4th Annual Craft Beer Festival brings in brewers and drinkers from across Michigan


A representative for a brewery pours a sample for a patron at the 4th Annual Craft Beer Festival in one of the event's tents in Downtown Mount Pleasant on Saturday, June 10, 2017.

Beer enthusiasts from across Michigan gathered in Downtown Mount Pleasant's "Jockey Alley" for the 4th Annual Craft Beer Festival on Saturday.

Hosted by the Mount Pleasant Jaycees, the festival is a fundraiser. Since starting in 2014, the event has helped raise over $75,000 for local community organizations.

The event brought in 26 brewers from throughout Michigan, each with their own selection, bringing in a total of 107 unique beers. Past events have brought in over 1,700 attendees annually.

Patrons of the 4th Annual Craft Beer Festival place pins on a map of Michigan to indicate where they come from, in the "Jockey's Alley" parking lot in Downtown Mount Pleasant, on Saturday, June 10, 2017.

A self-described "beer nerd," Dan Hankins travelled from Ann Arbor to sample the beers available at the event for his second year attending.

"Being in Mount Pleasant for this event is the pinnacle of summer for me," Hankins said. "My favorite part about the Michigan beer experience is how (the brewers) are constantly evolving. They're like mad scientists trying to figure out how to make these beers better, and it's genuinely exciting to see what's next."

"You come to realize that some of these beers, you might not drink more than once or twice in your lifetime. It's a lasting memory when you find beers that are rare like this."

The festival was made possible by local sponsors, including the Bird Bar and Grill, the Mount Pleasant Area Community Foundation, Blystone and Bailey and Rent Rite. The staff consists of local volunteers, like recent Central Michigan University graduate Ellie Workman. 

Originally from Deerfield, Workman works at the Shepard Bar and Restaurant, which represented the Bell's brewing company at the festival. 

"I think it's a really good time," Workman said. "It brings a lot of people in, which is good for the community. I like that all of the brewers here are from Michigan, and that it's a fundraiser." 

For the brewers present, the festival is a valuable opportunity to reach the community and serve both new and old customers. Jeff Robinson, founder and head-brewer of Third Monk Brewing Company in South Lyon, said the festival represents a much-needed boost Mount Pleasant's economy.

"I think the event is great," Robinson said. "It's a home run! Mount Pleasant needs more events like this for sure."

"This is my first time at the festival. When I heard that there was a brewing program at Central Michigan, I thought it would be nice to come back up hear to see if I could contribute." 

Robinson graduated from CMU is 1988, majoring in integrative public relations with a minor in broadcasting. Robinson worked as a recording engineer for several radio stations throughout Michigan before becoming a brewer eight years ago.

Robinson's love for brewing originated during his sophomore year of college, when he swore off "bad beer" and started only drinking imports from countries like England and Norway, until his favorite imports were no longer available. 

"The impetus for brewing comes from drinking great beer," he said. "When that beer goes away, start making your own beer that you enjoy."