Ann Arbor Distilling

Ann Arbor, MI–One of the great things about modern society is that it gives people a chance to remake themselves, to be what they want to be. The same could be said for buildings. Take 220 Felch Street, located in the Water Hill neighborhood in Ann Arbor. It was built as a fuel oil storage for Amoco in 1924. At other times in its life, it has been a bicycle shop called Cycle Cellar, Kaufman Studios, Ann Arbor Art Center studios, the Pot & Box, and the Daily Grind Flour Mill, which provided the grain for the Wildflour Bakery. Grains are back at the location today, but in the form of distilled beverages.

Last year, Ari Sussman and his partner/co-owner Rob Cleveland opened the Ann Arbor Distilling Company at 220 Felch Street. The tasting room provides thirsty patrons with vodka and gin straight up or in the form of craft cocktails. More alcohol is on the way.

Ann Arbor Distilling

“We make whiskey constantly,” Sussman said. “The earliest batches will be available in early summer, with releases continuing after that.” Sussman said that it can take anywhere from 18 months to more than three years to make a good whiskey. “Most folks are used to the Kentucky style of whiskey, because it’s what they are used to. That takes three years, usually longer. But if you want a different profile in your whiskey, you can do it in less time. It all depends on the character you are trying to achieve.” Sussman has found craft distilleries across the country releasing products that compare favorably to legacy brands of whiskey.

Sussman is no stranger to good liquor made from good products. In his early 20s, he spent time in France working with wine and brandy makers. When he returned to Michigan, he found that no one was making spirits. “Some winemakers made some brandy on the side, but that was it,” he said.

To familiarize himself with the products he had made in France, Sussman bartended at some of the finest places in Ann Arbor: Zanzibar, eve the restaurant, and the Raven’s Club. “The entire time I bartended,” Sussman said. “I had it in the back of my mind to get into manufacturing.”

Then Sussman received a life changing opportunity—to work at the Michigan State University Distillery. He worked with students in the program, and with Kris Berglund, the professor who founded the program. (The program is part of MSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, and still provides product and process development consulting for people who want to start distilling operations.) “I was able to learn from the best,” Sussman said of Professor Berglund. After three years, Sussman worked his way up to head distiller.

Now, he is head distiller at his own place. “The more you learn about the distilling regions in the world,” Sussman said. “The more you realize that Michigan is one of the best places for it.” About 90% of his ingredients are local because “we can’t find better product anywhere else– it happens that they are all available locally.” The products used include the cereal grains, apples, and grapes.

All of this alcohol is created on two stills, custom made in Germany. They are designed to be able to make any product from the base ingredients.

“The raw ingredients go in and whiskey, brandy, vodka, gin, rum, and so on is what will come out.”

And the alcohol is flowing out! The cocktail menu includes a Moscow Mule, Pomegranate Fizz, Ginger Gimlet, and Seasonal Shrub. Recently, the distillers use Mighty Good coffee to make a coffee liqueur for their White Russians. Sussman said that they are actively looking for snacks that will help highlight the spirits and pair well with the cocktails.

The future of the Ann Arbor Distilling Company is as bright as the gleam on the stills. “People are going to be pleasantly surprised by the quality of spirits that can be made from local ingredients,” Sussman smiles. The old Daily Grind grain mill is long gone—but the grains shine on at 220 Felch Street.

Folks can try the cocktails and spirits Tuesday-Saturday from 4:00-10:00.

Photography: Steph Harding

New Holland Brewing

Holland, MI — A tricked out beer trailer? An eight foot tall metal dragon that will be looming over you as you sip deliciousness? A crazy ambitious series from New Holland that provides 16 variations of Dragon’s Milk? Um, yes. Count me in New Holland Brewing. Your presence at the 11th Annual Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival is worth squealing with excitement about.

It’s no secret that Dragon’s Milk, a bourbon barrel aged stout, has stolen the hearts of many, and for good reason! It’s a solid, damn good product. So, how can New Holland Brewing up their game with the beer? By making it an “Unlimited Release” of course. The company has announced that, “We are all in on Dragon’s Milk this year and truly view it as an “Unlimited Release”. We strive to make it “unlimited” by being available year round (no easy feat), everywhere (working towards contiguous US), available to everyone (not just the “geeks”) and now with unlimited variants and flavor possibilities.”

