Bears & Beers: The Detroit Zoo Brew

Detroit-Zoo-Sign Typically when I think of the zoo, I imagine wild little children running around with their sippy cups eager to see the giraffes.  But the Zoo Brew?  Imagine equally as wild “big” kids running around with craft beers equally as eager to see the giraffes.  Because we’re all big kids at heart, the zoo never really loses its charm.  And this event captures adult allure with the promise of local craft breweries to keep things buzzing. 

Over 80 local Michigan craft breweries were stationed around the zoo.  A $35 admission gives attendees 12 tasting tickets; each ticket = a 3 oz. pour.  Double up if you enjoy a particular brew (although you’ll soon learn that the 3 oz. pours are typically generous).  Most of the zoo exhibits are open until dark, so by the time we entered, the waning daylight threatened a limited viewing time.  It’s different to see the animals in the evening – they are much more active as the sun begins to set.

I don't know who is happier... me or the camel?

I don’t know who is happier… me or the camel?
Probably me, because it was Friday, not Wednesday.

Atwater Brewery, the event sponsor, welcomed guests with a free sample of their Blueberry Cobbler beer (uh… YUM!).  For $5, guests could upgrade for a commemorative glass cup (I love mine).  There were SO many beer options; it made my head spin.  I saw breweries I’d never heard of before.  We had no strategy to what we wanted to try.  We’d find a tent, stand in line, and then make our selection once we got close enough to read them.  As time passed, some breweries had to close up shop as they ran out of libations.

My favorite of the night?  J.K.’s Scrumpy.  Their J.K.’s Northern Neighbor Farmhouse Cider was like drinking apple juice with a slight effervescence and crisp bite of a finish.  Mildly sweet yet refreshing.  Dangerously delicious.  An employee of Scrumpy talked to me all about their orchard & unique cider-making process (they actually use pigs instead of pesticides).  They’re purely organic & sustainable.  I’d love to visit the orchard and see/learn more.


Did I mention there was live music?

Everyone wants Michigan craft beer!

Everyone wants Michigan craft beer!

Now if I’m perfectly honest, I had some apprehension about attending the Zoo Brew this year.  While I had a great experience the year before, the beer tents were so condensed in the same areas that lines were sometimes nonexistent – it seemed like human globs were fighting to fill their cups.  This crowd mentality meant long waits & indiscernible movement.

BUT this year the Zoo Brew did it right – the beer tents were thoughtfully spaced around the courtyards encouraging visible lines that moved swiftly.  Not once did I feel like I was navigating through an impenetrable sea of people.  Yes, this year the Zoo Brew got it right.

In fact, the lack of crowding was so comfortable, I could actually see the people in attendance which meant a mini-reunion with all the familiar faces I encountered and great people-watching.  And speaking of people-watching, demographically I was SO surprised by the high volume of women.  Guys, where were you?!  Perhaps I’m being sexist by expecting more men to be in attendance at a craft beer tasting event (no, I’m not being sexist, I’m being stereotypical.  As a marketer it’s my job to segment & create consumer profiles, right?), but there were clusters of ladies in all corners.  Are women enjoying craft beer more than the men?  Is a beer tasting event at the Zoo more geared toward women?  Or did these ladies have high hopes to meet a strapping lad and bond over some Jolly Pumpkin?  The Great Mysteries of Life.  I’m sure there’s some market research out there.  It’s just an observation.


Since this event quickly sold out, I’m going to keep it on my radar for next year.  For anyone else interested in attending the Zoo’s adult only activities, I’d recommend checking out their events page (Zoomance, Wild Wine).  I didn’t see a place on their website to sign up for alerts, but I always find that following a place’s social media accounts is a good way to stay on the edge of news & events.

Welcome to the Zoo Brew. Grab your tickets & get wild.

Welcome to the Zoo Brew. Grab your tickets & get wild.

Tips for attending the Zoo Brew

  • The catered food is highly priced.  I saw people bring in their own food.  American Coney Island was also open, which I highly recommend eating after you throw back a few.
  • The event opens at 6.  Arrive on time which guarantees the least crowds & more daylight to see the animal exhibits.
  • Many of the indoor exhibits close at 8:30.
  • Bring a flashlight if you think you’ll still be strolling around the exhibits when darkness falls – there’s NO lighting.
  • Free carousel rides until 10:30 (You know you want to!).
  • Bring cash!  You can upgrade to a glass cup and purchase additional tasting tickets.
The glass cup upgrade - the other side says Zoo Brew in orange typeface. P.S. - check out that zebra print table cloth!

The glass cup upgrade – the other side says Zoo Brew in orange typeface. P.S. – check out that zebra print table cloth!


Follow the Detroit Zoo on Twitter.
Like the Detroit Zoo on Facebook.

P.S. – Thanks to my handsome boyfriend for a date night at the Zoo. :)

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