Review: Something for Everyone: Summer Beer Fest


Something for Everyone: Summer Beer Fest

Eager beer enthusiasts wait to see what's brewing at Beer Fest.

Every year, it gets bigger. Every year, it gets better. Every year, new people go and experience the life that is lived by the drinker of Michigan craft beer.

This event is the Michigan Brewers’ Guild Summer Beer Festival, held annually in Ypsilanti's Riverside Park. For 19 years, this festival has welcomed beer drinkers for a day of music, food, and some of the best craft beer that Michigan has to offer. This past weekend over 12,000 people were expected to spend a day in the park sampling beer—were you one of them?

If you were, then you hopefully stayed hydrated and coated in sunscreen as you enjoyed both familiar and new beers. If you weren’t, then you should think about going next year!

If you are new to craft beer or not sure you would find anything you like, then I offer the following examples of excellent beers that were at the festival. They are all from breweries within an hour of Ann Arbor. While this specific beer might not be available at the brewery, the list will hopefully provide ideas of types of beer to try between now and next summer! It is my hope that someone will try something new and be enthused enough to attend the festival next year. Here we go!

[|Salt Spring Brewery]’s Kick Axe Kolsch - This light and refreshing beer is a great introduction to craft beer. For anyone who says that they don’t like beer or just taste “cold” when drinking a macrobrew, I would recommend a trip to Saline to try this lovely brew. There is a hint of hops and a touch of honey, but otherwise just smooth and creamy beer. While you’re there, try their Sister Ester’s Saison for an excellent introduction to what a farm ale should be.

[|Chelsea Alehouse]’s Ginger Pale Ale - If you like ginger ale, then this would be a great beer to start with. It was light and bubbly, and not overwhelmed by the ginger. Do not go into this expecting Vernor’s, though! While you are there, try their Firefly Wheat beer.

[|Original Gravity]’s Saison 979 - A saison is a fruity, zesty pale ale that would appeal to someone looking for a little bit of spice in her beer. This beer was perfect for the 105-degree heat index—refreshing, tangy, nicely carbonated. While you’re there, try their Primordial Porter. This is a perfect porter, and great for someone new to this roasty, toasty style of beer.

[|Liberty Street]’s Clementine Lemon Thyme - This wonderful beer manages to provide drinkers with the taste of homemade lemonade without tasting like Lemon Pledge. The thyme is not overwhelming and provides a nice bit of balance. Great first beer for someone who enjoys summer ade drinks. While you’re there, try their Steamy Windows for a crisp, lightly fruity beer.

[|Sherwood Brewing Company]’s Lawnmower IPA - Many articles have been written about India Pale Ales and their enduring popularity. Some people love these beers and some hate them, but everyone should at least try one. This beer serves as a great introduction to this style of beer. The hop profile is definitely present, but not overwhelming, in this low alcohol rye beer. While you’re there, try their Disco Lemonade and get the great taste of summer in a glass.

[|Block Brewery]’s Wired (coffee porter) - The thought of coffee in beer might not sound appealing, but trust me—it is an excellent combination! If you like coffee, then consider this tasty porter. The overwhelming flavor is that of freshly roasted beans with some earthy undertones. While you’re there, try their Love Me IPA for another great introduction to the IPA style, with less alcohol.

[|Arbor Brewing Company]’s Mauj (gose brewed with cucumber and lime) - A gose beer is generally known for its tartness and saltiness. This beer has those things, but so much more. This was my absolute favorite beer of the festival, and perfect for a hot day. It is what every mojito wants to be, what every summer drink wishes it could be. If you like summer cocktails, this one is for you! While you’re there, try their Bliss Wheat for another perfect summer beer.

The festival has something for everyone, and every year it gets bigger and better. Is next year your year?

Patti Smith is a special education teacher who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and cats. She is the author of two books about Ann Arbor, the most recent of which is a history of the People’s Food Co-op. Visit her [|website] or find @TeacherPatti on Twitter.

