cadre

On December 1, 2017, Founders Brewing Co. quenched the long-endured thirst of beer nerds internationally with the rerelease of CBS, otherwise known as Canadian Breakfast Stout. Originally released in 2011 on draft and in 22oz bottles, in 2014 in limited quantity as draft-only across the U.S., and quietly at random in their Grand Rapids taproom if you were in line at the right place at the right time, CBS’s reputation and allure have preceded it for years—and for good reason. I mean c’mon, its base beer is KBS, transformed and sweetened by being aged in bourbon barrels that also previously nestled maple syrup.  

In what has been a rather impressive display celebrating their 20 years with zero regrets, CBS was Founders’ climax to the six beers they released this year as part of their newly branded Barrel-Aged Series. They teased the rumors that had already been subtly circulating for months that this elusive 11.7% stout was making an official return. Founders activated a creative way to connect to the masses via a respectably labor intensive social media campaign, unveiled first only to members of the Cadre.

founders cbs

Founders’ philosophy : “We don’t brew beer for the masses. Our beers are crafted for a chosen few, a small cadre of renegades and rebels…”

Francesca Jasinski, Founders’ Communications Manager, says, “We decided to form the Cadre as a way to reward our biggest fans with exclusive content, early access to news, opportunities to attend events and more.” While their Mug Club serves the local fan base, the Cadre, Jasinski explains, “is meant to serve our fans who are all around the country (and world). We recognize that many of them do not have the benefit of visiting the Taproom frequently enough to justify our Mug Club membership.

founders cbs

In an email sent to the 5,800 Cadre members on October 21, Founders told them, “Keep an eye on your mailbox – 1,000 of you will be receiving a package that contains a clue to what our sixth and final Barrel-Aged Series beer of 2017 is. Because you are our most loyal followers, we thought it would be fun to get you involved in the announcement process.” Founders snail-mailed out sets of mini flags—one Founders, one Canadian, and asked Cadre members to post photos of both flags to Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #FoundersBarrelAgedSeries. And finally, the rumors were true. Or, at least we could assume.

Since the launch of the teaser campaign, the Cadre grew to over 7,900 strong. Founders invited us to attend the CBS release party at their taproom on December 1, where we got to meet a few of them who were either in line early to get one of the first draft pours of CBS 2017 or to claim their allocation of two 750ml bottles per person of this 100-point bucket list beer of capped goodness.

 

Doug McDowall, 65, Brampton, Ontario, Canada, @dougzone

MittenBrew: I’d be surprised if you got up this morning in order to make the drive from Canada to be the first guests in line for the Taproom.

McDowall: It’s not a bad drive, five hours. We got in last night, and got a hotel in town. And once Founders pulled everyone from this line—those who got here way early so they could join their Mug Club—we were the lucky Canadians left at the front of the line.

Did you make the drive solely for the chance to have CBS on draft, or were you one of the lucky ones to who secured bottles in advance online?

Both. But, we’re going to try it first on draft to make sure it’s any good. [McDowall laughs.]

founders cbs

What are your plans for the bottles?

They’re going back to Canada. I’ll share one with my sons and grandsons and their wives during Christmas. The other will be cellared until, hopefully, Founders releases it again.

Why did you join the Cadre?

I think I remember hearing about it before KBS was released in 2016, and wanted to make sure I got the early news about future bottle releases first. After Founders announced the Barrel-Aged Series, I was anticipating that they’d hopefully announce CBS as the final installment.

Have you ever had CBS before?

[Laughing…] I’ve been to Founders four times—today, plus three previous trips for the annual KBS release party. When I was here in ‘16, you happened to interview me while you were filming Modern Ahabs, and were kind enough to tip me off that I should probably get in line immediately because Founders might be getting ready to tap a “certain rare Canadian” beer. So yeah, I’ve had it once before today, thanks to you. [McDowall smiles.]

Wow. I remember you, Doug. That’s awesome.

By chance, are you a Founders Mug Club member?

No, but that’s only due to proximity. However,  getting the Cadre’s emails gives me the opportunity to decide whether or not I should make the trip. And, when it’s something like CBS, it’s worth the trip.

When are you heading home?

Right after lunch and a couple pours of CBS. We have to be back tonight for a concert in Windsor.

founders cbs

Being a Cadre member from Canada, Founders surely sent you the two flags as part of their social media campaign, right?

