Michigan’s First Solar Brewery Goes On-Line

On June 11, 2012, Ann Arbor’s first brewpub became Michigan’s first solar brewery with a $95K solar-thermal and photovoltaic system.  Arbor Brewing Company’s sustainable energy system uses the sun’s energy to generate electricity as well as the majority of the hot water needed for brewery and restaurant operations.

The system includes a 2.4 kW solar photovoltaic array, 300 solar thermal collector tubes and a high-efficiency tankless water heater system to supplement the heat from the collector tubes when necessary. When combined with other improvements like switching to CFL and LED lighting and installing low-flow sprayers and occupancy sensors, the system is expected to offset gas usage by up to 40% and electricity usage by up to 15%.

The project grew out of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s (A2 DDA) Energy Conservation Grant Program which provided free energy audits and 50% project rebates (up to $20,000) to downtown businesses that implemented audit recommendations to become more energy efficient.  ABC owner Matt Greff worked with Ann Arbor DDA Energy Programs Director David Konkle as well as a consulting team from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment led by Jarett Diamond. Together they were able to identify a number of financial resources and incentives to help offset the installation cost of the system including the $20,000 grant from the DDA, a $10,000 interest-free loan from the city, a 30% tax credit from the federal government, and various incentives from DTE.

Arbor Brewing Company’s Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti is also nearing completion on its own $250,000 Green Brewery Project which includes solar-thermal, photovoltaic, and geo-thermal technologies along with other improvements like new windows and awnings and energy-efficient chiller equipment. The system has with a total system rating of 18 kW electric, and 64.8 kW thermal and is expected to provide almost all of Corner Brewery’s hot water needs and up to 15% of its electricity. We believe this to be the largest-capacity solar installation of any craft brewery East of Colorado. It is set to go online later this summer.

According to Greff the project, which took over two years to complete, was worth every bit of effort that went into it.  “It feels really good to know that we were able to make changes that are as good for the environment as they are for the bottom line.  We couldn’t have done it without the expertise and assistance we received from our many partners and we hope to be able to assist other small businesses interested in improving their energy efficiency.”

Arbor Brewing Company will be hosting a ribbon-cutting reception to celebrate the launch of the new system on 
Wednesday, July 11 from 5-7pm at the brewpub at 114 E Washington St, Ann Arbor. 
Corner Brewery will be hosting its celebration:
Wednesday, August 29 from 5-7 at 720 Norris St, Ypsilanti.
Both events are free and open to the public.

Seriously? I can get paid for this?!

<div class=\"postavatar\">Seriously? I can get paid for this?!</div>

It sometimes amazes me that I get paid to do the job that I do. I love organizing and scheduling and it has that. I love working with kids and it has that. I love teaching teachers, community members and parents new ways of working with students with disabilities and God knows, it has lots of that! It’s not the perfect job, of course—that would be the $200,000 per year job where you sit on your ass, all day long, hang out with your friends and drink beer that does not make you get fat. The next best thing (other than my day job) is the job that I did this past Saturday night—a beer tasting!

My pal Tammy runs a popular business called Tammy’s Tastings. She got hired to run a beer tasting at a birthday party and, smart woman that she is, hired me to be her wingwoman. I must confess to being a little nervous before the party: what if someone asked me something I didn’t know the answer to? What if someone heckled us? What if I spilled beer all over? What if the ghost of Samuel Adams danced in, waving firecrackers at us?! What if what if what?!?!

But it was all good.  No hecklers, no spillages, no ghosts of brewers past—just some rockin’ ales. The birthday girl preferred Belgians and the party thrower preferred pale ales, so Tammy and I tried for the best of both worlds. We did a blind taste test wherein people tasted the eight samples at their leisure, followed by a “grand reveal” by us.

We started with Sam Smith’s English Pale Ale, a beer I felt best exemplified the English pale ale style. It got a lukewarm reaction from the crowd (only three self-identified as beer geeks). I found it a bit more plain than I remembered it, and had to remind myself that it is an English pale and I shouldn’t expect the bam of a, well, of a Bam.

The American Pale Ale was represented by Great Lakes Burning River. This batch seemed hoppier than usual, and so a lot of folks guessed that it was an IPA. Nevertheless, a lot of people seemed to like it.

I have to confess that I haven’t had a lot of English IPAs in my day, so I took Beer Advocate’s recommendation and got the St. Peters IPA. Wow! Am I glad that I did! This beer was my personal “find” of the night. It had almost an earthy, smoky quality to it, rounded out by those wonderful bitter hops. Quite a few people picked this as their personal favorite.

