TRAVERSE CITY — Looking for a unique venue for sampling your favorite craft beers from Short’s Brewing Company?

The Traverse Tall Ship Company is hosting its “Microbrew Tasting Cruise” every Sunday evening beginning this Sunday through Sept. 4 (6:30-8:30pm).

Along with the brews, pizza from Crusted Creations will be served. The cost is $50 per person and space is limited to 60 per sail.

“What an awesome beer adventure,” says Jon “Woj” Wojtowicz, Short’s Beer Liberator. “I’m really excited about the rest of the summer and couldn’t thank you enough for coming up with such an amazing idea.”

As the ship’s captain sails across Grand Traverse Bay, Woj (or another Short’s representative) will discuss and share four unique beer samples, and share Short’s brewing philosophy and role in Michigan’s overall craft brewing scene.

With a 60 passenger sailing capacity (24 overnight capacity), there is plenty of space for sitting and moving around the decks while under sail. While aboard the Manitou, passengers are free to leave the sailing to the experienced crew or lend a hand and learn the art of the sailor.

To make reservations for any of the 2011 Manitou sailing adventures, call 800-678-0383. Gift certificates are also available. For additional information about the Manitou, including its corporate charters, log on to www.tallshipsailing.com.

GRAND RAPIDS — The ingredients for Founders Fest are simple — beer and music.

Attracting about 6,000 visitors Saturday, the annual outdoor event featured some of Founders’ unique brews and an assortment of live bands.

“There are always surprises,” Founders Vice President/Director of Marketing Dave Engbers said. “There’s a lot I really don’t know how to explain.”

Engbers was perhaps referring to a 20-foot tall man-tree walking along Grandville Avenue. Or maybe it was the gymnasts flexing their bodies in unbelievable positions through hoops. Or perhaps Mark-Paul Gosselaar (aka Zack Morris) playing guitar in the Founders Brewing Company All-Stars band.

“It’s a little slice of — I’d like to say West Michigan — but it’s bigger,” Engbers said. “It is what we call it: A celebration of beer and music.”

Among those traveling from outside of West Michigan, Rick Gebhard of Cadillac finally made his way to Founders Fest after years of wanting to go.

“It feels more like a real summer festival than I thought,” said Gebhard. “Great music and great beer — what could be a better way to spend a day?”

For a group of Cooley Law School students, Founders Fest presented itself as the perfect way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon.

“There are more people than I thought there would be,” Becky Lucas said about the festival, which stretched along the front of Founders taproom from Cherry Street to just past Bartlett Street and about halfway up Williams Street.

Besides beer and music, Lucas and her three classmates saw the festival as an opportunity for people watching. Getting a photo with Gosselaar was also on the agenda, along with trying one of the festival’s specialty beers (Blushing Monk was on Lucas’ radar).

“I’m from Wisconsin, so I kind of prefer Wisconsin beer,” said Lucas, a Kenosha, Wisc. native. “But Michigan does a pretty good job.”

Among the beers on tap Saturday were:

The MittenBrew crew put a few of the specialty beers to the test, and Cashew Mountain Brown (10 percent ABV) came out on top. With a scent of nut and cocoa, the cashew/mixed nut taste was perfectly balanced by the smooth body and medium carbonation of the brew. The dark brown beer seemed to have a hint of cocoa and a touch of maple.

Another specialty brew caught us by surprise. While Founders is known for its high volume of hops, the Founders Fest Wheat could’ve easily been mistaken for an IPA.

Creamy with hints of toffee, vanilla and caramel, the Kaiser Curmudgeon couldn’t hide its 10 percent ABV, but it was hard to resist the creamy delight.

In addition to the beer, eight bands were on stage during the 3-10:30 p.m. event. Local artist and food vendors also joined the festival, including restaurants Cottage Bar, Pita House, Maggie’s Kitchen and Corner Bar.

ANN ARBOR – Though we’ve come a long way from the attitudes surrounding the stereotypical 1950s housewife, there’s one quaint stereotype about women that persists into our day and age: the one that says ladies don’t like beer.

