HARBOR SPRINGS — The Michigan Brewers Guild announced its latest Board of Directors additions, as well as several award recipients, last Wednesday at the Guild’s annual Winter Conference held at Boyne Highlands Resort.

Eric Briggeman of Rochester Mills Production Brewery was elected to his sixth term on the board, and will serve his seventh year as Guild President. Isaac Hartman of New Holland Brewing Company also returns for his fourth term, serving as Co-Chair to the Government Affairs Committee.

Newcomer Garry Boyd of BarFly Ventures was elected to his first term on the board.

Other members include Steve Berthel of New Holland (Secretary and Events/Entertainment Chair), Scott Newman-Bale of Short’s Brewing Company (Treasurer), Brad Stevenson of Founders Brewing Co. (Membership Chair) and Aaron Morse of Dark Horse Brewing (Marketing Chair).

The Guild also presented its annual Tom Burns Award. This year’s recipient — Jon Linardos — released his first beer in 1995 for Motor City Brewing Works. He also was essential in the starting of the Detroit & Mackinac Brewing Company, for which Tom Burns was the founder of.

Rick Lack of RAVE Associates was also presented with the inaugural Michigan Beer Patriot Award.

Formed in 1997, the Guild also announced an increase of 29 brewery members (from 119 to 148) over the course of the last year.

To age or not to age — is that the question? Nowadays, aging seems to be the answer.

In the craft beer world, trends like cellaring, trading, verticals and bourbon barrels, among other things, factor into building a cellar full of craft beer goodness.

But how do you go about it? Where should you start? What beers should you be on the lookout for?

Bobby Vedder, Retail Development Manager for Powers Distributing and Certified Cicerone, said there are several attributes buyers should look for when picking beers for their cellars.

“You want to find a beer that is not hop-forward. Hops are the first part of the beer to go,” he said. “You want beers with a tremendous amount of flavor. Corked 750 milliliter bottles age the best. High alcohol, say anything higher than six or seven (percent).”

Vedder is a big proponent of the cage and cork bottles. When you can find them, he feels they’re the way to go.

“The cage and cork has really revolutionized beer aging due to the fact that it’s not going to let anything in,” he said. “It’s a process that I think pays off in the long run. It’s elegant and great looking.”

The key with the cage and cork is not letting any air into the bottle, a big factor to take into consideration when cellaring your beer.

“Crown caps have a way of letting in oxygen, hence the movement of craft beer cans,” Vedder said.

Arguably the biggest dynamic when it comes to aging beer is light. It’s important to make sure your beer is absent of any natural light. You’ll want to find a dark place to store your brews.

Temperature is also important.

“If it’s too hot, you’re activating the yeast cells in the bottle,” Vedder said. “It will keep fermenting and making CO2 and the cap will blow.”

OK so, you’ve purchased a few bottles. You’re storing them in their cool, dark and dry home at a constant temperature.

But did you buy enough?

“Go ahead any buy one. You’d better buy two or buy three because then you can drink it fresh,” explained Vedder. “When the next special occasion comes around in about a year, drink it and it’ll be great. And then on the third year give it a try again.”

The length of your aging can vary greatly, which is why it’s important to grab several bottles of the same beer. If you do this year over year, it will allow you to establish a vertical.

“Vertical tastings are awesome,” said Vedder. “I’ve been a part of tastings where I said, ‘You should not have cellared that an extra two years’ or ‘The extra two years on that beer made it awesome.’”

[tw-parallax image=”https://mittenbrew.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/DSC00904.jpg” target=”self” lightbox=”no” ][/tw-parallax]

Different styles of beer will age in different ways. When asked about his favorite style, Vedder said he’s seen the most success aging Belgian brews.

“Belgian style beers have a beautiful way of getting better and better with time due to their high alcohol and low hop content,” Vedder said. “I’d feel very safe saying Belgian beers above 10 percent can go for 20 years.”

Some of Vedder’s favorite Michigan beers to age include those from Jolly Pumpkin, Griffin Claw and Right Brain breweries.

