For Southwest Michiganders, there’s a certain sign of Spring we look for toward the end of Winter. It’s not migratory birds, and nothing to do with a groundhog, but we look to see whether or not Bell’s Brewery’s Oberon is on the shelves. Truly, this is how we determine when Spring is here, and if it’s not here, we fake it starting now.
“Ope—is it already Oberon Season? Guess I can dig out my summer wardrobe again.”
“Ope—is that Oberon at the grocery store? We should probably start thinking about getting the boat put in.”
“Ope—I can order an Oberon on draft? I better dust off my sunglasses.”
Yes, my friends—the winter grey is breaking and Spring is here. Fill up your propane, order a new pair of sandals, and…well, bug spray, lots of bug spray. Put away your snowboard and get the kayak down from the rafters, we’re going to explore some Pure Michigan in the best way we know how. And as you’re packing for your next adventure, don’t forget Southwest Michigan’s summer beverage of choice.
The day itself is very special. Today, we can finally put our seasonal depression on the shelf until next year, and look forward to longer days and shorter nights. Yes, the season of Oberon aligns with the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes. “But what is in a name?” You ask. You didn’t ask. A guy named Shakespeare asked, and he also wrote about the King of the fairies for whom this beer is named.
I like to imagine some sort of legend to go along with Oberon Season. Perhaps the Spring Equinox is the day when Oberon and the rest of the fairy population rises from their hibernation to inhabit our wooded areas again, and then return to their underground winter homes at the Autumn Equinox. Was the seasonal beer crafted to celebrate the presence of the fairies for half of our calendar?
Probably not. Actually, the name of this beer was originally Solsun, but a Mexican brewery asked for the name to be changed since it was too close to a name of one of their beers. It is said that Oberon was a whimsical name with the same number of letters, so the artwork would not have to be changed. I’ll let you decide which of the two stories are correct, but next time you’re hiking in the woods and you trip over something that you swear wasn’t there a second ago, will you wonder who put it there? I’m not saying I believe in fairies, but I also haven’t spent much time checking underneath mushroom canopies either.
Regardless of what we believe about the origin of the holiday, whether named for the King of the fairies, or named for the beer, we can all agree that Oberon Day is special for our region. Spring is here, and we can feel the rays of the Sun once again!
I give Oberon Day 4 out of 5 stars.
Fun fact: When Larry Bell was in 6th grade, he played the part of Oberon, the fairy king in Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Michael “Hogey” Hogoboom is a writer, podcaster, and the director of marketing for Watershed Voice.