U.P. Fall Beer Fest

LOCAL+BREWS%E2%80%94Marquette+resident%2C+Lucas+Dishinger%2C+enjoys+a+beer+outdoors.+The+U.P.+Fall+Beer+Fest+hosted+101+beer+vendors+and+over+4%2C000+attendees+on+Saturday.+Photo+courtesy+of+Rachel+Haggerty+

LOCAL BREWS—Marquette resident, Lucas Dishinger, enjoys a beer outdoors. The U.P. Fall Beer Fest hosted 101 beer vendors and over 4,000 attendees on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Rachel Haggerty

Jake Bekemeyer

The near quarter-mile line, ending past Sol Azteca on Lakeshore Boulevard, buzzed with people talking about what beer they were going to drink, and more prominently, how much. When the clock struck 1 p.m., the festivities began as attendees flooded into the park as fast as the ticket takers could scan. Some more scrupulous guests counted the beer tokens in the small plastic baggie, ensuring they received all 15.

The Michigan Brewers Guild (MBG) U.P. Fall Beer Fest hosted 101 beer vendors and over 4,000 attendees on Saturday, Sept. 6 in Mattson Lower Harbor Park, along with live music and some places to grab a bite to eat.

Beer: it is both the purpose of the event and the dominant smell. It’s what everyone in the quarter-mile line was waiting for. Large vendors like Founders, from Grand Rapids, had booths surrounded by brand representatives directing customers toward the people manning the taps.

Smaller vendors like Railtown Brewing Company from Dutton, Michigan, had two pourers behind the counter.And although their line didn’t compare to the ones around the Founders or Bell’s tents, it wasn’t short by any means. For every person in the crowd there to drink their favorite beers, there was one looking to try something totally new.

One of Railtown’s owner’s, Justin Buiter, said that it’s always worth making the trip up to Marquette this time of year.

“It’s by far the most laid back of the four festivals the MBG puts on,” Buiter said.

Railtown has been open since 2014, offering up a unique selection of fruity, dark and bitter brews. Three customers in a row ordered the Citra Warrior and Buiter mentioned the beer used to be seasonal, but by popular demand is now brewed “most of the time.” He described it as a citrus-based IPA without all the hops, which customers have embraced.

Even for small breweries like Railtown, the community and friendships with other brewers is strong.

“We get to see a lot of the people we don’t normally see, people who don’t make it downstate for those festivals,” Buiter said. “We’re all friends so it’s good to be able to see each other.”

The close-knit relationships became evident as the afternoon wore on, brand representatives and brewers who had finished their shifts behind the bar now waited in line with the attendees to get their hands on beers they’ve been itching to try.

The crowd grew as the afternoon wore on. After two hours of steady drinking, the crowd became sloppier, louder and more rambunctious. A man walking around in armor made from a Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale case followed another man known only as The King of Pretzels, who, inexplicably, wore a pretzel twist cape and a crown made of rods.

“Bow to your king,” he yelled at anyone trying to snap a picture.

A brewer at Keweenaw Brewing Company, Shawn Christensen, was thrilled by the turnout of the crowd and the vendors.

“Everyone from downstate says this is the best one of the MBG festivals. A lot of small brewers like us don’t travel downstate for those ones, but everyone finds a way up here,” Christensen said.

There was a healthy population of U.P. breweries, whichrounded out what is lacking from the MBG festivals downstate.

The most impressive display was from Ore Dock Brewing Co. local to Marquette. Large wooden beams and boards were assembled to resemble the frame of a small building with a sign displaying their name in big letters. It could be spotted from anywhere in the festival not blocked by a tent.

The crowd was massive and everyone was drinking something different. Although each beer had a unique flavor profile and scent, the air smelled very generically of beer—sour, wheaty and strong. Steve Kremer, a sophomore business major at NMU, was enjoying an Upper Hand IPA as his first drink of the day.

“I’m looking forward to trying a lot of different things,but IPAs are definitely my favorite,” Kremer said.

Although they’ve been very popular for over five years, IPAs remain one of the most popular brews at the festival.

Of the 650 available brews, 176 were IPAs—  that’s nearly 30% of the selection. An informal survey of festival-goers pointed towards this fact as well, as other members of Kremer’s group were drinking the same thing.

Despite occasional cloud cover and threats of rain, spirits remained high for the duration of the festival. The Organgrinders Blues Band rocked the early portion of the festival with infectious blues while Frank An Da Beanz kept the crowd rocking into the early evening. There was not a face without a smile as the crowd dispersed. Brewers began to shut down, but no one was saying goodbye, but instead an enthusiastic, “See you next year!”