Our American IPA had to be Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. I got to give a spiel about the 75, 90 and 120 minute IPAs and I think I impressed a few souls, if I do say so myself.

Next up, we featured our Belgium beers: Duval, Delirium Tremens and the Franco-Belgian beer from our own Jolly Pumpkin, Oro de Calabaza. I have actually never had the first two beers, as I am not a huge Belgian fan. I was very fond of the “pink elephant” beer—nice and strong, but easy drinking. Reactions were decidedly mixed on the two “true” Belgian beers…some folks immediately recognized that they were not fans and others were just the opposite.

The biggest surprise for me was the strong, mostly negative, reaction to the Jolly Pumpkin. One of the categories on their informal score sheets was “Blech”; I was completely floored by the number of people who said that they thought the beer was even worse than that. People in the crowd were similarly floored when I announced all of the awards that Jolly Pumpkin generally and that beer specifically had won. Perhaps it is an acquired taste?

Our final beer was our “wild card” and it was met with a strong reaction of mostly positive reviews. It is one of my favorite beers and comes from a lovely brewery in Grand Rapids. Its label has an old man on it and it is 6.6% ABV. If you guessed Red’s Rye, then you are correct, my child. A lot of people said that this was their favorite beer of the night.

The whole experience was awesome for me, especially when I heard people at their tables talking about the beer. I heard words like “banana”, “earthy”, “balanced”, “bitter”, “nose”, “head” and all sorts of words that I would not expect from a non-beer geek group. It truly made my heart soar like a hawk, as my creepy 10th grade Social Studies teacher used to say.

So if you need a beer tasting at your next party–or if you just think Tammy & I would be fun to party with (we are)–you know what to do! 🙂

Spring Beer Dinner at the Grange–Springing Into Awesome

Brandon Johns is not just one of the coolest people I know, he is one of the bravest.  I mean, seriously? Starting a restaurant in this economy?? And stocking it with locally sourced and seasonal food, still not a sure thing even in this town? Wow.  That’s just gutsy.

Not only is Chef Johns committed to local food, he is similarly committed to local beer.  This past week, the Grange held its Spring Beer Dinner which highlighted the best of food and brew.

The first beer served was Arbor Brewing Company’s Tree Fort beer.  This is a light, refreshing “lawnmower beer” that has improved with every batch.  It is, quite simply, the beer you’d want after a long day of mowing.  It was a perfect start to the dinner and was paired with a variety of snacks, Brandon style.  I say “Brandon style” because “Patti style” snacks are a bag of Doritos, take it or leave it.  But at the Grange, we got homemade chips (yum!), popcorn popped in bacon fat, deep fried pickles and deep fried smelt with OMG I never had before but promptly fell in love (and, as someone at our table said, “I get the feeling that the Superbowl at Brandon’s house wouldn’t have pretzels).  I could have eaten that stuff all night and felt I got my money’s worth.  The salty, crispy, fried deliciousness paired perfectly with the lighter ale.

Next, we had sauteed lake trout over spelt and leeks.  The beer was New Holland’s Golden Cap Saison Ale.  This beer is made with spelt and so it paired very well with the spelt.  (I just realized that we had smelt and then spelt and that is kind of cool). Golden Cap is an updated version of a traditional farmhouse ale.  You see, back in the day, the farmhands would drink beer (water was icky and unsafe) and if you feed your workers a 9% Trippel, well, they are going to be sleeping instead of, er, hoeing.  Thus, a lighter beer! (Okay, this one has an a.b.v. of around 6% but still).

The next course featured Arcadia’s Whitsun Ale paired with paella, rabbit & shrimp over gold rice.  I have to confess some hesitation to eat Thumper but he’s pretty good!  Whitsun is a wheat beer, full bodied & toasty with some hints of caramel. The toasty body paired very well with rice and Thumper (Brandon kindly remember that I don’t eat shellfish and had a special dish just for me! That’s the kind of service I’m talkin’ about).

The “main” course was a smoked pork shoulder but I got another special dish of homemade pasta.  People love to get me crap for not eating pork–and I do miss it–but I am so glad that I got this dish instead! It was delicious and paired well with the fourth beer, the Dark Horse/Arbor Dark Corner brown ale.  If you haven’t had this collaboration ale, you need to get some before it runs out.  It is the same recipe but different water and house yeast, and the brewpubs made totally different beers.  Both are great–but both are different.  Both went nicely with my pasta and Jeff reported that they were “perfect” with his smoked pig.

