Beer Festival attracts thousands to Riverside Park in Ypsilanti
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.Â
"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 AnnArbor.com.