5 things to try at the Michigan Summer Beer Festival

Tom Gromak
The Detroit News
Mark Rowe, of Watervliet's Arclight Brewing, pours one of their lambic ales at the Summer Beer Festival in Ypsilanti.

If you’re going to the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival in Ypsilanti today, here are five things you probably need to try.

Anything by Arclight Brewing. This small Watervliet brewer quickly became one of our festival favorites when we sampled the Soursmith Black Raspberry Lambic. Lambics are beers brewed in open vats where wild yeasts and bacteria are allowed to work for a year or more to create tart or sour ales.

The Soursmith Black Raspberry wasn’t exceptionally tart, but it was tasty, kind of resembling the flavor of a black raspberry jam. And it came recommended by Kevin DeVries, a Founders Brewing sales manager, who said it was one of his festival favorites as of Friday evening.

Arclight’s also brought a Soursmith Kriek, a gold-medal-winning tart cherry sour aged for a year in wine barrels, and pomegranate and apricot lambics.

“We’re known for our sours,” said Arclight’s Dave Coyle, who admits they weren’t always in his beer range. He was trained to like them by his head brewer, Ed Nash, who “turned me on to sours in just one night” while sampling one after another.

Arclight’s brewpub is in a former car dealership in Watervliet, and its beer menu is varied, from light lagers to bourbon-barrel aged ales. Coyle said the brewery has a goal of distributing its beers to the Chicago and Detroit markets in the coming year. For now, they’re in the “back 40” of the summer beer festival. It’s worth the walk.

Cinnamon Coconut Night Fury from Witch’s Hat Brewing. It’s a delicious variant on the brewery’s standard Night Fury stout, and it’s got a lot going on. The flavors come in waves, and we found the cinnamon – an actual cinnamon flavor, not the cinnamon red-hot variety – up front, with chocolatey coconut notes in the finish. It just works. And it’s always fun to see what Witch’s Hat does with Night Fury at festival time.

While you’re there, also consider the Traxx Night Fury, a bourbon barrel stout with peanut butter and vanilla beans, or the straight-up vanilla bean Night Fury.

Frozen stuff from Sherwood Brewing and from Batch Brewing. It’s going to be warm and sunny, so you should stop by Detroit-based batch’s stand where they’re pouring slushie versions of some of their beers with new flavors going on the machine every hour. We’ve long been fans of Batch’s Marta Rita sour, and the slushie version is deliciously similar, but a little less tart and a little more sweet. Watch as they roll out Jasmine Chamomile Wit, Lemon Berliner Wiesse, and More ZRBTT-er Raspberry at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. respectively.

Jessica Sanchez, of Sherwood Brewing, serves up a honey porter beer gelato at the Michigan Brewers Guild's Summer Beer Festival.

Sherwood’s got an ice cream cart on site, from which they’re serving beer gelato. We had the honey porter beer gelato, and it was a deliciously refreshing treat. Even the non-drinker in our party sampled and loved it. They ran out of beer gelato Friday, but promised to bring a lot more today.

Old Nation Brewing will have a variant of M-43, creamsicle, on tap at 3:30 today. Friday’s variant was a strawberry tart M-43. It wasn’t exceptionally tart, but it was definitely M-43 and the subtle, not-overly-sweet addition of strawberry just worked. But arrive early and expect a long line because the pours on Friday only lasted about 15 minutes and many left disappointed. Also know that Old Nation will have a special line just for the M-43 variant, so don’t get into the wrong one.

While you’re there, try one of Old Nation’s other beers to remind yourself they make more than just hazy IPAs. We enjoyed Black Currant Daymaus Sour.

Visit Brewery Vivant. And it’s easy. It’s the first stand you’ll come to when you walk in the gates. We liked the Red Delicious, a strong red ale aged in Gray Skies Applejack barrels. Its flavor wasn’t exceptionally boozy or overly strong as strong ales are, but it was a pleasant drink. While you’re there, try Hop Field, a nice IPA that features, among other hops, “Mi Heritage” hops, a species never before recorded and discovered by Brewery Vivant’s brewer.

It’s a great story and a tasty beer.

The Michigan Brewers Guild 2018 Summer Beer Festival runs through 6 p.m. today in Riverside Park in Ypsilanti.