Strike Up the Band for the Perfect Summer Night


Ann Arbor Civic Band

Ann Arbor Civic Band

When I was a kid, my dad and I watched every single episode of the Twilight Zone. My favorite episode was one called "A Stop at Willoughby." It was a simple tale of a harried ad man (because everyone was an ad man in the 1960s) who dreamed of a town called Willoughby that would be a retreat from his stressful, three-martini-lunch world. Instead, Willoughby would have a small downtown, a fishing pond, and space for an outdoor band concert.

"Wow," thought the young suburban girl who had never contemplated downtowns, fishing ponds, or outdoor band concerts. "I would love to live in a place like that!"

When I got to Ann Arbor, I found the downtown and the river almost immediately; however, seeing as how I came to town in winter, discovering the outdoor band took a little more time. Lucky for us all, the [|Ann Arbor Civic Band] has been providing us with an outdoor summer concert series at West Park for over 80 years.

Conductor Bill Gourley leads the volunteer band members for five or six concerts every summer. There is a slight variation on the themes of the concerts, but there is always a children’s concert with a march of the teddy bears and a salute to the military around the Fourth of July. The 501(c)(3) organization is funded by membership dues, sponsorships, and donations.

This year, residents can wander down to West Park on Wednesday nights at 8 pm and enjoy a concert featuring music from movies such as Star Trek or Batman, a tribute to swing music, Broadway show tunes, and the beloved Children’s Concert (bring your bear!).

Being outside at the park and listening to live music is enchanting. People sit on blankets, chairs, or on the grass. Kids run around, dogs lie at the feet of their owners, and the music echoes off the band shell as fireflies light the paths. The fresh smell of the green grass under your feet tickles your nose. The sun might be in your eyes as it sets, but only for a minute. Then everything is lit in the glow of a perfect summer evening.

These are the nights I think of in mid-February, when everything seems to be dead or hibernating, when the trees are bare, when the snow has turned brown and mushy. When it seems like summer will never get here, and it has always been cold, I think of these magical nights and I am happy to live in my own version of Willoughby.

Patti Smith is a special education teacher who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and cats. She is the author of two books about Ann Arbor, the most recent is a history of the People’s Food Co-op. She wishes she had even an ounce of musical talent so that she could join the Civic Band! Visit her at or @TeacherPatti on Twitter.

The [|Ann Arbor Civic Band] performances continue at 8 pm, Wednesdays, July 6, 13, 20, and 27, at the West Park Band Shell in West Park, 7th Street.

Preview: Everything's Coming Up Smithee!


The ludicrous mutant fish from Frankenfish.

"Outta my way guys, I'm going to the Smithee Awards!" -This ludicrous mutant catfish. Frankenfish (2004).

The movie with the ghost grandpa in the mirror, the bright green food, and the absence of trolls despite being named [|Troll 2]. The movie that repeated a five-minute scene four times. The movie where the dad tells his son that fool-proof plans are hard to come by. This year’s 25th annual [ |Smithee Awards] on Saturday, April 16th will honor all these and more of their B-movie brethren.

Named for the fake director credited when the actual director does not want their own name on such a horrible piece of cinema, the Smithee Awards celebrates all that is wonderful about really, really terrible movies.

Every year for the past 25 years, the volunteers behind the Smithee Awards have gathered fans of bad movies together on the campus of the University of Michigan to watch clips from movies such as [ |Zombie Honeymoon], [ |Frankenfish], and [ |Superargo vs. Diabolicus].

This year viewers will enjoy categories like “Worst Special Effect,” “Most Ludicrous Premise,” “Stupidest Looking Monster,” and the self-explanatory “Whaaaat?!?!” Each of the 19 categories has five movie clips, and audience members vote on the best of the worst, or the worst of the best, depending on how one views life.