Finally, we had a selection of Michigan cheeses, including a ricotta that was–and I’m not gonna lie–like eating a pillow of deliciousness.  The beer was Founders Curmudgeon Old Ale.  This was the strongest beer of the batch. It is malted and oak aged, with a touch of molasses.  Nice heavy beer to go with the light cheeses.  It made for an excellent dessert course. Much better than chocolate, which I actually don’t care for.

I can’t say enough about this excellent dinner! We had wonderful dinner companions, including Ron from Rave Associates (who was knowledgeable and personable, as always) and a wonderful host in Brandon!  I’m truly glad that we have such a cool–and brave–guy here in Ann Arbor.

Holiday Beer Tastings!

<div class=\"postavatar\">Holiday Beer Tastings!</div>

In the past couple of weeks, Jeff  and I went to back-to-back beer tastings at Arbor Brewing and Whole Foods respectively.  I love Arbor tastings because some of my friends pour and that is always fun.  Also, they have perogies and meatballs.  MMMMMMM!! Oh, and the beer is pretty good, too!

This year, my favorites were Heavy Seas Winter Storm, Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve and, surprisingly, Iqhilika Fig Meade.  The Heavy Seas was mildly bitter, according to my tasting notes with a nice aftertaste. It was hoppy with a caramel-vanilla taste.  I was surprised to find out it was 7.7% ABV because it went down way easily.

I always love me some Rogue and this year’s Santa’s Private Reserve did not disappoint.  Malty up front, hoppy to finish (I scribbled down “pine” so that makes me think that I meant I tasted piney hops at some point).

The biggest surprise for me was the fig meade that I had.  The only honey that I like is this particular brand of whipped honey that I buy at Great Harvest Bread Company and put on my morning English muffins. It is from mid-Michigan and I truly believe that the local pollen in the honey has helped my allergies.  I do not like regular honey though and therefore do not usually like mead.  But man, batten down the hatches cuz this stuff is GOOD!!!! It’s called Iqhilika Fig Meade from ZA, which I’m not sure what that ZA stands for.  It was like drinking a warm, spicey fig.  But with alcohol!  They had is warmed up in the basement and I honestly could have spent all night there!

But I couldn’t stay in the basement all night cuz there were other rooms of beer.  Other notable beers featured were Calabaza Noel from Jolly Pumpkin, Dark Horse Coffee Dopplebock, Bell’s Christmas Ale and Huyghe Delirium Noel (the one with the pink elephants on it that I call the Christmas Pink Elephant beer).

Because one beer tasting is never enough, Jeff and I went to our friend Jimmy’s holiday beer tasting at Whole Foods.  Jimmy puts on a great tasting and we got to sit in that kitchen at the front of Whole Foods.  When you walk in, turn left and keep walking and you will eventually see it behind two glass doors.  It was always like a Secret Mystery Room for me and I was quite pleased to get to actually go inside.  I am easily pleased, as you may have guessed.

We started with the “Cable Car”, which is a beer that is exclusive to Whole Foods.  Not sure who actually brews it.  (Trader Joe’s has something similar in its stores).  It is a good starter beer, good gateway beer or, as I like to say, a good “palate cleanser”.  It was very light tasting, light brown in color but did have some Christmas-y spices to it.

Next, we had Bell’s Winter Ale, which is most definitely Belgian-style.  I do not care for Belgian style beers, so Jeff finished mine. He says it was “to style”, with a nice floral palate.  We then moved onto Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale which is a personal favorite of mine.  It is hoppy, malty and kinda strong.  Next was the Anchor Christmas Ale which I somehow hadn’t tried at Arbor the night before.  It was very dark and kinda figgy looking.

Anyway, it didn’t taste figgy. It tasted spicy and strong…we think we detected anise and nutmeg spices.  Next was Jolly Pumpkin’s Noel de Calabaza.  This is a great beer! Full of figs (!!!), malt, raisins and even a nut taste.  Lastly was Bell’s Christmas Ale which had a “spicy but clean” taste, according to my tasting notes.  I am reading about the beer right now though and Bell’s says that it doesn’t actually contain any spices.  Huh.  It tasted mildly spicy so I’m not sure what to tell you.

