GRAND RAPIDS — The name of this year’s National Homebrewers Conference is ‘Mashing in Michigan’, paying homage to our Great Beer State. We pride ourselves on working hard, creating something new, reinventing and rebuilding what it means to be ‘Michigan’.

We’ve earned that cold drink. And Thursday saw plenty.



The Michigan Brewers Guild kicked off the conference right, with a brand new-to-the-show welcome reception Thursday evening. Beers from local craft brewers and appetizers provided by the DeVos Conference Center were available during the final, official conference event of day one. An official (though hard to hear) group toast was made by AHA Director Gary Glass, citing the impact of BeerCity USA and how Grand Rapids was a perfect location for this conference.

With practically everyone in the same space, this reception provided an opportunity to meet and mingle, taste some beers you may have never tasted before (or missed earlier in the day) and track down your Northern Brewer number match, damnit.

Featured beers included Kuhnhenn’s DRIPA, Travesty’s Elimer — a Tripel with Ginger and Sorachi Ace, Founders’ staples like All Day IPA and a range of strange offerings from Short’s — like its Earl of Brixon, an English Dark Mild. These, plus so many more were featured during the reception. Coupled with the delicious, one of a kind homebrews that are available at the Beer City Social Club (more about that tomorrow) made for a tasty Thursday.

We’ve made our impact, Michigan, and the rest of the nation is listening. On to day two!

In just one day, thousands (yes, thousands) of homebrewers, craft brew geeks and beer enthusiasts will call Grand Rapids their temporary home.

From Thursday to Saturday, DeVos Place will play host to this event, a fun, educational conference designed to increase your knowledge of homebrewing and encourage camaraderie. A quilter’s convention this isn’t. Fifty-five different seminars, a keynote address by the founders of Founders Brewing Co., 80 expert speakers, and events like Club Night — where you can taste some of the thousands of delicious homebrews this conference has to offer — are just some of the spectacles lined up for this long weekend.

More than 4,000 people are expected to attend.

What better city than Grand Rapids to host this conference? Homebrewing has grown in Michigan right alongside of the craft beer scene. Siciliano’s, O’ Connors and Gravel Bottom Brewery are some of the local West Michigan homebrewing supply spots that will be represented at the convention. And you must remember, many of the professional brewers at spots we all know and love have their roots in homebrewing — Seth Rivard of Rockford Brewing, Jacob Derylo of Brewery Vivant and the gents at Founders — Dave Engbers and Mike Stevens — just to name a few.

“Having the National Homebrewers Confernece in Grand Rapids lets the rest of the country know what us GR folks have known for years now — that this city is a destination for people who are passionate about homebrewing and craft beer,” said Allison O’Connor, co-owner of O’Connor’s Brewing Supply.

Expect to see a lot of familiar faces in Michigan Beer — folks from New Holland, Bell’s, Cranker’s, Brian Tennis of the Michigan Hop Alliance and others will be presenting throughout the three day conference.

Tickets are still available for AHA members. More information is available at ahaconference.org.

GRAND RAPIDS — The first meeting of a new statewide group of hop growers took place Saturday, with the Founders Firkin Fest as the background to the meeting.

Currently called the Michigan Hop Network (with the name subject to change), the group won’t be selling hops — rather it is focused on promoting hops in general as a crop for farmers.

Brian Tennis of Michigan Hop Alliance says the final articles of corporation are being firmed up and should be “good to go in a few weeks”.

At this point in time the group is hoping to double or triple hop production in order to secure federal crop protection funds.

Currently there are only 300 acres of hops being grown commercially in Michigan. Boosting that to 900 acres would enable farmers to avail of USDA crop insurance, a much needed benefit to entice potential farmers.

“Right now we’ve got 1% (of the total hop crop) in the United States,” said Tennis, mentioning the state should be reaching the goal of 3% by 2016.

Another function of the group will be to work on legislation to make hop growing more attractive. House Bill 5275, the Farm to Glass proposal, would give tax credits to Michigan breweries using all-Michigan ingredients in their brews. It would be phased in over several years. “It’s something that we’re still working on with the legislature in terms of tweaking the verbage that’s in there,” said Tennis.

