jolly pumpkin

Zwanze Day is a fictitious holiday created by Jean Van Roy, owner and brewmaster of Brasserie Cantillon. His intention is to celebrate and honor the playful spirit of the people of the Flanders region in Belgium, where the word “zwanze” describes a good-natured type of humor.

Each year Van Roy blends a batch of a special lambic creation and bestows a keg of it upon locations deemed suitable. There may be no better place on earth for such an honor than Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter, where whimsy is an ingredient in each brew.

This year, only 60 locations throughout the world were chosen to participate. Each one tapped their keg simultaneously, coinciding with Cantillon’s tapping in Brussels which equated to 3 p.m. in our Eastern Time Zone. A toast was made with Ron and Laurie Jeffries, the duo driving the success of the hosting business. It was the first time any place in Michigan had been given the opportunity to host the event. With some luck it won’t be the last, but not all event sites are chosen for repeats in subsequent years.

Perhaps the outstanding efforts of the staff of Jolly Pumpkin, and distributor Mike Turriff of M4 CIC, will be rewarded again. They curated a world-class festival unlike any other location fortunate enough to land a celebratory keg. The brewery grounds hosted a nearly full capacity crowd, in spite of some unexpected backlash over the price of admission. Aficionados who were willing and able to invest in attending had access to over 50 beers from more than 20 breweries rarely, if ever, found in Michigan.

Good weather held out in spite of the dark clouds on the skyline and occasional threatening rumbles of thunder. Smiles and good attitudes were found all around. “I think it’s probably one of the most well run beer fests I’ve been to, with a great low-key crowd,” said Courtney Satko. She decided to attend after weighing the financial cost of her ticket with the benefits, ultimately figuring the proceeds being given to the Feelgood Tap project was worth it as much as the beer selection was.jolly pumpkin

Executive Director of Feelgood Tap, Stephen Roginson, was happy to participate and generate awareness of what his charity does with the funds raised. It began in-house at Batch Brewing Company in March 2015 as a partnership with the Multiple Sclerosis Society to do work that was near and dear to Roginson, a founder of Batch, whose mother battles MS. Since receiving their 501(c)(3) status less than one year ago, the project has evolved to support a different cause each month and has attracted involvement from nearly 30 establishments that host a dedicated tap. “This is the first time that we’ve partnered on an event,” said Roginson. The charity’s recipient for the month of October, including Zwanze Day, will be the Michigan Humane Society.

According to Cantillon’s van Roy, this year’s Zwanze beer is a two-year-old Lambic aged on a mix of 82% raspberries, 18% blueberries, and .05% bourbon vanilla beans at a rate of 300 grams of fruit per liter. That’s approximately 10.5 ounces of fruit in 32 ounces of Lambic when converted to American standard measurements, a generous and expensive endeavor that resulted in a luscious deep pink beer that pleased the palates of guests.

Laurie Jeffries, Brewery Director at Jolly Pumpkin, said her husband Ron “mentioned to Shelton Brothers a few years ago that it’d be really cool to get a Zwanze Day, and he just put it out to the universe. We got notification earlier this year that there was a possibility; that we were on the list.” In August they were notified they were definitely a selected location, but it wasn’t clear there would be enough beer to send a keg until a few weeks before the big event. Luckily it was allocated to them and arrived along with four more of Cantillon’s coveted beers.

jolly pumpkin

Ron Jeffries, whose title at Jolly Pumpkin is Chief Squeegee Operator/Brewer, can’t recall when he had his first Cantillon, but remembers it was not at all what he was expecting. Eventually he met Jean Van Roy at a Shelton Brothers festival and “was so starstruck I couldn’t talk. I could barely smile, swallow, and nod. Seeing him blending last year (at the festival), I was literally blown away by his blending skills and palate. I blend beers almost every day and was just floored. He’s a master, without a doubt. For him to choose us as one of the 60 places in the world to serve this special Zwanze beer is a huge honor for me personally,” he said.

