GRAND RAPIDS — Founders Brewing Co. was alive with a palpable buzz as a crowd gathered to witness history in the making.
James Watt and Martin Dickie, owners of the famed Scottish brewery BrewDog, brought their Esquire Network television show “Brew Dogs” to the Mitten State to film for Wednesday’s episode that highlighted our state’s craft beer culture. The pair chose Founders as their brewing partners for the show’s collaboration brew and as the location for their public appearance in January.
On stage to greet their fans, Dickie shared his initiation into our society. “We arrived in Michigan and I sent out a tweet from Detroit airport saying ‘Here we are,’ and someone sent back ‘#mitten.’ I didn’t know what the fuck that meant. And by the time we got to Grand Rapids it was obvious. It’s fucking freezing here! Jackets, mittens, hats, everything. That’s what you’ll need to keep warm!” he joked.
Watt’s enthusiasm was clear as he told the massive crowd, “we’re so excited to be in Michigan. We’ve been here for a few weeks now, and I am totally smitten with the Mitten. We’ve been all over America…and the beer scene in Michigan is absolutely phenomenal.”
Dickie began reading down the long list of ratings and statistics Grand Rapids has garnered for its beer, food and tourism industry, including honors for the best burger in America, best beer bar, best brewpub, being the number one U.S. travel destination and a reign as BeerCity USA. In conclusion, he said “Basically, if you come to Grand Rapids every thing is the best thing!”
While in the planning stages with Founders brewmaster Jeremy Kosmicki, Watt and Dickie proposed brewing an eisbock style beer, pronounced “ice bock,” to tie in with Michigan’s cold, icy winters. Given BrewDog’s reputation for making legendary eisbocks such as Tactical Nuclear Penguin, Sink the Bismarck and The End of History, the style was a natural choice.
When the idea of brewing the eisbock under the ice on Higgins Lake came about, the production team consulted with diving expert Tyler Schultz of Milan. He helped to create the rig used for mashing in underwater and facilitated that aspect of the brew day.
“These shows are about community, and we found a very loving one here,” said Matthew Paley, one of the producers. “We were sort of overdue to come to Grand Rapids, people were clamoring for it. We like to feature people we’re excited about. The beer culture and the quality of the people here is great.”
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Specialty ingredients used in the eisbock were sourced from Michigan companies. David Klingenberger from The Brinery in Ann Arbor supplied a fermented red jalapeno hot sauce that provided some heat. Steve Stallard from Blis offered up maple syrup that had been bourbon cask aged for a year, both contributing to the ultimate Michigan ice beer.
Lucky attendees at the January party were treated to a taste of the finished brew in special goblets coated with a thick layer of ice to keep it at the ideal cold serving temperature.
The eisbock wasn’t the only special beer served. “This is the best tap list I’ve ever seen. Try and find a brewery anywhere on Earth that’s had a better tap list than this,” said craft beer enthusiast Steve Rarick, referring to the day’s board that included limited brews pulled from the cellar for the special occasion.
Several vintages of KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) were available on tap as well as in bottles for those whose timing was right. Fans of Sweet Repute were treated to a special version that spent three years in maple syrup barrels. Barrel Aged Cran, with its cranberry and raspberry goodness, also made a rare appearance.
Edwin Collazo, creator of the forthcoming City Built Brewing, was fortunate to be chosen to sit at the bar with Watt and Dickie during filming.
“The production guys came over and said that a Founders employee said I’d be a good candidate to sit with Brew Dogs. I said yes. It was a great experience in that I got to share my passion for local beer and my vision for City Built Brewing.”
“We talked very casually,” Collazo said. “They talked to Jeremy Kosmicki more about the busy brewery, the special releases this week and about Mango Magnifico. They opened three bottles trying to get the right take. It was funny because they kept taking the beers away from them and they were very vocal about not appreciating it! In jest of course.”
“James and Martin are absolutely fantastic and down to Earth. It was an incredible honor to have them visit Founders and do a collaboration with us,” said Laura Houser, a brewer at Founders. “I respect and appreciate their innovation and intelligent marketing. I absolutely love the fact that they have a show that gets people interested and excited about the wonders of the craft brewing industry.”
The third season of “Brew Dogs” premiered in April on the Esquire Network. If you missed Wednesday’s episode, it will re-air Saturday at 9 p.m., and again Sunday at 3 p.m.

MittenBrew sits down with Alexis Irvin and Chip Hiden of “Blood, Sweat, and Beer,” a new documentary that follows a trio of 23-year-olds as they struggle to start The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company in Braddock, Pa.

