ANN ARBOR – On Dec. 1, Arbor Brewing’s Matt and Rene Greff head to Bangalore, India, for three months to oversee the final construction phase and opening of ABC India, a brewpub partnership with University of Michigan graduate Gaurav Sikka.

But they weren’t going to get away without a farewell party, and that’s exactly what they got the evening of Nov. 15 at Arbor’s taproom, where almost 100 people came to wish bon voyage to the Greffs, enjoy a specially prepared menu of Indian-style food and sample prototypes of four beers that will be served at the Bangalore brewpub.

Detroit’s WDIV-TV aired a 6 p.m. news segment on Arbor’s Indian venture to cheers from the crowd, a projector flashed a slideshow of pictures from the Greffs’ previous trips to Bangalore, and Matt and Rene even performed a “Bollywood” style dance to the great amusement of onlookers.

Menu items included Spiced Lentil Soup, Gobi Manchurian (battered, fried cauliflower in spicy-sweet sauce), Tari Walli Murghi (chicken and potatoes in tomato curry sauce) and Makkai Nu Shaak (sweet corn and spicy chilies with lentils over basmati rice).

But what about the beers? Here’s a quick rundown:

Garam Masala Pale Ale – A delicious, light pale spiced with garam masala (ground cloves, cumin, nutmeg, coriander, among others) and ginger, it was the standout of the night with the keg lasting only about an hour.

Curry Spiced Belgian Ale – A golden ale fermented with Belgian yeast and spiced with curry and cinnamon, this beer also ran out early.

Chai PA – A blend of Sacred Cow (aka Raging Elephant IPA) and Ypsi Gypsi Pale Ale “chai-hopped” in a firkin with spiced masala chai tea bags.

Mango Blonde Ale – Arbor’s Brasserie Blonde Ale, brewed with mangoes and also served from a firkin.

If you missed out on the beers and can’t afford airfare to Bangalore (currently going for around $1,400 round trip), don’t worry. Matt says they plan to have the Indian beers on tap at the brewery from time to time, too.

More on ABC India from AnnArbor.com: http://www.annarbor.com/business-review/international-expansion-arbor-brewing-co-owners-plan-three-month-trip-to-india-for-brewpub-opening/

 

 

DETROIT – For the third October in a row, Michigan craft beer enthusiasts turned out en masse to celebrate the growing beer scene of a town whose nicknames include the Motor City, The D, the Renaissance City, and – plausibly these days – Detroit Beer City.

No one could have imagined it back in the 1980s, when Stroh’s closed its doors, the last brewery in a city that once was teeming with them, but then again, no one could have imagined that Michigan would emerge as one of the country’s premier beer states, either.

On Oct. 22, the Michigan Brewers Guild held its Third Annual Detroit Fall Beer Festival at Detroit’s historic Eastern Market, featuring 52 breweries pouring more than 300 different beers to around 3,400 thirsty souls. But leading up to the occasion was also the third annual Detroit Beer Week, a series of events at breweries, restaurants and bars around town designed to promote craft beer and the city itself.

DBW is organized by Liquid Table, a partnership between beer renaissance men Jon Piepenbrok and Jason Peltier, and each year it features beer dinners, special keg tappings/happy hours, tastings, pub crawls, tours, live music and more. Participating venues include Fountain Bistro, Foran’s Grand Trunk Pub, Cliff Bell’s, Slow’s Bar-B-Q, Motor City Brewing Works, Atwater Block Brewery, Detroit Beer Co. and several others.

I was unable to attend most of this year’s Beer Week festivities, but I did make it down to the swank Rattlesnake Club for the Oct. 20 Bell’s beer dinner. The reception at the Club’s elegant bar area featured Oarsman Ale along with trays of several hors d’oeuvres circulated by the wait staff. I got my hands on a Roasted Chicken Slider with Blue Cheese and Mustard on Pretzel Roll as well as a Mini Oyster Po’ Boy (actually an oyster on the half shell) with Chipotle Aioli, both of which were phenomenal, particularly when washed down with the lightly sour and refreshing citrus notes of the Oarsman.

