Sunday, July 17, 2016

America On Tap Beer Festival

The America On Tap Beer Festival made a return visit to Grand Rapids this weekend.
Everyone gets a nice little double-shot glass for sampling.
They held the event downtown, at Calder Plaza. Not quite as nice as last year when it was held just outside John Ball Park Zoo, but the location worked out well enough. Grand Rapids is small enough that getting downtown isn't a major hassle.
The line. You can just barely see the tents way up ahead on the left.
No question that this was a popular event - the line to get in was evidence of that. I arrived just a couple of minutes after the official open time of 3 PM, and then proceeded to spend the better part of an hour waiting in line. They only had a couple of people checking IDs at the entrance, which explains the bottleneck.
One of many sample tables.
Fortunately, lines weren't much of an issue once you got inside. There were two big tents with around a dozen tables in each, plus a few booths around the outside of the event area. Most of those were set up with two or three drinks to sample. I say "drink" rather than "beer" because there was quite a bit of variety: beer was the most common, but I also saw a lot of cider, some wine, and even one table with mead.
Another sample table. We saw everything from coolers to ice buckets to full kegs.
The beverages on display came from all over. I'd say about half were local to Michigan, or at least the Midwest US. There were plenty from further away, though, both elsewhere in the US and international. Some familiar corporate names were present - Sam Adams, Guinness - and so were plenty of smaller breweries.
Plenty of attendees wandering between the tents.
Normally I gravitate toward heavier dark beers, and there were a good number of those present, but not on this occasion. It's hard to sample more than one or two of those, especially on a hot summer day. Instead I mostly tried ciders and lighter ales, especially the ones with a fruit flavor. There were some really good grapefruit drinks, for instance. I suspect if I ever go to one of these festivals in the winter months, I'd be much more likely to go for my usual stouts and other darker beers.
Joe and I outside the tents, in between drinks.
After spending a couple of hours trying out samples, my friend Joe and I headed over to a nearby restaurant before heading home. We spent an hour or so drinking water and lemonade and snacking, letting the buzz die down before heading home. I'd guess that quite a few local downtown restaurants did a pretty decent business that afternoon from other festival goers doing the same.
Plenty of open space outside the tents, so it didn't feel too crowded.
If you enjoy a good beer or cider, I recommend giving a festival like this a try. Grab a friend or two, and spend a couple of hours trying out samples. You're almost guaranteed to find a few that you like.

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