The third weekend in May marked the 16th Annual World Expo of Beer in Frankenmuth, Michigan.
While I’ve driven through a small corner of the Wolverine State and have changed planes in Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport hundreds of times, I have never set foot on non-airport Michigan terra firma before. Finding a cheap airfare, why not go and check out this event, plus the Bavarian town of Frankenmuth? What a great way to “officially” record my 50th state!!
More than sixty breweries were represented in the main tent and pavillion. Too many to mention, (so here’s the list) though many are Michigan or Midwest craft breweries including local brewpubs Sullivan’s Black Forest Brew Haus & Grill, and Frankenmuth Brewery, plus Big Rock Chop & Brewery, Wolverine State Brewing Co., The Schmohz Brewing Co., Right Brain Brewery, Saugatuck Brewing Co., Short’s Brewing Company, New Holland Brewing Co., Thirsty Dog Brewing Co., Blue Tractor Brewery, Griffin Beverage Company, Bastone, Arbor Brewing Company, Keweenaw Brewing Co., Tri City Brewing, Mount Pleasant Brewing Co., Great Lakes Brewing Co., Goose Island Beer Co., and Bells.
A few national companies including Magic Hat, Leinenkugel, Boston Beer, Pabst, and Harpoon were present, as well as Unibroue, Hofbrauhaus of America, Wiehenstephan and Diageo Guinness for the “world” part of the expo.
The festival is presented by the Frankenmuth Jaycees and is very well organized. There are shuttles from local hotels to Heritage Park, many people stay overnight, and clearly Michiganders know about and frequent the event. It was sunny and in the low 80s Friday and Saturday, thus a huge crowd attended.
Wandering through a veritable sea of folks wearing Tigers, Redwings, and Lions gear (yes, even the Lions were represented!) I was clearly in the vastly outnumbered minority in my Steelers hat. (I decided to leave the Penguins hat home, I’m not suicidal!) According to publicity, over 250 beers could be sampled. This is a beer-for-ticket event, no unlimited sampling. Many booths had lines all day long. I view this as a good sign; there’s something worthwhile waiting to be tried.
As I tasted over two dozen beers, I only remember a few: The most interesting was Bastone’s Chili Beer, a golden beverage with the scent and aftertaste of jalapeños. I’m not sure what I would pair this with, maybe a mild cheese or chocolate to cut the edge, but a very unique flavor with a chili bite. The least appealing was Short’s Black Licorice Lager. This tasted like a liqueur from my father’s liquor cabinet I snuck to get drunk when in high school.
Quite tasty was the Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, which has been available for a few months but I hadn’t gotten around to trying. I didn’t sample the Jeremiah Weed products, though all the people around the Diageo booth were raving about it.
Since it was May 21, Judgment Day as some predicted, at exactly 6:00pm I had a Unibroue La Fin du Monde. How could I resist especially since so many reviewers have given it such a top rating! If it’s the end of the world as we know it, I wanted to go out with the right drink in my hand. La Fin is quite enjoyable with a floral scent and citrus aftertaste. Alas, the world did not end, life goes on, more beers to enjoy!
Besides the sampling, there were also ongoing beer pong games, a liter mug holding contest, food stalls, non-food vendors, and more.
Definitely a fun event and well worth marking on one’s festival calendar.