GRAND RAPIDS – I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.  Not just your average ice cream though – ice cream beer.

Two completely different products, both delivered in a pint, combined forces to support one common goal: to protect our winters against climate change.  New Belgium Brewing Company and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream collaborated to make both of their pints pair together to make a Salted Caramel Brownie two ways.  One being a new delicious flavor packaged in an ice cream pint for Ben & Jerry’s, called Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale, while the other is constructed into a beer, called Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale, delivered in a pint glass for New Belgium.  

This past Monday, New Belgium and the West Michigan Environmental Council (WMEAC) put the pints together. Asher Attick, Michigan Field Marketing Manager for New Belgium and Nicholas Occhipinti, Director of Policy and Community Activism for WMEAC, served up pour overs, or beer floats, at an event called “Pour Over Climate Sessions.”  

A sweet beer seems to be the beer of choice for the float.  Yet one ends up with a double sweet overload. This mistake does not happen with The Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale.  It has enough of the sweet notes subtly peeking through, but it doesn’t overpower the delicious sweetness we all love from Ben and Jerry’s. The perfect sweet success story.

Success also comes through Attick’s duty in Michigan to work with local nonprofits and community outreach, tying it into the regional and national programs that New Belgium is running as a whole.

“We always feel at the size we are, when we go into a new state, it is going to make an impact. And the last thing we ever want to see is a negative impact.  Beer is a competitive business––that is never going to change. We feel it is important going into communities and lending a helping hand to make positive change.  Especially when it is something we strongly believe in as a brewery, like climate change,” stated Attick.

The two brands together with their pints are encouraging communities to write letters to their Governors about the importance of  climate change––not only what may become of our climate in the future, but how it is impacting each and every one of us today.

“Right now in Michigan, there is major climate legislation that is about to come to the forefront, and the only way the politicians care is if you tell them they care. The Fruit Ridge in Michigan was devastated two years ago, and Michigan has already had six 1,000 year floods in the last several years,” Occhipinti said.

With a climate continuing to have patterns of freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw, our crops will suffer.  That means there could be no hops, there could be no apples and there could be no grapes for the libations we love dearly.  As much as we may all love mild winters and dry summers, our crops do not.  No crops means no beer.  No beer means lots of unhappy locals.

Monday night’s event held letter stations, where people were encouraged to fill out a Mad Lib-styled letters to send to Governor Snyder about what is important to them about climate change and the issues that matter specifically to Michigan. At the end of the program, Attick is taking the handwritten letters and mailing them to the Governor Snyder.  Right now there are over 200 letters that will be mailed and end up on the desk of Governor Snyder.  

The donations from the event went directly to benefit WMEAC but from a national standpoint, for every pint of ice cream sold and every 6-pack, a dollar from each benefit #ProtectOurWinters. Buy both to make some beer floats at home and protect our four seasons!

Sponsored by New Belgium – Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS – Over the course of the 11 days spanning Cocktail Week GR, Grand Rapids’ only distillery, Long Road Distillers, played a huge role in the week’s events.  

The backbone of a cocktail is in the quality of the liquor.  To prove just that, Long Road hosted distillery tours at a discounted rate throughout the week, sharing with patrons the process it takes to make its different liquors.

Long Road’s beautiful distilling facility houses multiple-story, shiny gold-colored tanks towering skyward.  While on the 45 minute tour, patrons were able to taste gin during its distilling process as well as a tasting of five different liquors following the tour.

Long Road also hosted a few events educating people on how to make a cocktail.  They occupied their new second floor, to create an intimate learning experience.  While on the second floor, you also get a magnificent view of the distillery below.

A similar event to this took place at the Downtown Market, where guests were shown how to make a cocktail using all ingredients from the market itself.  After the demonstration, guests were encouraged to shop the market to make the cocktails again at home.

All across town, participating restaurants joined together to create a Pair and Share.  Many of the cocktails at the participating restaurants featured Long Road liquors in their drinks.  

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Kyle Vanstrien, owner of Long Road Distillers said, “It is an awesome thing to continue to promote cocktail culture that has been lacking forever.  As well as it is exciting to be a part of 30 venues partaking with five other venues using our liquors in their cocktails.”