Sadly, no, but I would’ve been proud to receive and display them appropriately.

Before we interviewed Doug, who was proudly donning a red hockey sweater with a prominent white maple leaf, he was making friends with others in line by giving out little Canadian flag pins. Once we wrapped this assignment and before we left Founders for the day, we swung by his table in the Taproom to say goodbye. Steph Harding, MittenBrew owner/publisher and photog badass, casually gifted her two Cadre flags to Doug. It was a spontaneous gesture for a really good guy. Standing adjacent to both of them, I watched Doug’s eyes nearly tear up in sincere appreciation, and give Steph one of the warmest hugs I’ve ever seen. Then he made good on his word, and displayed both flags with honor in the middle of his table.

 

Mike Walton, 35, Grand Rapids, MI, @mwalton82

MittenBrew: You responded to Founders’ outreach to the Cadre, asking if members who received the flags would be hip to telling us about their experience. Why’d you join?

Walton: I was tipped off either by something Founders or a friend posted on Facebook. I wanted to be the first to know what’s going on—when beers are coming out, what unique events they’re hosting, what’s happening in the Taproom that I might otherwise miss as a casual guest.

founders cbsWhat’d you do with the flags after you posted a photo to social media?

I actually displayed them at home during Thanksgiving. And, some of the Likes I got on the photo on Instagram were from people I didn’t know, which I thought was cool.

How else have you taken advantage of what Founders offers to the Cadre?

I love the recipes they share. I’ve made their beer cheese, their Dirty Bastard turkey recipe. I love learning how to use their beer creatively with food. There’s a lot of educational value that the Cadre provides.

Has your name been picked for access to other special events or promotions for the Cadre?

I’ve definitely applied, but haven’t had my name drawn for anything else yet, but that’s cool. I get it—Founders is in demand. Everything they do is good stuff.

You got your two bottle of CBS. What are you going to do with them?

Share one with friends who might not be able to get any, and store the other for something special. I’m not stopping at two though. I’ll keep my eyes peeled around town for a few more.

Have you had CBS before?

Fortunately, yes, a few times. I’ve been in GR for almost 20 years, so when you’re in the Taproom at the right place at the right time and you see them slap the sign up on the draft list chalkboard, you don’t hesitate. You just order it. It’s a no-brainer.

founders cbs

Are you also a Mug Club member?

Not currently, but I’ll be here in line early next year to sign up.

Update: Mike stopped us later that morning to tell us that he did, in fact, end up snagging a spot in Founders’ Mug Club for 2018. But, we’re not supposed to tell his wife, so “Shh!”

 

Jacob Zars, 31, Grand Rapids, MI, @jacobzars

MittenBrew: You’re drinking out of an Founders Mug Club mug. This must not be your first rodeo.

Zars: No, sir. I’ve already renewed for the fourth year in a row. This mug is dedicated to my oldest son, and I’ll get my next mug etched in honor of my second son. My plan is to bring both boys to Founders for their first beer when they each turn 21 so they can immediately drink out of their own personalized mug which I will have had for nearly their entire lives.

And you’re a member of the Cadre?

Absolutely. I wanted to get those inside tips directly from the source instead of waiting for the rest of the world to hear it before me.

founders cbs

You got the flags, too?

I did, but… Before I got a chance to take a proper photo of them and post it to social media, my son got ahold of them, and… well, the rest is history.

How else have you engaged with Founders as a member of the Cadre?

I love having access to some of their invite-only experiences. I just went to their recent beer and cheese pairing, which was awesome. I love going to anything in the Centennial Room [Founders’ private event space on the second floor of the Taproom]. I even had my college graduation party and the rehearsal dinner for my wedding there. It’s just a great thing to be a part of—getting a chance at something that sometimes might not happen anywhere else.

What’s been your experience with CBS before today?

I’ve been really fortunate to have it a number of times. Of course, I was first attracted to it because… well… KBS. It’s just a natural progression.

What are your plans with your bottles?

Sharing them with friends and family. I’m also going to make the rounds to some of my favorite bottle shops around the city to pick up bottles for friends, including some guys I know in Canada who are already scouting 12oz bottles for me.

Any parting words for what sounds like a brewery you hold in high regard?

Founders has been near and dear to my heart for years. When you visit, it’s just the coolest place to gather with your family and friends, and you’re always surrounded by the friendliest faces.

