ANGRY BEAR IN MIND
Ore Dock Brewing Co.’s Festival of the Angry Bear growing in size
MARQUETTE — It’s that time of year again when the world’s fauna and flora come springing back into action, and the big old snarling bear, angry and hungry from months of hibernation, awakens with an unquenchable thirst for beer.
At least, that’s sort of the idea behind the Ore Dock Brewing Company’s Festival of the Angry Bear, now in its fourth year.
“Each of the first three years we were always kind of like, ‘Is it still a thing? … Are people still interested in doing this?’ And I think after three years we were like ‘Yeah, this is a staple event … for downtown in the spring, and we need to invest in making sure it stays that way,” said Ore Dock liaison Adam Robarge.
This year’s festival will begin at 3 p.m. April 8 at the Ore Dock, located at 114 Spring St., Marquette.
Robarge estimated roughly 3,000 people visited the brewery for the festival last year, and this year’s event may be even bigger, with two outdoor tents instead of one, twice as many food options, two performance stages and more outdoor serving stations.
“I think this year … we really wanted to just double down and commit to being ready for what we think it can be, and we’ll see how the public responds,” Robarge said.
The brewery will offer around 15 different styles of beer during the festival, with some traditional favorites, such as Bum’s Beach Wheat and Fresh Coast Belgian IPA, being re-released for the spring and summer seasons, while also showcasing its lineup of barrel-aged brews.
While three of the five barrel-aged beers will be new additions, two have been featured at the festival before.
One, naturally, is the return of the festival’s namesake, the Angry Bear, an oud bruin, or “old brown” style of beer, also known as a Flanders brown, because of its origin in the Flanders region of Belgium, Robarge said.
“(The Angry Bear) is a specific style of brown, barrel-aged funky beer that we pull every spring,” he said. “That’s just one of those really nice sour beers that doesn’t have any fruit or anything. It’s just the beer, the bugs and the wood that you’re getting the characters out of.”
The other returning brew is called the Plumbers Crack, “which has kind of grown to be one of the festival favorites,” Robarge said. “It’s a sour ale, oak-aged on locally grown plums — and as a side note, they’re grown in our plumber’s backyard.”
Yes, that part is true. Robarge said the Ore Dock’s plumber each fall literally brings in a couple buckets of plums from his yard that are used in the beer.
“It’s probably one of the most sour beers of the festival, so I think people really dig that,” he said.
New this year is the introduction of festival cups, or metallic mugs that will replace the disposable plastic cups previously used at past festivals.
“Last year we went through thousands of plastic cups, and it’s hard — you try and recycle that, but a lot of it doesn’t get put in the recycling bin,” Robarge said. “It was just kind of a mess, and in an effort to … get away from that, but also wanting to give the beer the proper experience and the showcase that it deserves to be in,” they’re trying the one-mug per-person option.
There’s no admission charge, but festival cups are $6 apiece, which includes the first fill-up.
Performing on the two stages will be “a nice mix” of local and statewide acts, Robarge said.
“With two stages this year, I mean, we’re really talking 3 p.m. to midnight, nine hours of live music nonstop,” he said.
The lineup includes: The Organ Grinders; Steve Leaf & the Ex Pats; Frank and Da Beanz; Not Quite Canada; Barbarossa Brothers; Strung Together; Lumi; Mike Waite; and WhoDatBrass.
Food vendors will be Dia de los Tacos, Copper Crust Co., Wild Blue BBQ and the Steinhaus.
The Marquette County Conservation District will host a native plant station, and the festival’s edition of Science on Tap programming, set to begin at 3 p.m., is titled “The Buzz About Bees: Lessons About Alchemy, Sustainability and Community.” Science on Tap is a monthly lecture series typically held the second Thursday of every month hosted by Northern Michigan University’s Biology Department.
Children under 21 are welcome to attend the festival before 7 p.m. if accompanied by a parent.
Robarge said the idea behind the festival was never just to drink beer. It’s more about hosting a family-friendly event and encouraging a sense of community.
“We’re kind of … trying to do away with the individuality that you always sort of are feeling with your space in this country and really just throw a community event under a tent celebrating the return of spring, and light and warmth,” he said.
“We really don’t view it as this huge day for the Ore Dock,” he added later. “We really view it as something that we hope adds to the vibe and the culture of Marquette.”
Ryan Jarvi can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.