UPtoberfest: Annual beer festival supports United Way

Jordan Beck | Daily Press From left, Mark Ostrander of Rockford Brewing Company hands a beer to Madison, Wis. resident Steve Nelson during the 12th annual UPtoberfest Saturday. According to Bay de Noc Brewers, the local homebrewing group which hosted the event, tickets for this year’s UPtoberfest sold out faster than ever before.

ESCANABA — About 1,000 people enjoyed Michigan-made craft beers and wines while supporting the United Way of Delta County (UWDC) at the 12th annual UPtoberfest. According to Bay de Noc Brewers (BDNB), the local homebrewing group which hosted this event at Escanaba’s municipal dock Saturday, tickets for 2017’s UPtoberfest sold out faster than ever before.

“We’re really pleased with how everything’s turning out so far,” BDNB Vice President Josh Marenger said.

While tickets to UPtoberfest have sold out in the past, 2017 marked a new high point for the event’s popularity. Tickets to this year’s festival sold out on Monday, Oct. 9. In contrast, 2016’s UPtoberfest sold out the day before it was held.

“It’s really great to see the response from fans year to year,” Marenger said.

Slightly more tickets were sold to this year’s UPtoberfest than were sold to last year’s festival. To accommodate this crowd, Marenger said this year’s festival featured an expanded tent.

“We were almost 100,000 square feet this year,” he said.

Proceeds from 2017’s UPtoberfest went to the United Way. Julie Mallard, the executive director of the UWDC, said this event plays an important role in her group’s fundraising efforts.

“This does have a great impact on the United Way,” she said. Currently, UPtoberfest is the largest fundraising event held in support of the UWDC.

Marenger said that the past two UPtoberfests raised about $10,000 each for the UWDC.

“Obviously, with the increase in ticket sales, we presume that number’s only going to grow,” he said. He noted that some of the proceeds from this year’s festival will go towards breast cancer awareness, as well.

Several breweries were featured at UPtoberfest this year — most of which are based in the Upper Peninsula.

“It’s a lot of fun, and it’s nice to see all these breweries get together,” Evan Garrett, head brewer for Upper Hand Brewery in Escanaba, said of this event.

Upper Hand featured some limited-release beers at UPtoberfest this year, including “The Sermon.”

“(It’s) a Belgian golden strong ale aged in Chardonnay barrels,” Garrett said of this beer.

Blackrocks Brewery of Marquette also had a presence at this year’s UPtoberfest.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to come … and meet some new people in the Escanaba area, as well as visit some old friends,” said “Brewsician” Andy Langlois of Blackrocks.

Blackrocks brought a total of ten beers to UPtoberfest this year, including beers sold in stores and beers that are normally exclusive to their pub. Langlois highlighted one of the beers in the latter category, known as “Petal Picker IPA.”

“It’s a fun, experimental IPA brewed with lavender,” he said.

Other breweries represented at the festival came from downstate. Seth Rivard, co-owner of Rockford Brewing Company in Rockford, said he enjoys attending UPtoberfest each year.

“We’re excited that the festival sold out and is bigger than ever,” he said.

Rockford made 15 beers available to attendees of this year’s UPtoberfest.

“This is the most we’ve ever brought to a festival,” Rivard said.

UPtoberfest guests were also able to sample wines and meads from the area during Saturday’s event. Andy Green, winemaker for Threefold Vine Winery in Stephenson, said he appreciates the opportunity this festival gives attendees to sample their products.

“This gives everybody a chance to taste it and see if they like it or not,” he said.

For 2017, Threefold Vine brought a Viking-style mead to UPtoberfest.

“We’ve never offered that here,” Green said.

Free food and entertainment were offered to UPtoberfest attendees during the festival. Escanaba-based band ToHuBoHu provided live music, games and raffles were held, and hors d’oeurves prepared by local restaurant Bobaloon’s Cafe were served.

“There’s nothing better than beer and food,” UPtoberfest attendee Brock Mercier of Bark River said.

Among other dishes, Bobaloon’s served pork tacos at this year’s UPtoberfest. Mark Ammel, who is the owner of Bobaloon’s and a member of BDNB, said the pork used for these tacos came from a pig roast done for the festival.

“We did a … Mexican-inspired spice rub on the pig,” he said. Bobaloon’s also served fresh-cooked pork rinds, smoked beef brisket, fresh bratwurst, and Wisconsin cheeses at the festival.

New for this year’s event was a make-your-own-pretzel-necklace bar. BDNB member Amber Marenger, who is married to Mark Marenger, said this addition was inspired by her own experiences attending beer festivals and forgetting to make pretzel necklaces beforehand.

“I had the idea for people to just make their own pretzel necklaces to snack on,” she said.

Attendee Rudy Evonich of Marquette said that, since he has had similar experiences in the past, he appreciated this change to UPtoberfest.

“It’s a great idea,” he said.

Ammel said UPtoberfest plays an important role in Delta County.

“It’s such a positive impact on the community, to have all these people that come down here and support (this),” he said.

UPtoberfest attendee Kristy Dumas of Bark River agreed.

“I think it’s a great way for the community to get together and enjoy a beautiful afternoon,” she said.