WESTLAND – Serious beer lovers know some of the best craft brews in the world come from Belgium, and from Feb. 9-19 at Ashley’s Beer & Grill, 7525 Wayne Rd., they can sample from more than 160 different Belgian ales at the second annual Ashley’s Belgian Beer Festival, one of the largest of its kind.
The event, expanded from five to 11 days this year due to its runaway popularity, includes the first U.S. release of one new Belgian beer, the regional release of three, and the Michigan debut of more than a dozen others; a menu of Belgian-inspired dishes; several ticketed beer dinner events, educational seminars and food pairing sessions; and even a Valentine’s Day Belgian beer-and-chocolate special for lovers.
“This Festival gives our customers a rare opportunity to explore the diversity of all these amazing Belgian beers at one time and in one place, as well as the culture of a unique country,” said Roy More, co-owner of Ashley’s.
“We’ll have up to 44 different Belgian beers on draft at a time – it’s impossible even in Belgium to find a selection anything like this,” added More, noting how on a 2010 research trip he was unable to locate any Belgian restaurant or bar offering more than 20 different beers on tap, with most establishments having just six or fewer.
The growing demand in Michigan – home to one of the largest Belgian expatriate communities – and nationally for microbrew, or craft beer, alternatives to products from large multinational concerns is a key driver for the Festival as well as other such craft beer events. According to Steve Villani, president of the Boston-based Global Beer Network, an importer specializing in Belgian ales, sales of Belgian beers in the Midwest have doubled in the past three years despite overall beer consumption being down.
“The U.S. population is moving away from mass-produced ‘pilsner’ beers and toward higher alcohol, more flavorful ales. Belgian beers represent the highest end of the quality spectrum and are enjoying a surge in popularity as more folks find out about them,” said Villani.
Villani will join several other Belgian beer experts from around the country at the Festival, including Danny Dieussaert, export manager from Brewery Van Eecke, a seventh-generation family brewery in Watou, Belgium, that dates back to 1795 and is the Festival’s 2012 featured brewery.
Van Eecke’s Poppering Dark Hommel Bier is making its national debut at Ashley’s. It is a variation on Poppering Hommel Bier, brewed to showcase the Watou region’s best known agricultural product, hops. The beer is rated 100 out of 100 on popular review site BeerAdvocate.com and described as “World Class.”
More information on Ashley’s and the Belgian Beer Festival can be found at abbf.ashleys.com.

WESTLAND — Michigan craft brewers Shorts Brewing Company and Dark Horse Brewing Co. will face off in the first match of the inaugural Ashley’s Invitational Brewery Throwdown. The event, hosted at Ashley’s Bar and Grill in Westland, will feature eight Michigan breweries battling it out against each other, Jan. 4 through Apr. 4.

“This is the first such tournament of its kind,” said Ashley’s co-owner Jeff More. “Three rounds of head-to-head competition leading to a tournament champion. There have been individual matches and beer throwdowns but not a bracketed, multi-round brewery tournament that we could find.”

The first match begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 4. Over 40 brewers were considered for the competition; Ashley’s chose eight as each having something special to bring to customers.

“Each brewer is a winner just by being good enough to get into the tournament. Brewers war chosen to compete based upon what they could bring to our guests,” said More.

In the first round each brewer must offer four different draft beers. First round matches occur each Wednesday in January. Winners go on to the second round in February and March where they have to offer six draft beers. The finals will be in April where each brewer must offer eight draft beers. Brewer representatives will be present at each round to answer guests’ questions about the beers.

“The purpose of the Throwdown is to have fun but also to educate our guests about the great beer now available,” said More.

With two locations in Ann Arbor and Westland, Ashley’s is known as “Michigan’s premier multi-tap.” Draft Magazine rated Ashley’s one of the 100 best beer bars in the country, and voters have voted Ashley’s as having the “Best Beer Selection” in WDIV’s “4 The Best” every year since 2007.

WESTLAND — Michigan craft brewers Shorts Brewing Company and Dark Horse Brewing Co. will face off in the first match of the inaugural Ashley’s Invitational Brewery Throwdown. The event, hosted at Ashley’s Bar and Grill in Westland, will feature eight Michigan breweries battling it out against each other, Jan. 4 through Apr. 4.
“This is the first such tournament of its kind,” said Ashley’s co-owner Jeff More. “Three rounds of head-to-head competition leading to a tournament champion. There have been individual matches and beer throwdowns but not a bracketed, multi-round brewery tournament that we could find.”
The first match begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 4. Over 40 brewers were considered for the competition; Ashley’s chose eight as each having something special to bring to customers.
“Each brewer is a winner just by being good enough to get into the tournament. Brewers war chosen to compete based upon what they could bring to our guests,” said More.
In the first round each brewer must offer four different draft beers. First round matches occur each Wednesday in January. Winners go on to the second round in February and March where they have to offer six draft beers. The finals will be in April where each brewer must offer eight draft beers. Brewer representatives will be present at each round to answer guests’ questions about the beers.
“The purpose of the Throwdown is to have fun but also to educate our guests about the great beer now available,” said More.
With two locations in Ann Arbor and Westland, Ashley’s is known as “Michigan’s premier multi-tap.” Draft Magazine rated Ashley’s one of the 100 best beer bars in the country, and voters have voted Ashley’s as having the “Best Beer Selection” in WDIV’s “4 The Best” every year since 2007.

DETROIT – For the third October in a row, Michigan craft beer enthusiasts turned out en masse to celebrate the growing beer scene of a town whose nicknames include the Motor City, The D, the Renaissance City, and – plausibly these days – Detroit Beer City.

