EAST LANSING — Michigan’s largest beer bar is planning a record-setting grand opening, set for August 22.

HopCat East Lansing will open with 100 different Short’s beers on tap, surpassing previous records of 62 beers by Sierra Nevada and Cannery Row Brewing Company in California.

“We wanted to launch HopCat – East Lansing with a bang by doing something unique that no one has ever done before,” said Mark Sellers, owner of BarFly Ventures and a Michigan State University alumnus.

“This partnership with Short’s, another Michigan company that makes some of the world’s most creative beers, is a reflection of our commitment to supporting Michigan breweries.”

Guests will also be treated to free orders of HopCat’s crack fries, with the first 200 patrons receiving free crack fries for a year.

HopCat, founded in 2008 by BarFly Ventures in Grand Rapids, has received many accolades and awards, including being named third-best beer bar in the world by BeerAdvocate. The East Lansing location will be HopCat’s second location.

“Working with HopCat to attempt this record has been one of the most exciting challenges we’ve accepted at Short’s,” said Joe Short, founder of Short’s Brewing Co. “We’ve brought out all of our year-round brews, some seasonal favorites and an amazing selection of some new, experimental recipes that guests will be able to try for the first time.”

Following the event, HopCat plans to add a variety of other drafts from Michigan brewers. The 100 tap system will offer t he largest draft selection in the state.

HopCat East Lansing is located at 300 Grove Street.

Frankenmuth Brewery is celebrating 150 years of brewing with a special beer, the Frankenmuth Dark Lager.

The beer was originally brewed in the 1940s, and the recipe for the new batch will be the same. Each bottle will also include a portion of the 70-year-old original batch.

The brewery will only make 1862 bottles, the year the brewery opened and can be found in Michigan stores. The brewery will also hold onto 150 bottles, with a reservation request, to be sold onsite. The beer will be $24.99 and available on Dec. 1.

The Lansing beer scene is about to get a massive makeover with the addition of two craft beer establishments.

Barfly Ventures LLC, owner of three bars and the Grand Rapids Brewing Co., announced Thursday it would open two new businesses in Lansing.

The company will open a second location of its world-reknowned HopCat in downtown East Lansing, offering more than 100 craft beer taps, the largest selection in the state. HopCat in Grand Rapids has been named the No. 2 and No. 3 beer bar in the world on various lists.

Lansing Brewing Co. will open in the Stadium District Apartments in downtown Lansing, across from Cooley Law Stadium, the Lansing Lugnuts’ home field. A brewery operated under the name from 1898 to 1914.

“Lansing and East Lansing have thousands of resident who are passionate about good food and good beer, but the market seems under-served,” Barfly owner Mark Sellers said in a release. “I’m excited to revive the historic Lansing Brewing Co. name downtown and bring HopCat’s unmatched selection of craft beers and high-quality food to downtown East Lansing.”

Sellers is a graduate of Michigan State University’s Broad School of Business.

Barfly project coordinator Sam Short lives in East Lansing with his wife, who works at the Michigan State College of Law. He’ll manage the two new projects.

Both projects are slated to create about 50 jobs and slated to open in late summer 2013.

July is a month of celebration for the Michigan beer industry, and no one seems to celebrate like Crunchy’s in East Lansing.

The restaurant and bar currently plays home to Michigan Month, where all 27 taps and a majority of the food is purely Michigan-made.

General Manager Mike Kruger said they don’t do it for attention, but to celebrate the great state of Michigan.

“We don’t think of it as a, ‘Look at us, we’re doing Michigan,'” Kruger said. “In general people know Crunchy’s as being supportive of Michigan breweries and companies, so it draws them here anyway.”

MIchigan Month isn’t a huge stretch from where the company normally takes its business ideals. Instead of just 15-20 taps, Crunchy’s dedicates all 27 taps to Michigan brews, and pull off items of purely Michigan ingredients to a special menu.

“It’s a chance to have a good reason to pull off all the domestics and just do Michigan beers and blow it out — stuff i’ve saved over the last year, and just highlight all the fun stuff michigan brewers do,” he said.

Kruger even finds a way to keep specials around and make sure customers feel like they can still find value in quality brews.

“To honor our prices, we price two of the beers — Atwater D-Light and Shorts Locals Light — we keep that the same price, so we can keep all of our specials and it gets a lot of the guys and girls that just drink Miller Light. They don’t have that choice, but if they’re still trying to drink cheap, they’re getting onto these other craft lagers. We take a little hit, but it’s worth it to expose people to the beer.”

