GRAND RAPIDS — When one thinks of trees and beers, the barrel aging process might come to mind. Or, perhaps the hop growing community. What you wouldn’t immediately think of is 18 breweries teaming up to plant several trees throughout a community.
But that’s just what’s underway in the Greater Grand Rapids area.
Members of the Grand Rapids Society of Beer (GRSOB) have teamed up to produce tree-themed beers, different for each brewery, but all with the same goal — to raise money for Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.
“I think it’s really a good opportunity for us to give back to the community,” said Bob Bonga, owner of Jaden James Brewery.
Bonga’s Little Full Lota Sap (6.4% ABV) — a play on the famous Christmas classic, “Christmas Vacation” — is an ale with hints of pine and citrus. Featuring a moderate amount of bitterness, this ale has some IPA-like qualities, but is produced for the masses.
“We’ve been doing almost all of the collaborations that the Society of Beers have done,” said Bonga. “It’s fun, it adds a really nice, friendly challenge amongst the group.”
Larger breweries have gotten into the game too — including Founders, Brewery Vivant and Perrin. Vivant’s Whiskey Rooster (6.3%) takes its recipe in a different direction, aging its Big Red Coq brew in Jack Daniel’s barrels. A subtle fruit flavor is met with whiskey throughout each sip, providing for a much fuller bodied brew, but still keeping a respectable ABV level.
Up and coming Harmony Brewing Company out of Eastown held the kickoff for the collaboration on Aug. 5, and debut its Dryad Brewers Grove (4.4%). A lower ABV offering from the collaboration, Dryad is a dry ale brewed with Linden Tree flowers from Wilcox Park.
Some of the participating breweries donated $1 from each tree-themed beer sold during the week of Aug. 4-10 to produce a Brewers Grove in Grand Rapids. Other breweries will donate by hosting parties to benefit the cause.
The first Brewers Grove planting will take place Oct. 17 at Riverside Park.
The collaboration between trees and beers stems from Grand Rapids being named BeerCity USA for the second year in a row, and being named a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation for the 15th year in a row.
Chris Epplett contributed to this report.