“Dragonmead releases Armageddon in 750 ml bottles. That’s one that I never miss,” he said. “If I had to wait out in line for it, I would. That beer matures beautifully over years.”

As for styles, Vedder feels that many of the Russian imperial stouts could use some aging. He said customers should be on the lookout for non-IPA styles labeled double or imperial.

“The ones that I really like to cellar are the saisons as well. They have a way of really becoming approachable,” he said. “Some of the tartness falls off, some of the citrus tones round out. The brettanomyces comes up and it becomes a funk fest.”

For those who might be looking to get started, Vedder recommends talking to local breweries and finding out when special releases will take place in addition to local establishments.

“Everyone should have a good friend at a liquor store or local market,” he said. “You should know the name of the guy who owns the local store where you buy your craft beer. They can be a big tool to help you out.”

And when you sit down to drink a beer from your cellar or partake in a vertical, don’t forget to share.

“It’s cool, it’s fun to share,” Vedder said. “It’s really part of the whole romance behind the beer. It’s about the experience.”

Last fall, we put out a call to our Facebook and Twitter nations, in an effort to look for our next beer-terns as a part of what we call our “MittenBrew Training Program.”
Continuing to be a part of our team for 2015 are three individuals who show a love for Michigan craft beer, and also an experience in journalistic abilities. All three “beer-terns” are working on specific projects for us, and are also supporting our staff in a number of ways.
As we [hopefully] quickly move into spring, we hope that you’ll see some of our “beer-terns” out and about at beer events throughout the state, and say hi.

Tiffany Lentz (AKA Hazel Mae King)

TiffanyTiffany is a ghostwriter and cross-fitter by day, with a bit of Perrin Brewing beer slaying by night. With a Masters in Communications and an extensive background in the health and fitness industry, she is trying to show through her writing — driven by her passions of eating, writing, being active and drinking great beer — that a balance of this trifecta is the key to life.
Oh and let’s not forget about her fur baby, a French Bulldog, who’s name speaks for itself…King Romeo lV.

Jason Batts

JasonJason is a West Michigan native.  He was born in Kalamazoo and now works as a video producer at a production company in Grand Rapids.  Jason graduated from Michigan State University in 2000 with a degree in Telecommunications and has been working in television and video ever since.  He has worked in Chicago, Lansing and Grand Rapids at local TV stations and at small production companies producing commercials, promos and corporate videos.
Jason is an editor, a copywriter, a graphic artist and a photographer.  He now lives in Grand Rapids with his wife, Tami, and two young children, Otto and Eliza.  He likes to spend his free time cooking, playing basketball, biking, taking photos and traveling.  Jason joined MittenBrew in an effort to learn more about online writing, journalism and photography — and of course, to enjoy Michigan beer.  His favorite?  New Holland’s Monkey King.

Emily Hengstebeck

EmilyEmily hails from Royal Oak, Michigan, but like her preference for IPAs, she prefers a hoppy lifestyle that takes her to new places. She lives for planning trips and discovering new breweries, and has a serious t-shirt buying problem as a result.
Emily grew up on creature feature films (“Jaws” reigns supreme), Lake Charlevoix water-skiing and cold weather SCUBA-diving. In her non-existent spare time she devours comic books, hones her magical brunch-making skills and runs…a lot.
Ever since her first sip of Short’s beer on her 21st birthday, her passion for the craft industry has grown into a Godzilla-sized love and devotion. At the present, Emily not only works for MittenBrew as an extremely enthusiastic intern, but she also counts herself as an active member of Fermenta and the Detroit Draft Divas. She cannot wait to give back to an industry that has already given so much to her.

Last fall, we put out a call to our Facebook and Twitter nations, in an effort to look for our next beer-terns as a part of what we call our “MittenBrew Training Program.”

Continuing to be a part of our team for 2015 are three individuals who show a love for Michigan craft beer, and also an experience in journalistic abilities. All three “beer-terns” are working on specific projects for us, and are also supporting our staff in a number of ways.

As we [hopefully] quickly move into spring, we hope that you’ll see some of our “beer-terns” out and about at beer events throughout the state, and say hi.