These two beer tastings were a great way to kick off what is sure to be a great winter of drinking beer!  Cheers!

Dirty Love? Seems Quite Clean to Me

<div class=\"postavatar\">Dirty Love? Seems Quite Clean to Me</div>


I wanted to find something special for the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death which is today, Dec. 8. I decided to go with something local from a town where John Lennon one of his most famous concerts (a rally to free John Sinclair was held in Ann Arbor on December 10, 1971.) So our Advent beer for tonight is Arbor Brewing Company’s Dirty Love. It was recomended to us by Spencer Thomas (I hope I have that last name right) who has commented on previous blog posts and who we met in person at Jeff and Patti’s anniversary party last Saturday. 

Yes this beer would be more appropriate for a tribute to Frank Zappa. However, I think it fits John Lennon too. After all, love is all you need  and I do believe he would appreciate supporting local. Maybe it’s a stretch, I don’t know. I guess we all want to project what is important to us onto people we admire especially when their voice has been silenced.

This beer is a version Espresso Love from Arbor Brewing Company which we purchased at Corner Brewery. It  is barrel-aged with chocolate, chipotle and vanilla added in. Both Sarah and I love Espresso Love so we are really excited about trying this out. Here we go:

Appearance: This beer has a dark brown opaque espresso color with a light tan head which dissipates quickly and leaves only a faint ring around the outer edge of the glass, if at all.

Aroma: The barrel aging process is most prominent in the aroma with notes of of oak,  smokey bourbon and sour mash whiskey mingling with chocolate. No detection of the chipotle peppers or vanilla at this stage.

Taste: This beer has a medium body with a nice crisp bite. Again in the flavor, this takes on the character of the barrel in which it was aged: oak, slight vanilla and again bourbon. We detected a faint sourness but not a flawed sourness but possibly intentionally picked up the barrel aging  or a residual sourness from lactose, or what you get when you taste a very dark bitter chocolate. You begin to pick up the chipotle flavor during the middle of the taste and then as that dissipates, the ever so slight peppery heat lingers on your tongue along with notes of coffee, dark chocolate and roasted malt. We didn’t really get much of a vanilla taste from whatever vanilla was added to this beer.

Both Sarah and I enjoyed this beer. It takes a good beer… and makes it better. (Wait that’s reference to a Paul song.) The beer is perfectly balanced and it has a great mouth feel. I’m not sure why they call it Dirty Love. It seems quite clean to me.

Wolverine State Brewing Co. Opens In Ann Arbor

<div class=\"postavatar\">Wolverine State Brewing Co. Opens In Ann Arbor</div>

Below is an exciting press release from E.T. Crowe aka “The Beer Wench” about the grand opening of Ann Arbor’s newest brewery, Wolverine State Brewing Co. located at 2019 W. Stadium. I can’t wait to make it up there.

November 4, 2010
For more information contact:  E.T. Crowe, Director of Sales and Marketing


Michigan’s newest craft microbrewery opens its doors to the public Friday, November 5, 2010.  Located on the west side of Ann Arbor, The Wolverine State Brewing Company has been contract brewing Wolverine Premium Lager for three years, with distribution throughout the state.   The new 7000 sq. ft. facility, which will specialize in micro-brewed lagers, will feature seven unique brews on tap when the doors open on.

Owners Matt Roy, Trevor Thrall and E.T. Crowe hired head brewer Oliver Roberts in 2009 and purchased a steam-heated, 10-barrel, two-vessel, combi-tank system from the Wolf Rock Brewing Co. in Keystone, Colorado, shipping it across country in early 2010.  The elegant copper-clad system, made by Liquid Assets as a “showpiece” brewery, also includes four fermenters and five serving vessels/bright tanks.  Once the lease for the old appliance warehouse space was signed in January 2010, work commenced to turn the empty rooms into a fully functional commercial brewery and Tap Room. 

The Tap Room will be open seven days a week and features darts, foosball, televisions, many seating arrangements including tables featuring Michigan nautical maps, a comfortable couch and chairs area and a 40-foot, custom-made bar.  As a traditional “tap room,” there is no kitchen, but dry snacks including hot pretzels will be available.  There is also an extensive “West Side Menu of Menus” that beer-drinking patrons can use to order Chinese food, pizza, sandwiches or salads delivered from local restaurants. 