Dinner menu and brief comments follow and, no, I am not a Certified Cicerone, but I was able to compare notes with not one but two of them afterward. We all agreed Chef Chris Franz knocked it out of the park.

First Course: Bell’s Best Brown Ale paired with Grilled Pizza Topped with Shaved Fontina, Caramelized Shallots and Spicy Crisp Pancetta
The bready and caramel notes of the beer combined obviously with the caramelized shallots, while the pancetta provided a marvelous salty counterpoint to the sweetness of the malt.

Second Course: Two Hearted Ale paired with Garam Masala Wild Salmon, Vegetable Samosa, Mint, and Coriander Essence
A play on India pale ale with the Indian spices and samosa; the intense bitterness of Two Hearted stood up well against the flavor orgy of the moist salmon and sweet “sauce” covering the pastry full of savory cooked carrots, celery and potato.

Third Course: Octoberfest and Porter paired with Salt and Pepper Crusted Flank Steak atop Roasted Butternut Farro Risotto and Wild Mushroom Jus
My favorite course, and not just because it featured two beers. The tender grilled steak and mouthwatering savory flavors of the mushroom jus, when combined with the dry, roasty notes of the porter, about put me over the moon. Meanwhile, the Octoberfest’s light caramel malt notes went better with the mild sweetness in the butternut risotto.

Dessert: Third Coast Old Ale paired with Salt-Poached Pear Stuffed with Third Coast Caramel, Toffee-Coated Pork Belly Cracklins
The malt wallop of the Third Coast Ale easily handled all the sweetness of the pear and heaviness of the syrup, and then some, while the salty crunch of the pork provided a delicious tactile contrast with the mush of the fruit.

This was but one of several Detroit Beer Week dinners, with beers from The Livery, Saugatuck, Short’s, Dogfish Head, and Kuhnhenn and Dragonmead breweries all showcased in their own delicious and decadent feasts. Go to www.detbeerweek.com to see the whole schedule, and if you missed out, make plans to visit Detroit Beer City next October. Your taste buds will thank you.

It’s no surprise well over half of the 52 breweries at Saturday’s Detroit Fall Beer Fest offered at least one fall-specific brew.

While some breweries stuck to typical nutmeg and cinnamon spices, others showcased a bit more creativity at the event, hosted at Detroit’s Eastern Market.

Jolly Pumpkin, out of Dexter, led the way with its pumpkin beer — La Parcela (6% ABV). Its first and only pumpkin beer, this sour ale was orange in color with a slight fruit smell and no head. I was expecting a bit more sour flavor, though its mild taste led way for the pumpkin spices — with some hints of citrus flavors. Overall this was a very good brew, and equally mixed the fall flavors we’ve all become used to with a bit of sourness that only Jolly Pumpkin can be known for.

Wolverine State Brewing Co. also performed strong, with its Oktoberfest (6.5% ABV). A modern twist on the classic we’ve all known to come and love, the Ann Arbor brewery featured a beer with much more spice flavor than most fall beers. I could definitely taste various spices with minor hops and a bit of a sour fruit smell. The brew had minimal head, and was surrounded by a dark orange color. Wolverine also showcased its Curcurbita Smiles Pumpkin Lager at the event.

Right Brain Brewery took a different approach, focusing on pumpkin pie rather than generic fall spices in its Punkin’ Pie Whole (5.5% ABV). A collaboration between Right Brain and the Grand Traverse Pie Company, I could definitely taste nutmeg in this brew — it smelled and tasted very much like pumpkin pie. The light orange brew featured a minor amount of hops and medium head.

Motor City Brewing Works also brought an Oktoberfest (5.2% ABV) to the festival. A brewery that’s becoming more and more known for its hard ciders, this brew was probably the most malty and hoppy fall beer I tried. The amber colored beer featured a well-balanced array of fall spices, and also had a minor fall scent.

