We journeyed to Jackson, Michigan to attend the Southern Michigan Winter Beer Festival. The festival was sponsored by Experience Jackson and Grand River Brewery and was hosted by the Jackson County Fair. It was our first non-Michigan Brewers’ Guild Festival so there was some anxiety in the car. Turns out the anxiety was unwarranted, like most anxiety, and we had a fantastic time! Thank you Rebecca Calkins from Experience Jackson for inviting us.
We have over 100 pictures in our photo gallery of the festival! We’ve featured only a few in our post. Please stop by the gallery and check out the other photos. There were so many great shots it was hard to pick.
The Fourteen Reasons to attend the festival:
1. New Brews
Disclaimer: We are card-holding Michigan Beer Enthusiasts. It took a little time to warm up to the idea of sampling non-Michigan Craft beer. “Michigan” logos highlighted the Michigan Brewers in the beer guide, so we easily found a few of our favorite Michigan Brewers: Dark Horse, Griffin Claw, Schmohz, Shorts, Arcadia, Bell’s, Petoskey, and Founders. We eventually let our bias go and tried a few non-Brewer’s Guild brews.
Green Flash Brewing Co.
Palate Wrecker was originally brewed for the Hamilton’s Tavern 2nd Anniversary celebration. It’s the most complicated West Coast–inspired IPA we have ever brewed—mashing and sparging with hopped wort, in addition to our hop layering regimen for IPA. By popular demand, it is now released for the world to enjoy.
Chuck also liked Hop Stoopid, from another brewery in California, Lagunitas Brewing
The beer with a guarantee built right into the name, this one is massively dry-hopped for your aromatic pleasure.
You won’t find Chuck sampling the ciders, but I like them. There were a few that I liked from Crispin Cider Co, including the Fox Barrel Blackberry Pear. Crispin Cider is also located in California. (What is up with California?)
The Vander Mill Ciders had two tasty ciders: Totally Roasted and Chapmans. Vander Mill Ciders is a Michigan-based company and their cider rocked! Yummmmm I’m planning a visit to their mill in Spring Lake, Michigan. Their menu has veggie options too.
Chapman’s Blend — Chapman’s blend is a tribute to John Chapman, better known as “Johnny Appleseed”. It is made with four types of heritage apples including: Winesap, Baldwin, Northern Spy, and Jonathan. It is a semi-dry cider with a clean fruit flavor and slight carbonation.
Totally Roasted – This cider was specially made for a draft customer in Grand Rapids, MI. You will notice that soaking pecans in cider brings a unique texture and taste to the drink. We use cinnamon and vanilla during the roasting process and follow that up by adding vanilla beans to the cider. These subtle tastes certainly make this cider all its own.
2. No waiting
We were surprised by the size of the crowd. The place was packed BUT you never had to wait in line for a beer. Yes, you had to wait a few minutes for the bathrooms but never more than a minute for a beer.
3. Beards Galore
We noticed some dudes with really cool beards. It didn’t take long for Chuck to become friends with the co-president of the Jackson Beard & Mustache Club, Lyman Robertson.
(Lyman is on the left with the pretzel necklace.)
And we met the 3rd place beard finisher from Gears, Beards, Beers competition that was held on March 1st at the Grand River Brewery. If this guy was third, what the hell did the 1st place beard look like?
4. Creative and Delicious Food
This festival had some of the best food I’ve found at a beer festival!
For all you that are over 40, you may remember the Golden Nugget in Irish Hills. Yep, Randy’s is in the same location.
I personally didn’t try the BBQ Pork Sundae, but everyone that I saw eating it said it was great.
Kibby Cobb Deli
This bagel was so good, that I got a second one. OMG…. It was that good. Perhaps is a good thing that Kibby Cobb is located in Jackson, Michigan, or I’d have one of the homemade jalapeño pretzel bagels with hot mustard every day. That would not be good for my waistline!
(The man responsible for the awesome bagel! )
Stone Hearth Breads & Bakery
The Stone Hearth Breads & Bakery from Brooklyn, Michigan had an impressive display of baked goods. They are family-owned Michigan Business. Give them a like on their Facebook Page, if you’ve got a few seconds.
5. Awesome Beer Glass
We’ve been to a number of beer festivals and I can say these were the best tasting glasses to date!
(Randy Day showing us his glass was empty!)
6. Fair Atmosphere
Maybe being on the fairgrounds created the “atmosphere”. It definitely had a community vibe — like a small town community fair. Everyone was excited to be there, to check out the beers, eat the food, share stories and see friends they hadn’t seen since the God awful winter of 2014 started.
All day long there was a drawing for swag. I didn’t win, but I didn’t enter either.
8. Lively Cornhole Games
If you drink Michigan beer, there is a pretty good chance you’ve played a cornhole game. If you need an explanation, you shouldn’t be reading this post.
Picks and Sticks String Band provided music.
The festival was hosted by the Jackson County Fair. It was easy to find and park. The best perk of the Fair Ground location was the WARM women’s bathroom inside the pavilion. It was so nice to not pee in a porta–john that had been demolished by a few hundred guys ahead of you. You could wash your hands in a real sink too.
11. THE CROWD
The festival goers are always fun and out-going. You always make a few new friends. We met Waldo and somebody from the Waterloo Munith Chug Club.
The Utility Workers of America were in the house too!
I didn’t actually meet this guy, but we thought this jacket worthy of a picture.
Plus there was some Dark Horse love!
And these two were just too cute!
Talk about a flashback to our Imperial Margarine days, if you are too young to remember, there is a “vintage” YouTube video.
13. Campfires and the wood guy
Some of the event was outside. There were a couple fires this guy kept going!
14. It’s Fun
Probably the best reason to go, it is fun.
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Please check out the other pictures in our photo gallery of the festival! We’ve featured only a few in our post.