Wolverine Premium Lager, which is available in many retail outlets including Kroger, Meijer, and Busch’s; many package stores; and in several bars and restaurants, will be joined on tap by:
Big House Brown (lager)—3.7% ABV/24 IBUs
The Wench’s Westside Wheat (ale)—3.8% ABV/18 IBUs
Insolent Mink IPA (ale)—6.4% ABV/67 IBUs
Pride of Biscuitville Lager—6% ABV/41 IBUs
Gulo Gulo Northwest Lager—6.9% ABV/59 IBUs
emOATable Lager—5.7% ABV/36 IBUs

Hours of operation will be:
Monday-Thursday 3-11 p.m.
Friday-Saturday noon-midnight
Sunday noon-5 p.m.
The Tap Room is available on a limited basis for small private parties.

The Tale of the Whole Foods

<div class=\"postavatar\">The Tale of the Whole Foods</div>

Hello, everyone! My name is Patti Smith & I am thrilled to be a blogger on Michigan Beer Buzz.  I have read this blog for years and have had the pleasure of being friends with the Nashs, Jnaz and Rob for almost as long.  I live in Ann Arbor with my husband and dog. I am a special education teacher and currently a cheerleading coach at my school.  In my spare time, I enjoy drinking and brewing craft beer!  I imagine that I will blog about both of these issues at length on this blog, on my personal blog and in my occasional article on AnnArbor.com.  For my splashing debut, I would like to talk about what I do every other Friday, which is to go to the Cranbrook (Ann Arbor) Whole Foods.

I know how it sounds.  I see you putting your fingers in the shape of an “L” and starting to put it up to your forehead.  But really, it is a blast because, you see, this Whole Foods is magical, for in the center of the store is an enchanted oasis of alcohol.  You need only ride your unicorn (or drive your car) up to the bar and sit on the bewitching stools.  You tell the wizard (a.k.a. Jimmy) what you would like and for a mere three gold pieces (okay, fine, $3.00 American) you receive a pint of fresh, chilled beer.  The reason that every other Friday keeps my friends and me spellbound is because a different Michigan brewery visits on those days.  They will bring with them fanciful kegs and marvelous brews to enchant you for hours (well, from 5pm-7pm, anyway).  You can even chat with the brewer! You drink and talk and order the otherworldly (in a good way) cheese plates and then at midnight, your coach turns into a pumpkin.  Oh wait.  I’m mixing fairy tales. My bad.

Tomorrow, Founders brewery will be visiting the Whole Foods, so come on out and say “Kazaam” or “Abracadabra” or just say “hey”.  Looking forward to a great time blogging for you & drinking with ya!

PS: For those in the Ann Arbor area, I’d like to invite you to Ignite Ann Arbor. I will be speaking on homebrewing.  Tickets are going fast (they are free), so hurry and reserve yours!

Arbor Brewing will receive an ambassador award for hospitality from the Ann Arbor Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

I just got this from an email Rene Greff sent out to her ABC and Corner list:

ARBOR BREWING will receive an ambassador award for hospitality on Thursday, July 29th.



22nd Annual Ann Arbor Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Ambassador Awards Dinner Recognizing Outstanding Members of the Hospitality Industry

Thursday, July 29th from 5:30pm – 8:30pm


(Colloquium and Lobby Gallery on the 6th Floor)

701 Tappan Avenue, Ann Arbor

Valet Parking Provided

Keynote Speaker: DAVID BRANDON, Director of Athletics at the University of Michigan

$45.00 per person — Cocktails & Dinner — Drawing for two tickets on AirTran Airways

*****RSVP —- today at — 734-995-7281 or email: info@annarbor.org

Congratulations Matt and Rene!

I wonder if they are going to serve any ABC beer along with the cocktails….

Wolverine Brewing Company – Ann Arbor

Wolverine Brewing Co. will occupy about 6,000-square-feet in the former Big George’s Home Appliance Mart building on West Stadium.

The deal lets the partners behind the beer – already sold across the state under the flagship Wolverine Premium Lager brand – build their niche in Michigan’s growing specialty beer market, which to date has focused on ales.

The beer is an American Premium Lager, one of about 100 official beer categories in the United States., Roy said. It’s also the most popular style among mass-produced beers.

“It’s what everyone is used to drinking,” Roy said. Wolverine, he added, “is on the more full-bodied end of the spectrum.”


Head brewer will be Oliver Roberts, now assistant brewer at Grizzly Peak in downtown Ann Arbor. Ron Jeffries, owner of Jolly Pumpkin in Ann Arbor, also has been helpful with the set up, Roy said.