Similar to Ron Jeffries’ respect for Jean Van Roy, Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company founder Jonathan Buford expressed his admiration for Jeffries. “Ron’s cool and Ron likes us, and you run with that when Ron likes you! You just do. It’s like the cheerleader in high school you don’t know why she likes you but you’re gonna like her back. If she invites you to a party you go with her,” he quipped when explaining their long trek from Gilbert, half an hour southeast of Phoenix. The two also met at a Shelton Brothers festival, but it wasn’t until a second encounter at Anchorage Brewing Company‘s Culmination event that they bonded. Patrick Ware, partner and brewer, said it happened when Buford blurted out “I hope I never see you again” to Jeffries as they parted and instead of being offended he turned around and told him it was one of the funniest things he had ever heard. Buford admits he doesn’t know where the idea to say that came from but he’s glad it happened. “He appreciates people who don’t take this too seriously, like him,” he speculated.

Revelry Brewing Company of Charleston, South Carolina is setting their sights on eventually producing enough beer to distribute in Michigan. For Jay Daratony, Revelry’s “janitor”, participating in Zwanze Day at Jolly Pumpkin was a homecoming of sorts. He’s originally from Dexter and still has family in the area.

Head brewer Ryan Coker spoke about their new barrel cellar coming online soon with up to 300 barrels and 12 foeders that will hopefully increase production to a point where they can share it here.

jolly pumpkin

“We want to do it (distribute) in the right pockets I guess so to speak, put it in the right hands,” he said, implying Michigan beer lovers are capable of appreciating it.

The Revelry crew enjoyed their visit for Zwanze Day. Coker joked “What’s cool about Dexter is I had a checklist and it was to catch a fish, ride a horse, shoot a gun, and drive a four-wheeler, and I checked all the boxes today and still made it to the beer fest on time!” Sean Fleming, a Revelry partner, added “This is fun, it’s a total honor for us.”

That’s a sentiment shared by nearly everyone who was fortunate enough to be present for the first of what many hope will become an annual tradition in Dexter.

 

Photography: Steph Harding

jolly pumpkin

Zwanze Day is a fictitious holiday created by Jean Van Roy, owner and brewmaster of Brasserie Cantillon. His intention is to celebrate and honor the playful spirit of the people of the Flanders region in Belgium, where the word “zwanze” describes a good-natured type of humor.
Each year Van Roy blends a batch of a special lambic creation and bestows a keg of it upon locations deemed suitable. There may be no better place on earth for such an honor than Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter, where whimsy is an ingredient in each brew.


This year, only 60 locations throughout the world were chosen to participate. Each one tapped their keg simultaneously, coinciding with Cantillon’s tapping in Brussels which equated to 3 p.m. in our Eastern Time Zone. A toast was made with Ron and Laurie Jeffries, the duo driving the success of the hosting business. It was the first time any place in Michigan had been given the opportunity to host the event. With some luck it won’t be the last, but not all event sites are chosen for repeats in subsequent years.
Perhaps the outstanding efforts of the staff of Jolly Pumpkin, and distributor Mike Turriff of M4 CIC, will be rewarded again. They curated a world-class festival unlike any other location fortunate enough to land a celebratory keg. The brewery grounds hosted a nearly full capacity crowd, in spite of some unexpected backlash over the price of admission. Aficionados who were willing and able to invest in attending had access to over 50 beers from more than 20 breweries rarely, if ever, found in Michigan.