From there, those customers often find themselves exploring other, craftier Michigan beers they might not otherwise try, Kruger said.

For food, Kruger said Crunchy’s tries to use as much local ingredients as possible, and it’s fairly easy to do with Michigan State University right next door.

“We use as much Michigan products as we can,” he said. “It’s not too cost prohibitive anyway. We pull off a few of the items that are exclusively Michigan products and just highlight it. Burgers, burger toppings, salads. We do a lot work with the (MSU) Dairy Store, so we highlight that fact also. We just try to highlight it because Michigan is great, and so are the things it produces.”

EAST LANSING — In a college town where beer prices rule what gets drunk, Scott Isham tries to help introduce the youthful beer drinkers into a more eclectic range of beverages.

Isham brews at Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub in East Lansing, dealing with competitors offering $3 pitchers across the way.

But he hasn’t let the prices affect his way of brewing.

“It’s hard to sell a pint for $3.50,” Isham said. “Having said that, the college kids are really open, they come in with almost no preconceived notions. They don’t fall for the marketing hype, just because a beer is soaked in a bourbon barrel, it doesn’t mean it’s good to them. They have really good feedback, if they like the beer, they’ll drink it again, if they don’t, they won’t.”

Isham has found a nice balance of how to make beers for quality and price and finds it hard to deviate from that path sometimes.

“(I try to) just make a nice drinkable beer, free of defects, I don’t try to do anything special anymore,” he said. “It’s almost automatic and I have to slow down and think, ‘What did I just do?’ because sometimes I don’t even think what I’m going to do anymore. Ultimately drinkability is the number one thing I’m shooting for.”

With six beers on tap at the restaurant, Isham has four staple beers — Spartan Wheat, Raspberry Wheat, Grove St. Pale Ale and Harper’s Ale — plus two rotating ales, currently Belgian Whit and Blackstrap Porter.

When making his brews, he tries to stay close to British influence and not copy other brewers.

“We try to have one every month, assuming they sell,” Isham said. “We try to mix it up and keep the favorites. Every now and then we throw in a new recipe.”

Although Isham has brewed in East Lansing since September 2000, his job never gets old, thanks in part to the students.

“There’s not a whole lot (left to do).” he said. “You get a whole new bunch of 21-year-olds, so even though we tend to make the same styles, it’s new to the new customers. It’s always nice to introduce a kid to a foreign extra stout.”

EAST LANSING — In a college town where beer prices rule what gets drunk, Scott Isham tries to help introduce the youthful beer drinkers into a more eclectic range of beverages.
Isham brews at Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub in East Lansing, dealing with competitors offering $3 pitchers across the way.
But he hasn’t let the prices affect his way of brewing.
“It’s hard to sell a pint for $3.50,” Isham said. “Having said that, the college kids are really open, they come in with almost no preconceived notions. They don’t fall for the marketing hype, just because a beer is soaked in a bourbon barrel, it doesn’t mean it’s good to them. They have really good feedback, if they like the beer, they’ll drink it again, if they don’t, they won’t.”
Isham has found a nice balance of how to make beers for quality and price and finds it hard to deviate from that path sometimes.
“(I try to) just make a nice drinkable beer, free of defects, I don’t try to do anything special anymore,” he said. “It’s almost automatic and I have to slow down and think, ‘What did I just do?’ because sometimes I don’t even think what I’m going to do anymore. Ultimately drinkability is the number one thing I’m shooting for.”
With six beers on tap at the restaurant, Isham has four staple beers — Spartan Wheat, Raspberry Wheat, Grove St. Pale Ale and Harper’s Ale — plus two rotating ales, currently Belgian Whit and Blackstrap Porter.
When making his brews, he tries to stay close to British influence and not copy other brewers.
“We try to have one every month, assuming they sell,” Isham said. “We try to mix it up and keep the favorites. Every now and then we throw in a new recipe.”
Although Isham has brewed in East Lansing since September 2000, his job never gets old, thanks in part to the students.
“There’s not a whole lot (left to do).” he said. “You get a whole new bunch of 21-year-olds, so even though we tend to make the same styles, it’s new to the new customers. It’s always nice to introduce a kid to a foreign extra stout.”

