7 Things to Experience at the Ann Arbor Art Fair

Spanning four exhilarating days, from Thursday, July 21 to Sunday, July 24, The Ann Arbor Art Fair is an art lover’s destination filled with original works of art, street performances, culinary treats and a variety of shops featuring sidewalk sales. Art enthusiasts by the hundreds of thousands will turn out to enhance or start their own collection — discovering a vibrant downtown full of world-class restaurants and eclectic shops.

Here are 7 things for you to experience while visiting the area during The Ann Arbor Art Fair:

1. The Art. Pure and Simple.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair features more than 1,000 competitively juried artists from all over the world, exhibiting incredible creative talents for others to appreciate and purchase. Throughout 30 city blocks, you’ll discover countless styles and materials including: painting, drawing, glass, sculpture, mixed media, jewelry, fiber and furniture.

There are many beautiful things to be discovered at the Ann Arbor Art Fair

Photo Courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

2. The Food. Ann Arbor is a Food Town.

There are many reasons why Ann Arbor is known as one of the best food towns in the United States. Around the downtown and close to campus you will find more than 300 unique restaurants to choose from while exploring 30 blocks of the fair.

Zingerman's is as iconic as any restaurant in Ann Arbor

Photo Courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

3. The Art Fair, After Hours.

New this year is that The Ann Arbor Art Fair will run through Sunday, so the fun continues after fair hours on Saturday. VisitAnnArbor.org invites you to stay after the fair closes on Saturday, July 23 and discover your Ann Arbor. Several local businesses will have drink and meal specials and there will be lots of music and entertainment to choose from. 

4. The Beer & Cocktails.

The Ann Arbor area is not only known for its exceptional foodie offerings, it’s a haven for wine lovers, craft beer aficionados and those who appreciate handcrafted spirits. Stick around after fair hours to appreciate the artistry of our local mixologists and brewers.

Ann Arbor has established itself as a food and beer mecca in Michigan

Photo Courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

5. The Outdoors. 

Ann Arbor is also known as “Tree Town” for its numerous parks and verdant landscapes. In addition to enjoying the open-air Ann Arbor Art Fair, explore the urban oasis that surrounds it with a kayaking or canoe trip along the Huron River, a stroll through Nichols Arboretum, or star counting in the Big 400.

6. The Shops.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair is one of Michigan’s finest summer traditions, with infinite treasures at artist booths. You’ll also uncover great finds in Ann Arbor’s shops. From trendy boutiques to specialty bookstores — take home something from an artist and a local shop owner.

There's so much shopping to discover when visiting Ann Arbor

Photo Courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

7. The City Itself.

Don’t just take our word for it! Ann Arbor took the #1 spot on the “Best College Cities and Towns in America” list; Esquire recently named Ann Arbor as a “U.S. Town Most Worthy of a Day Trip;” and Livability ranks Ann Arbor #8 on its “Top 100 Best Places to Live” list. Come check it out for yourself!

For more information, visit TheAnnArborArtFair.com or on Twitter @AnnArborArtFair. Start planning your trip today at VisitAnnArbor.org.

5 Michigan Breweries Famous on a National Scale

Craft Beer is becoming synonymous with Michigan, with some 250 breweries spread throughout two peninsulas. Ranking fifth nationally for that overall number of breweries, it’s no wonder the Michigan Brewers Guild uses the tag: “Michigan. The Great Beer State.” In celebration of National Beer Day, read more on five famous Michigan breweries (in no particular order), as shared by Dianna Stampfler of the Michigan Brewers Guild.

Did you know there are quite a handful of Michigan breweries and microbreweries that currently distribute outside the state? In fact, Michigan-based Meijer recently announced that it is taking the six largest breweries—Arcadia, Atwater, Bell’s, Founders, New Holland and Short’s—to more than 223-store locations in five states in the Midwest!

Photo Courtesy of Instagrammer @nickgezon

Currently, Meijer carries selections from 50 Michigan breweries and offers 550 different beers from 220 beer-makers in its six-state footprint. It expects to sell $90 million in craft beer in 2016, including $30 million of Michigan-produced beer.

Those who live in Michigan probably know most of the older, well-established breweries. But for those throughout the rest of the country, what do they think of when they hear the names of some of these noted craft producers?

1. Bell’s Brewery. The largest and longest-operating of Michigan’s craft breweries, Bell’s was founded in 1986 in Kalamazoo by Larry Bell—considered the patriarch of the industry.

Available in 23 states, plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico, this brand’s most noted product is Oberon (introduced as Solsun in 1992 and renamed in 1997 due to a similar named beer from another North American brewery).

Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler

The release of this noted beer is nothing less than a National Holiday—Oberon Day was celebrated this year on Monday, March 21 (second only to Eccentric Day, held each December, in terms of Bell’s-focused festivities). Considered a summer seasonal for most states, it is available year-round in states with warmer climates such as Arizona, Southern California, Florida and Puerto Rico.

2. Dark Horse Brewery. Featured in 2014 on The History Channel show “Dark Horse Nation,” this Marshall brewery has a loyal-following for its cast of characters as well as its full beer portfolio. But it is the Crooked Tree IPA which is its top seller, currently available in 15 states, and overseas in Denmark.

An IPA (India Pale Ale) is a style of beer dating back to the early 1800s. Contemporary American IPAs are typically brewed with distinctively American hops. Dark Horse’s award-winning Crooked Tree IPA (6.5% ABV | 46 IBUs) is heavily dry-hopped with a blend of Centennial, Cascade and Columbus hops, to give it a big aroma of pine and grapefruit citrus.