Good weather held out in spite of the dark clouds on the skyline and occasional threatening rumbles of thunder. Smiles and good attitudes were found all around. “I think it’s probably one of the most well run beer fests I’ve been to, with a great low-key crowd,” said Courtney Satko. She decided to attend after weighing the financial cost of her ticket with the benefits, ultimately figuring the proceeds being given to the Feelgood Tap project was worth it as much as the beer selection was.jolly pumpkin
Executive Director of Feelgood Tap, Stephen Roginson, was happy to participate and generate awareness of what his charity does with the funds raised. It began in-house at Batch Brewing Company in March 2015 as a partnership with the Multiple Sclerosis Society to do work that was near and dear to Roginson, a founder of Batch, whose mother battles MS. Since receiving their 501(c)(3) status less than one year ago, the project has evolved to support a different cause each month and has attracted involvement from nearly 30 establishments that host a dedicated tap. “This is the first time that we’ve partnered on an event,” said Roginson. The charity’s recipient for the month of October, including Zwanze Day, will be the Michigan Humane Society.
According to Cantillon’s van Roy, this year’s Zwanze beer is a two-year-old Lambic aged on a mix of 82% raspberries, 18% blueberries, and .05% bourbon vanilla beans at a rate of 300 grams of fruit per liter. That’s approximately 10.5 ounces of fruit in 32 ounces of Lambic when converted to American standard measurements, a generous and expensive endeavor that resulted in a luscious deep pink beer that pleased the palates of guests.
Laurie Jeffries, Brewery Director at Jolly Pumpkin, said her husband Ron “mentioned to Shelton Brothers a few years ago that it’d be really cool to get a Zwanze Day, and he just put it out to the universe. We got notification earlier this year that there was a possibility; that we were on the list.” In August they were notified they were definitely a selected location, but it wasn’t clear there would be enough beer to send a keg until a few weeks before the big event. Luckily it was allocated to them and arrived along with four more of Cantillon’s coveted beers.
jolly pumpkin
Ron Jeffries, whose title at Jolly Pumpkin is Chief Squeegee Operator/Brewer, can’t recall when he had his first Cantillon, but remembers it was not at all what he was expecting. Eventually he met Jean Van Roy at a Shelton Brothers festival and “was so starstruck I couldn’t talk. I could barely smile, swallow, and nod. Seeing him blending last year (at the festival), I was literally blown away by his blending skills and palate. I blend beers almost every day and was just floored. He’s a master, without a doubt. For him to choose us as one of the 60 places in the world to serve this special Zwanze beer is a huge honor for me personally,” he said.
Similar to Ron Jeffries’ respect for Jean Van Roy, Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company founder Jonathan Buford expressed his admiration for Jeffries. “Ron’s cool and Ron likes us, and you run with that when Ron likes you! You just do. It’s like the cheerleader in high school you don’t know why she likes you but you’re gonna like her back. If she invites you to a party you go with her,” he quipped when explaining their long trek from Gilbert, half an hour southeast of Phoenix. The two also met at a Shelton Brothers festival, but it wasn’t until a second encounter at Anchorage Brewing Company‘s Culmination event that they bonded. Patrick Ware, partner and brewer, said it happened when Buford blurted out “I hope I never see you again” to Jeffries as they parted and instead of being offended he turned around and told him it was one of the funniest things he had ever heard. Buford admits he doesn’t know where the idea to say that came from but he’s glad it happened. “He appreciates people who don’t take this too seriously, like him,” he speculated.

Revelry Brewing Company of Charleston, South Carolina is setting their sights on eventually producing enough beer to distribute in Michigan. For Jay Daratony, Revelry’s “janitor”, participating in Zwanze Day at Jolly Pumpkin was a homecoming of sorts. He’s originally from Dexter and still has family in the area.
Head brewer Ryan Coker spoke about their new barrel cellar coming online soon with up to 300 barrels and 12 foeders that will hopefully increase production to a point where they can share it here.
jolly pumpkin
“We want to do it (distribute) in the right pockets I guess so to speak, put it in the right hands,” he said, implying Michigan beer lovers are capable of appreciating it.
The Revelry crew enjoyed their visit for Zwanze Day. Coker joked “What’s cool about Dexter is I had a checklist and it was to catch a fish, ride a horse, shoot a gun, and drive a four-wheeler, and I checked all the boxes today and still made it to the beer fest on time!” Sean Fleming, a Revelry partner, added “This is fun, it’s a total honor for us.”
That’s a sentiment shared by nearly everyone who was fortunate enough to be present for the first of what many hope will become an annual tradition in Dexter.
 