Tiffany Lentz (AKA Hazel Mae King)

TiffanyTiffany is a ghostwriter and cross-fitter by day, with a bit of Perrin Brewing beer slaying by night. With a Masters in Communications and an extensive background in the health and fitness industry, she is trying to show through her writing — driven by her passions of eating, writing, being active and drinking great beer — that a balance of this trifecta is the key to life.

Oh and let’s not forget about her fur baby, a French Bulldog, who’s name speaks for itself…King Romeo lV.

Jason Batts

JasonJason is a West Michigan native.  He was born in Kalamazoo and now works as a video producer at a production company in Grand Rapids.  Jason graduated from Michigan State University in 2000 with a degree in Telecommunications and has been working in television and video ever since.  He has worked in Chicago, Lansing and Grand Rapids at local TV stations and at small production companies producing commercials, promos and corporate videos.

Jason is an editor, a copywriter, a graphic artist and a photographer.  He now lives in Grand Rapids with his wife, Tami, and two young children, Otto and Eliza.  He likes to spend his free time cooking, playing basketball, biking, taking photos and traveling.  Jason joined MittenBrew in an effort to learn more about online writing, journalism and photography — and of course, to enjoy Michigan beer.  His favorite?  New Holland’s Monkey King.

Emily Hengstebeck

EmilyEmily hails from Royal Oak, Michigan, but like her preference for IPAs, she prefers a hoppy lifestyle that takes her to new places. She lives for planning trips and discovering new breweries, and has a serious t-shirt buying problem as a result.

Emily grew up on creature feature films (“Jaws” reigns supreme), Lake Charlevoix water-skiing and cold weather SCUBA-diving. In her non-existent spare time she devours comic books, hones her magical brunch-making skills and runs…a lot.

Ever since her first sip of Short’s beer on her 21st birthday, her passion for the craft industry has grown into a Godzilla-sized love and devotion. At the present, Emily not only works for MittenBrew as an extremely enthusiastic intern, but she also counts herself as an active member of Fermenta and the Detroit Draft Divas. She cannot wait to give back to an industry that has already given so much to her.

ST. CLAIR SHORES — The Wine Garden celebrated the much anticipated release of its Big Tony’s Imperial Stout this past Saturday.

Eager patrons snaked the inside the store for a sample of the limited stout and the opportunity to purchase bottles of the small-batch brew. Over 50 cases were sold within 45 minutes of being released.

“I expected a lot of people to be here,” said owner Tony Batou. “I’ve been talking about it the last few years.”

The American Imperial Stout is an original recipe brewed by Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. exclusively for The Wine Garden. The stout was then aged in Buffalo Trace barrels, hand-selected by Batou, for 18 months. The final ABV clocks in at 12.9%.

The idea for the exclusive brew happened by chance one night when Kuhnhenn owner Bret Kuhnhenn visited Batou’s shop a couple of years back based on a friend’s recommendation.

“I finally made it over and Tony happened to be here. We tried some stuff and I noticed he had this whole pile of Buffalo Trace bottles,” Kuhnhenn recalled. “I told him I was a huge fan and he told me he had the barrels.”

Kuhnhenn was excited to find out about Batou’s barrel selection.

“We use bourbon barrels all the time but we don’t get Buffalo Trace barrels,” Kuhnhenn said. “So we tried [the bourbon] and we talked about what kind of beer we would like. Do we want to do a barley wine? Do we want an imperial stout?”

Ultimately, the two decided on an American Imperial Stout.

“We thought the marriage would be perfect with it, so that’s what we did,” Kuhnhenn said. “We thought it would add a little vanilla character from the bourbon barrel and it came out phenomenal.”

The nose on the brew is strong bourbon, identical to the Buffalo Trace bourbon. The stout is full of cocoa, espresso and vanilla notes throughout and finishes smooth while leaving a little spice from the bourbon.

Batou recalled wanting to make a collaboration happen with a local brewery for many years.