Not only could you find Long Road’s liquors in cocktails around town, the distillery figured it should have a couple drinks of its own to join in on the fun!  Sourcing all ingredients from local suppliers, Long Road’s drinks are ever-changing with the seasons.  Appropriately enough, calling one of their Pair and Share drinks “Berry’s Last Call,” using the last blueberries of the season with their house gin and local additions.  My personal favorite, “Orange and Stuff,” surprisingly doesn’t have any oranges in it whatsoever, yet delightfully tastes like an adult orange julius. This is either a mistake or genius. I say genius.  And last but not least was “Peared Up,” boasting their vodka.

There are plenty of events scattered around town, featuring Long Road Distillers, still left in Cocktail Week GR leading up to the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer and Food Festival this weekend at the Devos Place.  Check out the schedule to see where you can still catch some delicious drinks and learn more about the beautiful science behind a cocktail.

GRAND RAPIDS – The Grand Rapids Cocktail Guild exists for promoting weeks like this. An opportunity to promote Michigan’s burgeoning distilled spirits culture, a chance to offer the typical cocktail drinker something out of the norm, and a way to share the passion that drives the bartenders we all know and love, Cocktail Week Grand Rapids welcomes everyone. The Guild, and its Interim President, Torrence O’Haire, are much of the driving force behind this new event.

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“This year is a bit of a trial run. We’re starting off small to build a foundation, and go from there,” O’Haire said. “Really, it happened organically. One of the [members] of Experience GR is also a founding member of the Cocktail Guild. She is really involved and a great resource and was really excited to make this happen.”

The Guild, whose mission is to build a “local collegiate of experienced professionals working to develop, enrich, and share the history, art, culture, and enjoyment of the distilled spirit,” continuously offers monthly events for the public, many with a non-profit focus like the Iron Bartender challenge.

Iron Bartender is a big part of Cocktail Week GR as well. If you’re seeking a big, awesome, crazy showdown of some of the finest barkeeps in West Michigan, this was the event to attend. For the Iron Bartender: Championship Finals, six professionals were challenged on the history of distilled spirits, and presented their showpiece cocktails, lovingly created concoctions audience members were able to sample.

While much of the focus of the event is on Michigan-made spirits (such as the many cocktail and small plate pairings at area restaurants and discussion/review sessions), O’Haire said that “we have no problem tipping the hat [in the craft spirit industry] to those who are doing a great job.”

One of those companies is Brown-Forman, who is helping to put on Iron Bartender during Cocktail Week. Part of their brand includes Old Forester, which is the longest running continuously distilled liquor in America. Fun fact: This happened because they were allowed to legally distill during prohibition, receiving a government license to continue for medical purposes.

History and artistry runs through the veins of the GR Cocktail Guild and through all the events around Grand Rapids this week.

If you are seeking something a little more low-key, but still full of fun (and alcohol), make sure you check out the showing of Hey Bartender at the UICA and the adjoining event at the Downtown Market, where you can enjoy cocktail hour and apps and get some speed lectures on cocktails or spirits from resident experts.  And with every lecture, comes a drink.

What more could you ask for?

 

Cocktail Week Grand Rapids is made possible by the combined efforts of the Grand Rapids Cocktail Guild, Experience GR and the Michigan Distillers Guild. For a full schedule of events, please visit: http://www.experiencegr.com/cocktail-week/  

GRAND RAPIDS – Leading up to this weekend’s Wine, Beer and Food Festival, restaurants around town are participating in the city’s first celebration of Cocktail Week GR. The idea behind Cocktail Week is to educate the city about what makes a cocktail stand out compared to other libations, and why spending that few extra dollars is worth it.

Bartenders and chefs came together to pair something to sip on with and something to nibble on  to form a perfect pairing experience––giving restaurants a chance to show off the talents of their employees and present a better understanding of their craft to their patrons.

Rob Hanks, bar manager of Reserve Wine and Food, was excited about giving Grand Rapids the opportunity to experience food pairing with cocktails, which seems to be lacking in a city revolving around breweries. All around town, participating restaurants put together a shared-plate appetizer with two Michigan cocktails for patrons to enjoy for $25 or less.