But probably one of the brews I was most excited for was New Holland Brewing Company’s Barrel Aged Ichabod. Usually a well-balanced brew with lots of flavor at 5.2% ABV, the barrel aged version toned down on the spices and flavor, and almost seemed too watery. It was still very good, but the balance wasn’t there as I have become so accustomed to. The amber beer poured with little to no head. It was served very, very cold, which might have taken away from the overall enjoyment of it and ability to pull in all the flavors.

While the pumpkin brews weren’t the only beers showcased at the festival, they certainly played a big part. I also enjoyed a Bourbon Barrel Aged Plead the 5th (14% ABV), from Dark Horse Brewing Co., featuring a heavy bourbon flavor and slight oaky smell. The brew was very creamy, with both chocolate and leather-like flavors present. Very strong, it was more of a “sipping” beer, though it was probably one of the best I tried.

Likewise, Short’s Brewing Company also delivered The Bourbon Wizard (11% ABV), with similar overtones. The bourbon wasn’t quite as prevalent, and there were also minor hints of vanilla in the brew. Like most of the brews from Short’s, the brew didn’t disappoint.

The next Michigan Brewers Guild beer festival will take place Feb. 25 in Grand Rapids at Fifth-Third Ballpark. Tickets go on sale Dec. 1.

Want a chance to enjoy some unique beers and support clean water?

The Huron River Watershed Council and five Michigan microbreweries celebrate the Huron River with special public events on Thursdays beginning Aug. 11 with Wolverine State Brewing Company.

Each brewer has something special planned for its night and will donate a portion of their proceeds to HRWC. Participating breweries are Wolverine, Jolly Pumpkin (Aug. 18), Grizzly Peak (Aug. 25), Arbor Brewing (Sept. 1) and Blue Tractor (Sept. 8).

Beer is around 90 percent water, and it takes quality water to brew good beer, says HRWC member Margaret M. Smith. Ann Arbor brewers get their water from Huron River, the cleanest in Southeast Michigan.

Attendees to all five events are eligible to win 10 months of beer or a priority spot for Jolly Pumpkin’s limited beer releases. Winners are announced Sept. 8 at Blue Tractor.

Details of each evening are as follows:

  • Wolverine, 2019 West Stadium, http://wolverinebeer.com/. Starting at 6 p.m. with free pizza, live entertainment and beer specials all night. Get your Brew for the River Passport at Wolverine.
  • Jolly Pumpkin, 311 South Main, http://www.jollypumpkin.com/. Brewer Ron Jefferies premieres Hummocky Lick Sumac Sensation starting at 4 p.m
  • Grizzly Peak, 120 W. Washington, http://grizzlypeak.net/. Starting at 4 p.m. Grizzly features its full food and beer menu plus the Watershed Ale: a cask of house-made beer flavored with a blend of herbs native to the Huron River watershed.
  • Arbor Brewing, 114 E. Washington, http://www.arborbrewing.com/. From 4-7 p.m. ABC celebrates completion of its Green Brewery Project.  Matt and Rene of ABC will talk about the green impact of the project followed by a brief talk by Laura Rubin, ED of HRWC. Enjoy the special Blackberry Blonde beer special-made for the event.
  • Blue Tractor, 205 E. Washington, http://www.bluetractor.net/. Brewer Tim Schmidt brews a Huron River Celebration brew, a small batch beer specifically for the event. 50 percent of the proceeds of that beer go to HRWC along with 10 percent of all growler and Mug Club Membership sales.

HRWC works to protect the source of safe, clean water everyday. Visit http://www.hrwc.org/events/brew-for-the-river/, to learn more, including how to get a Brews for the River passport to win prizes.

YPSILANTI — As an avid enthusiast of unique and massive brews, the beer list at last weekend’s Michigan Summer Beer Festival had me absolutely giddy with anticipation.

Fortunately, through hours of running through the festival tents like a kid in a candy store, I was able to take notes and collect my thoughts and impressions of the festival and its beers. Having put the puzzle pieces of my notebook and memory back together Sunday, here are my thoughts of this year’s Summer Beer festival.

