barrel + beam

Barrel + Beam opened its doors in Marquette in January 2018 with a clear vision. Seeming to come out of the gates sprinting, the brewery emerged with a well defined brand, a suite of farmhouse and barrel aged ales and an ambitious self distribution plan.

None of that happened overnight.

“It took a decade for that to become a clear vision,” said Nick VanCourt, brewer/owner at Barrel + Beam.

That vision started roughly the same way most breweries do. VanCourt’s homebrew recipes were receiving a warm reception from friends and family. He told his wife, Marina, that he’d like to start a brewery. She told him that he ought to get an education and some experience first.

He did. He graduated from the World Brewing Academy and garnered professional experience working at Wisconsin’s The Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company, Tyranena Brewing Company and Milwaukee Brewing Company. Most recently, he was the head brewer at Marquette’s Ore Dock Brewing Company.

During those 10 years, the vision for Barrel + Beam gradually became more specific. VanCourt decided he wanted to focus solely on bottle and cask conditioned farmhouse and barrel aged ales, which set Barrel + Beam apart from every other brewery in the Upper Peninsula. VanCourt was drawn to the styles’ rich, complex flavors and dry finish.

“I just personally think it’s where the pinnacle of the best beer experience can be,” VanCourt said. “You have this beer that is rich and really strikes a note in your mouth. But then when you swallow, it goes away.”

 

Barrel + Beam’s tap list has become a case study in the ways traditional and modern brewing techniques express themselves in beer. The brewery’s old-world line uses ingredients imported from Belgium and France, and its new-world line uses all Michigan produced ingredients. The tap list also features ales soured over months in barrels, a traditional technique, and kettle soured beers, a modern way. Tasting Barrel + Beam’s brews offers an opportunity to study exactly how these techniques impact flavor.

One example comes in the two saisons on the tap list: the French-sourced “Terre a Terre” and the Michigan-sourced “Terroir.”

“Side by side, they’re very different beers, even though they’re not different in formulation at all. It’s just the ingredients,” VanCourt said.

It’s a study in the effect of terroir—the environment in which the ingredients are produced—on a beer’s flavor.

“People know it in wine, but in beer nobody seems to talk about it. That’s the point to us with these ingredients,” VanCourt said.

Choosing to become a niche brewery in the Upper Peninsula came with its risks. One that VanCourt anticipated was the need to distribute to be successful.

“It wasn’t just going to happen here in Marquette,” VanCourt said. “We were going to have to get out there and bring our beer to our market.”

The brewery’s first full-size batches were produced for distribution. VanCourt started self distributing to bottle shops in Marquette, then throughout the U.P. and Northeast Wisconsin. The footprint has since expanded to include Northern Michigan, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor.

VanCourt said self distribution is a challenge and ultimately unsustainable. With his van, he’s only able to get 30-40 cases to his locations at a given time. It’s inefficient and costly.

“We can’t do this forever,” he said.

But he’s grateful for the opportunity to get to know his stockists, and he knows that when the time comes to hire a distributor, the relationships he’s built in these first months will only make things easier.

Barrel + Beam’s home base is set in the building that once held the famed Northwoods Supper Club, a popular dining destination in Marquette that opened in 1933 and operated for 75 years. The supper club closed in the midst of the 2008 recession and sat untouched on the market for years. Getting it up to standard to host the brewery took a $2 million renovation, which VanCourt said was worth it for its size, location and unique history.

“The family that started it, you know, they were as crazy as we are—to show up here when it was the middle of nowhere and build a supperclub. And it worked, wonderfully,” VanCourt said.

VanCourt and his wife, Marina, worked hard to maintain the wooden beams that gave the building its original character. They’ve turned it into a cozy space to enjoy Barrel + Beam brews, either after a day of shopping in Marquette or hiking, biking or snowmobiling the nearby Iron Ore Heritage Trail.

Word of mouth is spreading about the brewery, and VanCourt is optimistic about what the future holds.

