Fun at Winter Beer Fest

Happy Thirsty Thursday to you! Oh wait, it’s Tuesday? Oops, sorry, but this is my blog, and if I feel like celebrating Thirsty Thursday on a Tuesday, I have the power to do so, dammit!

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending The Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival! The hubs, my cousin, her hubs and I purchased tickets just after the 1st of the year, and they sold out soon after. We were looking forward to this day of drinking for awhile. So when I woke up and threw up my breakfast Thursday morning, I was not a happy camper. Thankfully, the hubs was able to work from home so I could do a bit of resting up and by Friday evening, I was determined to go as the designated driver if I had to. Screw you, flu!

Saturday, the day of the Festival, I woke up feeling worse than ever. I had to skip my last yoga class of the session… *sigh* and try to rest up a bit. It was a good thing I did. By the time our sitter & my cousins showed up at noon, I was starting to come around. I wasn’t feeling 100%, but I wasn’t feeling as bad as I did when I woke up either. All four of us bundled up and headed to Founders, where the GR Hopper was supposedly going to pick us up for the festival at 5/3 Ballpark at 1p.

The Founders Express, pictured with our awesome driver, Frank

We got to Founders and it was busy as hell, but we managed to snag a table and get a round, even though my pussy-self wasn’t ready to drink full-fledged alcohol yet, so I stuck with root beer. The hubs asked the bouncer what the status was on the Hopper, and the bouncer didn’t know anything about it. That wasn’t a good feeling. So, the hubs contacted the Hopper via phone, and they claimed they had already picked up one load and were on their way to pick up another. About a minute later, the bouncer came over to our table, asking us if we wanted to ride in what we dubbed The Founders Express basically, only Founders elite were allowed on, and for some reason, they thought we were cool enough to join in. We loaded in, and were offered a bottle of Founders Pale Ale as soon as we sat down. If you know me at all, you know I’m not a huge fan of Pale Ale, however, I do make an exception when it comes to free beer in a somewhat sponsored vehicle!

the view from inside The Founders Express

To my surprise, the Pale Ale wasn’t as hoppy as it can sometimes be. Interesting, huh? I went from feeling like crap, not knowing if I’d even be able to drink anything at the actual festival to enjoying Pale Ale? I didn’t overthink it, I just enjoyed it. We listened to some hair bands, drank some beer, had some laughs on the drive there. Frank, the driver was awesome and said that he’d be back toward the end of the fest to give us all a ride back.

Off we went to the festival, looking for the end of the line… we walked… and walked… and finally reached the end of the line a half mile back. Thankfully, the line moved really fast, which was a trend that continued throughout the day. I know many people have wondered how we could stand around drinking outside for 6 hours in February. We basically dressed like we were going skiing. We’re Michiganders, we know winter. If you don’t like the cold, you need to wait for the summer beer fest! But to me, the weather was practically perfect for winter drinking. It was overcast for the first couple hours, around 25-30 degrees and not a lot of wind. Plus, there were warming stations around the festival as well, bonfires & portable heaters. By the end of the festival, I actually witnessed a few people taking their shoes off and holding them by the fires & heaters. Too funny. But it did snow quite hard for the 2nd half of the festival, so I can understand if it affected people’s poor choice in footwear.

There were tents set up in a u-shape where the 62 Michigan breweries had their serving-stations set up. The tents were big enough to stand in, toast & drink if you wanted, but for the first part of the fest, it was generally lines only. Not a big deal. Most of the lines moved fairly fast, as getting your cup filled with 3 oz for 1 token and 6 oz for 2 tokens didn’t take much time at all. Many times, the 1 token got you much more than 3 oz.

The people in attendance were amazing. Everyone was very laid back, just looking to have a great time celebrating beer in the winter. Every 15 minutes or so another toast would randomly occur, where just about the entire festival would cheer loudly and hold up their beer. Loved that. I’d say the ratio of men to women was about 3:1, and you could tell some of the women chose to look cute and freeze instead of wearing their ski jackets. Yes, I did have an alternate winter-outfit picked out, cute coat & hat… but I chose to dress for warmth, and I’m glad I did!!

The food = wow. Just the perfect winter food: turkey legs, brats, pasties, etc. YUM!!! I made pretzel-necklaces for my cousin & I: pretzels, cheerios & gummy life-savers! But once the snow kicked in, they were useless. Soggy as hell. Note to self for next year: wear it on the inside of your coat if there’s any form of precipitation. But I was happy to chow down on a brat and take a few bites of the hubs’ beef pasty.

The beer… oh yes, the beer. It went down easier than I thought it would, but of course, I do love me some Michigan craft beer!! Between the fresh air and the friendly atmosphere, I felt right at home and made some great choices at the breweries we visited. And no, we didn’t visit them all, I didn’t even use all of my tokens. My cousin said you can use them at the next festival. I’m so there! My favorite beer I consumed Saturday was by far, Short’s Carrot Cake Ale. And before you go on thinking it’s some girly-girl beer, it’s not. Yes, many girls will enjoy it, but it’s not super sweet or an overwhelmingly carrot-cakey taste to it. You smell it and all you can smell are those awesome spices, but when you taste it, you know you’re drinking beer, and I was IN LOVE with this beer. So were many others, when I went back to get another round of it along with the rest of my party, who tried mine initially, Shorts was out of it. *sigh* So now I’ll just have to search high & low for it… or drive up to Bellaire. Either way.

The thing is, I really didn’t taste a beer I didn’t enjoy at the festival! I would’ve loved to try a few more, but I was pretty done by the time 5:30p rolled around, and my party was as well. So we made the journey out of the park to find either the GR Hopper or the Founder’s Express. After a little searching, wondering why we exited so hastily instead of snagging one more round, we finally found the line for the GR Hopper. And not a second later, the Founder’s Express showed up! Frank welcomed us right on, handing each of us another beer, and proceeded to shoot the shit with us while we waited for everyone else to load up. I think we waited on board for another 30-45 minutes, but it didn’t matter. My kids were taken care of, I was warm, I had a beer, I felt FANTASTIC, what more did I need? Oh yes, a bathroom. As soon as we arrived at Founders, my cousin & I ran in and made a b-line to the bathroom… but it was worth it! We had such a blast. Ate dinner, filled our Founders growlers, and were home by 8:30p. The hubs was snoring in a chair by 8:59p. I was still in shock that I felt so great. Guess I just needed to put a little alcohol on it.

If anyone is interested in doing a meetup at the next Michigan Beer Festival, please let me know. I think it would be fun to toast in person for a change!

In the meantime…

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