The 2011 Michigan Brewer’s Guild Winter Beer Fest was everything a beer lover born within these great peninsulas could love.  28 degrees, snow, bonfires and of course ounces upon gallons of some of the best beer made on planet Earth.

It’s amazing to see how Michigan beer has caught fire.  Having been in this business for several years, I’ve seen the struggles that most of the breweries have went through.  The times of being run out of stores and bars with the owner laughing at the thought of craft beer is far behind us.  With nearly 7,000 people in attendance on Saturday, this event sold out a month before the gates opened.  There were many beer lovers that didn’t get in this year, but the tickets went on sale December 1st, 2010.  So those that missed out need to move a little faster next year, for tickets next year will go on sale at the same time.  Mark it on your beer fridge, with a steak knife.

Scott Graham Director of the Michigan Brewer’s Guild said: “165 barrels of beer were poured or Saturday” that’s over 20,000 pints of beer!  If that doesn’t say Michigan loves it’s beer no matter what the temperature, then I’ll buy stock in InBev.”

There were 56 different breweries showing off some amazing brews.  The popular breweries had lines that stretched beyond the tents, but with 56 breweries to choose from getting a beer was never a problem.  Some of the special released beers only made it into the hands of those in line when that beer got tapped, but you can’t expect to get every small batch at such a large event.  Plus getting a beer from one of the brewpubs is why I go.

The breweries that distribute had their guns a blazin’, but getting a beer from a brewpub that I’d have to drive to, to drink one of their brews that’s what I came for.

Lily’s Seafood Grill and Brewery has a Spiced Porter called Yukon Cornelius that was fantastic.  They happened to be in the same tent as Jolly Pumpkin and Kuhnhenn, both of whom had long lines most of the day.  In that tent there was also Jaden James Brewery.  They had a Russian Imperial Stout that I found delicious.  Passing by these breweries is a sin in my eyes.

The way I see it, there are 2 good things to see in this large crowd.  One, the Michigan craft beer scene is finally getting the respect it deserves and two with long lines it will push some of the newer beer lovers to breweries that they haven’t heard of.

Looking toward next years Winter Beer Fest, the board of directors is going to have to make some decisions about how to handle the festival and account for the growing demand. “2 day (festival is a) pretty tough logistically due to freezing concerns but possibly 2 sessions” and “We certainly will work to accommodate more attendance.” said Scott Graham.

To see more on some of the beers at the Winter Beer Fest keep your eyes peeled for Kris Bakken and Paul Stewart’s reviews from the fest itself.  I hope you made it, but if you didn’t plan on next year.

EDITORS NOTE: We will also have a photo gallery up with pictures from the event.