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Back To The Future–The Evolution Of The Winter Beer Festival.

I just finished my 12th Michigan Winter Beer Festival. That’s all of them so far. I was fortunate to be on the Michigan Brewer’s Guild Board when we decided to have a second beer event. Our summer beer festival was finally in the black and there were funds left over to plan with. Eric Briggeman proposed we have the party in the middle of January at a park that had winter themed activities. We even explored the idea of hosting the bash on a frozen lake (the insurance was something like $100,000). This was Eric and Fred Bueltmann’s way of showing how tough, resilient and dedicated the Michigan Beer drinker is. We love the snow! Sub-freezing temperature and seemingly endless snow stores–bring it on! I thought that nobody would show; that we need to rent an old theatre or someplace with heat and a toilet or two. I love winter sports, but drinking is for afterwards, right?

Eventually, we decided on a tented outdoor event in an urban setting: Old Town Lansing. It’s a very similar community to our beloved Eastown. We had a 60 foot and 40 foot tent connected in an “L” shape. There were twelve porta johns. Twenty breweries represented with over fifty beers on offer. I threw two kegs in the back of my truck, a couple of picnic pumps, and was on my way! On arrival it was difficult to park anywhere near the tent; there was no logistic help. Luckily I had my trusty hand truck and a strong back. I had forgotten about signage. So I improvised with a large pizza box and some duct tape! All the breweries brought standard higher gravity beers (this statement no longer has any meaning in today’s beer universe). I don’t remember what I brought– probably a triple and a stout. The music began and people to filter in. The flag dropped at 1:00 and off we went, eagerly awaiting our fledgling, but growing Michigan craft beer fans! To our dismay, that’s not who showed.

Please remember that Old Town is a small section of Lansing, just west of East Lansing, which could effectively be renamed Michigan State University. These folks became our new demographic for the day! This could have been an opportunity to broaden the beer drinking horizons of these young, enthusiastic students, who had unfortunately (through no fault of their own) been ruthlessly marketed to and fed an inadequate diet of heavily diluted and economical beverages. Surely with the right direction and guidance, we could assist in developing these fertile minds with our nuanced, artisanal, and enlightened approach to thirst quenching. We were very excited to see several hundred eager Spartans auditing this very special one day class, “conceptual augmentation of fluid replacement in alternative climates.” It didn’t work that way.

Five hours later, after several arrests for various pubic infractions of local jurisdiction, we ran out of test material and adequate laboratory subjects. Experiment terminated. Fortunately for us, we had an ample amount of local and professional observational analysis to assist us on how we could alter our experiment more effectively in the future. It would require a more substantial foundation of capital investment for the Old Town Association to insure a repeatable experimentation format. In the interest of education and pure science, the test must have sufficient controls in place.

We repeated the experiment the following year. Interestingly enough, we found very similar (if not identical) results, even with the alterations of experimental design. It was determined that a foundational change was needed in the future. It was agreed upon that a new location must be found–perhaps even in a completely different part of the state. We all smiled genuinely and settled on a new frontier–West Michigan. This time it worked, thanks to the Michigan Brewers Guild and Michigan beer drinkers. Here’s to science and continued success!
Brewer John

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B.O.B.'s Brewery
B.O.B.'s Brewery


20 Monroe Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503


Sun - Wed: Closed
Thu: 4:00pm - 10:00pm
Fri: 5:00pm - 12:00am
Sat: 5:00pm - 12:00am