Photography: Steph Harding

Detroit, MI — All of the breweries in Detroit, including Atwater Brewery, Batch Brewing Company, Brew Detroit, Detroit Beer Company, Granite City, Motor City Brewing Works, and Traffic Jam and Snug have again partnered in collaboration to celebrate the burgeoning beer industry in Detroit, as well as the Michigan Brewers Guild Fall Beer Festival in Detroit’s Eastern Market on October 21 and 22.

detroit beer experiment

The Detroit Beer Experiment brings together all of the breweries in Detroit to collaborate on a beer theme, which changes every year. Each brewery creates a beer based on the theme and debuts that beer in their taproom, as well as at the Fall Festival in Eastern Market.

This year, each brewery is pairing with non-beer food or drink purveyors from across Detroit to create a collection of food-inspired beer collaborations. All of the beers are made with ingredients or inspired by these non-beer establishments.

Batch Brewing Company has partnered with Bon Bon Bon to create a dessert- inspired after-dinner beer called ‘Tres Bon’, as well as a special beer and bon bon-pairing event on November 21st.

“Bons and beer go together like bons and beer!” said Alexandra Clark, founder of Bon Bon Bon. “We’ve had so much fun collaborating with Batch Brewing Company for the Detroit Beer Experiment and can’t wait for our pairing event.”

Brew Detroit has partnered with three establishments to make three different beers: Mystery Beer (sumac wit) for Green Dot Stables, an English Bitter for Huron Room, and an experimental Ponzu Pilsner, brewed with barrel aged fish sauce for Johnny Noodle King.

“The beer enthusiast ownership of Green Dot Stables, Johnny Noodle King and Huron Room, having known Robert Orler (Brew Detroit) for years, has been looking forward to this type of collaboration. To say we’re excited about these beers would be an understatement,” said Jacques Driscoll.

Atwater has partnered with Slow’s BarBQ to create ‘Smokebox’, a malty smoked ale featuring pilsner malt smoked at Slow’s facility in Midtown.

“Great with BBQ or perfect on its own, like bacon dipped in a glass,’ said Tara Garrity from Slows BBQ.

Detroit Beer Co has partnered with Sweet Potato Sensations on a ‘Sweet Potato Porter’ that includes spiced sweet potato puree Sweet Potato Sensations.

Granite City has partnered with Anthology Coffee to create a coffee infused lager.

Motor City Brewing Works has partnered with GoGo’s Hawaiian Street food to create ‘Gogo’s Coconut Porter’ made with roasted coconut.

Traffic Jam and Snug has partnered with Avalon Bakery to brew a Carrot Cake Dubbel beer called ‘Don’t Care at All’ inspired by Avalon’s vegan Carrot Cake.

“We’re excited to see the growth of the Detroit Beer Experiment in 2016, with the inclusion of Traffic Jam and Snug and Granite City. The nature of the craft beer industry is incredibly collaborative, so this annual partnership is not only natural, but a highlight of what we do every year,” said Stephen Roginson, cofounder of Batch Brewing Company in Corktown.

The Detroit Beer Experiment will debut at each brewery on Thursday, October 20th and will be featured at the Michigan Brewers Guild Fall Beer Festival in Eastern Market on Friday October 21st and Saturday October 22nd.

 

cellarmens

Hazel Park, MI– Cellarmen’s celebrates its first anniversary with special hours and releases Monday, October 17, but the party lasts all weekend long.

The celebration will get an early start Friday, October 14 when Bluegrass trio Behind The Times stops by the taproom to play some tunes from 8pm-11pm.

The party continues Saturday as Oozing Wound, Electric Hawk and Cockhorse play Cellarmen’s taproom. $5 at the door.

