Founders Grand Opening

Jane: Would you rather have beer, or complete and utter contemptment?
Homer: What kind of beer?
— The Simpsons

The big event in MI brewing this week is the Founders Grand Opening in Grand Rapids on Saturday November 17th starting at 4pm. Founders  was started  in October of 1997 by Mike Stevens and Dave Enbers and since then they have become one of the most popular Microbreweries in the state. The new location will more than double their capacity from 4000 to 10000 barrels. Their beers include Centennial, Dirty Bastard(their flagship beer)), Red & Black Rye and, for you hop heads, Devil Dancer. They also try to use MI products(e.g. cherries or honey) in there beers when ever possible. You can recognize their beers by the stubby style bottles.  For those of you who have not tried one of their beers you really should but if you are new to craft beer I recommend you try one of the Ryes first. (Their Breakfast stout is also one of their best).

Sarah and I made the trip to Founders in July and had a great time. If you are in Grand Rapids this weekend stop by a celebrate their Grand Opening.  We can’t wait until we can get to the new facility and take a tour. Since we can’t make the event Saturday please post a comment and let us know how it went.

Saturday Night’s Beer Tasting

“Do you realize these so called ‘volunteers’ don’t even get paid?!”

– Homer Simpson

Kevin and I had a great time as pourers at Saturday night’s beer and wine tasting. The event, sponsored by Nagle’s Market, was held at the Milan American Legion and was a fundraiser for the Milan Public Library.

A photographer from the Milan newspaper was there and took a picture of Kevin pouring. He also took a little bit of video footage. There’s a nice post about the event, including the picture and video, here on the Milan blog site.

There were six tables at the event. However, we were the only one with beer so it was easy to tell who the beer afficionados were. Most of them, upon entering bypassed the wine tables, and made a bee-line straight to us.

One of the best parts of helping out at an event like this is experiencing people waking up to the variety of beer that’s out there. One man who was pretty new to beer carefully took his time comparing and contrasting the various nuances in the ones he tried and in the process learning the differences between the different styles. It was also fun trying to turn some of the wine drinkers on to the peach and berry belgian lambic beers. I’m pretty sure there were a few converts. “Really?” they would say. “This is beer?”

We even got to try a few new ones ourselves, “Fallen Bock” and “Rail Bender Ale” from Erie Brewing Company and “Allagash White” from Allagash Brewing Company in Portland Maine. Allagash was my favorite. It’s a Belgian White beer. Belgian whites are usually not my favorite due to the fruity/clovey/banana-ey flavors imparted by the belgian yeast strain. However the Allagash has a much smoother taste and dryer mouthfeel which seems to perfectly balance the typical Belgian spiciness. I loved it and apparently the crowd did too, because we ran out.

I also realized how excited I get about beer and how much I love talking to people about it. I can’t tell you how many people, probably due to our sheer enthusiasm, thought we were either reps from one of the breweries or at least sales reps for Rave, the distributor. “Nope” we said. “Just volunteers.”

The Bubbler and the Baby Monitor

 “Beer does not make itself properly by itself. It takes an element of mystery and of things that no one can understand.”— Fritz Maytag, American brewer

 My wife got to brew her first batch of beer last week. Usually I brew and she is my assistant. She decided to make a Pumpkin Beer for Thanksgiving and thanks to Adventures in Home-brewing she was set up and ready to go. Since this was her first solo brewing experience there was more on the line. If it goes bad it will discourage her from future brewing. Well of course there were problems and the first one was because she had me helping her. As I was cleaning our 6 gallon carboy it slipped out of my hands and into our sink. Crash, one of our cats ran to the scene and the other hide under our bed. I had broken our fermentation vessel. It is somewhat impressive to see a 6 gallon glass container break into a million pieces. As I bent over to pick it up a piece of glass actually fell out of my hair. Luckily I had a plan b in the form of a plastic bucket.

Then the next thing happened, the boiler in our house was going to be replaced and it meant a whole day without heat and naturally it ended up being the coldest day of the week. I use the furnace to nest the wort in the winter. She was using California Ale Yeast and it needs to be at between 70-75 degrees. The basement will definitely get down to50 degrees and possibly kill off the yeast. I know, I can put it in our bedroom where our only space heater will be and that is what I did.