3. Founder’s Brewing. Michigan’s second-largest brewery (and the fastest growing of the top 50 largest breweries in the United States), has been operating in downtown Grand Rapids since 1997 and currently offers a wide variety of beer styles available in 37 states (and growing).

Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler

Among Founders’ diverse portfolio, it is Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) which garners the most attention for the brewery.

“KBS is sold one day a year in outlying markets,” says co-founder Dave Engbers. “Usually. It doesn’t hit the shelves but is quietly held or reserved as a reward to retailers’ best customers. Beer enthusiast have been known to ‘tail’ beer distributor’s trucks so they don’t miss a delivery.”

While KBS is available in limited quantities starting April 1 across the brewery’s distribution footprint visitors to and residents of Grand Rapids were given access to this much-anticipated beer back in mid-March during KBS Week.

4. Jolly Pumpkin. Regarded as the nation’s first brewery focused on and offering an exclusive selection of oak-aged sour beers—often called farmhouse or rustic country ales—Jolly Pumpkin has under the watchful guidance of master brewer Ron Jeffries.

With a special interest in rustic country ales, Ron and his wife, Laurie, realized their dream in the summer of 2004 when they launched Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter (along with North Peak Beer, both of which operate through Northern United Brewing Company). Currently available in 25 states (as well as Hong Kong, Belgium, Ontario and South Korea), the award-winning Jolly Pumpkin is recognized as the America’s premier all-sour brewery.

Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler

And while the creatively-named and inspired beers are all special in their own way, it is the Oro de Calabaza (translation: Golden Pumpkin) that is the #1 selling beer outside of Michigan. This Golden Ale (8% ABV | 30 IBUs) is a “wild ale” brewed in the Franco-Belgian tradition of Belgian Strong Goldens. Available year-round, this orange-yellow hued beer it is “spicy and peppery, with a gentle hop bouquet and beguiling influence of wild yeast.”

5. New Holland Brewing. Founded in downtown Holland in 1997, (and coming soon to downtown Grand Rapids), this brewery and distillery first produced Dragon’s Milk (11% ABV | 31 IBUs) in 2001 as a single-batch annual release. Today, it is the brewery’s largest selling year-round beer – available in all 24 states where they distribute. In fact, in 2015 New Holland renovated its Holland production facility to expand its cellar, where more than 3,500 oak barrels of Dragon’s Milk are now aging.

This Bourbon Barrel Stout is aged in bourbon barrels and is noted for its roasty malt character intermingled with deep vanilla tones that dance together in an oak bath before being bottled. In 2014, New Holland introduced their “Dragon’s Milk Reserve” series, including additional conditioning ingredients, like toasted chilies, and raspberries. The 2016 Dragon’s Milk Reserve series includes Vanilla Chai, released in January, Coffee & Chocolate released in March and will include Raspberry and Lemon and “Double Dragon” later this year.

Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler

It should also be noted that New Holland produces a full line of spirits as well, including Beer Barrel Bourbon – a bourbon-style whiskey finished in second-use Dragon’s Milk beer barrels for 90 days. For those who are so inclined, a snifter of Dragon’s Milk served with a shot of Beer Barrel Bourbon has affectionately been called the “Dragon Slayer.”

Dianna Stampfler is a freelance writer and promoter of all things Michigan. She has served as publicist for the Michigan Brewers Guild since 2008.

Become a “Brewsader” with the Grand Rapids Beer City Passport

Grand Rapids is many things- one of USA TODAY’s Top Ten Best Beer Towns, #6 on Livability’s 10 Best Beer Cities, and the winner of the Beer City USA vote in the final year of the competition in 2013.  It can now add ‘Home of the Brewsader’ to that list of accolades as Experience Grand Rapids pilots GR’s first ever Beer City Passport experience.

What’s a “Brewsader”?

Front Cover TM

Brewsader is a brand new term coined by the inventors of the passport.  It refers to a person who is an advocate, enthusiast, and imbiber of great beer, on a never ending quest for the perfect brew.  This has come to describe not just locals, but also the 13,000 annual visitors coming to the city annually just for beer.

“Beer tourism has been a key contributing factor in the tourism growth we have seen the past few years,” said Janet Korn, CTA, Senior Vice President of EXGR. “The Beer City Passport will give beer enthusiasts a new way of documenting and experiencing the Grand Rapids beer scene.”  Brewsader status is earned during the completion of the Beer City Passport challenge.

How does the Passport do this?

The passport, which is actually passport-sized, includes 35 pages of valuable Beer City information.  Visitors can see what area hotels offer as Beer Experience Packages, how to brewery hop responsibly, and where some of GR’s finest beers can be found.

There are 23 participating breweries marked on the passport and the challenge is to visit 8 of them by October 2016.  As you taste and try new breweries, you will get your passport stamped by your brewer/pubtender/server!  With eight stamps, Brewsaders can either mail in their passport information sheet or visit the GOSite in the Downtown Destination Neighborhood to exchange the Brewsader page for a t-shirt!

T Shirt TM

5 Things to know about the Beer City Passport:

1. It’s free!  You can pick one up starting Monday, October 19th at any participating brewery or at the GOSite in downtown GR.

2. Participants must be aged 21 and up and can all receive a free Brewsader t-shirt after visiting just 8 out of 23 breweries on the map.

3. The enthusiast’s app Untappd has released a Brewsader badge for any beer lover who drinks five GR area brews.

4. The Beer City Passport pairs wonderfully with the Beer City Ale Trail Map- this map is a comprehensive look at the craft beverage locations all over West Michigan!

5. Grand Rapids is the perfect place to start or continue your never ending quest for the perfect brew- Go forth and enjoy the craft beer this city has to offer!

Beer city map

What do you love most about Grand Rapid’s beer scene?