On Monday, October 17, the official first anniversary party will feature a surprise tap list featuring never-before-released meads and ciders. The Mac Shack food truck will be parked outside the taproom serving up Detroit’s tastiest mac n’ cheese.

  • Friday, October 14– Bluegrass trio Behind The Times will be providing music from 8pm-11pm.

  • Saturday, October 15– Oozing Wound, Electric Hawk and Cockhorse play 8pm-midnight. $5 at the door.

  • Monday, October 17– Special releases on tap, 5pm-midnight. All mead releases will be available by the glass, or in 32oz crowlers to-go.

For more information visit http://cellarmens.com/ and follow Cellarmen’s on Facebook

 

Roak

Everything about ROAK Brewing Company screams rock and roll—from the décor, to the music, to the names of the beer. For an old rock chick like me, this was a sure fire hit mix.

RoakOwner John Leone says that the rock theme was accidental. “We were starting to make up names for beers, and it’s harder than you might think. You think you have the best name, but someone else has done it,” Leone explains. Then he realized that musicians have been drawing influences from music for ages, and so he decided to do the same. In his case, the influences mostly come from the realm of classic rock. “Sometimes I’m inspired by an album cover, sometimes it’s lyrics,” Leone says. “I go to my brewers with my vision, we hammer it out, and find the path to head down” towards great beer.

Leone says that, like classic rock songwriters, there sometimes is “creative tension in the process between (brewers) Brandon (MacClaren) and Adam (Stout). But if we were all happy and agreeing, we wouldn’t get that final end product. Creative tension pushes us, makes the best possible beer, and we are only going to get better.”

While not everyone picks up on the rock theme right away, there have been many compliments on the taproom and its song list. I heard some great rock songs while at ROAK one fine Sunday afternoon. Through the magic of my imagination, I have made them fit nicely with my experience.

Seeing Things (for the First Time)

The first time I heard the Black Crowes, I was a freshman in college and just starting to listen to music that wasn’t what my friends and parents listened to. I knew immediately that I would love that band, and I did. Similarly, the first time I walked into ROAK, I took a gander at the huge chandelier, the dramatic color scheme, and the beer selection and immediately knew I would love the brewpub. And I did!

“Roak” means “smoke” in Dutch, and where there’s smoke there’s fire—or in this case, very excellent atmosphere. The deep reds and blacks put me in the mind of the best rock video—edgy, yet cool. And a great place to enjoy some good beer.

Roak

The Weight

In this song, The Band implores us to take a load off—and that’s exactly what we did. My friends and I kicked back and ordered the soft pretzel appetizers and three different personal pizzas. Beer cheese and hot mustard accompanied the pretzel, which was nice and soft on the inside without being soggy or too doughy. All of the pizzas were a hit, too. The ROAK deluxe included pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers, and onions, the Carne piled on the meat, and the Arrostito offered a variety of vegetables from Portobello mushrooms to baby squash. The crust was crunchy, the cheese was delicious, and the toppings were all outstanding.

Sometimes brewpubs really strike out on the food, but that was not the case at ROAK. My usual standard is whether I would go there even if they didn’t have beer, and I most definitely would. And if I lived any closer, I would echo this song and definitely put on some weight (see what I did there?).

I’d Like to Change the World

Can beer change the world? Probably. Will it “stop the war”, like Ten Years After commands in this song? Probably not, but at least we can try. And speaking of trying, we tried five beers at ROAK and enjoyed them all.

ROAKa Cadabra – Belgian-style brown ale that was well balanced and had a hint of the apple cider that was added to the ale’s mash. Made with apple cider, the recipe pared down a bit on the spices this year. “We used a different source for the cinnamon sticks,” Leone says. “And that made a huge difference in its profile.”

Also, Leone notes that this title came from Black Sabbath’s Sabbra Cadabra, which he happened to be listening to during the process of creating and naming his beer.

Melonfest – Melon is a difficult flavor to capture in a beer, but the brewers did a fabulous job getting just the right taste in this wheat ale. They dry-hopped it with melon hops, which added a nice zing without being too cloying.