The Good

Hands down, the brewery with the best showing of the day was Dark Horse Brewing Company. It had six tables at the festival, and every single one of them had something worthwhile. From its sour “Lambeak wants” series, Smells Like Weed IPA (and yes, if you’re wondering, it really does), Bourbon Barrel Plead the 5th and Super Juice (essentially a quad-IPA version of its Double Crooked Tree), Dark Horse really stepped up to the plate with the best it had to offer. Regardless of your tastes in beer, Dark Horse had something that would leave you wowed.

I was thoroughly impressed with the way Bell’s Brewery handled its tent. While many breweries opted to simply tap all of their one-off and extreme beers on whim, Bells had a separate kiosk with a set schedule of its unique offerings. This way, you were able to head off wherever you wanted to, knowing that if you wanted a taste of The Oracle or Bourbon Barrel Hell Hath No Fury (incredible beer, a must try if you find it) you knew when to get there.

Another brewery that I thought had a great showing was Jolly Pumpkin out of Dexter. I’m a big fan of its brews, and most of what Jolly Pumpkin brought were unique twists on its regular lineup. In particular, the Calabaza Blanca with Hibiscus, La Roja brewed with whole Michigan cherries and Biere de Mars Grand Reserve. These beers brought the signature JP funk and oak flavors, and added something unique to the mix. I left very happy with JP’s table.

Best of Show

If I had to pick one out of the hundreds of brews brought to this festival that I thought was the clear winner, it would be New Holland Brewing Company’s Rum Barrel-Aged Pilgrim’s Dole Wheatwine. I spent most of the day contemplating which one of the beers I sampled was the best, but my decision became much easier after I tried this beast.

As a lover of barley and wheatwines, I’m no stranger to New Holland’s Pilgrims Dole. I have not, however, ever seen it quite like this.

Aged in New Holland’s own Superior Rum barrels, Pilgrim’s Dole pours a deep copper hue with no head. A nose of massive sticky malts, caramel and rum continue through a coating body of heavy, sweet malts. Rum, vanilla and caramel dominate the flavor, ending in a lingering sweet finish and a light alcohol burn. This absolutely incredible brew blew me away — don’t pass up the chance to try this beer.

The Not So Great

It’s hard to find something to complain about at such an amazing event; nonetheless, there is always something that could have been better. As a resident of Grand Rapids, it’s tough for me to say, but I was disappointed with the showing Founders Brewing Company had this weekend.

Maybe I just expect more from Founders because it has such a massive portfolio and deep cellar, but the brewery didn’t really bring anything all that exciting. I say this with a disclaimer — I love Founders and all of its “run-of-the-mill” beers are some of the best in the country — but I would have liked to see a bit more from it. Aside from Blushing Monk and KBS, everything else there was part of its usual lineup.

I would have loved to see a Kaiser Curmudgeon, Death or Looking Glass — something along those lines. That said, if the “worst” part of my day was Founders bringing its “A” game instead of its “A+” game, that’s a pretty good day.

All in all, the beer fest was an absolutely fantastic day — I would definitely try to get to this event next year. You won’t be disappointed! Cheers!

FLINT — It sits in a highly visible location, squatting obviously between the convergence of I-75 and US-23 near Flint. Every Michigander who has taken that route up north and back down always knows exactly what you mean when you mention the Redwood Lodge, but — and there’s always a but — “I’ve never managed to stop there.”

Dear rhetorical traveler, you should stop there. Not only will your beer-loving taste buds thank you, your food-loving ones will, too. (All right, taste buds are taste buds, but you get my drift.)

Founded in 1997, the Redwood Lodge Mesquite Grill & Brewpub began life as an upscale dining destination, but through the years and some ownership shakeups, its current incarnation now sits comfortably somewhere between upscale and casual. The “rustic” interior, accentuated with wall trophies and hardwood floors and rafters, is quite large and spacious, with high ceilings and tables and booths to accommodate parties of all sizes, no matter if the party is wearing suits or t-shirts. The bar is long and roomy, with a full complement of spirits and something in the neighborhood of 10 housemade beers (six standard and up to four seasonals) on tap at any given time, along with a “guest” tap or two.