The film also tells the emotional story of Danny Robinson, a boardwalk brewery owner and restaurateur whose empire is threatened by an aggressive trademark lawsuit that could leave him bankrupt.

It’s obvious to the rest of the city, state and country. The present state of Grand Rapids beer is thriving. Between being named BeerCity USA, winning multiple other polls — including the recent “Best Beer Town” by USA Today — local craft beer is here to stay.

But what most people might not be aware is that Grand Rapids beer has been thriving much longer than the past few years.

Author Pat Evans explores this history in his book, “Grand Rapids Beer: An Intoxicating History of River City Brewing.”

Evans, who also contributes to MittenBrew, serves as a reporter for the Grand Rapids Business Journal. He began planning for the book in December 2013, and sent it to the publisher in November.

“I had most of the backgrounds of the current breweries done, so really it was just a lot of time at the [Grand Rapids Public] Museum and library,” he says.

“Not a lot of history books cover beer. I think beer is often forgotten.”

The book, now available at bookstores, brew shops and at Amazon, focuses heavily on some of the major players in the craft beer industry — before people knew exactly what craft beer was.

“There’s not a lot about Christoph Kusterer out there, which is interesting, because multiple sources said he was the most prominent businessman in Grand Rapids,” says Evans, referring to the owner of the now-defunct City Brewery.

Kusterer’s influence was felt for years beyond his death in 1880, with his two sons joining forces with five other breweries to create the Grand Rapids Brewing Company in 1895.

“I think people will be surprised that there’s that much of a beer history in Grand Rapids — to know that Grand Rapids Brewing Co. back then was bigger than Founders is now.”

Evans will hold his first signing for the book on Tuesday, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Schuler Books location in Grand Rapids.

Whether you want to track all of the craft beers that you’ve tried, find nearby breweries or simply learn more about a specific beer style, all the information you need is just a tap away.

Smartphone users have hundreds of beer-related apps to choose from, but not all apps are created equal. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few fun and user-friendly apps to start with.

Untappd

Free  |  untappd.com

Untappd is a fast-growing favorite in the craft beer community, and it’s easy to see why. The app has lots of beer tracking and sharing features — including Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare integration — making it the ultimate social networking tool for beer drinkers.

When an Untappd user checks in to a beer, they also have the option to upload a photo, add their location, write a review, give the beer a star rating and share the check-in on social media. Untappd also features its own in-app friends list, where users can exchange “toasts” and comment on each other’s check-ins.

In addition to the social aspect of Untappd, the app can be used to find local bars and breweries, get recommendations based on past check-ins, and see what beers are popular nearby or trending globally.

“[I] love it, and it helps me keep track of all my preferences,” said Untappd user Misti Ludwick of West Bloomfield. “I also like how it shows me nearby breweries and beers — great if you travel.”

And last but not least, Untappd check-ins help users earn colorful badges that they can show off to their friends. For instance, checking in to five different German beers will earn the “Das Boot” badge, while checking in to 10 beers from the same brewery in 30 days will earn the “Brewery Loyalist” badge.  For a real challenge, there’s even an “Uber” badge for users who check in to 10,000 unique beers.

Through March 16, users can also get the lucrative Beer City USA badge.

BJCP Styles

Free  |  otgapps.io

Anyone who has looked through the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidelines online knows that it’s extremely text-heavy. With the BJCP Styles app, users can quickly jump to a specific category to look up a style description rather than sift through a 73-page document.

“The BJCP Styles app is a great resource for beer judges and beer enthusiasts alike,” said app developer Mark Rickert. “I’ve judged numerous homebrew competitions and it always makes me happy to see other judges with their iPhones or iPads out on the table using the BJCP Styles app for reference during their tastings.”

Rickert acquired the app from its previous developer in 2013 and has made several updates to it since then.

“The app has all BJCP styles organized by category and number, as well as a feature that allows you to do keyword searches of the content of each style guideline,” said Rickert. “Another nice feature is the ability to change the text size of the content.”

He noted that the app has been downloaded more than 250,000 times by people from 75 different countries, and receives, on average, 50-60 new downloads a day. The app is localized in both English and Portuguese and is open source, so anyone can view and contribute to the application. Check out the source code on github.

BreweryMap

$3.99  |  brewerymap.com

Taking a road trip soon? The BreweryMap app should be at the top of every craft beer lover’s travel checklist.

BreweryMap users simply enter their current location or destination city, and the app will search for all breweries within a certain range — up to 50 miles on the app and 100 miles through the website. Then, the app drops pins for each brewery on a Google map. Clicking on a pin brings up a bubble with more information for that brewery.

