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Posted on Sat, Jul 25, 2009 : 5:28 p.m.

Beer Festival attracts thousands to Riverside Park in Ypsilanti

By Diane Brandt

Beer fest crowd.jpg

Long lines form as enthusiasts wait to get into the Summer Beer Festival on Saturday. (Photos by Robert Ramey)

Phil Campbell of Ypsilanti is philosophical about what he drinks. 

"In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is strength, and in water there is bacteria,” said the 45-year-old Campbell.

With 70 breweries, the state of Michigan ranks fifteenth in the nation for breweries, according to the Brewers Association, a national group that tracks such statistics.

Some 8,300 beer enthusiasts showed up at the Michigan Brewers Guild’s 12th annual Summer Beer Festival Friday and Saturday at Riverside Park in Ypsilanti.

They sampled a wide array of “craft beer” brewed mostly by brew pubs or microbreweries — those producing less than 30,000 barrels annually.

According to the Brewers Association, that sector of the beer market nationally grew 5.9 percent in 2008.

In Michigan, growth in the craft beer market was 10 percent last year, according to Michigan Brewers Guild President Eric Briggeman.


The quiet crowd of friendly people formed long lines well before the official 1 p.m. opening Saturday. “Enthusiasts,” or dues-paying members, were admitted at noon.

Many unfolded lawn chairs and sat and socialized while waiting to get in.

“What I like (about beer) is the way it brings people together,” said Michelle Hamel, 48, of Grand Rapids.

Once inside, beer lovers drank three-ounce samples of a wide variety of beer sold by 51 brewing companies.

The offered conventional beers and the less conventional: honey porter, stout, ale, German beers and many others.

Roaming the festival to the rock sound of Detroit’s Reggie Smith & The After Party, many of the beer lovers paired their beer with substantial lunches purchased from vendors — and in some cases, cake and ice cream made with beer. A sign warned that the ice cream still had some alcohol content.


“You won’t see many people out here getting drunk,” said Hershel Davis, 58, from Battle Creek. “This is taste. This is enjoying beer.”

“This is such a great crowd,” added Victor Lambert, 43, a festival volunteer from Stockbridge. “This isn’t a ‘Hey, let’s get rowdy’ crowd.”

Many beer lovers made it a family affair.

Dave Morse, 35, or Burlington, Iowa, brought his wife Becky, 38, and their 5-month-old son, Ben.

Morse likes to make home brew in three-gallon batches in his kitchen while holding Ben.

“And I’m the chief taster and bottle capper,” Becky Morse added.

Diane Brandt is a freelance writer for



Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 10:51 p.m.

Ryan Munson...I'm sorry, but the person below the comment is the person that wrote the comment. I posted about the thanks for the Ypsi positive article. Mike Jennings was the one who wrote about unconventional.


Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 9:43 p.m.

I went to the beer festival a few years ago and thought it was great! Glad to see it is still going strong and I hope to make it out next year. Like BobG said; make it Friday evening for no lines and (in my eyes) a better experience!


Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 7:55 p.m.

You wont see many people out here getting drunk, said Hershel Davis, 58, from Battle Creek. This is taste. This is enjoying beer. haha - what a joke. I've been to a handfull of these, including the one in Lansing and Grand Rapids and have finally given up on them because of guys like the one quoted above. They give thimble sized portions of beer for $30 - long lines - no bathrooms..... that's not enjoyable to me and I'd consider myself a beer drinker. Taste is important and you don't have to get drunk, but I'd take a 24oz. Budweiser over this beer fest anyday...


Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 6:38 p.m.

Good article. For those thinking of attending next year, there is a less crowded Friday night session from 5-9 pm. No lines of any significance.

Ryan Munson

Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 6:30 p.m.

Hyspi, I doubt the use of "unconventional" was used as an insult as you have perpetrated it to be. Maybe specialty would have fit your conservativeness?

Kristina Birk

Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 11:47 a.m.

Something that was missing from your posting was a mention of the festival's admirable goal of zero waste. Most of the disposable items were made of sustainable or eco-friendly materials. There were recycling stations set up all over the park, staffed by workers who made sure the right waste went into the correct bin. To successfully implement zero waste with over eight thousand people gathered to drink and eat is amazing!

Mike Jennings

Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 8:28 a.m.

In the future maybe you should consider doing a little research before writing an artical on a subject that you know very little about. You consider honey porter, stout, ale, and German beers to be unconventional. Do you drink beer. A stout is a very common style of beer (think Guiness) and is an ale. Being an ale only has to do with the given beers style of fermentation (top vs. bottom fermented or warm vs. cold). The vast majority of beers at the Festival were ales. As for German Beers you can walk into any Pub or Bar in town and find a good Germen Beer on tap or in a bottle. If you were paying attention at the Festival (did you go?) you would have found the really unconventional beers: the Peanut beer from Bastone; Spite Peppered Pale Ale from Founders; 440 Pepper Smoker from Original Gravity; Ancho Chile Dutch Double Chocolate Porter; and something unlike any other beer Kuhnhenn's Cherry Panty Dropper served from a slushie machine. Those were some of the unconventional beers this weekend. I look forward to tasting more of them in three months at the Inaugural Harvest Festival held 10/24/09 at Eastern Market in Detroit.


Sat, Jul 25, 2009 : 11:01 p.m.

Wow it would take a quite a few beers before that broad would even be a four...Ypsi can sure throw a party...


Sat, Jul 25, 2009 : 10:14 p.m.

Yeah! Thanks for an Ypsi positive article!

Macabre Sunset

Sat, Jul 25, 2009 : 8:53 p.m.

It's nice to hear about a category where Michigan doesn't rank first (unemployment) or last (economy). But can't help wondering if both A2 and Ypsi could solve their respective budget problems by having a few extra patrols on the streets and highways tonight. Burp.