Friday, February 8, 2013

Winter Beer Fest Preppers

Michigan Expats - Commentary - See All Commentary
By Doctor

It's February in Michigan which means that 1) there's snow on the ground and 2) it's the perfect time to gather in large groups and drink Michigan craft beer. Yes, the Traverse City Winter Microbrew and Music Festival is tomorrow, and the Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Fest is now only two weeks away. 

Both are well organized, fun events, featuring dozens of Michigan breweries, but it is important to properly prepared in order to maximize your experience. Therefore, here is the official 2013 Michigan Expats Winter Beer Fest Preppers Guide (updated from the 2012 version).

1. Transportation - It's a beer festival, so you'll be drinking. Arrange for someone to drop you off and pick you up after the festival. Being safe is priority number 1.

2. Arrive Early - The smart ones are the Brewers Guild Enthusiast Members and those who purchase the VIP tickets to the Traverse Festival which grant them entrance an hour before general admission. There's a lot of beer to sample and the lines can get long. If you're craft beer hardcore, that first hour with shorter lines are worth it.

3. Food/Petzel Necklaces - Be sure to have a good meal base before the festival. You'll want to sample a lot of beer and no one recommends this on an empty stomach. Make a Petzel Necklace - simply string pretzels on a string and tie it around your neck providing an easily accessible tasty snack while you're waiting in line and drinking beer. These festivals also have great food vendors. Support the vendors and treat yourself to some of the delicious food.

4. Water - The festivals run for five hours and feature hundreds of beers. It's a marathon. Just as important as food will be (see above), so is staying hydrated. However, since one hand will already be occupied by beer and you don't want to carry around a water bottle all day, fill up a CamelPack with water. I did this last year for the Winter Beer Fest and it worked extremely well. Along with helping hydration this also has the probable secondary benefits of 1) being a conversation starter and 2) that there's the slight (read: likely) chance that later in the festival I'll try and convince one of the pourers/brewers to fill out the CamelPack with beer (this unfortunately did not happen last year).
Coyote skin hat keep Chaz warm

5. Tactleneck - OK, I stole that from the world's most dangerous spy, Sterling Archer, but it's going to be cold out there folks. "What do you think this is, Miami Beach." "Not hardly." It's February in Michigan, so that base layer Under Armour cold gear mock turtleneck is essential although I'm going with Spartan green instead of black or slightly darker black. Patti at I'm a Beer Hound even recommends an extra pair of socks in case you step in slush: "Look out for that first step. It's a doozy." Momma Needs a Beer also has specific tips for the ladies at the festival. I'm not sure about the socks, but I may stick an extra hat and gloves in my parka in case of wet heavy snow or tragic beer spillage.

6. Attack Plan - With hundreds of beers on tap, and no federal agency telling you which beers you can and can't drink, one is left make their own game plan. Yes, you'll be walking around and can see what most of the breweries have on tap, but it can be easy to miss a particular brewery or beer. Especially with certain breweries tapping special beers at specific times. Both festivals post site-maps ahead of time, and with a little effort you can find the lists of beers the breweries will have available. Make a victory attack plan, rifling through the beer lists and trying to come up with a somewhat just less than reasonable goal of beers to target Saturday.

With Kim from Mount Pleasant Brewing Co.
7. Meet the Brewers - What I love about the TC and Brewers Guild festivals is that the breweries supply their own staff and the brewers are also in attendance. This provides an excellent opportunity to learn about beer and breweries that you're not familiar with or don't visit that often. These are entrepreneurial individuals with great passion for their breweries and their beers. The beer's right there. Let them tell you about it while you enjoy it.

8. Wingman - Han and Chewie, BBQ Bob and Joppie, Maverick and Goose, and Jay and Silent Bob. Quintessential wing men and partners that help each other make good decisions or make bad decisions epic, but definitely help make the stories better and clearer the next day.

I guess I have 8 main tips, a few more than last year. I hope the guide helps and that everyone has a great time at the festivals. Please let us know if you're going and what your favorite breweries and beers are at each event. We're also still looking for tickets to both festivals, so if you've got extra drop us a line.


  1. Great tips! :) I will use them tomorrow in TC. We do have one extra VIP ticket. . . had a friend bail last minute today Looking forward to it!

  2. Hope you're having a good time. We didn't make it up, but are having a beer at Schmohz. I hope the ticket got used.

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