New Holland BrewingBefore I go any further, let’s check out what exactly the selection from New Holland Brewing will be at Winter Beer Fest 2016…

Dragon’s Milk
Dragon’s Milk Coconut Rum Barrel
Dragon’s Milk Mexican Spice Cake
Dragon’s Milk Peanut Butter
Dragon’s Milk Mint Chocolate
Dragon’s Milk Maple Coffee
Dragon’s Milk Brandy Barrel Apple Pie
Dragon’s Milk Bacon
Dragon’s Milk Chocolate & Orange
Dragon’s Milk Sarsaparilla
Dragon’s Milk Black Cherry
Dragon’s Milk Hazelnut
Dragon’s Milk Vanilla Chai
2015 Dragon’s Milk Reserve Triple Mash
2014 Dragon’s Milk Reserve with Raspberries
2015 Dragon’s Milk Reserve with Toasted Chilies

I know I know. A pretty robust list, right? After taking a peek I had a few questions for Fred Bueltmann,  Vice President of Brand and Lifestyle and Partner of New Holland, and Joel Petersen, Vice President of Marketing of New Holland Brewing about these new brews.

AS: It appears that the Dragon’s Milk variants have several options that mesh together beer (of course) with other beverage types (root beer, apple pie brandy, etc). Have you found that creating these new flavor relationships resulted from organic curiosity in production or have you found that listening to and observing the consumer trends (Not Your Father’s Root Beer comes to mind immediately) inspired these variants? Or possibly both?

FB & JP: In this particular case, they were dreamed up by our team of brewers in a very explorative, freestyle manner. Creating variants for the festival, removes some of the common barriers that come with our normal obligation to volume, and commitment to recreate flavors consistently. In this instance, they were charged with creating fun, one-off flavors in small, festival-sized batches, that may never exist again.

AS: Which ingredient(s) in the group of Dragon’s Milk variants was the most difficult to brew with? Anything that gummed up or got stuck in the mash tun or proved to be too powerful of a flavor in too little quantities? Essentially, which variant provided the most challenging brewing experience?

FB & JP: Bacon and peanut butter are currently the big question marks in terms of methodology, as well as cleanup.

AS: Acquiring barrels is never easy nowadays. How do you stay ahead of the pack in terms of collecting barrels for flavor and aging, especially less common ones in the beer scene such as rum and brandy barrels?

FB & JP: We have been barrel-aging beer since 2001, so we have learned a lot and developed many relationships. We have a great relationship with our cooper, who also serves as a bourbon-barrel broker, and we project our needs well ahead of time.  Our barrel cellar also produces a large amount of second-use barrels, so the relationship is reciprocal at times.  Our barrel sourcing efforts are as important and serious to us as our grain and hops.  

AS: Speaking of rum and brandy, could you give us an idea of the flavor differences you noticed between using rum or using the brandy barrels for the Dragon’s Milk?

FB & JP: This is the first brandy barrel we’ve used for Dragon’s Milk, so time will tell.  Rum is made from molasses and cane sugar, and typically expresses the darker flavors of it’s distillate and sugars.  Caramel, molasses and toffee are common to the flavor profile, which is a delicious connection to the dark and roasty malts, as well as the vanilla component found in Dragon’s Milk.  We expect the barrel that held brandy, which is fruit-based distillate, to have more fruit-like sweetness and play a bit brighter, accenting more of the toasty notes from the oak.

AS: What was the method used for including the bacon characteristics in the beer? Allowing full pieces of cooked bacon to hang out in the fermentation tanks? Were they included during boiling? Or was it some sort of steeping method towards the end? I bet the facilities smelled amazing that day…

FB & JP: We are conditioning the beer with bacon, post-brew and post-barrel.  Finished Dragon’s Milk will be transferred to a tank where crispy cooked bacon will be added. This allows us to manage the ingredients well and gauge conditioning time. Bacon brings lots of flavor as well as mouthfeel, so this should be velvety smooth, with tremendous porcine flavors.

AS: What advice would you give enthusiasts out there who are looking to pair these new variants with food? There are numerous pairing options, but perhaps some stood out in particular during your trial period?