Reserve Wine and Food used liquors from New Holland Brewing in both of the restaurant’s featured cocktails. The Drapple, or what Hanks likes to refer to as Dr. Apple, developed more or less out of a delicious accident.

“[The Drapple] comes from a clarified apple juice that the kitchen was making a dish and one guy messed it up so there was a bunch of it left over . . . a little bit of acidity and a little bit of sweet which is perfect, so we will just combat it with a little bit of bitterness in a strong spirit” said Hanks.

The Drapple is like a walking through an apple orchard towards the end of autumn, with the smell of oak leaves laying on the brisk ground. The cocktail features New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon, Cynar, and house-clarified apple juice.

Second on the menu is a new spin on the classic gin martini. The Commander consists of New Holland Knickerbocker Barrel Aged Gin, Benedictine, and Cointreau. Instead of bright aromatics shining through, you can feel warmth from the hints of baking spice.

Both drinks fit seamlessly with the Reserve Food and Wine’s version of Duck Confit Leg in different ways by adding apple, turnip, and chestnuts flavors to attach to each cocktail’s own uniqueness cutting right through the density of the duck fat.

“For having the number of restaurants that signed up this year is only going to make next year that much better,” said Hanks. “We have definitely had people coming in and checking out the list to get excited about it. It is really the only thing we can ask for. It challenges us in a way we haven’t been challenged before––to explore different flavors that beer and wine can’t give you.”

Restaurants are participating in the Pair and Share for the rest of the week, as well as some other fun events revolving around Cocktail Week GR. For a list of those events and participating restaurants, check out www.cocktailweekgr.com for more details.

 

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GRAND RAPIDS – Mitch and Whitney Ermatinger are coming home to Michigan. The husband and wife team has officially announced plans to open Speciation Artisan Ales, the first 100% wild ale brewery to be located in Grand Rapids, by late 2016. The small scale brewery will focus on producing high quality mixed fermentation sour and funky beers to be released monthly in bottles.

Both raised in West Michigan, the Ermatingers have chosen to return to start their brewery in Grand Rapids because, “The enthusiasm for beer is unparalleled to other areas of the country, and yet many of the innovative techniques and styles of beer have not yet caught on in the Michigan market,” said Co-Owner Whitney Ermatinger.

Locals may remember Mitch Ermatinger from his stint at O’Connor’s Home Brew Supply where he began his beer career in Spring 2011. He will be leaving his current post as brewer for Former Future Brewing Company in Denver, Colorado to head up this new venture. His extensive brewing and blending knowledge of sour beers was formed in large part by his work alongside James Howat, head brewer for Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales. He was on the Black Project team that won Great American Beer Festival medals for wild ales in 2014 and 2015.

“We have lived in Grand Rapids for much of our adult life and consider it home. We love the amazing and supportive beer culture that Grand Rapids has, and so it was the obvious place to establish our brewery,” Mitch Ermatinger said. “GR is a growing and vibrant city, with the overall market making a huge comeback in the past couple of years. More importantly though, Grand Rapidians are really tenacious about their beer!”

Using influences and ingredients from the local area, Speciation Artisan Ales hopes to highlight the unique terroir of Michigan in its flavor profiles. The brewery’s name was inspired by the variations that occur in nature over time to create an ever-changing product.

They plan to have a number of recurring beers as well as several special barrel aged and spontaneously fermented projects.

“We hope to expand the perception of what wild and sour beers are while still creating a variety of products that are accessible to all types of palates,” said Mitch Ermatinger.

Wild beers are differentiated by their wide variety of flavors created from combining different yeasts and bacteria, longer fermentation times, and variability within the product. The beer styles will be roughly split into three categories: Brettanomyces-focused beers, Sour beers, and Spontaneous beers.

“We know that other breweries around town are dabbling in sour beer, which we think is great and is preparing people’s palates for even more.” Mitch Ermatinger admitted.

Speciation Artisan Ales is currently in the planning stages as owners work to secure funding sources to get the brewery off the ground. They will be establishing in a yet to be determined location in the Grand Rapids area. The plan is to have fermentation vessels and barrels as the backdrop to the combined production area and tasting room.

Initially opening one day per month for bottle sales and tasting, Speciation Artisan Ales will eventually expand its tasting room hours to be open weekly. For updates visit their website, or follow them on Facebook.