The solution to the problem has now led to an addiction. We love hearing the bubbler going. When you hear that bubbler perculating you know all is well with your beer. It is a sign that your yeast and the wort are making a baby that will become beer. The sound is soothing with a tinge of accomplishment. I want this symphony of fermentation to be the soundtrack to our bedtime every-night. The problem is we can’t keep fermenting beer in our bedroom. Different yeast works at different temperatures and I can control the temperature of my wort by where I sit it in the basement. I could only use one of two solutions. Invent a white noise machine that makes the beautiful sound of wort turning into a beer or a baby monitor so I don’t have to sleep in the basement. Of course the best solution is a baby monitor. I could even set it up so that I could watch the bubbler work it’s magic. Imagine how easy it would be to get to sleep if every-night you can lay there in the comfort of your bed watching and hearing the plup plup of your bubbler. Because when your bubbler is bubbling all is right with the world. So if anyone reading this post is buying me a Christmas gift hint hint a baby monitor would be a great gift idea! Of course The Simpsons movie is coming out before christmas so you have options.

Bottling Beer

I’m definitely an amateur brewer at this point.  I’ve only made a couple of batches, and have kegged them both.   My neighbor, also new to brewing had me help him bottle up his double hopped pilsner last night.   I had the job of capping them after he filled them.   I was distracted by the Nascar race in the other room, and was almost relieved from my duties as the full bottles started stacking up.  I proved to be a pretty fast and efficient bottle capper though – we knocked out 5 gallons in less than an hour / or two glasses of Leinenkugel Octoberfest each.   The process was so easy, I’m going to bottle my Christmas Ale that I’m brewing up this Saturday morning (it’s going to have some local Monroe honey in it – 2 lbs) – the batch I picked up from Things Beer in Webberville, MI.

Michigan Brewing Company

Michigan Brewing Company is probably one of my favorite breweries in Michigan. When I first started coming up here, they were in a building up by the gas station – Webberville exit right off 96 (just south of Lansing). I can remember getting growlers of the Porter, then heading up to the gas station that had a deli in the back that made fried chicken livers.. (yeah, not sure what I was thinking there, but dang they were good). Later on I discovered their High Seas IPA, which opened my eyes to the world of hopped up beers.
I’ve only been up here a couple of times, for the sole purpose of going to the brew pub. Most of the time, I’m cruising by on 96 and always plan to drop in on the way to my destination and the way home. Many times I’ve picked up growlers on my way to my friends deer hunting camp or cottage.
Today, I’m on my way back from Bay City, and of course had to swing by. If you haven’t been here yet, they are located at 1093 HIghview Dr., Webbervile, MI – which is the industrial drive right after McDonalds – you can’t miss it. Follow it around back and look for the sign. I didn’t immediately like the new digs, but it’s really grown on me. It’s much bigger and just as cozy as the old place. MBC is still brewing excellent beers, I’d imagine more now with the expansion. The current seasonal beer is a Rye Bock – a light bock with a slight sweetness to it; very good. The last time I was here, they were filling growlers of Imperial IPA for $20. They’ve since dropped the price to $12 for a growler fill.
MBC has recently brewed their first batch of “bio beer.” They’ve teamed up with Michigan State University and have implemented the MSU Bio-Refinery Training Facility. MSU ships over recycled vegetable oil to MBC. The oil is converted to bio-diesel fuel that powers a steam generator. The first batched brewed on this process was an imperial stout. They eventually plan to run the bio diesel process for their electricity also. How cool is that?
MBC beers can be found all over Michigan. I’d recommend sampling the Celis line – the Grand Cru is wonderful. Their High Seas IPA is great too. The seasonal beers are always very good. Be sure to give this place a try – and if you’re coming up from southern, MI – please come pick me up. 🙂

I should also mention Things Beer – a home brewing store right in the same building as MBC. An awesome selection of home brewing equipment and ingredients.

Respect Beer

When you start a blog about beer some people may get the wrong impression about what you’re doing. Some may expect that the majority of your posts will begin with, “Dude…I got so wasted last night…” or that you will start compiling top ten lists of the beers with the highest ABV (alcohol by volume).

Others may think that the purpose of a craft beer blog is a platform for you to be a snotty or preachy beer snob, extolling the virtues of craft beer while snidely looking down upon those  who prefer traditional American beer styles like Budweiser.

Our hope is that we won’t be doing either of those things in this blog which is why I’d like to offer Beer Advocate’s tips for respecting beer  as sort of a framework of where we’re coming from and as  a guide for those who may be just venturing into the exciting world of craft beer.

Don’t get me wrong.  We’re human.  We don’t want to give the impression that we’ve never over-consumed  or that we’ve never, especially among other craft beer geeks, laughed at catty jokes about turning a stout into a Bud Light (i.e. going to the bathroom). 

But hopefully these tips will help us, and you, set the tone for the conversation.