 

Anthony Reed, 33, Grand Rapids, MI,

MittenBrew: You seem pretty excited to have just joined Founders’ Mug Club.

Reed: I’ve been trying to sign up for years, but kept missing my opportunity because of weddings out of town and other stuff that just comes up. But today’s been great! I got my first coveted spot in the Club, got to try the new batch of CBS on draft, and picked up a few bottles.

As Ice Cube would say…

Looks like you snagged four bottles of CBS. Where are they going?

Both my wife and I got tickets just in case I couldn’t track down any bottles elsewhere. I’ve also got a couple other bottles at the ready from some of my local stores that I keep a solid relationship with. And, I’ve already got plans to crack open at least one bottle at a Christmas party beer exchange next week. I’ll save one for my brother-in-law who’s always on the move with the Air Force, and the rest are going in the cellar for some sweet days to come.

founders cbs

Have you had CBS before today?

A few times. Easily one of my top five favorite beers. The first time was a few years ago at Founders’ Black Party. It absolutely blew my mind. I was hooked.

Why’d you join the Cadre?

CBS. [Laughing]

We’re not exactly sure just how much CBS was brewed, kegged, and packaged this year (a lot more, it seems, than in years past, likely thanks to their recent barrelhouse expansion), but we’re okay with there still being some mystique surrounding how hard we’ll have to hustle to get our lips on some (more).

 

black friday

Pigeon Hill Brewing Company released three specialty canned beers to an enthusiastic group of early rising holiday  shoppers in Muskegon, Michigan on Black Friday. Grapefruit Renny, a double IPA (DIPA) featuring, as the name suggests, grapefruit juiciness. Also released was the rare Your Mom on French Toast, now officially dubbed “YMOFT,” an imperial stout featuring maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon. The final new canned beer of the day was Your Grandma on French Toast, now called “YGOFT,” which was the star of the show. A bourbon barrel aged variation of YMOFT which is highly sought after and produced one of the longest lines at the Winter Beer Festival this past February in anticipation of its pouring.

The can release was to begin at 10:00 a.m., and despite arriving an hour early a line had already formed some 50 people deep. Foregoing the madness of holiday shopping, a great crowd of warmly clad craft beer lovers stood in line on a relatively mild late November morning. Jamie, Stubby, and Cody were the first three gentlemen in line, but Cody actually arrived first. “I came right from Cap and Cork after their midnight release so I was here about 1:40 a.m.” says Cody with a hearty laugh. Deciding he didn’t want to be first in line, Cody chose to nap in his car despite a couple of interruptions from a random “passer by” who was looking for cigarettes, beer, the time, and to sleep in his car. Cody laughed it all off citing just how stoked he was to be getting one of his favorites—YGOFT.

black friday

A sunny autumn morning was made more pleasant by the brewery with a complimentary breakfast that was served to all patrons. Breakfast samples were brought out to those of us standing in line. Upon entering the taproom from the breezy Western Avenue, the smell of bacon, sausage, pancakes, and syrup grabbed you by the senses and just hugged you all over. The breakfast scent combined with the true brewery aroma created a sweet aromatic melody that made the beer and the food even more rich and satisfying.

“The name Pigeon Hill was a nod to the community. Pigeon Hill was a large sand dune that was mined out for cast iron castings” says Michael Brower, who is a co-owner of the brewery. “When you walk in the taproom it’s basically a living museum. Everything from the wallpaper which features Muskegon street scenes to the lights which are from local factories that have closed. Our tables are made from old virgin white pine that was cut here in Muskegon and sank during the 1880’s.” Michael’s dedication to family, community, and craft were clearly on display as his parents were cooking breakfast, his grandmother (pictured on the YGOFT label) and his wife were all working to serve the thirsty and excited crowd.

Asking Michael about the origins of YMOFT he replied, “‘Your mom on toast’ was actually one of my catchphrases. In fact, I have emails going back to 2008 in which I sign off with that phrase. It means nothing but I loved it and it fit in with my sense of humor. We talked about it from day one, ‘What beer will Your Mom on Toast be?’ We didn’t know if it would be something bready or not but when we tried a french toast beer and decided to make our own it clicked, ‘Your Mom on French Toast.’ I’m not even sure if it was me who came up with the name!”