“There’s two things that you can’t screw up: one is the quality of your product, two is the customer service you provide,” VanCourt said. “We just know that if we make the product the best we can and we get it to where our market is, then we have a chance.”

7 monks

Traverse City, Mich. – Seven years ago Matt Cozzens and Jim Smolak had a dream to bring great beer and great food to Traverse City. They dreamed big, opening their craft beer bar with an almost unheard of 46 taps; wine, cider, local mead; and an ever changing bottled beer selection. Fast forward to today and 7 Monks Taproom – thrice named to Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Beer Bars in America – is celebrating a monumental anniversary.

According to co-owners Matt Cozzens and Jim Smolak, it’s time to party. And they plan to do just that on Sept. 22 as they present the “7 Monks Experience” from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Back Abbey.

“This celebration captures the best of our past 7 years of friendships created through beer,” said Cozzens.

Those friendships will be highlighted with 7 different brewery tents:

  • Short’s Brewing Company Tent featuring multiple past 7 Monks Taproom  anniversary ales/lagers plus this year’s edition; Gratitude – a hoppy farmhouse ale

  • Odd Side Ales Tent featuring the 7 Monks 7th Anniversary Dank Juice IPA

  • Local’s Tent featuring Low Bar, Filling Station and Earthen Ales

  • Schilling Beer Co./Resilience Tent featuring Travese City friends who operate these great breweries out in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

  • Trappist Tent featuring Chimay, Rochefort, and other Trappist gems

  • Founders Brewing Co. Tent

  • Left Foot Charley Winery and Tandem Ciders Tent

Taqueria Las Lagunas food truck will be on site in the Back Abbey, and Timed Tappings will take place throughout the event, including:

4 p.m.: Transient Artisan Ales (Bridgman, MI)

6 p.m.: Speciation Artisan Ales (Grand Rapids, MI)

8 p.m.: HOMES Brewery (Ann Arbor, MI)

10:30 p.m.: Mystery Tapping

No party is complete without live music, and 7 Monks is ready to serve up the best.

“We are thrilled that we will be joined by Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish and The Go Rounds,” said Smolak.

Tickets are $7 each and include your first pour (12 oz.) of any draft beer featured in the Back Abbey. Event tickets may be purchased by visiting 7 Monks Taproom in Traverse City or by going online to ?. Additional drink tickets will be available to purchase on-site for $5 per 12 oz. draft pour. Attendees must be 21+ to enter the Back Abbey.

 

About 7 Monks Taproom:

7 Monks Taproom is a craft beer bar and gastropub that has twice been named one of America’s Best Beer Bars by Thrillist and to Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Beer Bars in America for three consecutive years. With a heavy focus on Belgian Ales, especially Trappist beer, European ales and lagers, 7 Monks also offers a variety of wine, cider, and the best craft beers from Michigan, the United States, and the world. 7 Monks-Traverse City is located at 128 S Union St and 7 Monks-Grand Rapids. Visit them online at 7MonksTap.com.

beer and brat festival

Nothing says Memorial Day weekend like a giant cookout.

For the last 12 years, Crystal Mountain has been hosting just that, bringing together Michigan breweries and unique takes on that favorite summer staple: the brat.

This year, Crystal Mountain will host its 13th Annual Michigan Beer and Brat Festival on May 26 from 4-8 p.m.

The festival takes place at the base of the four-season resort’s ski slopes—a unique, outdoor atmosphere that keeps attendees coming back every year.

beer and brat festival

“Everyone is ready for summer to begin, there’s nothing more summer-like than beer and brats,” said Brian Lawson, director of public relations at Crystal Mountain.

Attendees to this year’s festival can look forward to a variety of twists on the age-old combination. Thirty-five Michigan breweries will be present along with over 100 of their craft beers. Those attending will be able to pair those selections with 24 different kinds of brats from local markets. Past favorites have included flavors like asparagus, morel mushroom and Roadhouse salsa.

Lawson said the festival has become a favorite way to spend the holiday for guests and brewers alike.

