How A Cocktail Napkin Crafted Michigan’s Largest International Beer Sampling Event

The World Expo of Beer in Frankenmuth is May 16 – 17, 2014. Today, guest blogger Blair Giesken and Go Great Lakes Bay tell us how a simple cocktail napkin helped set Michigan’s largest international beer sampling event into motion. 

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 2.39.12 PMThey say some of the best ideas start on cocktail napkins.  J.K. Rowling’s famous Harry Potter book series started on one. So did the idea for the flight route that later became the basis of Southwest Airlines. And the World Expo of Beer in Frankenmuth is no different.

This 2-day beer-centric festival of international proportion all began back in 1996 with one small sketch on a Bavarian Inn Roof Garten cocktail napkin and one big idea – to celebrate the beauty of spring in Frankenmuth.“In Germany, new seasonal beers are brewed and celebrated during their annual Maifests (Spring celebrations),” said Annie Rummel, who originated the World Expo of Beer and now serves as CEO of the Great Lakes Bay Regional CVB.  “We thought, why not honor the German Spring tradition with our own beer tasting event?”

And honor it they did. With the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado already highlighting domestic beer products and the strong relationship Frankenmuth already had with its sister city of Guzenhausen, Germany, the idea for this new beer-tasting event naturally evolved beyond local and domestic brews to embrace beers from around the globe.

As if coordinating an international beer festival for the first time wasn’t a tall enough order, Rummel and her talented team (along with countless community supporters) took the World Expo of Beer from a concept on a cocktail napkin to a full-blown festival in less than 5 weeks!

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 2.45.52 PMHoping to see a turnout near 5,000 people, the crew behind the first-ever World Expo of Beer could do nothing but smile and pull the tap that year as over 15,000 thirsty beer lovers streamed into the tents at Frankenmuth’s Heritage Park, commemorative tasting mugs in hand.

Each year, the Frankenmuth Jaycees and the entire community continue to welcome thousands to shout and sing “Ein Prosit” (German for “A toast to you”) and raise a stein in celebration of beers from around the world.  The festival has even expanded to tap into the hearts and minds of true beer connoisseurs everywhere, with great additions like the Fine Food & Craft Brew Pairing Event and Beer 101 “Basics of Beer” Course.

This year, the World Expo of Beer will tap countless kegs for the annual celebration – May 16th and 17th – bringing nearly 300 brews from the furthest corners of the earth (and right from our own backyards!) – to the tasting mugs of thousands.  Feeling thirsty already?  You can pre-purchase an admission package to this year’s festival with beer tickets included so you can skip the long lines!

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 2.47.11 PMLearn more about the World Expo of Beer, check out other things to do while you’re in the Great Lakes Bay Region, follow the World Expo of Beer and Go Great Lakes Bay on Facebook for updates on the free World Expo of Beer shuttle buses, and be sure to book your overnight stay nearby to cap off a day of tasting with a great night’s rest.  You’re going to need it!

Location: Frankenmuth Heritage Park – 601 Weiss Street, Frankenmuth, MI 48734 (just 500 feet from the Bavarian Inn Lodge)

Dates & Times: Friday, May 16th from 5-10 pm and Saturday, May 17th from 3-10 pm

Admission: $10 (includes a free commemorative beer sampling mug); Proceeds will be donated to charitable causes; 21+ only; Admission packages available here.

What unique brew are you most looking forward to sampling at this year’s event? 

Blair Giesken was born and raised in the Great Lakes Bay Region and now resides in Grand Rapids.

Four Michigan Microbreweries You Won’t Want to Miss in Jackson

A cold winter requires a lot of bundling up and settling indoors to keep warm. Escape cabin fever by planning a day filled with Michigan craft beer and good friends at the 4th Annual Southern Michigan Winter Beer Festival! Today, guest blogger Rebecca Calkins from Experience Jackson describes four great Michigan microbreweries to check out during the event in Jackson, MI. 

Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

On Saturday, March 8th, the Jackson County Fairgrounds will feature over 150 craft beers from Michigan and around the world during the 4th Annual Southern Michigan Winter Beer Festival – you’re bound to find your new favorite! What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon? Enjoying live music, good food, and great beer with your friends; maybe even making a few new friends.  You’ll hardly notice the cold at this indoor/outdoor event with campfires and warming stations, along with the warmth of good friends and great beers. Outside, the entertainment tent will feature live music from local and regional acts, a lively corn hole tournament as well as food vendors and more beer.

The event is sponsored by both Experience Jackson and Jackson’s newest microbrewery, Grand River Marketplace. This new Marketplace includes a brewery, winery, restaurant and deli all in one 12,000 square foot facility. This unique venue along the banks of the Grand River incorporates a funky steampunk theme. The walls feature a view into the steam-powered idealized future of Victorian-era minds. This vibe lends itself well to the types of hip roots-rock sound of the regional acts that perform on the indoor stage on Saturday nights.

Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

Recently, Grand River Marketplace won the Brick Award from the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce for the restorative work they have done to this historic downtown building. Come back in the summer, for a “Party on the Grand”, where you can enjoy your craft beer or wine with live music under the pavilion that also regularly houses the Grand River Farmer’s Market.  Sourcing local is important to the people at Grand River. New England trained Chef Corey Bieber is proudly sourcing local ingredients for his one of a kind dishes. Brewer Ben Tackett and Thomas Block, who man the state of the art 15-barrel brew system, get their hops from the Sleeping Bear area of Michigan. Finally, winemaker Blake Kownacki is using only Michigan fruit for his award-winning wine.

Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

Grand River isn’t the only micro-brewery in town; however micro might be too big to describe the next three locations that have opened in Jackson. For most home brewers just stepping out into the public, one barrel at a time is often the best way to brew. So spend the night in a warm Jackson hotel after the Beer Festival, follow our Beer Festival Weekend Itinerary, and spend your Sunday tasting some of the local pico-breweries latest offerings at Bifferhaus Brewing Company on Lansing Avenue, Tootsie’s Brewery at Lone Oak Vineyard Estate in Grass Lake, and Shed’s Brewing Company located off of US-127.

Get your tickets now for the Southern Michigan Winter Beer Festival. Tickets are $25 before the event or $30 at the gate (depending on availability) this includes 10 tasting tickets, admission and parking. Designated driver tickets will be available at the door for $5. Proceeds go to the Jackson County Fair Premium Program. You must be 21 years or older to attend.  Limited tickets are available so get your tickets early by either calling the fair box office at 517-788-4405 or Etix at 1-800-514-3849 or go online to www.Etix.com.

Have you visited any of these Jackson microbreweries? Where is your favorite place to try Michigan craft beer