To help dispel this notion, nearly 100 women attended Sunday night’s “Real Women Drink Beer” event at the tap room of Wolverine State Brewing Co., where they were treated to massages, manicures and pedicures, catered snacks from From the Hearth Foods, live music courtesy of Ru Knoedler, brewery tours, and, of course, plenty of Wolverine beer.

“I love beer; it brings people together,” said Rudi Schwartz, 25, of Clarkston, who studies history at Oakland University and attended with her mother, Doreen. “Really, this country probably wouldn’t even exist without beer because the American Revolution was planned in taverns.”

Schwartz hopes to open a brewery of her own in Clarkston with a former Michigan friend now living in Texas — and the blessing of Doreen. “My friend quit his job to study marketing full time, and I would be in charge of the brewing,” she added.

She and her fellow attendees of various ages and walks of life were able to learn more about brewing and the beer business from special guests like Stacey Block, who brews for Arcadia Ales in Battle Creek, and Ginny Sherrow, who co-owns the Fenton Winery & Brewery and brews with her husband, Matt.

“I’m pleasantly surprised by the turnout,” said Block, who noted the mix of women who were already into beer as well as their curious friends who wanted to see what all the fuss is about. “We’ve taken many women back through the brewery for tours, and they’ve been as interested in the process as they are in the product.”

The event was such a success that E.T. Crowe, Wolverine partner and chief marketer, plans to organize more in the future.

“Unfortunately for many women their only real exposure to beer is through the sexist ads directed at the guy standing next to them,” Crowe said. “But we are seeing a definite upswing in women beer drinkers as more and more of them discover beer has flavor — it doesn’t have to be the pale yellow, slightly warm stuff someone hands you in a red plastic cup anymore.”

So what does the future hold for women and beer?

Crowe prefers to look ahead with rose-colored beer goggles. “If we can continue to show women that good beer can offer a huge variety of options in taste — whether it be bitterness, sourness, fruitiness or general fabulousness — I think the sky’s the limit.”

HOLLAND – New Holland Brewing Company has come to known some pretty diverse and interesting beers over the years, offering everything from a Golden Cap seasonal ale to the ever-popular Dragon’s Milk. But on Saturday, New Holland played a different tune. In celebration of its Mad Hatter India Pale Ale, New Holland released four new “hatters” to the public during its 14th annual Mad Hatter Birthday Bash.

The event featured nine “hatters” in all, and we were able to try out five of them. Each offered a particular spin on the traditional Mad Hatter, introducing some new flavors and giving familiar flavors a different spin on things.

Centered around a decked-out “Alice in Wonderland” themed brewery, we tried the Black Hatter, Smoked Hatter, Farmhouse Hatter, Sour Hatter and Oak Aged Hatter. And despite the obvious IPA undertones, all five of the beers seemed to bring something different to the table.

The Black Hatter (5.5% ABV) retained the somewhat bitter aftertaste I’ve come to expect from an IPA. Its dark color, though, was refreshing and a great way to start off the night. And like the Black Hatter, the Farmhouse Hatter (5% ABV) still had a hint of bitterness with an underlying IPA taste.

But that’s when the similarities seemed to stop.

The Oak Aged Mad Hatter (7.2% ABV) had no bitter taste to it at all — in fact, it was smooth, refreshing and held a slight caramel aftertaste. It’s woodsy-like flavor was accompanied by a somewhat fruity flavor and golden color. This was definitely the most rustic of the night.

And like the Oak Aged, the Smoked Hatter (5.2% ABV) was equally interesting. Being a newbie to smoked brews, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of flavor the beer let out. It wasn’t overpowering or bitter, and had a nice, relaxed flavor to it.

By far, though, the favorite of the night had to be the Sour Hatter (8.5% ABV). It was the only beer that was served to us in a flute glass (the rest were in standard pints), and was very refreshing and smooth. It’s dark brown color gave way to its slight cider taste and somewhat fruity smell. It was crisp on the tongue, but smooth thereafter. My immediate thought was that it reminded me of those sour candies I used to eat as a kid — but much more refined. It was a great cap to the night.