“It’s a big cook out, in a lot of ways. It’s like one big Memorial Day party” Lawson said.

He added that he is consistently surprised, and flattered, by how enthusiastic the Michigan brewers are about the festival.

“We’ve gotten a sense from the brewers that they’re just as excited to come here as the guests,” Lawson said. “We’re grateful and flattered to get such great participation from the breweries on a holiday weekend.”

A few non-beer beverage makers will also share some offerings at the festival. Iron Fish Distillery is a neighbor to the resort and the two often collaborate. They’ll be pouring drinks made with their craft spirits at the festival. Traverse City’s Brengman Brothers winery will also have some special offerings.

As is tradition, the festival will also feature a car show. The British Car Club will show a selection of vehicles. Lawson said this component of the festival started as a happy accident. Now it’s a favorite part of the festival. In the last few years, Tesla and electric vehicle owners have also brought their cars to display. As advocates of sustainable energy, Lawson said the resort is proud to host them.

Musicians Drew Hale and The Rock Show Band will provide live music.

Tickets can be purchased online. General admission tickets are $30 in advance and $35 the day of and come with a 9 ounce glass and five tokens. VIP tickets are $60 in advance and come with a 9 ounce glass, 10 tokens and access to the festival an hour early at 3 p.m. Kids are welcome to attend at the general admission ticket price, with tokens usable towards food and pop.

The Michigan Beer and Brat Festival takes place the day before the North Mitten Half Marathon, 10K and 5K. For those who’d like a taste of the action but don’t want to consume beer and brats the day before their race, the resort will host Micros on the Mountaintop that Sunday, May 27. The event features a chairlift ride to some of the Michigan brews celebrated at the Beer and Brats Festival. Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 the day of.

 

beer and brat festival

 

Sponsored by Crystal Mountain

 

 

stormcloud production

FRANKFORT, Mich –– The beer is flowing at Stormcloud Brewing Company’s new production brewery located on the east side of the city of Frankfort. The 12,759 square-foot facility houses a 20-barrel brewhouse, handcrafted by W.M. Sprinkman Corporation of Waukesha, Wisconsin, with the capacity to brew 4,500 barrels of beer annually. The brewery is also home to a new Craft Canning System, built by Codi Manufacturing, Inc. in Golden, Colorado, with the capacity to fill approximately 40 cans per minute.

stormcloud production

In March, Stormcloud began canning its two most popular beers – Rainmaker Ale, a Belgian-style Pale Ale that brought home a bronze medal from Denver’s Great American Beer Festival, and Whiled Away® IPA, a Belgian-style IPA and best seller in Stormcloud’s downtown Frankfort pub.

Six packs of both beers in 12oz cans have been distributed to stores in 11 Michigan counties, including the cities of Traverse City, Manistee and Ludington. As production increases, Stormcloud cans will be distributed north to Petoskey, Cheboygan and Alpena, and south to Muskegon and Grand Rapids.

stormcloud production

The increase in beer production capacity at the new brewery has already enabled Stormcloud to expand its keg beer distribution to the greater Grand Rapids area in partnership with West Side Beer Distributing of Grand Rapids. Stormcloud’s current distribution footprint includes 32 counties in Michigan’s lower peninsula.

“I’m proud of our efforts to make great beer that people want to drink,” says co-owner and head brewer Brian Confer. “We’re very excited about the increased capacity at the new facility, both in terms of brewing volume and lab space to continue our push for the best quality beer we can make.”

Designed by Byce & Associates, Inc. of Kalamazoo, the production brewery houses brewing, fermentation, packaging, cold storage, and all shipping and receiving processes. The facility is also home to a brewing laboratory, office space, and public tasting room with merchandise space. The tasting room is scheduled to open to the public Friday, May 25 and will feature an outdoor beer garden similar to Stormcloud’s downtown location.

“We wanted the design of the tasting room and outdoor area to connect visually with our existing pub and restaurant,” says co-owner Rick Schmitt. “So even though we’re across town from the pub, both new guests and long-time customers will feel the connection to Stormcloud’s downtown roots.”