“I love BreweryMap,” said MittenBrew photographer Erik Smith. “I travel a lot as a hobby and swear by it…it’s worth every penny, even for people with a limited travel range for breweries.”

Not only is BreweryMap a handy navigation tool on the road, but it can also help with trip planning beforehand. With the website’s “Road Trip” option, users just enter a starting point, ending point and distance range, and the site will search for breweries and display the best route.

App developer Pint Labs’ created BreweryMap as part its BreweryDB project, which is a master beer/brewery database at brewerydb.com. The database is 100% user-submitted, so Smith also visits the site a few times each month keep Michigan brewery details up-to-date.

“They usually verify and update the breweries within a week or so,” he said.

Michigan Micro Caps

Free  |  microcapsgame.com

Michigan Micro Caps is a simple yet addictive casual game that incorporates bottle caps from Michigan breweries — a perfect distraction while waiting in line for that next brewery opening or limited bottle release.

The goal is to clear the game board by tapping on — and thus eliminating — groups of identical caps. In addition, the app includes an index of Michigan breweries that’s viewable alphabetically or by location.

“It’s a great way for people to discover new breweries, even if they’re just playing the game,” said app creator Steve Lewis, a partner at Fusionary Media in Grand Rapids. “Each brewery listing includes their logo, address and links to their social accounts.”

The app has been around since 2012, and has always been free for users and breweries.

“We also offer paid advertising for breweries or others who want to increase their presence in the app,” Lewis added. “The audience for the app is 10,000-plus Michigan beer fans.”

Micro Caps games are also available for Colorado, Maine, Washington and North Carolina, with more states coming soon.

Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” The people, places and things in our lives all have names, but how and why those names are chosen is constantly evolving. For instance, you won’t find any ‘stewardesses’ on any flights to Bombay (now Mumbai), sports stadiums are now named after insurance conglomerates, and no one has a friend with a little baby named ‘Larry.’

This phenomenon can also be found in the beer we drink. Not that long ago, when you stared into the cooler, all you saw were bottles labeled with the surname of some European immigrant. But names like Pabst, Budweiser, Schlitz and Heineken are no longer what catch our eye. How can those stodgy old monikers compete when Beard of Zeus, Backwoods Bastard, or Jaw Jacker can be found just a few feet away?

The naming of craft beer has taken on a life of its own. For some brewers, it’s a creative and playful endeavor, but for others, there’s too much at stake to simply treat it like a game. But in both cases, “what’s in a name,” continues to evolve.

For Trevor Doublestein, Owner and Cellarman at Our Brewing Company in Holland, the naming of his beer is about creating an experience for the customer, while also indulging his own personal sense of humor and interests.  His most popular beer, an IPA he calls Careless Whisper, is named after the 1984 “Wham!” hit song.

“At the festivals people will hear that name and say, ‘I’ve got to have that,’ and a lot of times they won’t even know what it is,” he says. Doublestein explains that the mystery and intrigue of the name has then translated directly into popularity. “Some people will come up and just do the saxophone solo and then we know what they want.”

Our Brewing Company opened in 2012 and currently does not distribute. Its small size allows Doublestein, who does almost all of the naming personally, to pick names without much fear of negative repercussions. Consequently, he doesn’t think twice about finding inspiration in odd places, such as He-Man and the Masters of The Universe.

Doublestein says that giving out names like Beastman Brown and Eternia Pale Ale in some way creates a kinship between him and his customers. “[The customers] get into the vibe of the place — they feel welcome. They say, ‘Hey, this guy who makes this stuff likes the same things that I do, let’s go to his place and hang out.'”

That care-free and fun attitude towards naming is not only a feature of his small business; he also considers it a benefit. “That’s why we do this ‘small-on-purpose-thing,’ because we like to have some freedom here.” But he knows that with success, comes increased responsibility. “In the future, if we’re thinking about canning, it’s going to be a different story.”

[tw-parallax image=”https://mittenbrew.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/BeerName_NewHollandBrewery-5.jpg” target=”self” lightbox=”no” ][/tw-parallax]

Someone who is well-versed in that ‘different story’ is Fred Bueltmann, Vice President of Brand and Lifestyle at New Holland Brewing. He knows that when he and his team are conceiving their beer names, it’s not just about being nostalgic or clever, but about building a comprehensive brand.

“The larger you are, the larger your batches are, the larger your print runs are, the more invested you are in that name. So you really want to make sure you have something that feels like it’s coming from your voice,” he says.

