Established and new breweries all part of Art of Beer Festival

Getting tired of singing those snowbound blues? Would you rather get out, enjoy some amazing beer, listen to great music and soak up the sun? Well you might have to wait a little longer for the sun, but the beer and music part is easy.

Saturday, March 21 marks the fifth annual Art of Beer Festival at The Mendel Center on the campus of Lake Michigan College.

The event will bring together several breweries, cider makers, restaurateurs and one lively band playing swinging gypsy surf rock.

Anchored by big names such as Arcadia Brewing Company, Saugatuck Brewing Company and Atwater Brewing, the festival will also include such up-and-coming beer makers as Arclight Brewing and Final Gravity Brewing. The event incorporates several cideries as well.

Fourteen breweries and orchards have already confirmed, with more being added to the lineup each week.

“We started the festival as an opportunity to help promote the Mendel Center and for something fun to do in the area,” says Tonya Martindale of Lake Michigan College. "More breweries have been popping up and we thought it would be something the community would be interested in coming to."

The Mendel Center, on the north end of the LMC campus normally plays host to touring music acts, theater performances, corporate conferences and private events, but also seems to lend itself well to the jovial and exciting atmosphere created by a Michigan Beer Festival.

“I don't usually get the final list until about a week before the festival since many of the brewers are still working on the beers they want to bring (but we should have) just over a 100 Michigan microbrews,” Martindale says.

And there will be plenty of locally prepared food as well.

St. Joseph's Bistro on the Boulevard and Three Oaks Pleasant House will be just a couple of the area eateries supplying food to what Martindale hopes will be around 700 attendees.

“This year I added some new food vendors,” Martindale says. "I look for restaurants that are more unique, maybe some that have a lot of beers on tap and can attract some of the festival-goers to their restaurants."

Tickets are $35 in advance or $40 at the door and come with a pint glass, 12 drink tickets each good for a 2 oz. pour, and $10 worth of food tickets. A $20 designated driver ticket is also available for those wanting to attend as a DD.

Music will be provided by Slim Baggage Gypsy, a good time, roosts/reggae/swing fusion band that has shared stages with Rusted Root, Buddy Guy, and the Infamous String Dusters.

The band has recently returned from a recording trip to Nashville where it set down tracks for its upcoming record.

“They're doing well and booking up very quickly. Last year, we had them perform at the festival and as soon as the night was over I went ahead and booked them for this year,” Martindale says.

Of course, an event like this couldn't take place without a well made team of volunteers--a squad that Martindale is hoping to have finalized very soon.

“We love our volunteers. We couldn’t do this without them. We need between thirty and thirty five volunteers. There will be a volunteer at each brewery booth,” Martindale said. “They work 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and we have a few extra volunteers so they get breaks to go around, talk to the breweries, and we give them tickets so they can sample.”

It may not entice spring to show up any sooner but getting out of the house, consuming some amazing beer and food and dancing to homespun jams wouldn't hurt to shake away those winter blues.

For more information on the Art of Beer Festival, to purchase tickets. or to volunteer your time please visit here.:

Writer: Jeremy Martin, Second Wave
Source: Tonya Martindale of Lake Michigan College
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