FB & JP: Our advice is always to Stop & Taste.  Trust your intuition and think about what flavor you’re picking up, more than any given technique.  Also, since these are Winter Beer Festival only, we suggest, they should be paired with giant turkey legs and whatever chocolate you can get your hands on while enjoying the fest.

AS: You’ve created a purpose-driven program for the Dragon’s Milk series. Allowing the beer to be available year round in all your distribution networks and launching the “Unlimited Release” idea is incredibly difficult and I think will be received very well by your fans. What is the most challenging aspect of this idea? Do you think it’ll push other breweries to attempt this line of thinking with their rare or specialty items?

FB & JP: Our decision to go year round several years ago has definitely changed the face and footprint of the brewery. The need for dedicated blending tanks, refrigerated barrel storage, re-orienting how our barrels are stored, projecting the cash flow for all of those barrels to hang out for three months and having a robust quality control program to make shelf-stable barrel-aged beer, are all challenges that have been discovered and met at one point or another. Who knows whether other breweries will follow suit, but you have to look at it two different ways. Making rare or specialty items more widely available is one thing, and it should be in concert with demand.  Dragon’s Milk has grown in response to our customers demonstrating that they want more and will buy more. The second point is that taking barrel aged beers to market has significant technical challenges to assure that the bottles will be shelf stable and will age gracefully. Once beer is in contact with wood, it has met potential souring and/or staling agents, and we go to great pains to protect our barrel aged beer from preventable negative consequences to that exposure. Both of these points should be considered before breweries expand specialty lines, and are challenges that may keep some rare or specialty beer closer to home and in more limited contexts and volume. 

#unlimitedrelease

Photography: Steph Harding

 

arbor brewing

In college, the beer began to flow on Thursday evenings. But I got older, and figured that Thursdays belonged to the young’uns. Then I moved to Ann Arbor, and discovered Arbor Brewing Company’s (ABC) monthly beer tastings. And for a long time, a certain Thursday each month belonged to them. The schedule of styles repeated every year, but the different beers and tasty buffet were enough to keep me coming back. But then I got busy, and figured I had probably tried most of the beers in the cycle, so I left Thursdays to the young folk once again.

To paraphrase a better writer than me, these Thursdays are a’changing. ABC is unveiling a new look to both the brewpub and to its Thursday tastings. Event Manager Elizabeth Cain-Toth says, “The Beer Tastings have been amazing over the past decade! We felt like it was time to revitalize the tastings along with the revitalization of the brewpub and menu. Offering different styles of beers relating to each theme will hopefully offer a fresh and enjoyable experience for both new and long-standing participants.”

On the second Thursday of each month, attendees will journey through the wonderful world of beer via a style of the month:

  • February: For the Love of Hops
  • March: In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb (sessions or high gravity—nothing in between)
  • April: Foolishness (outlandish adjuncts)
  • May: Old World Ales & Lagers
  • June: Summer Solstice (summer beers)
  • July: Made in Michigan
  • August: Think Global, Drink Local (breweries committed to sustainability)
  • September: Fall Favorites
  • October: Spooky Scary (names inspired by monsters, etc.)
  • November: Wild Winter (funky, tart, tangy beers)
  • December: Home for the Holidays (winter beers)

What can we expect on the second Thursday in February? Co-owner Rene Greff says, “We are always looking for things that guests will find interesting – sometimes because they are new brands, sometimes amazing historic brands, sometimes just a really interesting twist on a style.” She adds that the tastings in February “will go beyond IPAs.”

The party kicks off on February 10 at 7:00pm and tickets are still $25 in advance and $30 the day of. There will still be a buffet, a door prize drawings and, surely, plenty of calls for “SOCIAL” drinks. Back to drinking on Thursdays for me!

beer cocktails

There are plenty of ways to drink ourselves into the new year. A great number of us have the obvious answer of, “drink craft beer!” when embarking on this endeavor, but this time around we’d like to introduce some beer cocktail options instead. Using Michigan beer and cider of course!
beer cocktailsBlood-Orange Pomegranate Beer-mosa with Cheboygan Brewing Company’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat.
Ingredients (serves 10)
3 cups of Cheboygan Brewing Company’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat
3 cups chilled pomegranate juice
1 750-ml bottle chilled sparkling wine, such as Prosecco
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (for garnish)
Process
Pour the pomegranate juice into each champagne flute. Fill ⅓ of the glass.
Fill another ⅓ of the glass w/ Cheboygan Brewing Co’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat
Top the last ⅓ off with chilled sparkling wine
If desired, garnish with pomegranate seeds
 


Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja Mulled Beer
Ingredients
1 750ml bottle of Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja
2 cinnamon sticks
5-6 whole cloves
½ tsp. ginger root, coarsely grated
½ tsp. nutmeg, coarsely grated
5 pods cardamom, cracked
zest of half an orange or lemon
½ cup of brown sugar
¼ cup brandy
Process
Place all spices and citrus zest in a cheesecloth. Tie a knot to seal the cloth and place it in your mulling beer pot. Pour in all of the beer and add yourself some brandy. Simmer this on low heat for 30 minutes and stir occasionally, but don’t let it boil! You’ll risk cooking out the flavors. Once it’s been warmed, stir in sugar (or syrup or honey if you’re using that instead). Once the beverage is steaming lightly, it’s ready to serve. We prefer ours to be ladled out into mugs! It’s good to have lemon slices or sugar around so guests can adjust the sweetness and acidity of their mulled beer as needed.
 
beer cocktailsAtwater’s Decadent Dark Chocolate Stout Hot Coffee Cocktail
Ingredients
Cinnamon
Cayenne
Nutmeg
2 oz Espresso or plain hot coffee
2 oz Atwater’s Decadent Dark Chocolate OR Cranker’s Fifth Voyage Coconut Porter
1 ½ oz aged rum
¾ oz vanilla syrup
¾ oz heavy cream
Process
Combine all the ingredients, except for the heavy cream, coffee, and cinnamon, into a mixing glass. Stir with a bar spoon. Separately, place the hot espresso into your mug. After stirring, place all the combined ingredients into the mug on top of the hot coffee. Pour in the desired amount of heavy cream and garnish with a dusting of cinnamon on top.
 
beer cocktailsHoliday Grog with Blake’s El Chavo Cider.
Ingredients
2 oz dark rum
½ oz fresh lime juice
1 tsp brown sugar
4 oz Blake’s El Chavo Cider: can be hot or cold
Optional: orange and/or cinnamon stick
Process
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice (if serving cold). Stir with a bar spoon and pour into a mug (if hot) or any desired glassware (if cold). Garnish with orange slice and cinnamon stick.
 
beer cocktailsHot Buttered Beere (Adapted from a 1588 recipe) with New Holland’s Cabin Fever Brown Ale.
Ingredients
17 oz of New Holland’s Cabin Fever Brown Ale
.5 tsp ground Cloves
.5 tsp ground Cinnamon
.25 tsp ground Ginger
5 Egg Yolks
1 cup Brown Sugar (Demerara if possible)
12 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
Process
Add the Cabin Fever Brown Ale and the spices to a saucepan. Bring it all to a boil and then immediately turn it down to the lowest setting. Beat the eggs and sugar until light and creamy. Remove the beer from heat and whisk in the egg mixture. Return it all to a low heat. Whisk continuously over low heat until the whole mixture thickens slightly. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove it all from the heat and whisk in the butter quickly until a nice foam forms. Serve warm.
Thank you all for a wonderful year of beer! Enjoy yourselves along with these lovely concoctions.
Cheers and have a happy New Year!
Photo shoot location courtesy of the Downtown Market and Beverage Manager Jenney Grant.
Photography: Steph Harding

beer cocktails

There are plenty of ways to drink ourselves into the new year. A great number of us have the obvious answer of, “drink craft beer!” when embarking on this endeavor, but this time around we’d like to introduce some beer cocktail options instead. Using Michigan beer and cider of course!

beer cocktailsBlood-Orange Pomegranate Beer-mosa with Cheboygan Brewing Company’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat.

