WEST OLIVE – As he relaxed in an adirondack chair, sipping a cold Michigan beer, taking in the aroma of the nearby Lake Michigan and the crackling campfire in front of him, Bill Rogers made an important decision about next fall: he was returning to the Lakeshore Brew Fest at Camp Blodgett.
“I like the environment. I am thrilled. I will be back next year,” the Marysville resident said, noting he’d never been to a West Michigan beer festival before. “You’re out in the open. Fresh air. It’s comfortable. Very comfortable.”
His friend, Chris Graw, said he hadn’t poured out a beer yet, something he couldn’t say about every festival he’s attended.
“This is sweet,” he said, holding up a half-filled pint glass, listening to a live opening band playing chill music that echoed off the tall pines and historic buildings at the 94-year-old camp located in West Olive. “This is sweet.”
Hundreds flooded the camp, which features stunning views of Lake Michigan, on a sunny Saturday afternoon for the third annual event. The Lakeshore Brew Fest featured beers and ciders from well-known locals such as New Holland Brewing and Vander Mill Ciders in addition to notable newcomers such as Dutch Girl Brewery in Spring Lake, Trail Point Brewing Company in Allendale, and Farmhaus Cider Co. in Hudsonville.
Event organizers focused on keeping the event lakeshore-specific to make it more unique, said Tim Duflo, a Camp Blodgett board member serving Odd Side Ales beer.
The Lakeshore Brew Fest is an important fundraiser for the camp, which serves disadvantaged youth in Ottawa and Kent counties with summer camps and year-round, after-school programming.
Josh Beard of Holland, an avid Michigan beer festival fan, said he thought the vibe and fundraising component of the festival were appealing.
“It’s good. It’s chill,” he said. “And you’re supporting a good cause.”
As acoustic alternative and Americana band Leonum took the stage, festival attendees continued to enjoy the backyard cookout feel, playing with a huge wooden Jenga set and competing in cornhole, with beers in hand of course.
One cider on tap was Brunch (6.9% ABV) from Farmhaus Cider Co. The smooth, dry cider had a distinct maple syrup aftertaste that would make it ideal for drinking earlier in the day.
On the beer side, Henry Lee (8.9% ABV) from Trail Point Brewing Company received such positive reviews that some craft beer fans were recommending it to people passing by. The dark, old Strong Ale features highlights of caramel, toffee, and dried fruit.
Self-proclaimed beer snobs, Diane Covault and Sharon Brown of Allegan, brought Brittany Covault along to the event. Brittany Covault said Totally Roasted (6.9% ABV) of Vander Mill Ciders was her favorite drink, while Diane Covault and Brown were pleased to try Trail Point Brewing Company for the first time.
The women said the Lakeshore Brew Fest glass they received with admission made the experience much more enjoyable than festivals with just a plastic cup.
“We really do appreciate having a glass,” Diane Covault said. “Beer is better out of a glass.”