Energy efficiency was also top-of-mind when designing the new brewery, and a number of environmentally friendly systems were put into place at the production facility, including:

  • 6.2 kW Solar System with 10 two-panel ground mounted arrays that automatically orient to the sun’s location in the sky. Installed by Traverse Solar of Traverse City.
  • Large sections of vertical glass curtain walls and strategically placed skylights in the production area to maximize daylighting.
  • All interior lighting is controlled by occupancy sensors and shuts off automatically when vacant.
  • All exterior lighting is controlled by photocell and timeclock. Exterior lighting shuts off at dawn.
  • All light fixtures are LED, using less than half of the lighting energy (watts per square foot) allowed by the latest energy code.
  • Office furnace is 95% efficient (minimum requirement is 80% efficient).
  • Office condensing unit is 15 SEER (minimum requirement is 13 SEER).
  • Production area gas heaters are 90% plus efficient (minimum requirement is 80%).
  • Two electric car charging stations (Tesla and generic). Available summer 2018.

Public tours of Stormcloud’s new production facility will begin this summer. The brewery and tasting room is located at 366 Parkview Lane in Frankfort, Michigan.

 

 

Elk Rapids, Mich. – Short’s Brewing Company announces the expansion of their Elk Rapids production facility. This expansion will include installation of a new canning line, additional fermentation tanks, upgrades to brewing systems, and new office space.

Fueled by strengthening sales in the last half of 2017 and early 2018, Short’s is excited to install a new canning line in April to package current flagship products and new seasonal items in both six packs and 12 packs, including the wildly popular Soft Parade Shandy. The new KHS canner will have the capacity to fill 225 cans per minute alongside additional equipment manufactured by Design Machine Manufacturing, Mumm Products, Arrowhead Conveyance, and Ska Fabricating. The new can filling line was manufactured in the USA and will double the current packaging capacity of the Short’s production facility. The canning line will be accompanied by a 30% increase in fermentation tank capacity which will be commissioned simultaneously with the canner’s startup.

According to the Director of Quality, Tyler Glaze, ”The BFT cellar and this new state of the art can filling line will increase the quality and integrity of our canned products as well as the efficiency of our overall operation. We are currently packaging as fast as we can and this canner will boost our ability to get beer to thirsty people. It’s also a huge point of pride to be able to source an awesome can filling line using machines manufactured in the United States.”

With the production facility expansion, Short’s is in the process of adding at least eight new positions including two new members of the Packaging Team, one new Cellar Worker, one additional Brewer, and one additional Quality Team member. To strengthen their commitment to existing markets, Short’s has also added three new positions to the Sales Team to ensure representation in every state within their current Great Lakes distribution footprint. Short’s has also transitioned their Illinois distribution partnerships to Windy City, RJ Distributing, Koerner Distributor, Hayes Beer Distributing, and Euclid Beverage.

When asked about distribution and sales, Scott Newman-Bale, partner, said “We are delighted at the position and growth throughout our current territory. We are grateful that natural growth is allowing us to focus on making existing markets better rather than having to add a large amount of new territories.”

Financing for the expansion which totalled approximately $2 million was provided by Traverse City State Bank.

 

stormcloud
FRANKFORT, Mich -­- The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics begin this February but patrons at Stormcloud Brewing Company are already enjoying the thrill of one cold weather, Olympic event – the sport of Curling.
 
For a third winter in a row, the northern Michigan microbrewery has constructed an outdoor curling sheet next to its pub in downtown Frankfort. The curling sheet is host to a 12-team Curling League that meets on Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons, in addition to Learn to Curl Lessons on Saturdays with instruction from the Traverse City Curling Club.
 
“Anyone who lives in northern Michigan all winter long knows it’s essential to stay active,” says Stormcloud’s co-owner Rick Schmitt. “When we first looked into using our outdoor space next to the pub for a wintertime activity, curling immediately came to mind. It’s a fun sport that people of all ages can enjoy.”
 