“I wanted to make a bad ass beer and I’ve been in his brewery many times,” he said. “Every time I went to Kuhnhenn’s and I tried any stout or anything dark like Michigan Mud, Crème Brule, anything like that, I said, ‘This is amazing.’ And all I could think about was that beer going into those barrels.”

Batou also gushed proudly about how the beer ideation and creation all happened in Macomb County, including the bottle labels designed by local artist Katie Alfonsi.

“This beer is beyond just making beer,” Batou said. “It’s the passion of a brewer, the passion of a shop owner and the passion of an artist.”

Batou hopes to continue collaborating with Kuhnhenn in the future on similar projects.

“I don’t think I’ve done anything else that makes me this happy other than having my kids,” he said. “Twenty years in business and I’ve never done anything more exciting than this. And I couldn’t have done it without Bret and Kuhnhenn.”

COMSTOCK PARK — Contrary to popular belief, Perrin Brewing Company’s Killing Craft series is not about destroying the art of craft brew and craft ideals.

It’s exactly the opposite.

“The idea came from a negative place in the market, and we thought, ‘how can we make it a positive?'” says Jarred Sper, brewery co-owner.

Killing Craft is a tongue-in-cheek reference to defining the art of craft, widening perception and vision on what craft beer is, what it should be, what it can become.

The mission statement — “To support and defend craft beer from all threats, foreign and domestic, macro and nano. We will strive to accomplish this by producing clean, consistent and imaginative products” — is driven by a sincere desire to make quality product. It’s not about calling all the shots, declaring Perrin’s beer  ‘the best beer’ — it’s about respecting the art, talent and time that goes into making a quaffable product.

“We’re gonna put ourselves out there, this is why we’re doing what we’re doing. We’re holding ourselves accountable for our product. We’re not pointing fingers at people. We just want to make sure we’re making a good quality product,” Sper shares.

John Stewart, Production Manager, echoes this sentiment. “This comes at a moment when [the production team] is trying to define what we felt too. A lot of us are quality control people — and this is something that resonated with the guys.”

Perhaps this is a hard conversation to have. Perhaps we’ve defined ‘craft’ too narrowly, or let it morph into something it shouldn’t be — confined to muddy, dark beers with a high ABV or overly hopped nightmares. Beer that — technically — isn’t good. Artisans take their time. They care, wholeheartedly, about their product. It’s what defines them, what they’ve built themselves around-this product, this lovingly created, carefully thought-out gem. What is craft, then, if we are deviating from quality?

“Good beer is good for everybody. Bad beer is bad for everybody. I’m not saying that we knock it out of the park every time, but if we had to dump a beer — which sucks, that’s the worst thing in the world — but if we have to, we’ll do it,” said Stewart. ”

We’re focusing internally, and we hope that it inspires everyone else to do that too.”

Killing Craft is about raising the bar across the board, not by saying ‘I’m better than you’, but by creating conversation and reminding everyone, as the industry grows, of why they are part of it in the first place.

This series will have some taproom only specialties — starting with Juicy, which was released in September. A super duper hyper-local (handpicked) hopped to death hoppy version of their grapefruit IPA purposefully brewed under the August super moon. It’s silly, it’s overdone, but it’s still balanced and drinkable-and that’s the point. This is available now in the taproom, for those who understand the joke.

22-ounce bottles of two different brews will be available Michigan wide just in time for the holidays. In a MittenBrew exclusive, we’re privy to the upcoming names and styles of ‘Killing Craft’ that will grace your Thanksgiving or Christmas table.

The first releases — both available starting Tuesday — Kill ‘Em All (a Russian Imperial Stout) and With Kindness (an English style Barleywine Ale) are the joking, yet genuine, initial bottled brews. To follow will be a 100% Brettanomyces (White Labs Brett Trois) mango ale — called You Bretta Run! — available on draft only, scheduled for release in December.

February brings Juicys’ cousin, Imperial Kona or Big Kona. “It will be a big crazy form of Kona with special coffee and chocolates added, just like juicy was a crazy adaptation of grapefruit,” says Stewart.