When asked about the process of making YMOFT, Michael replied “We start with our imperial stout Majestic Beast as the base beer then add maple, vanilla, and cinnamon and really that is the recipe.” I then asked when the idea for grandma came up he laughed, “I think the day we brewed it. We were like, ‘I wonder what this would be like in a barrel?’ When we started we were working out of the tap room and only had 940 square feet so we didn’t have room for barrels. Once we opened our production facility it became a reality. We got our hands on a couple of Buffalo Trace Rye barrels and said ‘let’s see what happens!” Indeed!

black friday

Joel Kamp, Chad Doane, Michael Brower

We were given a small tour of the original taproom and brewhouse as well as the newer production facility located nearby led by Michael and Chad Doane, head brewer. Upon arriving at the doors, we were greeted by an unknown drummer who played very well. Joel Kamp, co-owner of Pigeon Hill Brewing, came out from behind his kit and greeted us warmly as he wiped the sweat from his brow. “I really had a nice groove going there” he said with a smile on his face. A wonderful German lager was poured and the three gentlemen showed us around the facility. There was a very tangible sense of excitement as they talked openly and freely about the obstacles they’d overcome, the work that led to the success of the day at hand, as well as the future for their company.

Cheerz!

 

Photography: Steph Harding

great american beer fest

The popular refrain from the 1971 Gene Wilder classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory seemed the most appropriate way to describe my excitement when I found out I would be attending the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. As a lover of craft beer I was vaguely aware of the festival but never thought I would have the opportunity to attend. I’ve been to several West Michigan beer festivals but I was not prepared for the wonders that awaited me in scenic golden Colorado. Oh, and Golden, Colorado is the home of Coors… right? Get it? Golden ticket? Never mind…

The Great American Beer Festival was started in 1982 and had 24 breweries, 47 beers, and roughly 800 attendees in the Harvest House Hotel in Boulder, Colorado. Fast forward to 2017 where some 60,000 attendees, 3,900 beers, and 800 breweries were crammed into the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. Tickets sold out in just over four hours.

In an attempt to the make the trip as affordable as possible we packed up the MittenBrew-Subaru and made our way from the Midwest to the Rockies. We agreed to make the drive casual and did so by stopping at some cool places like 3 Floyds, The World’s Largest Truck Stop, several Kum & Go gas stations as well as a Pump and Pantry (no, I am not making those last two up). Once in western Illinois, the long straight highways were lovingly hugged on both sides by vast expanses of corn, grassland, and not much else.

We intentionally arrived two days early to hit some of the amazing breweries that call Colorado home. In no particular order we hit Avery, Oskar Blues, Crooked Stave, Bull and Bush, Left Hand, Wynkoop, Great Divide, Bootstrap, Mockery, Black Shirt, and Colorado’s own—Coors. At each location we were greeted warmly, treated well, and welcomed back. It’s a town very much in love with its beer, both macro and craft.

Returning to luxurious hotel accommodations after each day of exploring might have been nice, but we chose to camp with some great friends from Railtown Brewing and City Built Brewing. Warm, clear sunny days gave way to frosty cold nights (we’re talking 3 layers to sleep cold). I dreamt of having all 4 of Charlie Bucket’s grandparents on my air mattress to keep me warm. Ok, that may have been an overshare.

Thursday, the opening day of the festival, arrived and it was lovely outside—warm, sunny and just really pleasant. We attended the Michigan Brewer’s Guild gathering at 1-UP-LODO which was a lot of fun to watch. Brewers talking beer, the local sites, and playing vintage arcade games. I used to be a decent Galaga player, I am sad to report I am not any more. I was much better at KISS pinball. After some great laughs and beers we headed to the festival.

great american beer fest

The Colorado Convention center is monstrous and appears to be guarded by a frozen two-story tall blue bear. The general admission line was wrapped around the building and I never actually saw the end of the line, and this was almost 45 minutes before the gates opened. People were enjoying the sunny weather and the glorious anticipation of tasting some of the best beers in the world. It was very much like the 5 golden ticket holders meeting Willy Wonka at the gate when we arrived at the event door to get our media credentials—except that there were 2 of us.