WEBBERVILLE — The Michigan Brewing Company, or MBC, said goodbye to all of its equipment and furnishings Wednesday, as it auctioned it all off to pay more than $1 million of debt.

According to the Lansing State Journal, the auction made between $850,000 and $1 million, but that amount is not enough to cover what MBC owes to several creditors — including Best Brew Finance Co.

Prior to the auction, the debt sat at about $1,060,000, but will grow with interest and attorney fees.

The auction was kept serious by requiring a $5,000 admission fee.

MBC started in 1995 and upped production to more than 9,500 barrels a year, but couldn’t keep pace with a plethora of loan and tax payments. MBC was evicted from its building on April 24.

Aside from many factory items, like two large copper kettles, MBC also lost the rights to the Celis brand after holding them for about a decade.

The brand will head back to Texas to the original owners, the Celis family, who has planned a reentry into the beer market.

UPDATE: MillerCoors has confirmed they have purchased the rights to the Michigan Brewing Company name, as well as some of its equipment. Here is the full statement from Peter Marino, spokesman for MillerCoors:

“We bought some of the assets of the Michigan Brewing Company at auction with the primary intention of acquiring their brewery equipment, which is in excellent condition. Given the rapid expansion of a number of Tenth and Blake brands, we decided an asset purchase would provide us with added small batch flexibility moving forward. We haven’t decided what, if anything, we might do with the brands at this point. It’s important to note, we do not own the brewing facility, just the equipment and the brand trademarks.”

FRANKENMUTH — Paul Boissevain spent this past weekend trying to introduce more folks to his craft beer. It’s the same mentality Mark Lorenz embraced as he embarked on the annual World Expo of Beer.

Neither of the two Northern Michigan brewery owners necessarily planned to showcase any awards during the annual Expo, but both smiled ear-to-ear at having won awards.

“We’re out there making beers we like to drink,” Boissevain said of his Keweenaw Brewing Company, located in Houghton. “We’re not there for style — we’re there for something that makes you want another drink.”

“We’re very surprised, very happy,” said Lorenz, a member of Cheboygan Brewing Co., which took home a first place award for the brewery’s seasonal brew Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest, created by the brewery’s operation manager and brewmaster Tim Perry, was inspired by the 1976 Späten Oktoberfest bier from Munich, Germany. Although it was not available at the Expo (as it is a seasonal), Lorenz described it as orange in hue with a pronounced malt presence.

Meanwhile, Keweenaw Brewing Company captured second place  in the American Ale category with its Lift Bridge Brown Ale.

“It’s one of our poor(est) selling beers,” Boissevain said. “The Brown happened to win because it fit a category.”

Since both Lorenz and Boissevain say their two breweries do not emphasize brewing for a style, fitting a category to win awards from the Expo was no easy task.

With nearly 300 beers available, the Expo packed Frankenmuth’s Heritage Park inside and out Friday and Saturday. It took less than three hours after doors opened at 3 p.m. Saturday before it became somewhat difficult to shift through the crowd and maneuver to various medal-winning beers.

The event also offered the opportunity for attendees to talk to brewers, owners, distributors and managers if they happened to track them down. Although Keweenaw has been open since 2004, the Expo is the perfect event for exposure (especially since some consider the UP another Mitten). For Cheboygan, the Expo was infinitely more important — it just opened last May.

Cheboygan used the opportunity to showcase its Lighthouse Amber Altbier and La Cerveza, which were both recently expanded into new distribution areas.

“Agreements have been established with Powers Distributing Company to market our products in the Oakland and Macomb counties in Southeast Michigan,” Lorenz said. “We will also begin distribution in the Lansing and East Lansing areas with the Dan Henry Distribution Co. beginning in May.”

Boissevain, who co-owns Keweenaw with Dick Gray, encourages visitors to make the trek to his taproom, a 30,000-square-foot rustic building with a deck wrapped around — he calls it “a real cozy environment.”

For those who can’t make the trip, Keewanaw beer is available at events like the Expo and is distributed in cans to three states (Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota) with production increasing every year. In fact, production has more than doubled since 2008.

“I’m glad the cans are taking off in the state,” Boissevain said, adding that cans always made sense for his brewery since it’s situated in an outdoor environment. “It’s better for the beer in the long run.”

The World Expo of Beer is Michigan’s largest beer sampling event, according to organizers. Its mission is to promote great beer, all-the-while raising money for charity (all proceeds are donated to charitable causes).


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