Beer enthusiasts gather for return of U.P. Fall Festival

Over 80 breweries gather in Marquette for 12th annual Beer Festival


Keegan McGonigal

PIPES AND LAGERS—Superior Pipes and Drums set up near the Blackrocks tent during the U.P. Fall Beer Fest to entertain with Celtic traditional music. Superior Pipes and Drums is the U.P.’s first-ever bagpipe band.

Maggie Duly, Social Media Editor

The streets of Marquette flooded with beer enthusiasts on their yearly pilgrimage to Mattson Lower Harbor Park for the 12th Annual U.P. Fall Beer Festival on Saturday, Sept. 11. People from across the country gathered on the lawn adorning pretzels and various snack necklaces, hops and traditional German clothing from 1-6 p.m.

This year there were over 80 Michigan-based breweries signed up to participate in the annual U.P. Beer Festival and around 4,000 beer drinkers in attendance. There were local favorites like Ore Dock, Black Rocks, Barrel and Beam, Drifa and Superior Culture as well as some larger known brewers like Short’s, Bell’s and Founders. Food trucks and restaurants set up in the event to feed the beer-thirsty public local delicacies like fresh Lake Superior whitefish. Various bands and musical ensembles played at the main stage and roamed the festival grounds to accompany the beer lovers on their march for the best Michigan brew. 

The event was canceled last year due to the pandemic, but the general consensus was that everyone was stoked to be back in the U.P. this year. 

“This is probably our favorite festival,” Marie Powers, co-owner of Homegrown Brewing Co. said. “We just love being in Marquette, on the water, in the U.P. it’s all awesome.” 

Marie and her husband and co-owner, John Powers, have been coming to the U.P. Beer Festival put on by the Michigan Brewers Guild since 2017 and they said that this crowd is always “really into beer.”

With every admission ticket, each person is given 15 tokens and a durable little cup to use at any of the brewer’s tents. Each token gets the customer a 3 oz. pour of their choosing. There were more tokens for purchase at the main tent for beer emergencies. But between you and me, 15 3 oz. pours of craft beer are plenty. 

There were beers for every drinker: IPAs, stouts, sours, blondes, seasonals, lagers, oh my! The Ore Dock Brewery, with a home-field advantage, had one of the largest lines for most of the event. 

“It’s a really great time to get our brand out there,” Ore Dock Brewery Sales Advocate, Blayne Sheppard, said. “There’s a lot of people that travel from all over the state and even coming from Wisconsin, I’ve seen some people come from out of state, which is a spot where we hope to have our beer at some point in the future. It’s a really good thing for us, all the festivals that the guild puts on bring thousands of people in.” 

The Ore Dock brought a few beers from their limited North of Nowhere series including head brewer Jacob Shea’s original ginger rye IPA, doubled.

“My favorite beer here is Jake’s Rhizome Rye. It’s a double IPA. It was our head brewer’s first beer that he brewed on the Ore Dock System,” Sheppard said. “He did a regular ginger rye IPA and he wanted to bring the anniversary of that back and made a double this year so it’s a little high abv but it has a great body, super luxurious beer and it definitely has a great flavor to it.”

Vendors encouraged contactless pouring by filling pitchers of beer to use and avoiding picking up each customer’s cup or by having the customer hold their cup under the taps. Some brewers brought cans to pour out instead of taps. 

The event was not completely dominated by local Marquette and U.P. brews. There were many popular breweries from downstate including Perrin Brewing Co. from Comstock Park here for their first U.P. Beer Fest.

“It’s Marquette, on Lake superior. It’s Michigan and the end of summer, it’s amazing up here. We want to enjoy it. Honestly, it’s my kind of vacation. And the crowd here is amazing. Marquette is so friendly and fun,” Perrin Brewing Co. brewer Jay Green said.

Many of the breweries involved in the event brought at least three different types of beer; some tents had 14 different options. Vendors brought merch and free swag for the beer drinkers like stickers, frisbees and more. 

“Black ales do really well in the U.P. You’ve got Keweenaw Widow Maker, Upper Hand does a black ale and so do we. People love that style. We want to just squeeze in there and hang out with everybody,” Green said.

There was a moment of downpour rain mid-way through the event, but the weather took a turn for the better and became hot and sunny and the people began to cheer. In fact, there were a few times when the whole park would erupt in a cheer but the source of excitement remains unknown. It’s safe to assume beer had something to do with it.