totally unpleasant.

There is a touch of caramel sweetness that somewhat balances out the mix.

This is not a hard beer to swallow, but at the same time it isn’t one I suspect I’ll be hurrying out to pick up in the near future.

In my opinion, the Goose Island team have done better work. That isn’t to say this is bad. Not at all.

But ... it could have been a little more crisp and on target.

Horny Monk Belgian Dubbel

Petoskey Brewing


I picked this up in my travels up north and haven’t found Horny Monk locally ... yet.

It is worth a taste, although I think brewers get a bit too enthusiastic about tossing names or titles such as “Belgian Style Ale” out there.

This is a nice beer, but I would find it difficult to place it in the Belgian Ale category. Maybe so ... but a bit of a stretch.

Nevertheless, Horny Monk pours a deep red with distinct amber tones sparkling through.

There is a decent clean, slightly off-white head that forms quickly, stays around like froth on a good cappuccino, and then drifts off leaving just a hint of lacing.

At first nose, there is a real fruitiness to this brew, with rich caramel background tones. As explorers continue, they’ll find a certain faint yeasty aroma, but this is easily overcome by the fruit and spice scents.

First taste shows the scenting proves the experience to this point, supporting the ripe fruit, solid spice, and an almost too strong sweetness — almost cloying.

Then the somewhat sticky, pervasive sweetness kinda takes over.

It’s not bad, but it is not my cup of tea ... or beer.

The roasted malts are nice, but the overall sweetness somewhat masks the totality of the experience.

Don’t get me wrong. For most drinkers, this will be a very enjoyable brew — especially when properly chilled. This will certainly be a great beer for winning over the Philistines from the standard American ‘industrial’ beers and introducing them to new flavors.

Horny Monk is sweet-ish, lightly flavored, somewhat fruity, and offers itself as a great ‘threshold’ beer.

It is, once again, a little too ‘fruitsy, sweetsy’ for my taste, but it will be very attractive to a good many beer drinkers.

Belgian Ale?

I just don’t know.