Then, expect a full-bodied, kick to your pants, at least (hopefully over) 14% abv barrel-aged Porter —  also available only on tap. Tentatively called Vietnamese Porter — ala “The Big Lebowski” —  referencing a quote from the movie. Ten bonus points if you can figure out the quote and why this Porter has the name it does. Post-barrel ingredients are yet to be determined.

Ultimately, Killing Craft is about persevering and preserving, raising the bar and holding brewers accountable for making damn good beer. In the end, isn’t it always about the beer?

GRAND RAPIDS — Roughly 90% of beer, from the process to the product, is water. Dave Engbers of Founders Brewing Co. put it simply, “We can’t brew the great beer that we do without great water.”

This was the overwhelming consensus at the sixth annual Great Lakes Water Conservation Conference for craft brewers and policy makers. The three-day conference kicked off on Tuesday evening with beer tastings and sustainability-focused tours at Founders.

The following day was packed with presentations, both informative and innovative, that focused on the importance of clean water to the craft brew industry especially in regards to the triple bottom line of sustainable business practices — society, economy, and environment. Presenters ranged from brewers and brewery representatives, to environmentalists, policy players and engineering firms.

Noting Grand Rapids’ “shameful history” of abusing the Grand River, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell kicked off the day of sessions on Wednesday. In recent years, Grand Rapids has “completely reshaped” the way they think about the Grand and have begun tailoring policy and practices to reclaim the river’s ecology and capitalize on the quality of life benefits, such as recreation, public health and pride of place.

Heartwell also touched on the importance of our water resources in the face of climate change, with many concerned beer industry participants echoing those sentiments throughout the conference.

Marc Smith, policy director at the National Wildlife Federation Ann Arbor, put water use in the Great Lakes Region into perspective. Only 2% of the earth’s water is fresh water. The Great Lakes make up 20% of that and constitute 95% of North America’s total fresh water supply. Smith stressed that the lakes “may seem huge and vast, but they are so fragile.”

Stephanie Mabie and Brian Keeley, co-executive directors of Kent County Water Conservation disussed the negative impacts that hydraulic fracturing (commonly referred to as ‘fracking’) has on fresh water resources and the acute impacts this has on the beer industry.

Fracking uses an astonishing amount of fresh water, up to 35 million gallons per well, to bust cracks in deep bedrock to release and collect pockets of natural gas. Dangerous chemical cocktails are required to mix with the fresh water and aid in this release. The process also releases naturally occurring radioactive materials into the fracking fluid. This consumptive use of fresh water renders the millions of gallons required for the operation useless, and huge amounts of water are removed from the water cycle permanently.

This has prompted brewers in Colorado to call for a moratorium on fracking operations as the extreme water consumption threatening brewing operations. In Michigan, brewers such as New Holland and Grand Rapids Brewing Co. are rallying the cause and brewing under the “No Fr@cking Way” moniker.

Barfly Ventures, owner of Grand Rapids Brewing Co., hosts events for the No Fr@cking Way Clean Beer Initiative to raise awareness. There is gathering momentum in the craft brew industry to call for a moratorium in Michigan through a petition intended for the Govenor’s desk.

While the Great Lake Compact currently halts efforts to divert water outside of the region to the thirsty parts of the world, Smith and others — including Engbers, Bell’s Brewery’s Sustainability Specialist Walker Modic, Goose Island Brewing’s Ian Hughes and Chuck Skypeck of the Brewers Association — encouraged craft brewers to take on water use issues as their own as part of a better business model.

Ultimately, preventative measures cost less in the long term. Modic emphasized the disparity between the low cost of water in dollars and the high value water has to the industry. He encouraged brewers to plan ahead for an all too realistic future where fresh water resources may not be so readily available by adopting water conservation practices now and consuming water based on its value to your business, rather than the cost.

Engbers added that craft brewers are in a unique position within their community to reach a very dedicated and engaged consumer base, and to make environmental issues a priority. “Beer is the conduit that brings all different walks of life together,” he said. “We are influencers — we essentially have a soapbox to stand on.”

