View our Main Site »

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Swig & Chug at the Crystal Mt. Beer & Brat Fest, 2011

One fine brat
By Greg 'Swig' Johnson

This is not the first nor will it be the last adventure of Swig and Chug, the two self-proclaimed beer-seeking adventurers of Siciliano's Market. Just in case you may not be familiar with us, we are Greg “Swig” Johnson and Doug “the Chug” Dorda -- we love good beer and everything it stands for, and we love beer-themed events just as much, the Crystal Mountain Beer and Brat Festival being one good example.

After its sixth year, the Crystal Mountain Beer and Brat festival has become a red-letter day for people who love the marriage of beer and food. While beer can be paired with just any food dish, it's at its best it seems when paired with the tastiest specialty brats north of the Mason-Dixon Line (courtesy of several Michigan meat markets). Both food and beer require equal amounts of ingenuity and persistence, and with a full understanding of ingredients, even the simplest (brews or brats) can be an astounding experience.

Cheers, boys. Cheers.
Now, I am lucky that my family has held onto a sizable chuck of land that was once my great-grandparents farm some twenty miles away from the Crystal Mountain Resort that allows us not only easy access to the fest, but also a great isolated area to enjoy ourselves afterwards. We get to camp, burn wood, eat food, and also drink beer with little to no consequence.

The trip began with myself, Chug, and four other friends seeking adventure and beer enlightenment. Leaving Grand Rapids in the early morning we reached Manistee and north of it at a respectable time, enough to set up camp, come to terms with the not-so-great weather we were experiencing that day, and shoot off some pistols before we started drinking.

The scene
After running into town to pick up a new tree saw and mull, we made our way up to Crystal Mountain for the fest. Overestimating the time it would take us to arrive we actually ended up being the first people in line. This wasn't exactly our intention, but we were quite happy with the situation. The weather at that time was quite a let down, cold, windy, and cloudy. However, this didn't hamper our spirits. After helping the staff hold down the canopies and collecting will-call tickets that started to blow off into the wind, we were soon released into the world of craft beers and brats.

I won't lie, for the most part the beers offered at Beer & Brat fest are not anything you haven't had off the shelf or tap already; it seems this event is more oriented at getting the golf & newbie crowd to experience good beer, which in that respect is just fine by me. Where this fest really shines is it's brat offerings. The brats ranged all over the place in terms of originality. I had a brat made with morel mushrooms, for example, another with asparagus and white cheddar, and finally a brat made with venison, cheese, jalapeno, & onion (my favorite). Chug tried some other ones as well and, if you ask him, I'm sure he'll indulge your senses with how those brats tasted (they all sounded awesome).

This way to the port-a-potty
Brats aside and despite a beer selection that isn't exactly beer-geek exciting, there were many awesome beers on tap. To me, The Livery and Right Brain stood out, specifically the asparagus beer from Right Brain. To be honest, I was hesitant about tasting this beer -- I love asparagus, I love beer, and drinking beer while eating asparagus has happened many times in my life, but I was unsure how the two would meld together into a single beverage. Damn was I shocked. The asparagus beer was one of the best I tasted that day. It possessed none of the vegetal characteristics that I was expecting while being incredibly earthy and refreshing. Also, if I may be so bold, the asparagus quality transferred over to the urinary aspects.

The Crystal Mountain Beer & Brat Festival is definitely a worth-while venture for a Memorial Day weekend. It's a bit more relaxed than your normal beer fest, allowing children to enter (they also serve sodas) with plenty of seating area. We stayed for about four of the seven hours it was open before heading back down to our camping spot where we burned a lot of wood, drank a lot of Black Label, and ate hobo dinners. The next day we disced [disc golfed] in Whitehall and drifted around West Michigan before eventually heading home. All in all, it was a great beer weekend spent with with people who appreciate good beer and good (safe) times. I would recommend stopping in at this event to anyone who can make it during the Memorial Day weekend. Also, some friends rode the luge down at the end of day, which was entertaining.

The original TV

Siciliano's staffer Greg 'Swig' Johnson lives in Grand Rapids, MI, though if there's some kind of beer- or brat-related festival happening anywhere within a 500-mile radius, you will probably find him there instead.

No comments:

Post a Comment