“We know right now that the malt industry is so small that there’s going to be very few beers out there that are going to be 100% Michigan malt, Michigan yeast and Michigan hops but we’re already doing some right now,” he said. “The Mitten [Brewing Company] is one, we’ve done some stuff with Kuhnhenn, and we’ve done some stuff with Short’s.”

Michigan is home to two malt houses, a yeast culturing lab, many hop farms and fresh water that is suitable for brewing.

Tennis also stated there are currently farm chemicals being used in the Pacific Northwest that could be useful in Michigan but are not approved here yet. The new group will be lobbying for legalization, although it won’t necessarily be a Political Action Committee. The focus will be more on promoting the growth, proper processing and use of Michigan hops.

In the first article in a three-part series on brewing ingredients, the Humulus Lupulus is where the journey begins. As it turns out, the Michigan-exclusive Huma Lupa Licious from Short’s Brewing Company is in fact, not a name created from a certain Gene Wilder movie, but a name based off the species’ botanical designation. At this point, I may dive further into the scientific classification and mention that the hop is in the Cannabaceae family (sound familiar?), but what we’re really out to gain here is what the hop does in your beer.

Assuming we’re all familiar with standard hop packaging techniques, you’ve seen two numbers written on just about every package of hops out there. The first being alpha acid — think of this percentage as bittering potential. A low alpha acid hop such as Crystal might contain somewhere around 4.0% alpha acid, and something like Columbus might contain upwards of 15% alpha acid.

The main thing to think about here is exactly how much of a specific hop variety you’ll need to achieve a certain number of IBUs. Although some hops have different bittering characteristics than others, the actual flavor contribution of these acids isn’t necessarily going to be a huge factor.

Next stop — beta acids. This group of compounds is responsible for the effects of hop character in the long-term. Its role during the boil and presence in a fresh beer is rarely noticeable. However, over time beta acids may contribute a perceived bitterness as oxidation comes into play. For example, beer aging for 6-12 months in an oak barrel is not completely protected from oxygen due to the porosity of wood, so beta acids may influence the flavor of the beer as it is slowly exposed to minute amounts of oxygen over time.

The last few compounds contained in that sweet, sweet hop cone that determine the overall hop character are the essential oils. The essential oils are like the icing on the cake. They give us the fruity, resiny, piney, floral, noble or spicy character we all notice in the nose and finish of our favorite hoppy beers.

The oils we’re particularly concerned with are primarily humulene, myrcene and caryophyllene. Humulene is responsible for the “noble” character in hops like Hallertau or East Kent Golding. It becomes spicy and herbal when applied as a middle- or late-boil addition.

Myrcene lends the classic American hop chacarter found in Citra, Chinook and Amarillo.

Caryophllene, though typically low in concentration may add a spicy or herbal character.

A fourth oil, farnesene, is sometimes mentioned, but its contribution to flavor and aroma is often insignificant, and largely unknown. 

The final parameter to consider when building your hop profile is the origin of the hop. Unfortunately, we’d love to be able to purchase all of our hops from the various hop farmers in our Michigan backyards, but the geographical influence on a variety of hops is far too great, and our choices would be quite limited.

As far as American hops go, rumor has it that streets of the Pacific Northwest are paved with myrcene (okay, perhaps it’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea!). Massive citrus and pine character can be found in the hops that are grown there.

European varieties provide the opposite end of the spectrum, and should definitely be considered for your next saison recipe. Of course, things start to get interesting when you plant a European variety in U.S. soil. Look into a comparison between U.S. Saaz and Czech Saaz if you’d really like to watch your brain explode.

Lastly, I would be treating all of you unfairly if I were to fail to mention Austrialian and New Zealand hops. These beasts are like American hops on steroids! Prepare your tongue for the boldest, brightest fruit flavors you’ve ever experienced. Galaxy and Nelson Sauvin are positively worth investigating. 