This beer is inspired by the Allman Brothers’ Eat a Peach album. Leone loved the album artwork, recognized that Michigan is known for its melons, and created this beer with his brewers. “They did a great job,” Leone praises. “It’s all pureed melons and cantaloupes, no extract. We wanted a beer that you could drink when it’s a 90 degree day and want to be refreshed.”

Higher Ground Coffee Stout—This Turkish coffee stout hit the spot after the smoother milk stout. Made with coffee roasted in nearby Ferndale, it packed a punch of roasted grains and java.

Misirlou – Despite being absolutely unable to pronounce the name of this beer, I was fortunately able to very much enjoy it. Perfect English summer ale, with bitter hops and nice balance.

Creamsicle – Hopefully, you remember eating these as a kid. This orange vanilla ale balanced the best of those summertime days. Perfect way to end the summer!

Ramble On

Alas, nothing gold can stay and we eventually had to leave this fabulous taproom. Leone tells me that many people have expressed their appreciation of the taproom, saying that it isn’t “typical” of a craft beer taproom. “To that,” he says. “I say that there shouldn’t be anything ‘typical’.”

Just like rock and roll.

 

Photos courtesy Roak Brewing

cider dayzeArmada, Mich — The Armada Lions Club will be hosting the 2nd annual Cider Dayze festival at Blake’s Hard Cider Co. This is an annual event celebrating Michigan’s ode to craft cider & beer!

It will be held Saturday August 27th from 12pm-8pm and Sunday August 28th from 12pm-5pm at Blake’s Hard Cider Co. in Armada, MI. The event is presented by the Armada Lions club and all proceeds will benefit the Armada Lions Club Charities, a non-profit in Armada, MI.

2015 Cider Dayze brought out over 3,000 attendees. The 2016 Cider Dayze attendance is expected to be in excess of 4,000 people.

cider dayze

Over 35 cideries and breweries will be pouring at this years event. We are still finalizing the brewery list now but currently we have commitments from Ellison Brewing, Founders, Farmhaus Cider, Short’s, Starcut Cider, Vandermill, New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, Great Lakes, ROAK, Rochester Mills, Falling Down Beer Co, Northville Winery & Cider Co., Blake’s Hard Cider Co, Cellarman’s, Uncle John’s Hard Cider, Axle Brewing and many more to come!

There will be games including silent disco, cornhole, beer stein hold competition,  live entertainment and local food with all proceeds going to charity.

Tickets are currently on sale here. Tickets are limited so get your ticket while there is still time!

Ticket pricing: Saturday $35.00 pre purchased online, $40.00 at the door day of the event. Ticket includes 9 – 5.0 oz pours and commemorative Cider Dayze tasting glass. Sunday Pricing: $30.00 pre purchases, $35.00 purchased at the door day of event. Ticket includes 9 – 5.0 oz pours and commemorative Cider Dayze tasting glass(Commemorative glasses are limited to the first 5,000 attendees).

The event will take place rain or shine on the farm at Blake’s Hard Cider Co. & Orchard & Cider Mill, located at 17985 Armada Center Rd, Armada MI 48005.

COMSTOCK, Mich – The 7th Annual Bell’s Homebrew Competition Kick-off and Expo will be held this year on Sept. 10 at Bell’s Eccentric Café in downtown Kalamazoo.

The homebrewer who takes first place will get to brew their recipe at Bell’s original brewery to then go on tap at the adjacent Café.

The first place winner will also attend the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado as a guest of Bell’s Brewery. That person will team up with Bell’s for the 2017 Pro-Am Competition and attend both the awards ceremony and member’s only session.

Bell’s will cover the cost of airfare to Denver and back (must be within the continental U.S.) and provide lodging for two nights.

