Barry County Brewfest and Beard Derby 2018 Review and Photos
Residents of Barry County and the surrounding areas traveled to Delton last Saturday to take in the 2018 Barry County Brewfest and Beard Derby. Some traveled even further to enjoy great tasting Michigan craft beer and other beverages and also to compete in a one of a kind Beard Derby.
Each Brewfest pass came with five tasting tickets. We made sure to purchase more at the cheap price of $1 each as we knew there was a long list of beverages we wanted to try. Between the two of us, we sampled a wide range of beverages including beer, cider, mead, and wine. We tried to avoid the brands we had already tried, instead favoring new to us beverages.
In our preview article, we highlighted how excited we were that Schramm’s Mead was going to be represented at the 2018 Barry County Brewfest. The first station we sought out was of course Schramm’s where we gladly paid the reasonable two tickets per sample glass of these award winning meads. We tried samples of Blackberry, The Statement (Traverse City balaton cherry mead), and Ginger (honey wine fermented with ginger). You will of course see these names again on our top five lists below. I can’t say enough about how good the product is from Schramm’s. We are so happy that Barry County Brewfest and Alliance set up having these bottles at this event. The bottles did not last long, as those who knew the quality of the product quickly drank up all the samples available.
While our preference is normally beer at festivals like this, we made a point of trying ciders, meads, and wines as well. We sampled four different ciders from Farmhaus Cider (Hudsonville), which included a cider with cucumber (Crushable), a cider with pineapple and basil (Tropical Vibes), a cider lemonade (Skinny Dip), and a cider grapefruit lemonade (Grapefruit Skinny Dip). We also tried two ciders from Tandem Cider (Suttons Bay), which were both based with apples (Smackintosh, Green Man). Sietsema’s Cider (Cedar Springs) was also new to us and we tried two of their four drink offerings (Lemongrass, Slightly Sweet).
Other than cider and mead, the other big new breweries for us were Ludington Bay Brewery and Tujax Tavern (Delton). We sampled all three drinks from Ludington Bay, which included a west coast style IPA, a brown, and a hefewiezen. The hefewiezen (Summer Fling) was our favorite of the three. We tried two of the three Tujax Tavern offerings. The Wilkinson Raspberry Wheat was our favorite of the two we tried (Coffee Stout was the other).
It’s hard to pick just five favorites each after trying so many great beverages. It also seems unfair to not include beers we’ve drank before and didn’t enjoy at this event. We also tried to come up with two different top five lists, which was hard to do as several of these would have appeared on both of our lists. I can say without a doubt that the Ginger from Schramm’s Mead was the best thing both of us tasted and if you get a chance to try it, please make sure you do.
Here are Jon’s five favorite new drinks tried at the 2018 Barry County Brewfest:
- Schramm’s Mead Ginger: I was more excited to try Schramm’s Mead than anything else on the menu. While I enjoyed all three of their offerings, the Ginger was my favorite as it had a great balance of sweet honey and spicy ginger flavors. It was also deceptively smooth for 14% ABV.
- Starving Artist Blood Forge: Blood Orange has become a somewhat trendy ingredient to add to beer lately, but that doesn’t mean it always turns out well. This was my first beer from Starving Artist, and it was delicious. There’s plenty of citrus flavor here but still a great hop profile in this DIPA that clocks in at 10.5% ABV.
- Tandem Cider Green Man: I love green apple in just about anything, so trying this cider was a no-brainer. Tandem seems to have a solid handle on making delicious cider that’s also easy-drinking.
- Walldorff Brewpub Batch 1000 Tangerine Cream Ale: I loved the favor of this beer from my hometown. This would be the perfect summer crusher!
- Pigeon Hill Barrel Aged Walter Blondale: I’ll readily admit that I’m rarely a fan of blonde ales, and having had the regular version of this beer I wasn’t too excited to try a barrel-aged version. This one absolutely blew my mind! Nine months in bourbon barrels did wonders for this beer, adding sweetness with subtle bourbon and a low ABV.
My five favorite new drinks tried at the 2018 Barry County Brewfest:
- Schramm’s Mead Ginger: Full disclosure that Mead is not my forte when it comes to drinks. I shared in my brother’s excitement that one of the top rated meaderies in the world was going to be present at the Barry County Brewfest. I was blown away by this mead and couldn’t believe how smooth it was.
- Ellison Brewery Sexy Little Thing: I loved this Australian-hopped IPA from Ellison. This marks the second year in a row I selected a beer from Ellison in my top five (last year – Relativity). This brewery knows how to make some great tasting beers.