One thing you’ll notice right away are the numerous banners that hang over the bar, trumpeting awards won in competitions by Redwood’s beers. In 2008, Redwood beers took so many medals at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver that the brewpub also received the “Small Brewery of the Year” award and then-head brewer Bill Wamby was named “Small Brewer of the Year.”

Current head brewer Konrad Connor, an assistant under Wamby, continues to maintain the quality of the beers that put Redwood on the map. Those beers included, at the time of my visit (mid-July), the six regular beers — Redwood Light, Kolsch, Munich Helles, Pale Ale, American IPA and Cream Stout — along with three seasonals: American Lager, Citrus? We Don’t Need No Stinking Citrus Hefeweizen, and English Summer Ale. A fourth seasonal, Northern English Brown Ale, had just run out, and the guest tap was Lindeman’s Framboise.

I had time only for a few beers, but I’ll say if you enjoy kolsch and helles, Redwoods are great examples of each style, relatively light and refreshing with good hoppiness at 4.8% and 5.6% ABV and 22 and 30 IBUs (a measure of a beer’s bitterness) respectively. I never miss a chance to have the helles in particular whenever I drop in for a pint or two; it’s really delicious. The English “Summer Ale” was actually a tasty English bitter, renamed because people who don’t know that English bitters aren’t particularly bitter (18 IBUs for this one) avoided ordering it. (Assistant brewer Dan Case says once they began calling it “Summer Ale,” sales picked up dramatically.) The cream stout was a GABF gold medalist and it’s quite good, but on this visit I eschewed it for its crisper and lighter tapmates.

Redwood’s menu, which by now is probably completely different following an impending revamp, can be a wee bit pricey, reflecting the upscale heritage of the restaurant. But in my limited experience, Redwood’s food remains quite a bit better than what one often encounters at brewpubs. I was assured one of my favorite items, the smoked chicken wings appetizer, would likely remain untouched by the menu revamp. Woo-hoo!

But if you’re reading this, you’re doubtless more interested in beer than food anyway. And if you live close enough to get to Redwood regularly, you’ll definitely want to check out their mug club as well as the Beer Appreciation Society events that take place the second Monday of each month. The cost for the latter is $16 and includes appetizers and samples of a featured beer style that brewer Connor will discuss. (The Society is on summer hiatus, however, with the next event scheduled for Sept. 12.)

The adjoining bar, dubbed the Sequoia Lounge, is less formal than the main dining area and, though it’s billed as a wine and martini place, it also has the same beers as the main bar. Live music and TVs lend a much more cozy “pub” feel to the space, and happy hour from 3-7 p.m. Monday through Friday certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

So the next time you’re traveling that long highway, why not take a break for a bite and a pint at Redwood? It’s definitely worth the short side trip down the exit ramp.

The Redwood Lodge, 5304 Gateway Center Dr., Flint, (810) 233-8000. Hours (restaurant): Mon. – Thurs., 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Fri., 11 a.m. to Midnight; Sat., Noon to Midnight; Sun. Noon to 1 p.m. Hours (Sequoia Lounge): Mon. – Thurs, 11 a.m. to Midnight, Fri., 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Sat., 3 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Sun., 3-10 p.m.

This weekend’s 14th Annual Michigan Summer Beer Festival will feature one new brewer to the lineup — Unity Vibration. The nation’s first pure Kombucha beer, Unity Vibration’s Kombucha is a lightly sparking beverage made with black of green tea, sugar, bacteria and yeasts.

Unity Vibration will have three flavors of brew available at the Summer Beer Festival, including plain, pineapple/ginger and the current seasonal: strawberry rhubarb.