In addition to the five we tried, New Holland also served up its regular Mad Hatter, Imperial Hatter, Oak Aged Imperial Hatter and Rye Hatter. Surrounded by servers who were decked out in “Alice in Wonderland” costumes, everything seemed to fit together for the event — including the absolutely mad birthday cake.

FRANKENMUTH — Apparently the World Expo of Beer is a great way to spend a wedding anniversary. It’s also a worthwhile reason for friends to have an annual reunion.

“It’s actually our wedding anniversary today,” said Rusty Blackwell of Manchester. “It’s a cool way to get to know about new beers. We’ll try new stuff as much as we can.”

No matter the motive for each attendee — there were newbies, beer-connoisseurs and, yes, even snobs — the annual event certainly brought the masses together. The nearly 20,000 people in attendance (spanning two days) had their choice of about 400 brews — beers, ciders, mead, malts and more.

This was was the second venture to the event for Rusty and his wife, Jennifer. They began their day by sampling two Wolverine State Brewing Company beers, Helles Bock and Dark Lager.

“We like both of them quite a bit,” Rusty said. “It’s better than spending $12 on a six-pack you might not like.”

While they weren’t all Michigan brews (or even crafts), the majority of representation was from the Mitten. But the Expo was not just about the brews, it was about people. As we scanned the crowd at Heritage Park, we met beer enthusiasts, families, young couples and spotted some people watchers (well, they weren’t drinking and just kind of peering around).

Attendees didn’t have any reason to be bored — blaring music, food and the chance at everything from trying their hand at the beer pong tournament to going to class at Beer School. And let’s not forget the mug strength competition, a test of endurance to see who of five competitors could hold up a mug of beer the longest without bending his or her arm (the record was a little of five minutes for the guys and about three for the ladies at last check).

We tried a handful of beers, ciders and a couple tasters of mead. Not much leaves the BrewCrew disappointed, and we certainly were pleased with our choices (for the most part). Our favorites came from breweries like Wolverine, Atwater, Bells, Shorts, Mount Pleasant, Schmohz, Great Lakes and Saugatuck. Although Crispin Cider Company is not from the Mitten, we have to admit they have a killer pear cider.

All in all, the World Expo of Beer is worth a trip to Frankenmuth (even if you’re four hours or so away). There aren’t many beer events that can match it in the combination of brews, entertainment and food.

 

 

 

 

Is there a more appropriate time for the World Expo of Beer than during National Craft Beer Week?  With more than 400 brews on tap, you certainly don’t want to head to Frankenmuth this weekend without a little planning.

So, let’s look at the general prep items:

HOURS: 5-10 p.m. Friday and 3-10 p.m. Saturday.
WHAT TO BRING: ID, cash, pretzels or crackers (for in between each beer).
ADMISSION: $7
DIRECTIONS: Heritage Park in Frankenmuth. Grab a map here.
GAMEPLAN: Eat a healthy breakfast and decent-sized lunch. Beer on an empty stomach might get you drunk, and you want to enjoy the beers not projectile vomit them.
ON-SITE MAP: Download the festival layout.
PICK YOUR POISON: You’re not going to be able to sample brews from all 77 breweries, so think ahead. Find out which breweries will be there.

Now, onto some more practical advice. This is paraphrased from the WEB’s open letter on its Facebook page:

  • Admission is cash only and $7. Beer tickets can be purchased inside the pavilion with credit card or cash.
  • Beer tickets are four for $5 and most beers only require one ticket to sample (a few beers that will require two tickets).
  • Have your ID out and ready. You will receive your plastic sampling mug when you get your ID checked so make sure you have it.
  • After you pass through admission please make your way into the pavilion (to the left) and proceed to the beer tickets booth. Do not stand in the way.
  • When leaving, remember that no matter how much you love your beer, you cannot take it with you.