- Starving Artist Coconut Rubenesque: I was glad to see Starving Artist as a returning brewery at the festival, as it was one of my favorites in the first year. This stout combines toasted coconut and coffee beans to create a great tasting stout.
- Ludington Bay Brewing Summer Fling Hefeweizen: Ludington Bay was a new brewery for us to try and is one of the newer breweries in Michigan as well. Mixed in the sea of IPAs and Stouts was a great Hefeweizen from this newer brewery. I liked the style and thought it was one of the better tasting beers I had on this day.
- Schramm’s Mead The Statement: Again, mead is not my forte, but if everyone makes it as good as Schramm’s it might become my go-to. This is considered one of the best meads on the planet by many users. This mead uses Traverse City cherries and was great tasting. So very glad we got to finally try what is considered one of the best tasting meads out there. Seriously, find yourself some Schramm’s Mead to try and see what you’ve been missing.
It’s hard to know what everyone’s favorite drinks were at the festival. We did gather some data of drinks that ran out, which would signal strong demand to try their products. The Schramm’s Mead did not last long, which we figured would happen and are so glad that we got to the festival earlier than later. Grand Armory ran out of their Blurred Limes cream ale during the fest. We also weren’t surprised to hear that Pigeon Hill ran out of their OCP (oatmeal cream pie) beer, which has become one of their most popular drinks. Starving Artist Blood Forge was also out by the time the festival ended.
The other big event at the Barry County Brewfest is the Beard Derby. This year’s event was hosted by the Bearded Villains of Michigan. The Bearded Villains is a local chapter (and one of two in Michigan) of a worldwide organization that has more than 5000 members. The national organization started in 2014 in Los Angeles thanks to Fredrik Von Knox, the president and founder of the group. Today, more than 200 chapters operate around the world using social media and live events to connect as a brotherhood and also raise money for charities.
We had the chance to speak with Bearded Villains captain Shawn Hill about Bearded Villains and the Beard Derby event. The Bearded Villains was started as a group that sought to change the perception of people with beards. The organization includes a lot of former military veterans and operates as a brotherhood. As another Bearded Villains member put it the group is “Better Men for a Better World”.
If you saw kids running around at the Barry County Brewfest, chances are you saw them with gift bags and fake beard cutouts. That’s all thanks to Bearded Villains who made the bags and like to provide a different perspective to kids of how guys with beards aren’t as scary as they may think.
The Bearded Villains raise money for charities throughout the year. Proceeds from the Bearded Villains at the Barry County Brewfest went to Mission 22, an organization based out of Indiana that seeks to help spread awareness and end the fact that veterans commit suicide at an alarming rate (22 per day). Mission 22 operates with volunteers and if you are looking for an organization to get connected with or donate to, we strongly encourage checking them out. The Bearded Villains also participate in the annual Autism Walk in Detroit, also raising funds for a great cause. If you have a bear and are looking to join a brotherhood and connect with other bearded fine folks, we can’t recommend Bearded Villains of Michigan enough.
People with beards at the Barry County Brewfest competed in the third annual Barry County Beard Derby. The categories were:
- Business Beard
- 4 to 8 inch Beard
- 8 to 12 inch Beard
We watched the Beard Derby and also managed to snap some pictures during the event. Jackson Hoke was the big winner at the third annual Barry County Beard Derby. Hoke took home top honors in the 8 to 12 inch beard category and also won Best of Show at the event. Kyle Girrbach won best business beard. The mustache category included two men from the Upper Peninsula. We also heard one contestant in a category coming from Pennsylvania. Ryan Sheibley, popularly known as the Ginga Ninja, came from Indiana as a celebrity judge during the competition.
The third Barry County Brewfest saw rain showers for a portion of the time. That didn’t stop people from enjoying this great event. While the Michigan Brewers Guild festivals will always have the largest amount of breweries and beer selections, we encourage Michigan beer lovers to attend small festivals like this as well. The Barry County Brewfest is the perfect size for people to try some different breweries they never have and also sample some different styled alcoholic beverages and also some unique tastings.
The Barry County Brewfest will return in 2019, changing locations once again. The event is scheduled to take place in Nashville on August 3, 2019. The event will coincide with a sesquicentennial celebration of the village of Nashville. We will see you there! Be sure to like the Barry County Brewfest Facebook page for the latest event information.
*We received free admission and five tasting tickets each for our attendance and review of the festival. We purchased additional tickets at the festival. All opinions are our own*