For Bueltmann, part of finding that voice is digging deep and conceiving names that have, at times, intricate and fascinating backstories. “From a brand point of view, I think it always has more structure and feels better when there’s something behind it.”

Customers may not know it, but popular New Holland brews such as Monkey King and Cabin Fever both have their own unique stories that Bueltmann says, “helps tie things together.” One has a rather famous literary connection to Holland, while the other relates to a story about the trials the New Holland founders had early in their brewing career.

Those names and those stories are all intertwined to create one larger branded experience, and each new name that follows is a new opportunity to strengthen the customer’s brand loyalty. It’s a process that Bueltmann knows takes time and requires both persistence and patience.

“You’re planting a seed, not a tree, so typically, if the beer grows up and people love it and the name makes sense and it fits, then the love for the name grows as the love for the beer grows.”

As more new Michigan breweries are born, more of those seeds will continue to be planted. And as each new seed takes hold, the process of picking names for our beers will continue to evolve. Doublestein believes that it’s the general creative mindset of the people who enjoy brewing that first inspired the beer-naming phenomenon. “I’d say that the people who do brew are more on that creative wavelength,” he says.

Michigan has no shortage of incredibly creative brewing enthusiasts, so it’s anyone’s guess as to what might be the next step of the beer name evolution. Perhaps old German names will start making a comeback. And who knows? Maybe people will start naming their boys Larry again, too.

Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” The people, places and things in our lives all have names, but how and why those names are chosen is constantly evolving. For instance, you won’t find any ‘stewardesses’ on any flights to Bombay (now Mumbai), sports stadiums are now named after insurance conglomerates, and no one has a friend with a little baby named ‘Larry.’
This phenomenon can also be found in the beer we drink. Not that long ago, when you stared into the cooler, all you saw were bottles labeled with the surname of some European immigrant. But names like Pabst, Budweiser, Schlitz and Heineken are no longer what catch our eye. How can those stodgy old monikers compete when Beard of Zeus, Backwoods Bastard, or Jaw Jacker can be found just a few feet away?
The naming of craft beer has taken on a life of its own. For some brewers, it’s a creative and playful endeavor, but for others, there’s too much at stake to simply treat it like a game. But in both cases, “what’s in a name,” continues to evolve.
For Trevor Doublestein, Owner and Cellarman at Our Brewing Company in Holland, the naming of his beer is about creating an experience for the customer, while also indulging his own personal sense of humor and interests.  His most popular beer, an IPA he calls Careless Whisper, is named after the 1984 “Wham!” hit song.
“At the festivals people will hear that name and say, ‘I’ve got to have that,’ and a lot of times they won’t even know what it is,” he says. Doublestein explains that the mystery and intrigue of the name has then translated directly into popularity. “Some people will come up and just do the saxophone solo and then we know what they want.”
Our Brewing Company opened in 2012 and currently does not distribute. Its small size allows Doublestein, who does almost all of the naming personally, to pick names without much fear of negative repercussions. Consequently, he doesn’t think twice about finding inspiration in odd places, such as He-Man and the Masters of The Universe.
Doublestein says that giving out names like Beastman Brown and Eternia Pale Ale in some way creates a kinship between him and his customers. “[The customers] get into the vibe of the place — they feel welcome. They say, ‘Hey, this guy who makes this stuff likes the same things that I do, let’s go to his place and hang out.'”
That care-free and fun attitude towards naming is not only a feature of his small business; he also considers it a benefit. “That’s why we do this ‘small-on-purpose-thing,’ because we like to have some freedom here.” But he knows that with success, comes increased responsibility. “In the future, if we’re thinking about canning, it’s going to be a different story.”
[tw-parallax image=”https://mittenbrew.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/BeerName_NewHollandBrewery-5.jpg” target=”self” lightbox=”no” ][/tw-parallax]
Someone who is well-versed in that ‘different story’ is Fred Bueltmann, Vice President of Brand and Lifestyle at New Holland Brewing. He knows that when he and his team are conceiving their beer names, it’s not just about being nostalgic or clever, but about building a comprehensive brand.
“The larger you are, the larger your batches are, the larger your print runs are, the more invested you are in that name. So you really want to make sure you have something that feels like it’s coming from your voice,” he says.
For Bueltmann, part of finding that voice is digging deep and conceiving names that have, at times, intricate and fascinating backstories. “From a brand point of view, I think it always has more structure and feels better when there’s something behind it.”
Customers may not know it, but popular New Holland brews such as Monkey King and Cabin Fever both have their own unique stories that Bueltmann says, “helps tie things together.” One has a rather famous literary connection to Holland, while the other relates to a story about the trials the New Holland founders had early in their brewing career.
Those names and those stories are all intertwined to create one larger branded experience, and each new name that follows is a new opportunity to strengthen the customer’s brand loyalty. It’s a process that Bueltmann knows takes time and requires both persistence and patience.
“You’re planting a seed, not a tree, so typically, if the beer grows up and people love it and the name makes sense and it fits, then the love for the name grows as the love for the beer grows.”
As more new Michigan breweries are born, more of those seeds will continue to be planted. And as each new seed takes hold, the process of picking names for our beers will continue to evolve. Doublestein believes that it’s the general creative mindset of the people who enjoy brewing that first inspired the beer-naming phenomenon. “I’d say that the people who do brew are more on that creative wavelength,” he says.
Michigan has no shortage of incredibly creative brewing enthusiasts, so it’s anyone’s guess as to what might be the next step of the beer name evolution. Perhaps old German names will start making a comeback. And who knows? Maybe people will start naming their boys Larry again, too.

