Barry County Brewfest – Great First Year for Michigan Beer Festival and Beard Competition
Barry County Brewfest was held in Middleville under a gorgeous brand new pavilion on Saturday August 20th. Despite multiple storms and tornado warnings across the West Michigan area, attendance was strong and guests kept drinking even in rain and storms. This first year event was a great success and assuming there is a 2017 event, a can’t miss for West Michigan beer fans.
I attended the event (see earlier preview here) with my buddy Rigo, who entered the first annual Barry County Brewfest Beard Competition. Yes you read that correct, this beer fest had a beard competition. More details on the beard competition later, but here’s more on the beer.
We sampled the following beers at Barry County Brewfest:
- Arbor Brewing Strawberry Blonde (Blonde) 7.7%
- Arbor Brewing Mackinac Island Fudge Stout (Irish Dry Stout) 5.5%
- Arbor Brewing Euchre Pilsner (German Pilsner) 5.5%
- Bell’s Quinannan Falls (Special Lager) 6.3%
- Bell’s The Oracle (Double IPA) 10%
- Brite Eyes Rooibos Reserve (Tea Infused Amber) 5.1%
- Brite Eyes Bit of Heat (Habanero IPA) 6.1%
- Brite Eyes Fearless the Idiot (American IPA) 6.5%
- Brite Eyes Flemish Breakfast (Belgian Golden Strong) 10%
- Dark Horse Kamikaze Kaleidoscope (Witbier) 5%
- Gonzo’s Biggdogg Burning Sun Redd (Amber Cream Ale) 5%
- Gonzo’s Biggdogg Geyser Brown (Nut Brown Ale) 7.2%
- Griffinclaw Norm’s Raggedy Ass IPA (American IPA) 7.2%
- Griffinclaw Flying Buffalo (Bourbon Imperial Stout) 12%
- Keweenaw U.P. Wit Bier (Witbier) 5.5%
- Keweenaw Pick Axe Blonde (Blonde Ale) 4.7%
- New Holland The Carhartt Woodsman (American Pale Ale) 4.4%
- New Holland Ichabod Ale (Pumpkin Ale) 5.5%
- Shorts Cerveza De Julie (Mexican Lager w/Lime) 5%
- Shorts Huma Lupa Liscious (Classic IPA) 7.7%
- Starving Artist Hop Marley (Double IPA) 9.5%
- Starving Artist Son of Maize (Belgian Cream Ale) 5.5%
- Walldorff Brewpub Sundancer (Summer Wheat) 5%
- Walldorff Brewpub Bee Sting Honey Rye (Honey Rye) 6.5%
- Walldorff Brewpub Bistro Blonde (Blonde Ale) 8.2%
After trying many beers from breweries we had tried before and some new, these are the five beers that stand out as our favorites and are worth noting. If you have a chance to try any of these beers, I highly recommend it.
- Arbor Brewing Strawberry Blonde – great tasting blonde with hint of strawberries, very smooth
- Arbor Brewing Mackinac Island Fudge Stout – coming from a non-stout lover, this was an incredibly smooth, chocolaty goodness of a beer.
- Brite Eyes Flemish Breakfast – this was the very first beer we tried which was not on the original tap list. This 10% beer was brewed with waffles and maple syrup and tasted delicious.
- Gonzo’s Biggdogg Burning Sun Redd – this amber cream ale was delicious and our favorite of several stand out cream ales at the Brewfest.
- Walldorff Brewpub Bee Sting – this beer has been a favorite of mine for years and continues to be the bestselling beer at Walldorff Brewpub. This beer has won medals and is one I am constantly recommending. I made Rigo try this beer and he loved it, keeping the tradition of getting people hooked on Walldorff beer alive.
We also tried wine from Hastings’ own winery Glass Creek Winery. We tried the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (12% abv). This wine was like a cherry cream and had great flavor. We would love to try more wine from this new winery in the future.
We were glad to try beers from two breweries we had never had any products from before. These breweries were Brite Eyes and Starving Artist. We were incredibly impressed by Brite Eyes (Kalamazoo’s smallest brewery), which was our first stop. We tried all four of their beers and the Flemish Breakfast, listed above, was one of our festival favorites. We tried two beers from Starving Artist, a newer brewery in the Ludington area. Starving Artist Son of Maize just missed our top five favorite beers at the event.
You won’t see a beard competition at every beer festival, but perhaps that should change. Heritage Beards sponsored a competition that judged attendees and their beards in several categories. Prizes were awarded in the categories of goatee, business/short beard, and long beard. Around 30 people competed in these categories, which were judged by three bearded judges. Rigo finished in second place for the business beard.
Heritage Beards is a Hastings based company that offers beard products like a wooden comb, beard oils, and beard wax. If you have a beard, you will want to head to their website right now and place an order for some of their great products.
We also enjoyed pizza from Faro’s Italian Pizza, a local pizzeria based right in Middleville. Guests could get a slice of pizza for one ticket, which was a bargain to us. We had more than enough pizza at the event and are so glad Faro’s was there. Rigo tried the jambalaya from Riverdog Tavern as well and was equally impressed.
Overall, this was an incredible event and one we are looking forward to in the future. While it lacked the massive number of breweries (25+) at the major Michigan beer festivals, it made up for it with quality of breweries and pricing. There were 18 breweries present at the event. As mentioned in my preview, the breweries were secured by going through distributors. We only saw representatives from Walldorff, Brite Eyes, and Latitude 42 at the event. The rest of the drinks were poured by volunteers.
Tickets to the event were $20 in advance and $25 the day of. Each ticket came with five drink tickets and a souvenir 4.5oz drink glass. Additional tickets, which were also good for food, were only $1 each. Each drink at the event costs one ticket, which is on the cheaper side compared to other festivals. We found great value in being able to try more than 20 beers at this event and also get food at a decent price. It was also nice to be able to try beer from almost every brewery represented at the event, something nearly impossible at the larger festivals.
Cheers Barry County! We can’t wait to be back at Barry County Brewfest 2017. Big thanks to this event, all the breweries we saw, and to Heritage Beards, the sponsor of the beard competition.
*Disclaimer: We received free tickets to the brewfest, which included five drink tickets. We purchased additional tickets for food and beer. All opinions of the beer and event are our own.*