I have attended large techie conventions before, but to see that many brewery booths was really overwhelming. Media attendees were granted early entry so I got to walk in and see the place before the onslaught. I casually strolled in trying to maintain my composure while planning my dark beer “must haves.” While perusing the giant map and list we began to hear bagpipes which meant the festival was about to open to the attendees. Reading that 60,000 people attend over the 3 days was a neat fact but it didn’t occur to me what that would look like. There must have been 2,000 people just standing inside the main door waiting to go through the gates. It was literally a river of beer shirts, beards, cargo shorts, weird hats, costumes, and smiles. The vibe was really positive. It was also clear that many people knew exactly where they were going right away, some even running to get that first pour of their favorite libation.

From that moment on it was elbow to elbow with people laughing, smiling, and celebrating the wonderful gift of beer. I was ecstatic to get some fantastic beers that I hadn’t tried before like Double Barrel Baptist from Epic, Barrel Aged Ten FIDY from Oskar Blues, Tweak from Avery, and to close out the festival I had a pour of Utopias from Samuel Adams. What an amazing journey of beer and community.

great american beer fest

These are my tips for first time attendees:

  • Cell phones are only good for taking pictures of your drunk buddies or co-workers. Don’t plan on making calls or getting texts in the convention center during the festival.
  • Know where the bathrooms are. It’s a long walk to anywhere on the convention floor and it takes 10 times longer trying to move through the crowds.
  • Pace yourself and stay hydrated #betterdrinkingculture
  • Smile and take it all in. The sooner you settle into the scene, the sooner you’ll realize you’re with friends.
  • Try something new. I am a dark beer lover and I had a sour or two—I let my hair down.
  • If you find yourself on a brewery tour and are invited to hold a hop pellet, might I recommend that you don’t eat said hop pellet. Trust me.

 

It was an amazing adventure and while I didn’t win control of the chocolate factory I did get to meet some great people. Dates for the 2018 Great American Beer Festival are September 20th – 22nd in 2018. I’ll be seeing you then Denver, and not as a green newbie this time!

Cheerz!

 

Photography: Steph Harding & Ray Ashley

great american beer festival

LANSING, Mich.—Seven members of the Michigan Brewers Guild brought home a total of nine medals at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) Competition, in Denver, Colorado—the largest commercial beer competition in the world, presented by the Brewers Association.  Michigan-based Rockford Brewing Company was recognized as the “Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year”

In all, 293 medals were presented in 98 unique beer categories covering 161 different beer styles (including all subcategories). Winners were chosen out of 7,923 competition entries from 2,217 breweries in 50 states plus Washington, D.C. (a 15 percent and 24 percent increase respectively from the 7,301 entries and 1,783 breweries in 2016). The competition took place in six sessions over a period of three days and was judged by 276 beer experts from 13 countries, including the U.S.

great american beer festival

 

Michigan Brewers Guild members received the following awards:

GOLD

  • Barrel Aged Sweet Potato SouthNorte Rye, Odd Side Ales, Grand Haven
  • Shipfaced, Silver Harbor Brewing Co., Saint Joseph

SILVER

  • Aphrodisiac Chocolate Pomegranate Imperial Stout, Cranker’s Brewery, Big Rapids
  • Rye Hipster Brunch Stout, Odd Side Ales, Grand Haven
  • Sheehan’s Stout, Rockford Brewing Co., Rockford

BRONZE

  • Antwerp’s Placebo, Batch Brewing Co., Detroit
  • Rogue River Brown, Rockford Brewing Co., Rockford
  • Passionfruit Gose, Perrin Brewing Co., Comstock Park
  • Pilgrim’s Dole, New Holland Brewing Co., Holland

 

 

The Great American Beer Festival is the granddaddy of all U.S. beer festivals, offering the largest collection of U.S. beer ever assembled. The judging panel awards gold, silver or bronze medals that are recognized around the world as symbols of brewing excellence. These awards are among the most coveted in the industry and heralded by the winning brewers in their national advertising.

The Michigan Brewers Guild is the network of innovative and passionate brewers that serves as the recognized advocate for the Michigan craft beer industry. The mission of the Michigan Brewers Guild is to promote and protect the Michigan craft beer industry with an overarching goal to help craft beer acquire 20% of the market by 2025.

great american beer festival

Michigan’s thriving brewing industry conservatively contributes more than $144 million in wages with a total economic contribution of more than $600 million. In terms of overall number breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs, Michigan ranks #6 in the nation – thus supporting its claim as “The Great Beer State.”