VetsDay-1 copy-2It’s not uncommon for craft breweries to give back to their community––their established consumer base and growing popularity offers an ideal platform for volunteer efforts, awareness programs, and financial donations.

“We took our cause . . . I thought it was very important for us; it’s near and dear to my heart,” said Jarred Sper, veteran and Co-Founder/Partner of Perrin Brewing, a local brewery that continues to make its mark by supporting veterans.

Perrin Brewing launched Veteran’s Pale Ale (VPA) in 2014. For every pint poured at the taproom, Perrin donates $1 to the regional non-profit organization Finish The Mission Veteran Relief Fund.

“We have an opportunity and a vehicle to make a positive impact in our community,” says Sper.

Funds from VPA sales directly contributed to the renovation of a band shell at the Grand Rapids Home For Veterans. The reinvigorated venue brings new life to regular events and ceremonies held by GRHV and is also available to be rented by the public.

Most recently, Finish The Mission assisted a local veteran and his family by providing financial assistance to replace the roof and bathroom of their home.

“It was one of those things like you see on TV. It was very impactful,” said Sper.

No Rules, an Imperial American Porter, one of Perrin’s latest Killing Craft Releases, was also sold with the goal of helping veterans. In a matter of days, the product flew off the shelves and made its way into the top 100 beer list on BeerAdvocate.com.

Sales of No Rules allowed for a very generous donation to be made to The Raider Project, a nationwide organization that brings in MARSOC/USMC veterans to help returning veterans transition back into the private sector.

This Veterans Day, Perrin is participating in a tap takeover at WhichCraft Taproom in Midland. 16 taps will be occupied by Perrin beer, including the aforementioned VPA and No Rules. All proceeds from ticket sales and a portion of Perrin beer sales will be donated to the Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center in Saginaw, which serves more than 34,700 veterans in the Lower Peninsula.

Flag/brewhouse photograph of Heritage Brewing Co., a veteran owned brewery in Manassas, VA.

SALINE – Salt Springs Brewery, a recent addition to the Southeast Michigan beer community, has quickly become a mecca. Officially open since July 31, it has established itself as a must-visit destination not only for its beer, but also for its farm-to-table food and its charming ambiance.

The name Salt Springs is a nod to the history of town of Saline (pronounced Suh-leen, unlike the typical expectation of Say-lean) as a place Native Americans and early explorers gathered salt from area springs.

The building was dedicated in 1899 as a Methodist church. In its 116-year history, it housed a gift shop and most recently an event space before becoming Salt Springs Brewery. The original stained glass windows still grace the walls, glowing colorfully during daylight hours. The former church lawn where ice cream socials had taken place is now paved and serves as the brewery’s 75-seat beer garden.

The purchase plan was in place for months, but the new owners couldn’t take possession of the building until all previous event space obligations were fulfilled in January. The arduous process of remodeling and installing the brewhouse was done in six months.

The design was thoughtfully developed beforehand with the intention of preserving the building’s heritage. They wanted to be “respectful of the grand space because this is a historic building in the Saline area. There are still citizens who live in the city who were baptized here, married here, et cetera and so we knew we had to respect the space the best we could,” said Ed Brosius, one of the brewers and owners.

Various doors removed during renovations now serve new purposes as the base for the bar, the soffit above the kitchen cookline, and as walls in the bell tower room. Another owner, Ron Schofield, an architect by trade, points out, “You can still see the hinges on the ends of the boards” in the bar and brewery area.

“We envisioned it as a community gathering place. So far we’ve had a very good response, from not only our local communities,” said Brosius. Press attention has come from nearby Toledo, including a food review that brought an influx of visitors from south of the Michigan border.

To meet the high demand, they’ve recently added brunch from 10 a.m. on weekends and lunch every weekday at 11 a.m.

The upper level mezzanine, formerly the organ loft, offers seating for up to 24 guests and has hosted gatherings for out-of-town friends and family who have come from many states to visit Saline-area residents and experience the brewery’s charm. Reservations can be made for groups of five or more before 5:30 p.m. and after 7:30 p.m., with those busy dinner hours being available first come first served to walk-in guests.

