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Craft Brewers (and Festivals!) Grow in Midwest

Craft beer is totally “in” today! And along with the continuing rise in small and independent craft breweries, come a host of festivals that celebrate the Midwest’s beer heritage, including the Shelf Ice Brewfest, coming up Feb. 17 in Michigan City.

The Midwest’s romance with craft beer grew from a history that began when German immigrants initially fueled the rise of small breweries back in the early- to mid-1800s. Unfortunately, most of those long-ago breweries were snatched up by larger beer companies or were unable to compete and died off, according to BLT, a blog site for lifestyle and travel. For decades after, there were few small independent breweries across the country.

Today, however, small craft brewing companies claim a larger share of the market each year. The most recent data from the Brewers Association shows that these small operations saw a 6 percent increase over the past five years. Across the Midwest, from the Black Hills of South Dakota to southern Ohio and everywhere in between, beer festivals offer a great time, plus a chance to try brews created throughout the region.

The Shelf Ice Brewfest is in its fourth year in Michigan City, and organizers already have more than 40 breweries lined up for the big day, Feb. 17 from 1-5 p.m. along Franklin Street between 6th and 8th in the community’s Uptown Arts District (VIP ticket holders get in at noon). Visitors can sample beers from brewers across the Midwest, including LaPorte County’s own Zorn Brew Works, Shoreline Brewery, Burn ’Em Brewing, and Back Road Brewery,

Festival goers can sample food from four popular local restaurants – Fiddlehead, Miller Pizza By the Beach, Arturo’s Baked Goods & More, and Smokey G’s BBQ. At the festival, you can take advantage of free parking and shuttle service and even get a designated driver. The clock is counting down days, hours, minutes and seconds on the Brewfest website, where you can find information on both regular and VIP tickets. Proceeds from the event support the Michigan City Mainstreet Association, which works for continuing improvements to the Uptown Arts District, plus lots of fun events.

Fun Family Events Ahead, too!

If you’re looking for great family-friendly events, a couple of great options are coming up in LaPorte County. The Orak Shrine Circus, produced by Carden International Circus of Missouri, will be at the LaPorte Civic Auditorium for performances at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 13 and 14. Audiences will see amazing acts that feature all of their favorite animals, including elephants, camels and horses, plus daring performances by acrobats and trapeze artists. And, of course, there’ll be plenty of clowns on hand to keep you laughing. Come early and the kids can ride the animals and meet the performers. The show benefits the Orak Shriners, a fraternal group which supports many good causes, including Shriners Hospitals for Children.

You can get a little history lesson in a very fun way at Maple Sugaring Time Demonstration at Friendship Botanic Gardens in Michigan City. Find out how early inhabitants of North America produced that wonderful topping that everyone still enjoys today during this special family event from noon to 3 p.m. Feb. 18. Take a self-guided nature walk through old-growth woodland trails to the maple sugaring station where expert Jude Rakowski will be boiling sap in a firepit to make the syrup and explaining the process. The children can design their own crafts related to maple sugar or Native American culture at the Center’s Welcome Cabin. This event is dependent on weather conditions, so be sure to check the Bonantic Gardens website ( the week of the event to make sure it’s still on and for any rescheduling information.
For more information on all the events:

Shelf Ice Brewfest:
Orak Shrine Circus:
Maple Sugaring Time Demonstration at Friendship Botanic Gardens:

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