 

craft beer stroll

Royal Oak is recognized as a destination for great entertainment, dining and drink. To understand all the reasons why might seem a lofty endeavor.

But once a year, the Royal Oak Restaurant Association makes it easy to take it all in during one afternoon.

craft beer strollThis is the seventh year the restaurants of downtown Royal Oak have collaborated to showcase both the town’s dining and Michigan’s craft beer for the Michigan Craft Beer Stroll, which will take place October 14, 2017 from 12-5 p.m.

“Over 20 downtown Royal Oak restaurants will offer a sample of food along with a sample of Michigan craft beer,” said Stephanie McIntyre, who is producing the event for the Royal Oak Restaurant Association. “Guests go from location to location, taste their samples and stroll around downtown Royal Oak.”

For $40 in advance and $50 the day of, participants can claim samples from all 23 restaurants while walking around downtown Royal Oak. No two locations will have the same Michigan beer, and the food selections are just as diverse.

“I think it’s a really great opportunity for folks to, in one day, get a taste of really great Michigan beer without having to commit to a pint at each place,” said Bob Morton, co-owner of Lily’s Seafood Grill & Brewery. “You can sample a little bit of all of these beers and still be able to walk at the end of the day.”

The stroll is also a perfect way to experience the versatility of craft beer as a complement to quality cuisine, Morton said. Lily’s Seafood Grill & Brewery is serving a choice between its house-brewed Pilsner, Marzen and Stout alongside chocolate stout cupcakes.

A lot of people might not think to pair beer with dessert, Morton said, or there may be a guest who never drinks a stout because they have a misconception of what darker beer tastes like.

“We’re going to take advantage of that opportunity to maybe broaden their horizons and educate their palates a little bit,” Morton said.

The Michigan Craft Beer Stroll celebrates Michigan’s rich craft beer culture, but it has increasingly become a celebration of Royal Oak. The event encourages people to join up with friends and walk from eatery to eatery. While they’re taking in great food and beer, they’re also taking in the town of Royal Oak.

craft beer stroll

And a few of the participating restaurants, like Lily’s, brew their own beer or will be featuring beer brewed in Royal Oak.

Royal Oak Brewery, for example, has been brewing beer in town since the ‘90s and has participated in the Craft Beer Stroll every year.

“We’ve been championing craft beer since September 1995, and any chance we get to do it, we jump at,” said Tim Selewski, general manager of Royal Oak Brewery. “For us, it’s a really easy decision to be a part of something like this.”

The event isn’t just for those interested in beer, though.

“Beer lovers, food lovers and just entertainment lovers in general will all find a rewarding experience in coming to Royal Oak and taking part in the Craft Beer Stroll,” Morton said.

The Royal Oak Restaurant Association puts on the Michigan Craft Beer Stroll with the intent of donating proceeds to a local nonprofit.

“It’s something that they always incorporate into all of their events,” said McIntyre. “It’s just a really important part of giving back to the community that supports them throughout the year by eating and drinking and hanging out at their restaurants.”

McIntyre said these events usually result in a $10,000 donation to the chosen nonprofit. Over their many years of engagement, the Royal Oak Restaurant Association has donated over $250,000 to nonprofits in the Royal Oak area, McIntyre said.

This year’s proceeds will go to Detroit Dog Rescue, an organization with the mission of creating a state-of-the-art no kill animal shelter in Detroit.

Those who’ve participated in the event in the past say it’s a spectacle to see.

“This event blows me away every year,” Selewski said.

“It’s a cool thing to be down in Royal Oak the day of the event, because you’ll just see these groups of happy people, roaming from place to place,” McIntyre said.

“They’re roaming around town in these packs and they’re having a blast,” Selewski said. “They’re laughing, enjoying the food and checking out these places they haven’t tried before.”

That’s what the Michigan Craft Beer Stroll accomplishes for Royal Oak: exposure to the sheer variety of experiences the town has to offer.

“You could come here every day and have a totally different experience,” Morton said. “The beer stroll is a great way to experience that diversity in one day.”

Attendees are encouraged to purchase their tickets in advance at Eventbrite.com.

