Ben Darcie at Gravel Bottom Brewery and Homebrew Supply in Ada, Michigan, believes that all of us should have the opportunity to brew a 100% Michigan made beer. Even the homebrewers.

As the locavore movement continues to gain popularity in our area, it only makes sense our craft beer follow suit.

But what makes a Michigan beer a Michigan beer? Is it local brewers, utilizing Michigan’s agricultural bounty? Or is it using only locally grown hops and collaborating with Michigan Maltsters? Perhaps it’s a combination of all these things, and more.

“For the first time in Michigan homebrewing history, people can actually make a 100% Michigan beer at home,” Darcie states with a touch of excitement in his voice—and why not? This is huge.

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Think, for a moment, what goes into a beer. Water, hops, malt and yeast. Michigan water is wonderful and plentiful, easily sourced for all. Michigan hop farms have exploded over the last ten years or so, with a wide range of varietals to meet most of your brewing needs. The focus on malt has been huge in the last three to four years, with four start up malt houses opening between 2015-2016 alone. But yeast? Yeast is a new one, and finally we have a Michigan company, Craft Cultures, located in the UP, that completes the Michigan ingredient circle.

While Craft Cultures has offered its product to many of our local breweries (for example, 57 Brew Pub and New Holland’s Pub Only offerings), Gravel Bottom is one of the first homebrew store to approach them to create packaging specifically for smaller batch brews. “We are the only [store] in West Michigan, possibly the lower peninsula, that has 5 gallon pitches of Michigan propagated yeast,” Darcie shares.

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One of the goals Darcie had when coming aboard at Gravel Bottom was for home brewers to have the opportunity to make Michigan beer, and he took it upon himself to contact Craft Cultures and request specialized packaging for carrying their product within the shop. All the yeast from Craft Cultures is captured and propagated in state, and they even carry two indigenous strains of yeast as well—Keweenaw Ale I and Eagle River Ale II, with more available soon.

“For the first time we can make a beer  at home that is 100 percent reflective of our state. Which is really really awesome… It’s all about our air, it’s all about our soil, it’s all about our sun. it’s all about our elevation and our water. It is all us, 100 percent our state and I think that’s what makes it so cool.” Darcie’s commitment to this concept is palpable.

So visit Gravel Bottom Homebrewing Supply and see their extensive selection of Michigan grown product for yourself. “The biggest thing that separates us is our extensive hop selection. We carry between 60-75 different options. With the addition of Michigan malts and Michigan yeast, it definitely sets us apart in the entirety of West Michigan. We are very, very excited to offer this.”

From the very beginning, embracing the homebrewing community was a part of Gravel Bottom’s existence, and meeting homebrewers where they are, from novice to expert, is part of the experience of the shop. Darcie and crew are there to help.

In addition to the knowledgeable staff and a plethora of Michigan grown product, a free homebrewing class is offered the first Saturday of every month, and a hands-on brewing class is offered every 3rd Saturday, alternating between extract and all grain brewing. Classes are $20 or $40, and include the class session, a pint of beer and $20 off at the homebrewing shop if you spend $100 or more.

Darcie was kind enough to offer some recipes for your experimentation. Check them out following this article.

MITTENBREW MICHIGAN WHEAT IPA

OG: 1.060
FG: 1.015
ABV: 6.1%
IBUs: 66
SRM: 5.3

All Grain Recipe
Target Batch Size: 5.5g
Target Boil Size: 6.75g
Efficiency: 70%
Boil time: 60m

Mash Time: 60m @ 152*f
Fly Sparge @ 170*f

8.5lbs Pilot 2-row Brewer’s Malt
4.5lbs Pilot White Wheat
1.0lbs Pilot Munich Malt

1oz MHA Centennial (12.1%aa) @ 60min
1oz MHA Cascade (9%aa)          @ 15m
1oz MHA Centennial (12.1%aa) @ 10m
1oz MHA Chinook (12.1%aa)     @ 5m

Yeast: Craft Cultures Yeast Lab CCYL110 California Ale Yeast
Temperature: 60-65*f

MHA = Michigan Hop Alliance


MITTENBREW MICHIGAN ENGLISH RYE PALE ALE

OG: 1.055
FG: 1.014
ABV: 5.5%
IBUs: 42
SRM: 6.7

All Grain Recipe
Target Batch Size: 5.5g
Target Boil Size: 6.75g
Efficiency: 70%
Boil time: 60m

Mash Time: 60m @ 152*f
Fly Sparge @ 170*f

8.0lbs Pilot 2-row Brewer’s Malt
3.0lbs Pilot Munich Malt
2.0lbs Pilot Rye Malt
0.5lbs Pilot PB Toast

1oz MHA Chinook (12.1%aa) @ 60min
1oz BCH Crystal (3.2%aa)      @ 10m
1oz BCH Crystal (3.2%aa)      @ 5m

Yeast: Craft Cultures Yeast Lab CCY123 Dry English Yeast
Temperature: 60-65*f

MHA = Michigan Hop Alliance
BCH = Black Creek Hops


MITTENBREW MICHIGAN HONEY BROWN

OG: 1.058
FG: 1.015
ABV: 5.9%
IBUs: 23
SRM: 18

All Grain Recipe
Target Batch Size: 5.5g
Target Boil Size: 6.75g
Efficiency: 70%
Boil time: 60m

Mash Time: 60m @ 156*f
Fly Sparge @ 170*f

6.0lbs Pilot 2-row Brewer’s Malt
5.0lbs Pilot Munich Malt
2.5lbs Pilot Toasted Brown Malt
1.0lbs Pilot PB Toast
1.0lbs Michigan Honey (Added with 5m remaining in boil)

1.5oz BCH Hallertau (4.5%aa)      @ 60min
1oz    BCH Fuggle (4.5%aa)          @ 5m
0.5oz BCH Hallertau (4.5%aa)      @ 0m

Yeast: Craft Cultures Yeast Lab CCY123 Dry English Yeast
Temperature: 60-65*f

BCH = Black Creek Hops

 

For more information about Gravel Bottom and specific classes offered, follow them on Facebook or check out their website.