Now that you have a wealth of information regarding various compounds in hops, you’ll surely have no trouble finding a date to help keep you warm during this unrelenting, midwest winter. Just kidding — this information won’t help you at all there! However, you will be able to select your hops with a bit more intention in your upcoming recipes, which may indeed keep you warm this winter, depending on the starting gravity of said recipe. Refer to this incredibly handy chart when you’re designing your next beer. Good luck out there, folks — you’ve got a lot of pale ales to brew.

In the first article in a three-part series on brewing ingredients, the Humulus Lupulus is where the journey begins. As it turns out, the Michigan-exclusive Huma Lupa Licious from Short’s Brewing Company is in fact, not a name created from a certain Gene Wilder movie, but a name based off the species’ botanical designation. At this point, I may dive further into the scientific classification and mention that the hop is in the Cannabaceae family (sound familiar?), but what we’re really out to gain here is what the hop does in your beer.

Assuming we’re all familiar with standard hop packaging techniques, you’ve seen two numbers written on just about every package of hops out there. The first being alpha acid — think of this percentage as bittering potential. A low alpha acid hop such as Crystal might contain somewhere around 4.0% alpha acid, and something like Columbus might contain upwards of 15% alpha acid.

The main thing to think about here is exactly how much of a specific hop variety you’ll need to achieve a certain number of IBUs. Although some hops have different bittering characteristics than others, the actual flavor contribution of these acids isn’t necessarily going to be a huge factor.

Next stop — beta acids. This group of compounds is responsible for the effects of hop character in the long-term. Its role during the boil and presence in a fresh beer is rarely noticeable. However, over time beta acids may contribute a perceived bitterness as oxidation comes into play. For example, beer aging for 6-12 months in an oak barrel is not completely protected from oxygen due to the porosity of wood, so beta acids may influence the flavor of the beer as it is slowly exposed to minute amounts of oxygen over time.

The last few compounds contained in that sweet, sweet hop cone that determine the overall hop character are the essential oils. The essential oils are like the icing on the cake. They give us the fruity, resiny, piney, floral, noble or spicy character we all notice in the nose and finish of our favorite hoppy beers.

The oils we’re particularly concerned with are primarily humulene, myrcene and caryophyllene. Humulene is responsible for the “noble” character in hops like Hallertau or East Kent Golding. It becomes spicy and herbal when applied as a middle- or late-boil addition.

Myrcene lends the classic American hop chacarter found in Citra, Chinook and Amarillo.

Caryophllene, though typically low in concentration may add a spicy or herbal character.

A fourth oil, farnesene, is sometimes mentioned, but its contribution to flavor and aroma is often insignificant, and largely unknown. 

The final parameter to consider when building your hop profile is the origin of the hop. Unfortunately, we’d love to be able to purchase all of our hops from the various hop farmers in our Michigan backyards, but the geographical influence on a variety of hops is far too great, and our choices would be quite limited.

As far as American hops go, rumor has it that streets of the Pacific Northwest are paved with myrcene (okay, perhaps it’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea!). Massive citrus and pine character can be found in the hops that are grown there.

European varieties provide the opposite end of the spectrum, and should definitely be considered for your next saison recipe. Of course, things start to get interesting when you plant a European variety in U.S. soil. Look into a comparison between U.S. Saaz and Czech Saaz if you’d really like to watch your brain explode.

Lastly, I would be treating all of you unfairly if I were to fail to mention Austrialian and New Zealand hops. These beasts are like American hops on steroids! Prepare your tongue for the boldest, brightest fruit flavors you’ve ever experienced. Galaxy and Nelson Sauvin are positively worth investigating. 

Now that you have a wealth of information regarding various compounds in hops, you’ll surely have no trouble finding a date to help keep you warm during this unrelenting, midwest winter. Just kidding — this information won’t help you at all there! However, you will be able to select your hops with a bit more intention in your upcoming recipes, which may indeed keep you warm this winter, depending on the starting gravity of said recipe. Refer to this incredibly handy chart when you’re designing your next beer. Good luck out there, folks — you’ve got a lot of pale ales to brew.