 

Sponsored by the Royal Oak Restaurant Association 

 

Royal Oak is recognized as a destination for great entertainment, dining and drink. To understand all the reasons why might seem a lofty endeavor.
But once a year, the Royal Oak Restaurant Association makes it easy to take it all in during one afternoon.
craft beer strollThis is the seventh year the restaurants of downtown Royal Oak have collaborated to showcase both the town’s dining and Michigan’s craft beer for the Michigan Craft Beer Stroll, which will take place October 14, 2017 from 12-5 p.m.
“Over 20 downtown Royal Oak restaurants will offer a sample of food along with a sample of Michigan craft beer,” said Stephanie McIntyre, who is producing the event for the Royal Oak Restaurant Association. “Guests go from location to location, taste their samples and stroll around downtown Royal Oak.”
For $40 in advance and $50 the day of, participants can claim samples from all 23 restaurants while walking around downtown Royal Oak. No two locations will have the same Michigan beer, and the food selections are just as diverse.
“I think it’s a really great opportunity for folks to, in one day, get a taste of really great Michigan beer without having to commit to a pint at each place,” said Bob Morton, co-owner of Lily’s Seafood Grill & Brewery. “You can sample a little bit of all of these beers and still be able to walk at the end of the day.”
The stroll is also a perfect way to experience the versatility of craft beer as a complement to quality cuisine, Morton said. Lily’s Seafood Grill & Brewery is serving a choice between its house-brewed Pilsner, Marzen and Stout alongside chocolate stout cupcakes.
A lot of people might not think to pair beer with dessert, Morton said, or there may be a guest who never drinks a stout because they have a misconception of what darker beer tastes like.
“We’re going to take advantage of that opportunity to maybe broaden their horizons and educate their palates a little bit,” Morton said.
The Michigan Craft Beer Stroll celebrates Michigan’s rich craft beer culture, but it has increasingly become a celebration of Royal Oak. The event encourages people to join up with friends and walk from eatery to eatery. While they’re taking in great food and beer, they’re also taking in the town of Royal Oak.
craft beer stroll
And a few of the participating restaurants, like Lily’s, brew their own beer or will be featuring beer brewed in Royal Oak.
Royal Oak Brewery, for example, has been brewing beer in town since the ‘90s and has participated in the Craft Beer Stroll every year.
“We’ve been championing craft beer since September 1995, and any chance we get to do it, we jump at,” said Tim Selewski, general manager of Royal Oak Brewery. “For us, it’s a really easy decision to be a part of something like this.”
The event isn’t just for those interested in beer, though.
“Beer lovers, food lovers and just entertainment lovers in general will all find a rewarding experience in coming to Royal Oak and taking part in the Craft Beer Stroll,” Morton said.
The Royal Oak Restaurant Association puts on the Michigan Craft Beer Stroll with the intent of donating proceeds to a local nonprofit.
“It’s something that they always incorporate into all of their events,” said McIntyre. “It’s just a really important part of giving back to the community that supports them throughout the year by eating and drinking and hanging out at their restaurants.”


McIntyre said these events usually result in a $10,000 donation to the chosen nonprofit. Over their many years of engagement, the Royal Oak Restaurant Association has donated over $250,000 to nonprofits in the Royal Oak area, McIntyre said.
This year’s proceeds will go to Detroit Dog Rescue, an organization with the mission of creating a state-of-the-art no kill animal shelter in Detroit.
Those who’ve participated in the event in the past say it’s a spectacle to see.
“This event blows me away every year,” Selewski said.
“It’s a cool thing to be down in Royal Oak the day of the event, because you’ll just see these groups of happy people, roaming from place to place,” McIntyre said.
“They’re roaming around town in these packs and they’re having a blast,” Selewski said. “They’re laughing, enjoying the food and checking out these places they haven’t tried before.”
That’s what the Michigan Craft Beer Stroll accomplishes for Royal Oak: exposure to the sheer variety of experiences the town has to offer.
“You could come here every day and have a totally different experience,” Morton said. “The beer stroll is a great way to experience that diversity in one day.”
Attendees are encouraged to purchase their tickets in advance at Eventbrite.com.
 
Sponsored by the Royal Oak Restaurant Association 
 

burning foot

Organizers of the Lakeshore Brewers Guild know how to throw an epic end of summer bash. They hosted 65 breweries from all around the shores of Lake Michigan, brought in several legendary bands to play live music, set up a couple community bonfires, offered overnight camping on the shore of Lake Michigan, and mixed it all together at Muskegon’s Pere Marquette Beach.