Ingredients (serves 10)
3 cups of Cheboygan Brewing Company’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat
3 cups chilled pomegranate juice
1 750-ml bottle chilled sparkling wine, such as Prosecco
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (for garnish)
Process
Pour the pomegranate juice into each champagne flute. Fill ⅓ of the glass.
Fill another ⅓ of the glass w/ Cheboygan Brewing Co’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat
Top the last ⅓ off with chilled sparkling wine
If desired, garnish with pomegranate seeds

 

Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja Mulled Beer

Ingredients
1 750ml bottle of Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja
2 cinnamon sticks
5-6 whole cloves
½ tsp. ginger root, coarsely grated
½ tsp. nutmeg, coarsely grated
5 pods cardamom, cracked
zest of half an orange or lemon
½ cup of brown sugar
¼ cup brandy

Process
Place all spices and citrus zest in a cheesecloth. Tie a knot to seal the cloth and place it in your mulling beer pot. Pour in all of the beer and add yourself some brandy. Simmer this on low heat for 30 minutes and stir occasionally, but don’t let it boil! You’ll risk cooking out the flavors. Once it’s been warmed, stir in sugar (or syrup or honey if you’re using that instead). Once the beverage is steaming lightly, it’s ready to serve. We prefer ours to be ladled out into mugs! It’s good to have lemon slices or sugar around so guests can adjust the sweetness and acidity of their mulled beer as needed.

 

beer cocktailsAtwater’s Decadent Dark Chocolate Stout Hot Coffee Cocktail

Ingredients
Cinnamon
Cayenne
Nutmeg
2 oz Espresso or plain hot coffee
2 oz Atwater’s Decadent Dark Chocolate OR Cranker’s Fifth Voyage Coconut Porter
1 ½ oz aged rum
¾ oz vanilla syrup
¾ oz heavy cream

Process
Combine all the ingredients, except for the heavy cream, coffee, and cinnamon, into a mixing glass. Stir with a bar spoon. Separately, place the hot espresso into your mug. After stirring, place all the combined ingredients into the mug on top of the hot coffee. Pour in the desired amount of heavy cream and garnish with a dusting of cinnamon on top.

 

beer cocktailsHoliday Grog with Blake’s El Chavo Cider.

Ingredients
2 oz dark rum
½ oz fresh lime juice
1 tsp brown sugar
4 oz Blake’s El Chavo Cider: can be hot or cold
Optional: orange and/or cinnamon stick

Process
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice (if serving cold). Stir with a bar spoon and pour into a mug (if hot) or any desired glassware (if cold). Garnish with orange slice and cinnamon stick.

 

beer cocktailsHot Buttered Beere (Adapted from a 1588 recipe) with New Holland’s Cabin Fever Brown Ale.

Ingredients
17 oz of New Holland’s Cabin Fever Brown Ale
.5 tsp ground Cloves
.5 tsp ground Cinnamon
.25 tsp ground Ginger
5 Egg Yolks
1 cup Brown Sugar (Demerara if possible)
12 Tbsp Unsalted Butter

Process
Add the Cabin Fever Brown Ale and the spices to a saucepan. Bring it all to a boil and then immediately turn it down to the lowest setting. Beat the eggs and sugar until light and creamy. Remove the beer from heat and whisk in the egg mixture. Return it all to a low heat. Whisk continuously over low heat until the whole mixture thickens slightly. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove it all from the heat and whisk in the butter quickly until a nice foam forms. Serve warm.
Thank you all for a wonderful year of beer! Enjoy yourselves along with these lovely concoctions.
Cheers and have a happy New Year!

Photo shoot location courtesy of the Downtown Market and Beverage Manager Jenney Grant.

Photography: Steph Harding

Boatyard Brewing

When an unfamiliar visitor stumbles upon the north side of Kalamazoo, they may feel as though they have taken a wrong turn as the main attractions shift from restaurants and breweries to old warehouses and large factories. However, if they look closely they will notice a small 10 barrel brewery that decided to call this part of town home. 

After several years of preparation, Brian C. Steele and Dan Gilligan were finally able to give Kalamazoo its newest craft brewery, Boatyard Brewing Co., in June of 2014. Their mission is to be a brewery where you get to know the staff while you’re enjoying one of their 11 beers on tap. It is also not uncommon to get a Boatyard history lesson during your visit. Their story is an intriguing adventure of two home-brewers and their attempt to bring quality beer to the north end of Kalamazoo.    

Roughly 5 years ago, Steele approached Gilligan with the idea of opening up a craft brewery. Gilligan immediately accepted the proposal and partnered with Steele to begin this journey with great intentions. One particular goal of theirs was for the brewery to have a Michigan centric name.  After going through tons of copyrighted names, they discovered that “Boatyard Brewing Co.” had not been used. Calling back to boating adventures that they shared with family and friends, Steele said, “We decided to aim for a culture of boating. Most of the time it’s relaxing, family oriented, and fun and so we went with Boatyard.”

