BY MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS, email@example.com
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The 4th Annual Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival opens with a new venue and a new craft brew week.
Slated for Feb. 9, the festival moves to the Sara Hardy Downtown Farmers Market parking lots B & T, just off Grandview Parkway between Cass and Union.
"This location is pretty ideal," said Sam Porter of Porterhouse Productions, organizer of the event and its summertime counterpart. "It's right in the heart of downtown, it's safe, it's central, it will support downtown businesses."
This year the event is preceded by Traverse City Craft Brew Week, a celebration of the craft brew culture in Traverse City. The week kicks off Feb. 2 with a community craft brew crawl and culminates Feb. 9 with the festival itself. In between it will feature food-and-beer pairings, "meet-and-greets" with brewers, and educational and other events involving about 20 area businesses.
Want to sample an ale with aromatic hops from the Pacific Northwest or a double-cream dairy-free stout? They're here, along with 185 other flavors of beer, cider, mead and wine with names like This One Goes To 11 and Hell Hath No Fury Ale.
Besides beers and brewers from around the region, the state and the country, the festival will feature offerings from as far away as Canada and Belgium.
Bell's Brewery of Kalamazoo will bring nine craft brews including its popular Two Hearted Ale and its January-February release, Bell's Hopslam Ale.
"That's the one that has the most hype and excitement behind it," said Bell's marketing director Laura Bell, of the double IPA made with Michigan honey and seven hops varietals. "It's just starting to roll out to different markets. People may be trying it for the first time."
The festival's popular Hop 'N' Brew tasting shack and home brewers contest also will be back, with professional and amateur brewers.
It's not called the Microbrew & Music Festival for nothing, and this year's line-up may be the most diverse yet. Quirkiest among the dozen or so bands and DJs from northern Michigan to south of the Michigan border: The Lowdown Brass Band from Chicago (original second-line street beat, funk, hip-hop, reggae and pop), the Chardon Polka Band from Cleveland (polka and waltz), The Ragbirds from Ann Arbor (world blend of pop, Gypsy, Afro-Cuban, Celtic, Middle Eastern, African and Cajun) and The Crane Wives (indie-folk) and Delilah DeWylde And The Lost Boys (rockabilly) from Grand Rapids. And, yes, the silent disco tent will be back.
Beer goes better with brats. From 16 varieties of hot dogs and Polish sausage from the House of Doggs to whitetail venison brats from the Michigan Venison Co. (think free-range field-harvested whitetail deer taken from large commercial hunting properties around the state), there's a pairing for every brew.
And if that isn't enough, there's also pulled pork taco and root vegetable chili meals from Roaming Harvest; baked potatoes, vegetarian chili and coconut spicy stew over organic brown rice from Om Café; gyros and baklava from U&I Lounge; and chicken tostadas, pulled pork sandwiches and barbecue ribs with all the trimmings — barbecue baked beans, potato salad and blue cheese jalapeno slaw — from Pig Eatin' Ribs.
General admission tickets are $30, plus fees, in advance or $35 at the gate, if available. They're good for admission — from 4-10 p.m. — music, a compostable cup and five drink tokens (some flavors may require more than one token). Additional tokens are $2 each at the event. All proceeds from alcohol sales go to nonprofits.
For tickets or more information, visit tcbeerfest.com. Tickets also are available at Oryana, Brew, High Five Threads and Left Foot Charley in Traverse City.