Michigan breweries head to Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival for second year

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By: Michelle Sokol
msokol@flavor574.com

Eric Strader/Hop Notes

Two Michigan breweries have landed a spot on the lineup of a beer festival with more than 80,000 attendees.

Well, it’s not just a beer festival — it’s Bonnaroo. But beer plays a big part. 

New Holland Brewing and Founders Brewery will both return for their second year at the Broo’ers Festival, a tent positioned at the heart of the music festival that houses more than 20 craft beer booths.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, set this year for June 11-14, is located on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee. The festival attracts big-name headliners like Paul McCartney, Jack White, Kanye West and Billy Joel, but the food and drink lineups are just as exciting.

Disclaimer: I’m a Bonnaroovian. I’ll be headed to the farm for my fourth time in June. One of my favorite (non-musical) memories from last year’s festival was sharing a cold beer with friends outside the Broo’ers Festival while listening to Phoenix rock their hit “1901.”

While most major music events have a corporate beer sponsor (and that’s pretty much all you’ll be able to drink for the duration of the festival) Bonnaroo makes a point of recruiting up-and-coming vendors from across the country.

The Broo’ers Festival feels like a traditional beer fest, with saw dust on the floor and vendors offering several sizes of samples in exchange for tickets. Only at this beer festival, there are a lot more high fives handed out and the sound of live music wafts in from every direction.

New Holland and Founders were hits last year, and teams from both breweries are pumped to return again next month.

Even if you’re not headed to Manchester this year, you can still check out the breweries. Both are within a two-hour drive of Michiana.

NEW HOLLAND BREWING, Holland

At a typical beer festival, New Holland Brewing will bring along two half-barrels. At the 2014 Broo’ers festival, they went through more than three barrels.

Taylor Remy, the brewery’s national event and scholarship coordinator, was part of last year’s team and said it was a fantastic experience.

New Holland had just expanded to Tennessee last year, so the Broo’ers Festival was a chance to get to know the new sales area. Just a few weeks ago, Memphis was added for distribution and Remy hopes this year’s event will help the brand reach a larger audience. 

“New Holland Brewing is in 27 states, so we have a fairly wide spread, but we’re not a national brand yet,” he said. “But Bonnaroo attracts populations from Florida, California, all over, so we get to introduce them to New Holland beer at the festival.”

But it’s not all business for the New Holland team at Bonnaroo. The festival gives vendors four passes, so while some of the team is staffing the booth others can explore the farm.

Remy said one of his favorite memories was when Sam Smith performed on a small stage in the early afternoon.

“I was just 15 feet away from him,” he said. “It’s just one of those great takeaways, who knows what great show you’re going to catch.”

New Holland is also Michigan’s largest craft distillery, so the team will be presenting at Broo’ers University (BrooU) about how spirits and beer can work together to make unique products.

“We’re just really hungry to have another great experience,” Remy said. 

FOUNDERS BREWERY, Grand Rapids

Bonnaroo contacted Founders about partnering up after the brewing company expanded into Tennessee last year. 

“The response to us attending was great,” said John Marchetti, Founder’s Southeast regional director. “So many Midwest people came up to us and thanked us for being there. overall it was a very positive response.”

The team put on a seminar at BrooU last year about its All Day IPA and the value of session IPAs in general. “Session” is a term that dates back to a time when workers were allowed drinking sessions on the job, so “session” beer generally has a lower ABV. That’s a good thing at Bonnaroo, when the scorching temperatures and high humidity can take a toll.

For the Founders team, drinking an All Day IPA (Marchetti called it the perfect beer for Bonnaroo) and watching Yonder Mountain String Band on the main stage was the highlight of the weekend.

Founders will be back at BrooU with a session at 5:30 p.m. Friday, June 13. The team will present about the brewery and its barrel-aged beers.

Bonnaroo is one of the biggest beer events Founders has ever attended, and Marchetti said that allows the team to introduce its beer to thousands of craft beer fans in a four-day period. 

“It gets our name out there. It also shows people that Founders is a big player in this growing industry,” he said. “We’re always looking to create a memory or great experience for all fans, and this allows us to do just that.”

THE FULL LINE-UP

More than 20 breweries — including some big-name brands producing hundreds of thousands of barrels a year and other microbreweries with just 3,000 barrels — will be part of the Broo’ers Festival this year.

Here’s the list:

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