Due to space limitations, Stormcloud’s curling sheet is approximately half the length of an official curling sheet. Also, the stones are smaller to compensate for the shorter sheet. Otherwise, the rules are the same. Curling is similar to the sport of shuffleboard with two teams sliding granite stones across the curling sheet and towards a circular target on the ice. Players use a curling broom to sweep the ice in the path of the stone to help guide it. Team points are scored for stones closest to the target area.
 
On top of adding four more teams to this year’s Curling League, Stormcloud is offering private 90-minute lessons to groups with a minimum of eight people. “This is the third year we’ve built the curling sheet and it gets more popular every winter,” says Schmitt.

North Channel Brewing Company opened the doors to its freshly renovated historic building November 11.

The grand opening was preceded by a soft opening on November 10 that served to celebrate the contractors, sub-contractors, vendors, suppliers, the City of Manistee and everyone who made the brewery possible.

Patrons of the new brewery can imbibe unique craft brews dreamed up by Head Brewer Bill Joslyn, who boasts experience at Oskar Blues Brewery and Schlafly Beer. They can also munch on southern-inspired cuisine from a menu designed by General Manager and Executive Chef Carl Eskridge.

north channel

One of the brewery’s central goals is to add new, inspired flavors to Manistee’s palate. That’s why the menu focuses on barbecue and southern-inspired dishes.

“Carl crafted a menu that was intentionally unique for this area to bring Manistee and the surrounding area something they didn’t already have,” said North Channel Brewing Company Partner Aaron May.

Another tenet is to locally source ingredients as much as possible. Of course, with a menu based in the south, it’s not possible to be 100-percent locally sourced.

“We’ve dabbled with rattlesnake; we have alligator bites on our menu all the time. So, some of that stuff naturally can’t be sourced from here,” May said.

In addition to serving up refreshing brews and spicy cuisine, the brewery is dedicated to showcasing the rich history of Manistee.

“We realized early on the importance of telling the story that existed here and not writing a new story,” May said. “We consider ourselves the story tellers.”

Part of that comes through with the choice to renovate the 100-year-old building North Channel calls home. It used to house Manistee Manufacturing, a furniture company that at one time took up the entire city block it sat on. Several large fires contributed to the company’s downfall. Most recently, the building housed a resale shop. When North Channel decided to move in, it required a lot of repair.

“It took a long time,” May said. “The structure, which we knew would be in rough shape, was even worse than we expected.”

The product of eight months of hard construction, engineering to make the structure sound and renovation is a mix of old and new that gives the space its character.

“It’s this modern yet classic feel that really can’t be replicated,” May said.

May said brewery patrons can look forward to innovative beers and dishes that will defy expectations. As for him, he’s looking forward to more opportunities to celebrate Manistee’s fascinating history.

 

Elk Rapids, Mich. – Short’s Brewing Company is excited to announce their 2018 flagship and seasonal lineup, in addition to their fearlessly creative specialty beers that will be released through the first quarter.

short's

The lineup includes their five flagships beers, Soft Parade, Huma Lupa Licious, Local’s Light, Bellaire Brown, and Space Rock, along with a new expanded seasonal lineup to include two rotating seasonal selections available at any given time in Michigan. Select rotating seasonals will also be available in the greater Short’s distribution area of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin. New seasonals will be introduced in this lineup including the fan-favorite former specialty release Superfluid, and 2017’s summer draft hit Soft Parade Shandy.

“We took a hard look at our massively delicious specialty portfolio and dug up some pretty amazing beer to make this lineup extra special. Some of the brands are oldie yet goodies, and others are new innovations. I am personally giddy about this stash!” said Short’s Sales Manager, Pauline Knighton-Preuter.

The remaining specialty releases will be announced throughout 2018 so that Short’s may remain flexible to customer feedback and their brewers’ yet to be determined creative ideas. Stay tuned to the Short’s Facebook Page and the 2018 Release Schedule for all updates.