The park’s vast stretch of white sand and fresh water was the ideal location for the appreciative crowd of attendees to savor gathering with friends at this year’s 3rd annual event. Cool breezes off the lake kept everyone smiling on a day of perfect summer sunshine.

A friendly reminder printed on the event program says “Be sure to enjoy yourself while you’re here, which shouldn’t be too hard since you’re on one of the most beautiful beaches on Lake Michigan, taking in the sights, and sounds, and friends all around you, cheers!”

Beer enthusiasts had a fair share of options from local and regional breweries. Participating guild members are mainly located in counties that border Lake Michigan, with a few inclusions from further inland.

burning foot fest

burning foot fest

burning foot fest

Music filled the air throughout the event, including Melophobix, Southpaw, and Tropidelic‘s synergistic sounds. Festival favorites Badfish returned this year to please the crowd with retro Sublime hits. Headliners Less Than Jake ended the evening with a raucous pit of revelers in front of the stage doing their thing. Guests left the festival grounds with grins on their faces.



“Where else can you go and enjoy beer from over 60 breweries on arguably the most beautiful beach in Michigan? Burning Foot has become one of our most anticipated days of the year—we liken it to Christmas for the beer-lover. It’s worth every penny that we spend to enter. We already have it on the calendar for next summer!” said Amy Silvis, who has attended all 3 years along with her husband Josh.

Next year’s festival is slated for Saturday, August 25th. Tickets will go on sale in June.

 

 

Photography: Steph Harding

short's fest

“Today is obviously a beautiful day,” said Eric Tranchell, Beer Liberator for Short’s Brewing Company.

August 5th was, in fact, a perfect day for the brewery’s annual Short’s Fest: blue skies, 70 degrees, and plenty of beer on tap. Held against the backdrop of the Elk Rapids production facility, it was a casual summer gathering compared to the spring rave of an anniversary that happens every April at the original pub and brewery in Bellaire.

short's fest

It had a different feel, first of all. It was still a celebration of Short’s beer, but everything was less frenzied, more contained and more intimate. It was like attending a neighbor’s backyard barbeque.

The production facility, more fondly known as the “pull barn,” has  become a spot for summer pit stops. Trying something new, Short’s opened its Elk Rapids grounds to patrons for casual evening eats, Short’s and Starcut Ciders beverages, and facility tours. It has been a great success and has bonded the company with the Elk Rapids community even further.

This more casual gathering was a breath of fresh air following the previous week’s announcement of Short’s new partnership with Lagunitas, which created quite a frenzy in the Michigan craft beer world.

The Short’s staff at the Elk Rapids celebration were generally excited and glad to be together for a night, serving beer and toasting another summer amidst local patrons.

“There are a lot of unknowns for Short’s right now, but Short’s has always been good with unknowns. It just means a lot of possibilities,” said Tranchell.

Owner Joe Short was spotted scaling one of the beer trucks, maybe to better take in the crowd and enjoy the festivities.

“We never imagined Short’s was going to be this big,” said Tranchell, “and now we have a big family to take care of—and I mean every Short’s employee. And Joe himself has told me that he is responsible for every person here. He wants to know everyone is taken care of, from top to bottom.”

That united front of Short’s staff—their family—was what made the atmosphere of Short’s Fest so relaxed and welcoming.

“Short’s Fest is the pinnacle of summer,” said Emily Sullivan, marketing communication associate for the company.

Short’s beers and Starcut Ciders flowed from multiple stations on the fest grounds. Favorites of the evening were Always on Vacation, a beautiful and simple session IPA, and Gose Good With Wood, a French oak passion fruit Gose that was a perfect blend of tart, salty, and fruity. Fest-goers also had the opportunity to purchase the specialty bomber release of She Uses Tangerine, a Belgian Strong Ale made with tangerines.

short's fest

Music for the night featured Red Herring, The Mark Lavengood Band, The Go Rounds, and Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers.

Short’s Fest always takes place in conjunction with Elk Rapids Harbor Days, and tonight the last call for beer coincided with the town’s fireworks display over the harbor.

Short’s Brewing Company has lived by the mantra, “stay awesome hungry” over their 13 years of existence.

“Tonight,” Sullivan said, “I feel ‘awesome fed.’”

 

Photography: Kaitlyn Rickman