Masen James Bakery is taking craft beer to another level by baking it right into their brownies, cupcakes, and fudge… oh my!
Inspired by a longtime passion for baking, owner Clarice Dennison was encouraged by her daughter Sydney Dennison to open up Masen James Bakery storefront after a chance encounter with Goose Island Brewery during their Bourbon County release in 2014. Conversations sparked and friendships were molded. This year, Masen James was given 2 cases of 2014 and 2015 Bourbon County to bake 1,000 craft beer brownies for Goose Island’s Black Friday release. Yes — wipe the drool off of your mouth and keep reading, it gets better.
2015 has been a whirlwind of creative goodness for Clarice and Sydney. They teamed up to bake sweet and savory treats for events at the Downtown Outdoor Market on Ionia over the spring and summer, while working on opening a storefront on Monroe Center during ArtPrize. The main focus? Infusing craft beer into many of Clarice’s concoctions while enhancing the unique flavors in the beer.
Mason James Bakery doesn’t like things to get stale. Their seasonal menu changes on a daily basis to maintain freshness and keep up with demand. Their craft beer brownies are baked in a special pan so they are all corner pieces, making each brownie crisp and chewy on the outside and oh so moist and gooey on the inside — they nearly melt on your tongue.
I was treated to a brownie baked with New Holland Dragon’s Milk Reserve with Toasted Chilies, topped with a chili powder sugar. Holy wow!!! These brownies practically punched me in the face with flavor. First, you taste the rich chocolate brownies are known for, then your eyes light up as you savor the slight hint of heat from the chilies. YUM!
Next I enjoyed a Saugatuck Brewing Co Neapolitan Milk Stout brownie topped with a chocolate ganache and sprinkled with a crushed dried strawberry topping. The familiar trifecta of strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate flavor of the Neapolitan Milk Stout poured out into the brownie, the crushed strawberry topping made for a beautiful finish. Delicious!
Clarice has had a passion for the culinary arts since she was a little girl, but didn’t go to culinary school and instead ended up working for Spectrum Health. After she started making craft beer brownies, Sydney told her “Mom, you have a gift; you need to share that gift. I am not the only one who is saying that, friends and strangers are telling you this. Teach me how to bake and we will do this together. I will help you put your product out there.” Sydney continues. “After being turned down a few times, I brought some of her products to the Downtown Outdoor Market, we got our foot in the door in the spring of 2014, and we built up clientele. This is my mom’s dream, but I am so happy I can help her fulfill it.”
Masen James Bakery also offers a wide variety of artisanal sweet and savory scones, cupcakes, cookies, macarons, fudge, bread, and more.
Taste Masen James Bakery’s goodies for yourself at 40 Monroe Center NW in downtown Grand Rapids. If you’re out and about this weekend, swing by the Pyramid Scheme Bake Sale and Craft Show on Sunday, December 20 from 12:00pm – 4:00pm where they will donate all proceeds to Well House.