Combine some tasty craft beer with a huge mix of music in downtown Traverse City and you have the 8th annual Traverse City Winter Microbrew and Music Festival.
Traverse City Winter Microbrew and Music Festival
The Traverse City Microbrew and Music festival has a summer and a winter version. This year we trekked up to Traverse City to check out the winter festival. The event takes place at the Sara Hardy parking area located at Union Street and Grandview Parkway. The mastermind behind this combination of two of our favorite things is Porterhouse Presents which powers many of the music and art events in Traverse City.
In addition to beer and music, the festival includes food options of wood fired pizzas, BBQ, and paella. Just like running a marathon, festival attendance requires pacing and making sure you get a good base established.
Early Bird or Beer Guru
At 3pm sharp, the early flood gates opened and we picked up our drink tickets and souvenir glass. When we bought our wristbands, we opted for the Beer Guru option. Beer Guru gets you more drink tickets, snacks, a reserved set of ports-Johns, and access to some special beers. However, given that you are considered a guru you get a smaller glass. It is about the size of a shot glass. The only problem, it is tough getting a decent pour into shot glass without a lot of foam. Your best bet is to go for the early bird entry where you get a larger glass and less tickets. This way you spend less time in line and more time enjoying the music. Thankfully, our friends ended up with extra Early Bird wristbands. We traded in our shot glasses for a bigger cup and headed off to enjoy some beer and music.
Who Wants A Beer?
As you would expect at a festival with the name “Microbrew”, there was a good assortment of craft beer on hand. The brewers were spread out across the festival grounds in three main tents: Hops, Malt, and Brew Guru. A few more could be found bridging the gap between big tents.
We were very happy to see our friends from Dark Horse, New Holland, Arbor Brewing, Stormcloud, Kuhnhenn, Draught Horse and Brewery Ferment. Each brought a nice selection of their rock-star brews. A few had some special releases for the beer gurus. These were sprinkled around the festival with various pouring times. You had to be on your toes to catch these rare brews.
The festival included a couple of newcomers to the ever-expanding Michigan brewery list, Burnt Marshmallow from Petoskey and Monkey Fist Brewing from Traverse City. Burnt Marshmallow Brewing’s “S’more Porter” lived up to its name. After one, I wanted some more. Their “Juniper Saison” had a crisp and dry finish.
Monkey Fist Brewing offered up feisty IPA. Given that the monkey appears to have been drinking all day, I’m not sure why he looks so angry in the logo. All in all the beer was solid.
For those who don’t dig beer
If you don’t like beer, don’t worry. The festival has you covered with a selection of wine, mead, and ciders.
A unique addition to the Traverse City Winter Microbrew and Music festival was a homebrewers competition. Six beer-slingers took their best shot at the stout/porter style of beer. The winner of the competition will be able to brew a batch of their recipe at the Filling Station Microbrewery in Traverse City.
We didn’t hear who won the competition. However, I can say that each of the beers were damn good and drew a good crowd.
Stop & Taste Conversations
Before the main music acts got rolling on the Hops tent stage, Fred “Beervangelist” Bueltmann pulled together Kyle Hollingsworth, Mike Shimmin, Peter “Madcat” Ruth, and Nicolas Barron to chat about their love of beer and music. This was recorded for the New Holland Brewing “Stop & Taste Conversations” podcast.
Each of these musicians are beer enthusiasts and some have taken the plunge into brewing. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to these guys talk about the art of music and the art of beer. The similarities between making music and making beers became clear. Be sure to check out this wonderful podcast with a beer in hand.
Music, Music, Music!
While it is great to enjoy some fine Michigan beers, the real treat at the Traverse City Winter Microbrew and Music festival is the music. From start to finish, the music is running non-stop across each of the main tents. I had a naive perception that I could bounce from stage to stage and catch every act. The reality is that the tents get busy and the music overlaps. You just can’t have it all. In the end, I got to hear a boatload of terrific music, but missed a few bands that I wanted to check out.
The Strapping Owls
Lifting off from the Hops stage with sweet, soulful blues were the Strapping Owls. This is probably the only band I know where the sousaphone takes the place of the bass guitar. Fred Bueltmann makes the sousaphone work as the bass lines were grooving. Drummer Larry Beers put just the right amount of swing into the rhythm to make you move. Nicholas Barron energized the audience with his captivating voice and tasty guitar playing. For more pictures of the Strapping Owls, stop by the gallery.
Joshua Davis Trio
Hometown music icon Joshua Davis had the crowd in the Hops tent eating out of the palm of his hand. He drew the audience in with his heartfelt music and expressive voice. Mike Shimmin drove the performance with percussion. Mike Lynch added splashes of color and rich melodies on the piano. The crowd loved every minute of their set. By the look of the smiles on their faces, it was clear that the Joshua Davis Trio enjoyed each moment too. See our gallery for more pictures of the Joshua Davis Trio at the Traverse City Winter Microbrew and Music Festival.
Over on the Brew Guru stage, Charlie Millard was digging deep into the rich soil of Americana inspired music. If you can imagine the offspring of Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, and Rufus Wainwright rolled into one, then you’d have an idea of what the Charlie Millard band is all about. Drop by the gallery for more photos of the Charlie Millard band.
The Lucas Paul Band
If you want to have fun, I mean, if you really want to have fun and get down with your bad self, then you need to hear the Lucas Paul Band live. Playing a mix of originals and power pop, funk covers, these guys had the Malt tent packed from front to back. Everyone was moving and digging the music. The power of the groove was strong with the Lucas Paul Band. Check out our gallery for more pictures of the band.
The physical ability for music to move your body and soul was driven home by the beautiful soul of the Nth Power. While I loved the contributions of the band as I whole, I was stunned and amazed by the drumming of Nikki Glaspie. Her powerful drumming sat right at home with the pocket full of groove delivered by bassist Nate Edgar.
Nick Cassarino fervent vocals were matched by his guitar playing. This brought a spiritual uplift to the music of the Nth Power. Last but far from least, Courtney Smith added his emotive vocals and joyful accompaniment on the keyboards. Together, this band radiates the positive life affirming effect of music on the mind and the body. There are more pictures of the band in the gallery.
As I watched someone put a “cheese” sticker on one of the stage monitors in the Hops tent, Sam Porter of Porterhouse Presents introduced the main event at the Traverse City Winter Microbrew and Music festival; Kyle Hollingsworth.
Kyle had mentioned earlier in the day during the “Stop & Taste Conversations” podcast that he enjoys improvisation in both beer making and playing music. As the band started it was evident that they were here to brew up a brilliant batch of music.
The term that usually gets applied to Kyle’s music is “jam band”. As with pioneers in the arena of improvisational rock music such as the Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, and Widespread Panic, Kyle Hollingsworth took the audience on a joyous adventure of tonal exploration. With beers held high, the crowd smiled, danced, and celebrated the joyful gifts of music and beer. Our gallery has a few more photos of the Kyle Hollingsworth band.
The Traverse City Winter Microbrew and Music festival was a feast for the senses. The beer was tasty and the music could set your soul on fire. The weather was fine and the location downtown was convenient. Once the festival started to close, we headed over to the Union Station to catch another set of the fantastic Strapping Owls while enjoying a New Holland Hoptronix. Be sure to peek at the gallery for a bunch more photos from the festival.
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