Sounding more like a dessert buffet than taplist, May the Short’s Be With You at The Pyramid Scheme highlighted some of the best Michigan beer has to offer with 15 unique brews from Short’s Brewing Company.
Arguably the most innovative brewery in the state, Short’s never fails to flex its creative muscles. Although the Elk Rapids-based brewery boasts an impressive series of year-round and seasonal brews, what really draws many beer geeks — myself included — is its one-off, experimental beers.
Between its Bellaire brewpub and several Michigan beer festivals, I have been fortunate enough to try many of these unique offerings. Wednesday’s event provided an opportunity to experience even more Short’s creativity. These are not your “typical” beers. And, even between the three of us at the table, opinions varied widely. Note: All beers were poured into a standard shaker pint glass.
Mamma’s Strawberry Milk

  • Appearance: Pours a dense, hazy reddish-brown hue with no head. Strawberries dominate with a dark fruit, malty sweetness.
  • Not your typical fruit beer — lacks the overpowering sugary sweetness you might be expecting. Instead, the brew presents a strong, pleasant fruit aroma and taste with a heavier, syrupy mouthfeel. It’s not something you can sit and drink four of, but a wonderful, unique offering that is definitely worth trying. The milk sugar and malt body with mild carbonation rounds out this beer nicely.

’08 Chocolate Raspberry Shorter

  • Appearance: Deep, opaque chocolate brown body, revealing a bright mahogany hue towards the edge of the glass. Thin, sparse layer of tan head.
  • Initially, it has a confusing alcohol aroma, which fades over time. Tart raspberries predominate the initial taste, but transitions to a sweeter raspberry with a bit chocolate malt on the end. With a lighter mouthfeel than expected for beer this dark, it has a moderate, slightly prickly carbonation. Not as much chocolate malt as the name may imply, but still present. A lighter beer than the deep color might lead you to think, but definitely something you could drink a few of.

Another Caucasian Gary

  • Appearance: Opaque, orange/amber with a thin white head.
  • The beer that I was perhaps most excited to try,  as I missed my chance during the Winter Beer Fest and it received rave reviews on Beeradvocate.com. Its aroma is unpleasant — smells of spent coffee grounds, not the nice roasted malt flavor you would find in a bigger stout — and carries over in the taste with a slightly sour, milky sweetness to it.  With a heavier mouthfeel (a little syrupy), ACG has good carbonation. But it’s not at all what I hoped for — this beer was just plain bad. Granted, it was brewed several months ago, and with the components of this beer I have to think that the aging process did not treat it well. Wish I could have tried this one months ago, as I get the sneaking suspicion it was an entirely different when it was fresh.

The Gambler

  • Appearance: Cloudy golden brown, thin layer of cream-colored head.
  • A bourbon-barreled IPA brewed with tea leaves, lending a tobacco quality to the beer, it has hints of smoke with a leather- tobacco scent that is apparent but not overpowering and capped with subtle bourbon notes. The taste brings a bright sweetness upfront, met with pleasant earthy hop bitterness.  A little more of the bourbon comes through towards the end, and it feels like an IPA in the mouth with a little lighter carbonation. Not my cup of tea, but very interesting — lots of flavors you wouldn’t encounter elsewhere.

Key Lime Pie

  • Appearance: Pours a bright orange/amber with no head.
  • Bright citrus, predominated by the scent of sweet limes carries into the taste with initial lime sweetness that transitions to a milky, malt sweetness.  It feels heavier than it looks and definitely has a chewier, syrupy quality to it. Overall, the sweet lime flavor balanced very well with the creamy body. Really, it’s a great beer — key lime pie in a glass.  On that note, it’s not something I could sit a drink all night, but a must-try for sweet, fruity beer lovers.

Carrot Cake

  • Appearance: No head whatsoever, completely opaque with a dark copper, earthy hue.
  • Based on scent alone, they weren’t kidding when they said Carrot Cake. Similar to the smell, the creamy frosting taste gives way to a smooth, bready malt sweetness. You can definitely pick up on the carrots as you would in a real carrot cake, but it takes the back seat to the sweetness of this beer (the point of carrot cake is to hide the veggies, right?). It has a creamy, heavier body that balances well. Much like the key lime pie, Carrot Cake hits the nail on the head. Liquid carrot cake.

The Pyramid Scheme is located at 68 Commerce SW in downtown Grand Rapids.

Sounding more like a dessert buffet than taplist, May the Short’s Be With You at The Pyramid Scheme highlighted some of the best Michigan beer has to offer with 15 unique brews from Short’s Brewing Company.

