Experiencing Northern Michigan: Cadillac Craft Beer Festival 2017

The 9th Annual Cadillac Craft Beer Festival took place last Saturday, September 23, on Cadillac’s hottest day of the year. It was 92 degrees out, surpassing our highest temperatures across most of Michigan this summer. What better weather than a scorcher to make us Michiganders and tourists alike celebrate together with ice-cold craft brews?

The Beer Fest was founded in 2009, and since its humble beginnings driven by hardworking local organizers, the festival has grown to become a favorite in the community and throughout the state. General admission gets you five drink tickets (which is a lot, especially considering some craft beers are 12% ABV) for $25 in advance or $30 at the gate, while VIP Beer Geek tickets are $50 in advance or $60 at the gate and offer exclusive extras. Craft beer vendors at this year’s festival featured an eclectic range of breweries all over Michigan, including from Grand Rapids, Detroit, and our Northern Michigan community.

Atwater Beer from Detroit served one of my favorite drinks of the night: the Vanilla Java Porter. I personally like darker beers, and the rich coffee flavor was an added bonus. From beer and cider to wine and mead, this year’s #ccbeerfest had it all. Bee Well Meadery from Bellaire was there pouring King’s Hard Apple Cider, King’s Cherry Cider, and Apple Pie Mead (none of which I tried but all of which sounded delicious), and local vendor Cadillac Winery also offered a generous variety of classy wines.

Right Brain Brewery from Traverse City served a lighter beer I liked called Cake Walk, and I enjoyed a pour of Humalupalicious from Short’s Brewing Company in Bellaire. Perrin Brewing Co. from Comstock Park (north of Grand Rapids) had two fantastic beers on the fruitier side, if you’re into a little sweetness: their Blackberry IPA and Cherry IPA are both certified divine. Cheboygan Brewing Company’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat was well-liked among my 9&10 colleagues, and Dark Horse Brewing Company from Marshall brought their Raspberry Ale (one of the first adult beverages I had back when I turned 21). So good!

As you sip a souvenir six-ounce glass of craft beer and wander through the scenic City Park at the Cadillac Commons, you’ll see yard games scattered across the grass for buzz-induced fun. There’s the popular cornhole tournament where competitors pay $10 to challenge teams for a chance to win a 100% cash payout. There’s also a giant Jenga set that attracts onlookers eager to catch a glimpse of an epic save or dramatic clamor. Then there’s the challenging Wallhooky (I got it after only five tries!) and Shishkaballs set up to play as you mingle and drink.

Other breweries with booths at the Beer Fest included Farmhaus Cider Co. from Hudsonville, Lake Ann Brewing Co., Mountain Town Brewing Company from Mt. Pleasant, Stormcloud Brewing Company from Frankfort (voted Michigan’s Best New Brewery by MLive), Trail Point Brewing Company from Allendale, Creston Brewery and Cranker’s Brewery from Grand Rapids, and Clam Lake Beer Company from the heart of Downtown Cadillac. Plus, Home Brew finalists Brian Priddle (with his Ripper IPA) and Joe Mix (with his Wild Sourcherry Wheat) competed for the 5th Annual Home Brew Competition, where brews are judged based on “aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, and overall impression.”

Food vendors at this year’s Beer Fest featured At’s A Wrap, a local food truck that looks like a tiny house serving grilled wraps guaranteed to satisfy even the most intense cravings. Given their mouthwatering menu, I ordered the Comfort Wrap, stuffed with macaroni and cheese, chili, and Fritos (it lived up to its apt name). Staying hydrated and fed throughout the festival is important, and a seven-dollar wrap from At’s A Wrap is well worth devouring (share one with a friend for the perfect portion size). Also, the best gyro I’ve ever had was from the blue food truck serving meals by lamplight after dusk.

The live music at this year’s Cadillac Craft Beer Festival was one of the highlights of my experience. Headlining were The Way Down Wanderers, a “fast-paced and soulful, five-piece modern-folk Americana act” from Peoria, Illinois. I was excited to hear their rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and their songs that got a crowd on their feet dancing the rest of the night. From the Midwest, The Go Rounds were the opening act, and “Locally Grown” musician Zak Bunce took the Beer Fest stage through a glorious afternoon.

Even with temperatures breaking the 90s, the weather could not have been more perfect for spending a Saturday outside. Shade from the City Park’s beautiful canopy of trees and the tents protected crowds, vendors, and volunteers from direct sun and heat. Leaves were all decked out in their early autumn best, and as the breeze over Lake Cadillac gently coasted across South Lake Street, water from the fountain could cool you off if you stood close enough to feel it. At night, the twinkling lights dangling throughout the park glowed magic. By 9pm, it was last call, the sky was dark, and the event was officially a success.

Volunteers truly make the Beer Fest possible. From assisting with ticketing and merchandise sales to pouring drinks and representing local breweries, they are the best when it comes to supporting Michigan products and the local community. With around 100 volunteers this year, over a dozen community sponsors, and more than 15 participating vendors serving 3-4 flavors each, the Cadillac Craft Beer Festival offers a great reason to get outside on a gorgeous autumn day, experience something new, have fun, and fall in love with the lively oasis Cadillac is becoming.

Categories: Experiencing Northern Michigan