Tri-City Brewing Company prepares for bottling

We made our way to Tri-City Brewing Company today in Bay City, MI. Tri-City currently has two beers available. A golden ale called Phoenix (named after an old closed brewery in Bay City) and an Irish red called Phelan. The operation is funded by 30 investors, one of them we met helping fold up and prepare boxes to hold cases of beer for distribution all over the state. The bottling machine just arrived this past week and they were hard at work putting the finishing touches on it before beginning the bottling process. We met Kevin, the head brewer and president of the company. He said they will eventually produce various styles of beer, and have tested a couple this past summer at a local beer tasting.

The brewery offers growlers right now, and the traffic of customers was pretty steady the whole 20 minutes we were there. Definitely good things going on with Tri-City Brewing Company. Keep an eye out for a six pack at your local beer store. Word on the street is, Monroe may even see their beer in the near future!

A Taste of Things to Come

Let’s face it. If you’re new to craft beer, figuring out what you like can be a bit daunting. And just going to the store and buying  a six-pack of a brew that you’re not sure you’ll like can be wasteful and expensive.

One of the best ways  to get acquainted with craft beer in a fun and social way (outside of having a knowledgable and generous friend with a good stock  at his/her house) is to attend a beer tasting.  At most beer tastings,  for a reasonable price , you can  sample a wide variety of beers in small amounts and get some pretty tasty food along with it.  In some cases you may even be able to meet a representative from the brewery who can tell you a little bit more about how that beer is brewed and what it is that makes it distinct. Not to mention the fact that it’s the perfect venue for meeting other people who appreciate craft beer (folks I lovingly call “beer geeks”…because I am one) and may be able to give you a few recommendations of what to try.

Want to find a beer tasting or other beer event near you? One of the best sites to check out is Beer Advocate.

Having gone to plenty of tastings ourselves, one of the things Kevin and I now like to do is volunteer  as pourers. Tonight we are volunteering at a specialty beer and wine tasting fundraiser, sponsored by Nagle’s Market in Milan,  to benefit the Milan Public Library. It’s from 6-9 p.m. at the Milan American Legion Hall (44 Wabash Streat). I can’t seem to find how much this particular event costs, but if you have the time, I’d encourage you to check it out. It’s for a good cause.  Well be working at the Rave Associates table. Rave is one of the top distributors of craft beer and wine for Southeast Michigan. If you do decide to go, be sure to stop by and say hello! 🙂

Road trip!

I’m on my way to Bay City, MI to visit a friend. I used the my favorite Beer Mapping site to find a place to stop on the way up. I found the Redwood Lodge in Flint, MI. This place is huge, definitely a hot spot, probably more for the food than the beers.  They have over 10 beers on tap, and I think one cask.    I had an Imperial Stout – not as strong as other imperials I’ve had, but good and nutty.   Now, I am enjoying an Imperial Red. This Red is great – it doesn’t have a big smell to it, but it tastes just like a bag of hop pellets smell.  The description in the menu describes it as being loaded with hops.     I’d love to stay and check out some more of their brews, but it’s about time to move on.   Definitely will be back here to eat someday, the food looks amazing – but a bit on the pricey side.

Beer: the friend maker

“Some people drink beer to get drunk, though it is an inefficient means of doing so…Beer’s greatest use is as a sociable relaxant” Michael Jackson from “The Beer Companion”

I wanted to start off my first post with the above quote because one it is one from one of the greatest promoters of beer and two it is how I feel about beer. In the last few decades a lot has happened in the beer business because of the boom in craft brewing. The stereotype of beer being a simplistic drink that was wine’s slack toothed cousin should have been long gone by now, but much like that cousin it has over stayed it’s welcome. The diversity of styles now available to the American consumer is the greatest in the world and some of the best beer in the world is brewed right here in the U.S.. Yes, even Michigan breweries beers are producing some of the best beers you can drink. Whenever I hear anyone say “American beers suck” I shed a single tear.

 I have met some great people in the last few years through craft beer events. Some have become good friends and others are just people with whom we get together with every once and awhile. There is always the ice breaker of craft beers to start us off on what will become a myriad of subjects. Some conversations go to politics and some debate whether Robbie the Robot could beat Robot from Lost in Space in the Battle-bot Arena and the conversation always ends with us discussing when will be the next we will get together. My wife and I recently went on a tour of Michigan breweries and we met some of the most interesting people on that trip. I will remember the Grand Rapids crew that we hung out with for two nights, the people willing to take us in at Jamesport Brewing Company when a report of a big storm was coming in(we were camping), the merchant marine at Keweenaw Brewing Co., or the people from Red Jacket in Calumet more than I will ever remember the beers I drank. These times are the greatest joy I receive from beer.

I hope that with this blog and along with the help of you the reader that we can promote craft breweries (specificallyMichigan breweries) and maybe even have a brewery in Monroe of our own someday. We can only hope.