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Up North Beerfest: A Toast to the Upper Midwest’s Top Craft Beers

When it comes time to pick the location for your next big June getaway, look no further than Eagle River, in beautiful Northern Wisconsin. While you may not know Northern Wisconsin as a vacation destination, the combination of resorts, attractions, activities, and events here are second to none.


Named after the amount of eagles that annually make their nests in the area, Eagle River was first settled back in the 1850’s. While the town was originally inhabited by lumberjacks and traders, it began to change with the mainstream production of the automobile. As ease of travel increased by the early 20th Century, people began to explore more and travel further for vacation opportunities. Soon the stunning vistas of Eagle River were available to everyone and multiple resorts were established in the area. Today, the town has roughly 1,400 residents and it remains a gem of Northern Wisconsin.


Eagle River is an outdoor lover's dream destination with panoramic vistas, scenic parks and abundant activities. The local parks are great for outdoor games, hiking, biking, photography and so much more. There are rivers, lakes and streams that are perfect for boating, fishing, swimming and kayaking. You can also check out some of great local shops, unique restaurants or try your luck at the local casino. One of the best ways to experience the tight-knit Eagle River community is during one of the big local events, like the Up North Beerfest.


While this is the first official year of the Up North Beerfest, the event has already made its mark on the community for over a decade.  The recently re-branded event was formerly known as the Great Northern Beer Festival. This adults-only celebration takes some of the best craft beers from across the Upper Midwest and puts them in one place for you to enjoy. There will be over 32 breweries represented this year, as well as a great selection of food for you to purchase. From the beautiful outdoor setting to the friendly and welcoming people of Eagle River, this event is a can't miss for any craft beer lover. We got the chance to interview Kim Emerson, Executive Director of the Eagle River Chamber of Commerce, to talk about this fun craft beer celebration.


RAL: Tell me a little bit about the event.  

KE: The Up North Beerfest is an appreciation of craft beers, with 32 breweries being represented from Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota. This is the first year of the Up North Beerfest as it was formerly known as the Great Northern Beer Festival, which ran for 11 years. It is still the same great event with just a name change. This year we are expecting over 1,000 people in attendance. Demographically our crowd consists of adults who are over 21 years old. Most of our patrons enjoy tasting unique craft beers and talking to the brewers about their process.


RAL: What makes this event unique?  

KE: Our surroundings makes this a unique experience. The event is held outdoors on the grounds of a local woodland campground in the beautiful northwoods of Wisconsin.  


RAL: Take me through a day at the event.  

KE: As you enter the festival grounds you will be presented your ticket, a tasting glass, and description booklet of all the beers that the brewers are offering. Proceed to the brewer’s tents, where you can begin to sample over 100 different craft beers. Check out the food tent to find a variety of items being served by the area Jaycees. There is also a Giant Beer Pong game that is supported by the area snowmobile club, Sno-Eagles. There is a live band, “People’s Choice”, playing a wide variety of very popular music. The festival runs from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm. Designated drivers get into the event free with a paid admission and have the opportunity to taste several sodas brewed by brewers at the festival. There is also a bus shuttle available to and from the area hotels for those staying in the area.  


RAL: What is the overall environment like?  

KE: The Hi-Pines Campground Festival Grounds is outfitted with large tents where all the brewers are stationed serving samples. You’ll find a Giant Beer Pong game where you try to throw a ball into the GIANT Solo cups to win a prize. The overall environment is a lot of fun.


RAL: What can an attendee expect to find for local lodging?

KE: The Eagle River Area is a tourist community with a wide variety of lodging which includes hotels, cabins and resorts to choose from.


RAL: What does the event mean to the community?

KE: It brings several visitors to our area, to not only enjoy this great event, but to explore our communities other wonderful things to do such as: area supper clubs, gift shops, lakes, parks and the sheer abundance of fun outdoor activities.


RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?  

KE: Yes, our event participants not only enjoy the celebration, but also frequent our area businesses from gas stations to lodging. Everyone sees a boost during the event.


RAL: Why should people come to your event?

KE: This event creates great comradery and new friendships. It gives the participant a chance to taste craft beers that they might not otherwise do so and then they go home with new favorites to choose from. It is just a plain old good time where everyone is relaxing and enjoying the day.

For more information about the Up North Beerfest, please visit their website.