To embark on their nautical brewing journey, Steele and Gilligan needed a location around Kalamazoo for their Boatyard Brewing Co.

During their search a building became available on the north end of Kalamazoo. It seemed like a great location for a temporary home. Steele and Gilligan rented out a section of the building they thought would be the perfect size for them after some renovations.

Several weeks went by during the restoration and the guys began to feel at home. They started to call their new place “a location of opportunity.” Despite many people telling them that being on the north side of Kalamazoo was a big risk, Steele and Gilligan never abandoned their ship. They eventually purchased the entire building from their landlord. This allowed Boatyard to have a permanent location with plenty of room for innovation and expansion.

As Steele and Gilligan said, this location became a place of opportunity. They were able to explore new ways of brewing by cultivating a few strains of yeasts from different areas within the brew house. This lead to the creation of the “Alice” and “Betty” series, which contain different ales using these wild yeasts.

Proud of their results, Boatyard plans to brew several different ales from the Alice and Betty series for the upcoming Kalamazoo Beer Week in January. Boatyard is also partnering with The Union to do a tap takeover with the Alice series at their location on S Kalamazoo Mall.

In another effort to support Kalamazoo commerce, Boatyard has also been partnering with the local food truck, Sloppy’s, to help feed hungry customers at the brewery. Steele and Gilligan enjoy their relationship with Sloppy’s because of the opportunities it has created for everyone. Both businesses are able to focus on their specialties with relief that the other is attending to other consumer needs.

After being open for almost 2 years, Boatyard has made partnerships that have brought other local businesses to the north side of Kalamazoo. Thanks to the help of DiscoverKalamazoo, Boatyard has become a part of the “Give a Craft Beer Trail” to help promote their brewery. The trail provides its participants the opportunity to explore 11 breweries around Kalamazoo County. This has contributed to attracting outside travelers and locals to the north side for the first time.  

Through the combination of great beer, local business partnerships and a friendly staff, Boatyard has been able to make their mark on an unexpected area of Kalamazoo. As Steele explained this impact perfectly, “We’ve kind of become the ‘anchor’ on the north end.”

Lake Ann Brewery

Breweries come in all shapes and sizes. Some breweries have massive distribution reach, while others stay within their small towns. Some breweries experiment with ingredients while others focus on quality brews of traditional recipes. Some breweries attract people from far away, while others become a place for locals to catch up and enjoy each other.

Upon walking into Lake Ann Brewing Company (LABC), it is clear that it has become the small town’s meeting place. The beer is exceptional, the environment is comfortable, and the people are friendly. LABC has become a favorite with reliable brews that locals enjoy. You won’t find off the wall beers with unusual ingredients. Instead, you’ll find an array of styles of quality beer from blonde ales to IPAs to stouts and porters. You’ll also find local wines, meads, and ciders amongst its 24 taps.

Lake Ann Brewing

“Our customers are not checking in on Untappd. They’re here to have a good beer and enjoy each other. Take our blond ale. It’s nothing crazy, but it’s a good blond ale and it’s what a lot of the people who come in here are looking for,” said owner and head brewer Matt Therrien.

LABC opened earlier this Spring in Lake Ann and has already made an impact in the area. Lake Ann sits roughly twenty minutes outside of Traverse City, and boasts a large population for a small village. For those that don’t want to make the trip into Traverse City, where the beer scene is bustling, LABC is the perfect solution.

Therrien has been homebrewing since the 1990s, but didn’t see the potential of a brewery in Lake Ann until recently. After putting a hold on working in construction six years ago, he focused on brewing quality all-grain brews with a new homebrewing set-up. Meanwhile, a long-standing building sat vacant in downtown Lake Ann. After much discussion with his wife, Therrien put an offer on the building in October 2013.

Therrien used what he had learned from homebrewing, as well as advice from other local brewers, including Tina Schuett of Rarebird Brewery, to put together what he thought would work best for his location and his community. For instance, as a homebrewer, he had dealt with his fair share of kegging, and knew he did not want to keg at the brewery.

“We have six serving tanks instead. It’s much more efficient, the beer is even, and cleaning is much easier,” said Therrien.