To up the awesome factor, the organizers provide free “food and drink” (they insist on the quotation marks). While watching a clip of, say, [ |Die-ner], you may enjoy those weird, spongy, orange circus peanuts, giant Pixie Sticks, or bacon fudge. Wash that sugar down with a variety of soft drinks that often include the latest offering from Jones Soda.

Smithee Supreme Committee member Kevin Hogan says, "We are older than Pokemon. We have been around longer than Magic: the Gathering, and made several million fewer dollars. It's been 25 years of Smithee Awards shows -- this is the silver anniversary -- and every year is just as exciting as the first."

Previous worst picture winners include: Enter…Zombie King (about a zombie king’s existential crisis, of course), Metallica (robots in a junkyard make a suicide pact), and Back from Hell (featuring a scene wherein a hand reaches out from the Bible, grabs a preacher’s crotch and then tries to strangle him).

Whether you are a B-movie horror aficionado or not, come out to […|1800 Chem Building] on April 16 at 7 pm to enjoy movies that can be described as “like the darker side of Hee-Haw.” Because everyone needs a little dark-side of Hee-Haw in their life.

Community contributor Patti Smith is a teacher, writer, and lover of all things Ann Arbor.

The Smithee Awards take place in Room 1800 of the Chemistry Building at 930 University Ave. on Saturday, April 16 at 7 pm until around midnight.

Tellebrate Good Times, Come On! It’s a Tellabration!


The Ann Arbor Storytellers' Guild high-tales it to Trinity Lutheran Church and AADL's Pittsfield Branch for Tellebration

The Ann Arbor Storytellers' Guild high-tales it to Trinity Lutheran Church and AADL's Pittsfield Branch for Tellebration

We don’t know who told the first story. Was it a cavewoman telling her cavechildren a ghost story? Was it a hunter telling others of the one that got away? Was it two people around a lonely campfire trying to pass the time? We will never know how it began, but we do know that storytelling as an art has existed for millennia. People from all over the world love a good story, and luckily for us, there is plenty of storytelling right here in Ann Arbor!

The [|Ann Arbor Storytellers' Guild] is presenting its 24th annual [|Tellabration] on Friday, November 13th and Sunday, November 15th. The Friday event is geared towards adults (ages 14+), while the Sunday event is especially for children and families. Tellabration is an international event celebrating the art of storytelling. Forty states and nine countries will participate in this event. The goal is to build community support for storytelling. According to local teller Lyn Davidge, expect to hear some history, some mystery, some legend, some comic relief, and even some social commentary at the event.

Davidge adds, “I love Tellabration and the Guild, with their emphasis on keeping the ancient art of traditional storytelling alive, relevant, and entertaining in the 21st century. The audience is an integral part of the storytelling experience, each person relating to the teller and the story according to his or her own unique life experiences. In a seemingly disconnected world, we find connection and common ground through story.”

In addition to Tellabration, the local guild also hosts a monthly storytelling event at [|Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room] on the second Thursday of the month. You may hear a story about chivalrous knights from medieval times, a turtle’s journey in a sunny backyard, or how a teacher grew to love being “most improved”. The guild’s monthly meetings are open to the public and are held at [|Nicola’s Books] on the fourth Sunday of most months. Guild members are also invited to attend member-only events such as story swaps and house concerts.

In Sue Monk Kidd’s [|The Secret Life of Bees], she wrote, “stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here.” Events like Tellabration guarantee that our words will stay alive for a long, long time.

Patti Smith is a teacher, writer, and lover of all things Ann Arbor. She can talk and tell stories at any hour of the day or night. She has been a part of the Storytellers' Guild for two years.

[…|Tellabration] will be held at Trinity Lutheran Church, 1400 W Stadium Blvd on November 13 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $15. The Family Storytelling concert will be held on November 15 at 2 pm. The event is free and co-sponsored by the Ann Arbor District Library and will be held at the Pittsfield Branch, 2359 Oak Valley Drive.