“Homebrewing is how we got our start and this competition is one of the ways we honor that heritage. To be able to offer this kind of opportunity to a community that has given us so much is incredible and we are very happy to do it,” said Laura Bell, Vice President of Bell’s Brewery, Inc.

As in previous years, there is no cost to enter the competition and the only requirement is that you use Bell’s wort, which will be available for free at the kick-off, while supplies last.

This year’s Expo will run from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and will feature Blichmann Engineering, Briess Malt, Pilot Malt House, Stir Starters, Whirlpool, Kalamazoo Libation Organization of Brewers (KLOB) and others.

Sign-up times for wort pickup will begin at 11 a.m. Wort will be distributed beginning around 1 p.m., first come, first served. In past years, more than 200 homebrewers have been able to receive wort.

Competition entries (four 12 oz. bottles) are due to the Bell’s General Store by 7 p.m., Sunday, October 30.

The 2015 winning recipe, from David Hellen of New Hudson, MI, will be tapped for the first time at 2 p.m. on Aug. 13 at the Café. Bale So Hard is a Farmhouse Ale brewed with HBC 438 and Mosaic hops.

Previous winners also include –

2014: Coffee Mustache, a California Common style beer brewed with coffee from Matt VanNatter.

2013: Proud Mitten, a dry hopped IPA/Pale Ale made with Centennial, Citra and Simcoe hops from David Lyman.

2012: Manden Med Leen, a black IPA brewed with Belgian yeast from Nick Rodammer.

2011: A Bit of Heat from Geoff Groff, brewed with paradise seeds, rose hips and habaneros.

2010: Oscar’s Folly, a collaborative IPA from Jarrett Cupp, Bailey Cupp and Paul Gentz.

For more information about entering this year’s competition, please visit bellsbeer.com.

rooster

You can’t judge a beer by its label. Or can you? When you are drinking Bitter Old Fecker, you will not only get a beautifully drawn label featuring a farm animal, but a delicious, authentic, artisan beer.
rooster
Nestled in a shopping center in western Chelsea, Nathan Hukill brews handmade beers taking no shortcuts and doing it all by hand. Hukill describes the beers as rustic ales. “That’s the overall style, but all of the beers have something extra in them.”
Jet (the label with the dog) contains vanilla beans, and peppercorns that are smoked by hand. Kaplan (the horse label) has Morrell mushrooms, some of which were foraged by Hukill. Darlin’ (the pig label) features charred lemons. “When you grill lemons,” Hukill says. “You get this really sweet lemon smell, and the taste is like lemon candy.” The ultimate aim is for a subtle beer that drinkers can sip as they relax after a long day.


Old Bitter Fecker (Fecker is a family name) was licensed in May, 2013. Prior to that, Hukill spent years honing his craft as a homebrewer, and then as an assistant brewer at Grizzly Peak. The first beer made under the Fecker label was Strutter (the rooster referenced in the title of this article). Only 816 bottles were made and sold in stores. “I started on a one-barrel system,” Hukill explains. “So it was a big jump to the (10-barrel system) that I have now.”
Many more bottles of beer are now produced, but the homespun nature of the brewery has not changed. Each of the four beers offered by Bitter Old Fecker is a work of art. Equally important to Hukill is the branding and labeling of his beer. Hukill works with Kentucky based artist, Keith Neltner, who he discovered when he saw Neltner’s artwork on the albums of Hank Williams III. Neltner was just starting his own studio, and jumped at the chance to work with this unique brewery.

Along with the artwork, each label features a story that usually dates back to Grandpa Fecker. While the stories might be a bit apocryphal, the beer is legit. You can find Bitter Old Fecker in various stores and pubs along the western lakeshore and in southeast lower Michigan. Local establishments that carry the beer include the Beer Grotto in Dexter and Arbor Farms. Huskill expects to appear at various summer events in Chelsea and around the state.
Grab a Bitter Old Fecker beer, read the story, admire the collaboration between an artist and a brewer. And know that just this once, you can judge a great brew by its label.
 
Photography: Steph Harding