ROCKFORD — MittenBrew.com, the leading source for Michigan craft libation news, reviews and event coverage, has announced it has teamed up with Rockford Brewing Company to release its second collaborative beer.

The beer, named Grandma’s Cookies, will be released at a Feb. 24 release party at Rockford Brewing Company beginning at 5 p.m. The party will be open to the public at no charge.

In addition to Rockford Brewing Company, the beer will be made available at the Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival, held Feb. 27 and 28 in Comstock Park. Grandma’s Cookies will also be available on tap at several beer bars throughout Michigan beginning March 2.

Additional release parties are also being planned the first week of March. Details for these parties will be finalized in the coming weeks.

“I was thinking about making an oatmeal raisin cookie beer for a long time,” said Jeff Sheehan, co-owner of Rockford Brewing Company. “We discussed it, and the suggestion came up that we make a beer that tastes like cookies without actually using cookies. That was a good direction to go.”

The oatmeal raisin cookie beer is classified as a dark amber ale, and will clock in between 6 and 7% ABV.

Members of the MittenBrew.com team joined Rockford Brewing in late January for the brew day, led by lead brewer Brian Roeters.

“We decided to use grains that contribute that dried fruit or raisiny type character to the beer so it will have that taste without actually raisins. There are oats in the beer as well, and a touch of cinnamon,” said Sheehan.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be working with RBC on this collaboration,” said Bryan Esler, partner at MittenBrew.com. “As we’ve grown over the past few years, we’ve always wanted to think outside the box on how we approach our collaborations.”

The beer follows in the footsteps of Nutter Berry Wheat, a 2013 collaboration between MittenBrew.com and Saugatuck Brewing Company.

MittenBrew.com plans to release a different branded beer twice a year, and plans are already underway for a fall release.

ROCKFORD — MittenBrew.com, the leading source for Michigan craft libation news, reviews and event coverage, has announced it has teamed up with Rockford Brewing Company to release its second collaborative beer.
The beer, named Grandma’s Cookies, will be released at a Feb. 24 release party at Rockford Brewing Company beginning at 5 p.m. The party will be open to the public at no charge.
In addition to Rockford Brewing Company, the beer will be made available at the Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival, held Feb. 27 and 28 in Comstock Park. Grandma’s Cookies will also be available on tap at several beer bars throughout Michigan beginning March 2.
Additional release parties are also being planned the first week of March. Details for these parties will be finalized in the coming weeks.
“I was thinking about making an oatmeal raisin cookie beer for a long time,” said Jeff Sheehan, co-owner of Rockford Brewing Company. “We discussed it, and the suggestion came up that we make a beer that tastes like cookies without actually using cookies. That was a good direction to go.”
The oatmeal raisin cookie beer is classified as a dark amber ale, and will clock in between 6 and 7% ABV.
Members of the MittenBrew.com team joined Rockford Brewing in late January for the brew day, led by lead brewer Brian Roeters.
“We decided to use grains that contribute that dried fruit or raisiny type character to the beer so it will have that taste without actually raisins. There are oats in the beer as well, and a touch of cinnamon,” said Sheehan.
“We couldn’t be more excited to be working with RBC on this collaboration,” said Bryan Esler, partner at MittenBrew.com. “As we’ve grown over the past few years, we’ve always wanted to think outside the box on how we approach our collaborations.”
The beer follows in the footsteps of Nutter Berry Wheat, a 2013 collaboration between MittenBrew.com and Saugatuck Brewing Company.
MittenBrew.com plans to release a different branded beer twice a year, and plans are already underway for a fall release.


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