The U.P. Fall Beer Festival is a crazy good time. Upon entry you’re handed a handful of beer tokens to be exchanged for sampler size portions of Michigan Beer. And then you’re faced with one tough decision…
Where do I start?
Multiple tents host more than two dozen brewers serving well over one hundred and fifty different types of beer. You could pour over the map/beer menu to pick your launching off point, or you could just go with it and pick whatever jumps out at you first. Whichever you choose, you’ll soon be asking yourself yet another tough question.
I bought my ticket for this year’s U.P. Fall Beer Festival from the Michigan Brewers Guild’s web site for $30. And when my friends and I showed up, I was given fifteen wooden tokens and a small plastic cup. We were told by the door guy that we could purchase more tokens for fifty cents each, should we need them, but that we’d probably be surprised “how happy we’d be” after fifteen beer samples.
He was right.
I’d indented on keeping track of all the beers I sampled so I could write about them here. I’d also indented to take photos of all of the brewer’s stands so I could show them here. And I’d also intended, my friends, to speak to a few of the brew masters and really get the inside scoop on some of the stories behind the beer, so that I could share them with you here.
But I had way too much fun to do any of that.
It went down like this:
Me, my wife, kids, and two of our friends from Madison (Dave & Michelle) arrived in Marquette and drove straight to the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum because my wife was our designated driver and planned to take the kids to the museum and Presque Isle Park while the rest of us sampled some of Michigan’s finest beer. (Yes, my wife is a trooper. And yes, she’s getting a new pair of shoes out of the deal.)
The children’s museum is a mere three blocks from Mattson Lower Harbor Park, where this and most of the Marquette festivals are held. So after we parted ways, it was an easy walk to the fest.
We passed through the festival entry, and with hands stamped and wooden tokens in our pockets, we made a beeline for the Border Grill food truck as we hadn’t had lunch yet and wanted to get a solid “base” prior to our beer drinking adventure.
From there we took off toward the beer tents like kids at Christmas. I headed straight to the Founders Brewing table and Dave and Michelle chose to start their day at Dark Horse Brewing.
I could review a few of the beers here but there’s really no need to reinvent the wheel when web sites like I’m A Beer Hound exist solely to consume and review Michigan Beer. (Check them out if you haven’t yet) Suffice to say, most of the beer we had was very good and some were so good that I’ll be trying to find them in stores.
I expected the event to be popular, but it was even busier than I’d thought it’d be. Festivalgoers packed the beer tents and filled the sunny expanses of the park. I never had to wait more than a minute or so to get a beer, but there was definitely a great turnout. I heard estimates of more than 1,600 people in attendance.
Dave, Michelle and I shared beer samples and then were quickly off to snag another sample. After several rounds of that, my sister showed up with our friend Jen; Dave introduced me to some of his friends who now live in Marquette; I met some friendly beer drinkers from other parts of the U.P., and it snowballed from there. Before long I was talking, drinking, laughing and sharing beer with close to a dozen people!
Four hours later, we found ourselves scrambling to use up the last of our tokens because it was nearly 6:00, the event was coming to a close and we each had a handful of tokens left.
So we did what any respectable beer drinker would do, we took random photos with a nearby Mannequin-beer tapper, tried like hell to drink up our last few tokens worth of beer and then grumbled that the event was “over so soon.”
It ran from 1:00 PM to 6:00 PM, and we didn’t get there until about 2:00. Next year we’ll be there when the gates open. And next year, we’ll definitely be staying in town! Probably at the Landmark Inn, which is a good option for a hotel within easy walking distance of the festival.
To see more photos of the U.P. Fall Beer Festival, click here to access my Facebook page and then and then browse to the “U.P. Fall Beer Festival” photo album. (You’ll need to “like” the page if you haven’t already)
Bottom line: If you like good beer, the U.P. Fall Beer Festival in Marquette is a grownup’s version of Disneyworld.
Other things to note: The live music at the festival was excellent! There were only two food vendors on site.
Location: Mattson Lower Harbor Park, Marquette
Map: To see Mattson Lower Harbor Park on my map of the U.P., click here.