“You feed the Kombucha mushroom the black tea and sugar and it converts most of the sugar,” said Tarek Kanaan of Unity Vibration Living Kombucha Tea. “This process creates many beneficial acids, enzymes and viable probiotics.”

Kombucha also yields some surprisingly positive side-effects — its anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals help people balance their metabolism, aid in digestion, raise energy levels and even help prevent or heal cancer.

Each Kombucha batch is brewed by hand and infused with healthy, fresh organic ingredients.

Unity Vibration has been in business for about two years, producing non-alcoholic beverages. Last summer, the federal government issued testing for all Kombuchas on the market. Many came in over .5% alcohol — as they are all raw and viable living creations — changes were required.

“We decided to go the route of ‘microbrewery’ to keep all of our products authentic and to not be forced to dealcoholize, said Tarek, who has experience in brewing wine and beer from wild edibles, as well as more traditional ingredients.

Attendees to the Summer Beer Festival will be able to try Kombucha this weekend, July 22-23, at Riverside Park in Ypsilanti.

DETROIT — Bell’s Brewery has teamed with Bayview Yacht Club to make this year’s Bayview Mackinac Race available to more than 5 million online viewers, including live broadcast of class starts for the first time.

Each class start broadcasts via streaming video over the Internet during the July 23 event. Following the start of the race, sailing fans — for the third straight year — will be able to monitor the race via the Bell’s and Bayview websites through GPS tracking devices placed on all participating race boats.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase this historic race and the beauty of Michigan to racing sailing fans here and around the world,” Commodore John Burke said. “We typically draw sailors from 22 states and six nations and for the world to be able to watch the starts and then track the boats — well, we think it is pretty spectacular.”

The 2010 Bayview Mackinac Race GPS tracking yielded 4.4 million page views over the three race days.

A major beer producer and the largest based in the Mitten State, Bell’s Brewery is the 2011 title sponsor for the race that starts in Port Huron and ends on Mackinac Island. Bell’s is also the sponsor of GPS tracking and the live webcast of class starts.

Some 220 sailboats ranging in size from 27 feet to 86 feet have registered to participate in the 87th sailing on two separate courses.

“This race is iconic to the State of Michigan and one of its greatest traditions and we at Bell’s Brewery are thrilled to be a part of this phenomenal event,” said Larry J. Bell, President and Founder of Bell’s Brewery, Inc. based in Comstock. “It features sailing in the Great Lakes and showcases the natural beauty and fresh water resources that are unique to Michigan. We welcome sailboats and racing teams from Chicago and around the world for this grand event that marks the height of summer in Michigan.”

Race Chairman Charlie Elmer noted that while some 2,500 sailors take part in the annual regatta — with an estimated 100,000 sailing fans and families attending the start in Port Huron — only a select few on authorized boats actually get to see the race start because it takes place in a restricted area about three miles from the Blue Water Bridge and a mile from shore.

Bell’s, most well-known for its Oberon wheat ale and Two-Hearted Ale, has been a Bayview Mackinac Race sponsor since 2009. The brewery produces some 170,000 barrels of beer each year and distributes its products to 18 states.

“Bayview is absolutely thrilled to have a Michigan-based company with the high quality reputation of Bell’s Beer as our title sponsor for this great race,” Burke said. “Many sailors here and throughout the country are familiar with Bell’s Beer and their brands are becoming as iconic as this race.”

According to Elmer, the Bayview Yacht Club website, www.byc.com, draws one million page views for the race — up to 5 million page views are expected for www.bellsbeer.com where the GPS tracking link is located.

From its traditional start in Lake Huron the sailboats will head due north on two separate courses. The shorter course is called the Shore Course and it runs 204 nautical miles along the Michigan shoreline before heading west to Mackinac Island Bell’s Beer Finish line.

Bell’s Brewery celebrated its 25 anniversary in Michigan in September 2010. At that event Larry Bell, owner of Bell’s Brewery, announced a $52 million investment over the next five years. For More information on Bell’s Beer visit www.bellsbeer.com.