Arguably the most innovative brewery in the state, Short’s never fails to flex its creative muscles. Although the Elk Rapids-based brewery boasts an impressive series of year-round and seasonal brews, what really draws many beer geeks — myself included — is its one-off, experimental beers.

Between its Bellaire brewpub and several Michigan beer festivals, I have been fortunate enough to try many of these unique offerings. Wednesday’s event provided an opportunity to experience even more Short’s creativity. These are not your “typical” beers. And, even between the three of us at the table, opinions varied widely. Note: All beers were poured into a standard shaker pint glass.

Mamma’s Strawberry Milk

  • Appearance: Pours a dense, hazy reddish-brown hue with no head. Strawberries dominate with a dark fruit, malty sweetness.
  • Not your typical fruit beer — lacks the overpowering sugary sweetness you might be expecting. Instead, the brew presents a strong, pleasant fruit aroma and taste with a heavier, syrupy mouthfeel. It’s not something you can sit and drink four of, but a wonderful, unique offering that is definitely worth trying. The milk sugar and malt body with mild carbonation rounds out this beer nicely.

’08 Chocolate Raspberry Shorter

  • Appearance: Deep, opaque chocolate brown body, revealing a bright mahogany hue towards the edge of the glass. Thin, sparse layer of tan head.
  • Initially, it has a confusing alcohol aroma, which fades over time. Tart raspberries predominate the initial taste, but transitions to a sweeter raspberry with a bit chocolate malt on the end. With a lighter mouthfeel than expected for beer this dark, it has a moderate, slightly prickly carbonation. Not as much chocolate malt as the name may imply, but still present. A lighter beer than the deep color might lead you to think, but definitely something you could drink a few of.

Another Caucasian Gary

  • Appearance: Opaque, orange/amber with a thin white head.
  • The beer that I was perhaps most excited to try,  as I missed my chance during the Winter Beer Fest and it received rave reviews on Beeradvocate.com. Its aroma is unpleasant — smells of spent coffee grounds, not the nice roasted malt flavor you would find in a bigger stout — and carries over in the taste with a slightly sour, milky sweetness to it.  With a heavier mouthfeel (a little syrupy), ACG has good carbonation. But it’s not at all what I hoped for — this beer was just plain bad. Granted, it was brewed several months ago, and with the components of this beer I have to think that the aging process did not treat it well. Wish I could have tried this one months ago, as I get the sneaking suspicion it was an entirely different when it was fresh.

The Gambler

  • Appearance: Cloudy golden brown, thin layer of cream-colored head.
  • A bourbon-barreled IPA brewed with tea leaves, lending a tobacco quality to the beer, it has hints of smoke with a leather- tobacco scent that is apparent but not overpowering and capped with subtle bourbon notes. The taste brings a bright sweetness upfront, met with pleasant earthy hop bitterness.  A little more of the bourbon comes through towards the end, and it feels like an IPA in the mouth with a little lighter carbonation. Not my cup of tea, but very interesting — lots of flavors you wouldn’t encounter elsewhere.

Key Lime Pie

  • Appearance: Pours a bright orange/amber with no head.
  • Bright citrus, predominated by the scent of sweet limes carries into the taste with initial lime sweetness that transitions to a milky, malt sweetness.  It feels heavier than it looks and definitely has a chewier, syrupy quality to it. Overall, the sweet lime flavor balanced very well with the creamy body. Really, it’s a great beer — key lime pie in a glass.  On that note, it’s not something I could sit a drink all night, but a must-try for sweet, fruity beer lovers.

Carrot Cake

  • Appearance: No head whatsoever, completely opaque with a dark copper, earthy hue.
  • Based on scent alone, they weren’t kidding when they said Carrot Cake. Similar to the smell, the creamy frosting taste gives way to a smooth, bready malt sweetness. You can definitely pick up on the carrots as you would in a real carrot cake, but it takes the back seat to the sweetness of this beer (the point of carrot cake is to hide the veggies, right?). It has a creamy, heavier body that balances well. Much like the key lime pie, Carrot Cake hits the nail on the head. Liquid carrot cake.

The Pyramid Scheme is located at 68 Commerce SW in downtown Grand Rapids.