He also bypassed a 3-barrel system, and instead installed a 7-barrel system. Hearing from others about growing pains and batch sizes, he knew a 7-barrel system would work much better for what he envisioned. Even with these careful considerations, Lake Ann Brewing Company opened quietly ahead of schedule in June.

“We didn’t make an announcement beforehand because we were unsure of how long things would take,” Therrien said. “And after we made it through our first week, we thought, ‘we’ll be alright.’”

And in the six months they have been opened, things have continued to be “alright.” Whether it’s a weeknight or a Saturday evening, the taproom sees a consistent flow of traffic. Locals stop in often to visit with each other. In fact, Therrien himself can often be seen chatting with locals he knows well.

Located right next door is The Stone Oven, which happily delivers to LABC. This adds to the atmosphere and gives patrons another reason to visit. Not only can they get a crisp and clear brew, they can also order a delicious pizza and have it delivered to them in the taproom.

“We have a great location, we’re the only place in town, and we have great food next door. It’s great!” said Therrien.

the force awakens

In a brewery far far away…

As winter nights grow colder and more ominous, and seasonal releases are barrel aged and darker than a Sith Lord’s heart, our greed for craft beer surfaces. Let the beer flow through you and come over to the dark side just in time for the release of the much anticipated “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“This is the time for dark beer to shine,” says Bobby Vedder, certified cicerone (and Star Wars geek) from Powers Distributing Co.

Darker styles—think stouts and porters—are known for bold flavors, longer finishes and lingering notes. The beers’ deeper color comes from its roasted malts, which contribute to the espresso flavors and bitterness.

“These beers are warming, with hints of subtle dark fruit note,” Vedder said.

Vedder’s recommendations for those looking to explore the dark side include:

Right Brain CEO Stout: Made with chocolate, espresso and oatmeal, this beer is lighter in alcohol and full of great layers of flavor.

Saugatuck Brewing Co. Neapolitan Milk Stout, a seasonal stout that uses lactose, or milk sugar, giving it a creamy texture. Its dark roasted notes are accented by flavors like chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.

Latitude 42 Powerline Porter – A Portage, Michigan-based brewery, this porter boasts caramel, coffee and chocolate flavors combine in a crisp finish. It is 5.5 percent ABV.

North Peak Dubious Black Chocolate Stout – Made in Traverse City, Michigan, this dark chocolate stout offers a perfect combination of chocolate, roast and black malts resulting in a smooth, rich beer. It is 5.3 percent ABV.

And finally, what Vedder calls ‘the Darth Vader’ of beers:

Oskar Blues’ Ten Fidy: Clocking in at 10.5 percent ABV, you don’t know the power of this dark beer. Ten Fidy is an Imperial Stout loaded with chocolate, caramel and coffee, using plenty of malt, roasted barley and flaked oats.

“The true dark side of beer isn’t about style, it is a mentality where people hoard beer for underground trades, or pay off their friends to mule for them at special releases” said Ben Darcie, brewery representative and sales manager for Brewery Vivant and founder and lead instructor of Experience Beer, a public and private beer education organization based in Grand Rapids, MI.

For a big, intense beer that is sure to lure you to the dark side, Darcie recommends:

Brewery Vivant Plow Horse: This heavily bodied Belgian Imperial Stout begins with biscuit and caramel notes, and finishes with lots of thick coffee, chocolate and a residual sweetness. Clocking in at 9.5%, this beer drinks like 5%, Darcie said. He compares this beer to an unsuspecting villain like Emperor Palpatine, whose underlying power isn’t apparent until you go into battle against him. Plow Horse is only available this month, and won’t return until November 2017.

the force awakens

Founders Breakfast Stout: Brewed with flaked oats, plenty of chocolate and two types of coffee, this Imperial Coffee Stout is aggressive in its own way without being overpowering.

Founders KBS: Always two, there are; a master and an apprentice. If Breakfast Stout is the apprentice, then KBS is the Dark Lord of the Sith. This Imperial Stout brewed with tons of coffee is cave-aged for an entire year. The rebel forces will be out en masse when this beer is released in 2016.

Darcie and Vedder recommend resisting the temptation of the dark side by opening your cellar and cracking a good bottle to share with family and friends this holiday season.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opens in theaters December 18th.