No one could have imagined it back in the 1980s, when Stroh’s closed its doors, the last brewery in a city that once was teeming with them, but then again, no one could have imagined that Michigan would emerge as one of the country’s premier beer states, either.

On Oct. 22, the Michigan Brewers Guild held its Third Annual Detroit Fall Beer Festival at Detroit’s historic Eastern Market, featuring 52 breweries pouring more than 300 different beers to around 3,400 thirsty souls. But leading up to the occasion was also the third annual Detroit Beer Week, a series of events at breweries, restaurants and bars around town designed to promote craft beer and the city itself.

DBW is organized by Liquid Table, a partnership between beer renaissance men Jon Piepenbrok and Jason Peltier, and each year it features beer dinners, special keg tappings/happy hours, tastings, pub crawls, tours, live music and more. Participating venues include Fountain Bistro, Foran’s Grand Trunk Pub, Cliff Bell’s, Slow’s Bar-B-Q, Motor City Brewing Works, Atwater Block Brewery, Detroit Beer Co. and several others.

I was unable to attend most of this year’s Beer Week festivities, but I did make it down to the swank Rattlesnake Club for the Oct. 20 Bell’s beer dinner. The reception at the Club’s elegant bar area featured Oarsman Ale along with trays of several hors d’oeuvres circulated by the wait staff. I got my hands on a Roasted Chicken Slider with Blue Cheese and Mustard on Pretzel Roll as well as a Mini Oyster Po’ Boy (actually an oyster on the half shell) with Chipotle Aioli, both of which were phenomenal, particularly when washed down with the lightly sour and refreshing citrus notes of the Oarsman.

Dinner menu and brief comments follow and, no, I am not a Certified Cicerone, but I was able to compare notes with not one but two of them afterward. We all agreed Chef Chris Franz knocked it out of the park.

First Course: Bell’s Best Brown Ale paired with Grilled Pizza Topped with Shaved Fontina, Caramelized Shallots and Spicy Crisp Pancetta
The bready and caramel notes of the beer combined obviously with the caramelized shallots, while the pancetta provided a marvelous salty counterpoint to the sweetness of the malt.

Second Course: Two Hearted Ale paired with Garam Masala Wild Salmon, Vegetable Samosa, Mint, and Coriander Essence
A play on India pale ale with the Indian spices and samosa; the intense bitterness of Two Hearted stood up well against the flavor orgy of the moist salmon and sweet “sauce” covering the pastry full of savory cooked carrots, celery and potato.

Third Course: Octoberfest and Porter paired with Salt and Pepper Crusted Flank Steak atop Roasted Butternut Farro Risotto and Wild Mushroom Jus
My favorite course, and not just because it featured two beers. The tender grilled steak and mouthwatering savory flavors of the mushroom jus, when combined with the dry, roasty notes of the porter, about put me over the moon. Meanwhile, the Octoberfest’s light caramel malt notes went better with the mild sweetness in the butternut risotto.

Dessert: Third Coast Old Ale paired with Salt-Poached Pear Stuffed with Third Coast Caramel, Toffee-Coated Pork Belly Cracklins
The malt wallop of the Third Coast Ale easily handled all the sweetness of the pear and heaviness of the syrup, and then some, while the salty crunch of the pork provided a delicious tactile contrast with the mush of the fruit.

This was but one of several Detroit Beer Week dinners, with beers from The Livery, Saugatuck, Short’s, Dogfish Head, and Kuhnhenn and Dragonmead breweries all showcased in their own delicious and decadent feasts. Go to www.detbeerweek.com to see the whole schedule, and if you missed out, make plans to visit Detroit Beer City next October. Your taste buds will thank you.

GRAND RAPIDS — MittenBrew is proud to announce our latest project — BeerSocialGR. In partnership with the L&B Portfolio, we’ve developed an event that focuses on pairing great beer with food, all the while being social about it.

The first BeerSocialGR starts 5:30 p.m. Sept.14 at Derby Station in East Grand Rapids. Attendees will be treated to five pre-chosen beer samples and food samplers, as well as a “staple” beer to cleanse your palate.

Attendees are expected to use social media tools — such as Facebook and Twitter — to let their followers know of their experiences with each beer and dish, while participating in a casual setting with their peers. People will be chosen to attend the event based on their social media following — all attendees must meet a variety of requirements to attend the event.

“We really hope that, with the help of Derby Station, we can promote the rising interest in Michigan craft beer as well as have attendees enjoy some great food,” said Bryan Esler, event organizer and MittenBrew co-founder. “Pairing beer with food is nothing new, but it’s definitely something that can be promoted a lot more, especially with the growth of craft beer.”

The event, which is limited to 10 people, is facilitated by Josh Leo, the founder of Charcutweeterie events at the Reserve, a wine bar in downtown Grand Rapids. Leo serves as host during the event, inviting attendees to experiment and try unique craft beer and food.

To learn more about this event, and to see how you can attend, email Bryan Esler at besler@grgrub.com. Stay tuned for more details about the event, including the types of food and beer that being served, in the coming weeks.

Update: The menu for BeerSocialGR has been released!

  • Course One: Short’s Spruce Pilsner with Root Vegetable Salad
  • Course Two: Michigan Brewing Company Screaming Pumpkin with Beer Cheese Soup
  • Course Three: New Holland Mad Hatter IPA on Cask  with Pretzels and Mustard
  • Course Four: Bell’s Oktoberfest with Spaetzle
  • Course Five: VanderMill Whit Cider with Banana Custard
  • Staple Beer: Brewery Vivant’s Farm Hand Ale

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