Brewing is done three days a week on average, using a seven-barrel brewhouse to fill seven barrel fermenters. A 15-barrel fermenter houses double batches. A crowler system allows for canned take-out beer that stays fresh for an extended period of time, and glass growlers are available for more immediate enjoyment at home.

The team describes their brews as following “Old-world European traditions with a modern American twist,” according to Schofield.

Quality is key in every aspect. No expense is spared to achieve the intended result.

“We use the proper yeast for every style. It doubles the cost of the beer, but for us it’s the only way to do it,” said owner and brewer Mark Zadvinskis, who has a background in finance.

Each owner brought individual strengths to the process of growing the business from concept to reality.

“We had Mark as the brains of the business, Ed as the brains of the beer, and I was the brains of the construction. We were the holy trinity,” Schofield joked. “The three of us have symbiotic skills,” said Brosius.

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A local focus is clear in many aspects of the operation. Financing was obtained from a local bank, and “we try to obtain as much of our foods, and our hops, from Michigan farms,” according to Brosius.

Executive Chef Justin Dalenberg was formerly employed by a notable high-profile Ann Arbor-area restaurant before joining the Salt Springs team.

Artist Dan Barry, who is an investor in the brewery, created the Michelangelo-esque ceiling fresco of a hand giving life to hops.

“There are three things going on. Number one it pays homage to the church. It pays homage to all creation, and it pays homage to the creation of beer in a secular way. It’s meant to be respectful, not cheeky,” said Schofield.

Saline resident and brewery investor Chris Frey of the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild, who also holds a seat as one of two American Homebrewers Association representatives on the Brewer’s Association board, produced his Belgian Tripel with the Salt Springs brew team for a special release this weekend. Frey will be at the brewery to officiate the release on Friday, November 6.

Tickets are available for their inaugural Beer Dinner on Tuesday Nov. 17. Live music will begin on Thursday evenings starting Nov. 19 with Dragon Wagon.

In the more-distant future there will be barrel-aged offerings, including a collaboration with Tippins Market using barrels from their proprietary blends of spirits. Dominic Aprea, beverage consultant at Tippins, said the barrels he’s providing will be from the store’s popular co-branded single barrel selections. Salt Springs will receive one barrel from Eagle Rare and one from Blanton’s.

“We’ve been experimenting with what to do with the barrels after our bourbon comes out of them. We were looking for someone to partner up with to fill a couple with beer and do something fun. Support local, keep it local, so we chatted with them.” Aprea said.

The final decision on which brews will go into the barrels hasn’t been made.

“I’m going to leave the style up to the brewmasters, whatever they want to put in them we’ll go with,” Aprea said.

Possibilities currently being considered include a barleywine, a porter, or their Breakfast Stout.

DETROIT – Five Detroit breweries will pour their own Weizenbock this week as part of a collaboration that is being called the Detroit Beer Experiment.

You can try the individual recipes on tap at Atwater Brewery, Batch Brewing Company, Brew Detroit, Detroit Beer Company, and Motor City Brewing Works. They will also be featured Friday and Saturday during the Michigan Brewers Guild Fall Beer Festival at Eastern Market in Detroit.

As with many ideas in the brewing community, this one was developed over a few shared pints.

The brewers agreed on the Weizenbock style and all developed their own recipes utilizing the same Michigan-grown hops from Hop Head Farms.

The malty, German-style dark beer usually clocks in between 4-6% ABV.

“After 12 years of brewing beer in the city of Detroit, Detroit Beer Company is thrilled to beworking together with all of our friends at the other Detroit breweries,” said Justin Riopelle, head brewer at Detroit Beer Company.

“It’s a fun way to showcase the great beer made in this city,” Riopelle added.

According to the breweries, the “Detroit Beer Experiment” name comes from the 2002 musical collaboration between Carl Craig and Marcus Belgrave, called The Detroit Experiment. The brewers hope to turn their collaboration into an annual tradition.

“We’re excited to see the Detroit brewing scene become even more collaborative,” said Stephen Roginson, founder and head brewer at Batch Brewing Company.

“It’s a tight-knit community of great brewers that was just begging for a project like this,”

All logo work crafted by Detroit Beer Press Senior Designer, Ian Burk