Other presenters — James Hazlett and Jin Tao of Williams Creek Consulting with Clay Robinson of Sun King Brewing in Indiana; Jaime Jurado, Director of Brewing operations at Abita Brewing in Louisiana; Tyler Glaze, Quality Manager of Short’s Brewing in northern Michigan; and Ian Hughes of Goose Island in Chicago — discussed the varied waste water challenges of breweries of different sizes and resources.

“A conference like this is really valuable because brewers are dealing with a lot of similar problems,” said Glaze.

Just as breweries all have a different approach to beer, each has a different approach to remedying water consumption issues. The main focus was on reducing BODs (biochemical oxygen demand) and TSSs (total suspended solids) through innovative technologies and collaborative community partnerships. These actions centered around reusing what has traditionally been referred to as “waste water,” though as Modic and others suggested this material actually has many uses and should not be considered lost water, but an opportunity.

The presentation wrapped up with a motivating look into the internal structure of Brewery Vivant and Barfly Venture’s approach to employee happiness. While founder Jason Spaulding still dreams of the day when all of Vivant’s wild sustainability practicing dreams can become realities, he and his wife have devoted time, education and resources to creating a collaborative and inclusive working environment for their employees.

The brewery actively seeks out and trains individuals whose sustainability outlook meshes with its own. Spaulding implored brewers to make sustainability a key part of their company and build a culture around it.

Meanwhile, as Barfly Ventures continues to grow, Garry Boyd explained how the company also continues to reduce waste and energy consumption through measures as simple as turning off the lights during the daytimes and recycling, to more integrated measures such as creating a full time position for sustainability and green innovation coordinator, Autumn Sands.

The Great Lakes Water Conservation Conference for craft brewers and policy makers is a completely voluntary operation, put together by conservationist and beer culinarian Lucy Saunders and her husband.

DENVER — Women are once again gaining a strong foothold in the beer industry. Two special events centered around ladies and their experiences were held in the days surrounding the Great American Beer Festival recently.

A seminar focusing on the marketing of beer to women was brought to town by Ginger Johnson, founder and owner of Women Enjoying Beer.

Since 2008, Johnson and her team have been exploring the question of “why aren’t more women enjoying beer?”

Over 50% of the global population is female. Women in the United States make 75-80% of the purchasing decisions, yet “only 30% of women who drink alcohol choose beer, compared to 70% of men in the same category.”

The group met at Black Shirt Brewing Company to learn how breweries and pubs can capture beer sales to women appropriately. “This isn’t about pinkifying, that’s pandering and ridiculous,” said Johnson. “[Regarding your women customers], don’t label her as female, identify her simply as a customer and market to her brain not her body.

“There is an assumption that women know nothing about beer, and a reverse assumption that men automatically drink beer,” said Johnson. “Give education on your product and they’ll go with it.”

Encouraging women to enjoy beer drinking experiences can be achieved by understanding that many are also caregivers. Make sure she’s comfortable, make food available, and have a clean environment, explains Johnson. “Cleanliness is above godliness, women will notice because many are caregivers.”

You can learn more about Women Enjoying Beer and what they can do for your business at http://womenenjoyingbeer.com/.

In addition to Women Enjoying Beer’s presence at the Festival, Mountain Sun’s Vine Street Pub hosted a meeting of the Pink Boots Society. President Teri Fahrendorf led the day’s speakers with a presentation on the status of women in the brewing world.

“In my lifetime we won’t reach the goal of 50 percent [of jobs in the industry] — that’s up to you and the next generation,” she told the group.

The keynote speaker was Natalie Cilurzo, co-owner of Russian River Brewing Company. Cilurzo spoke of the real struggles involved in taking over the beer brand from Korbel in 2002 and building it up from the brewery’s grand re-opening in 2004. She shared the financial and personal issues they’ve faced, giving a realistic idea of what it took to succeed.

“We finally paid off the last of our investors this year,” Cirluzo said, pointing out they couldn’t have made it without the support of many.

To be a member, the women of the Pink Boots Society must earn at least part of their income from beer; either by brewing, serving, selling or writing about it. More information can be found at www.pinkbootssociety.org.

 

Photography: Steph Harding


Sign Up To Get The Latest Brews