An Oktoberfest-style celebration is on-tap to draw hundreds of people to downtown Benton Harbor, Sept. 15 from noon to 10 p.m.

Artoberfest 2012 will showcase regional talent, breweries and wineries in an outdoor venue located at 190 5th St. in the Benton Harbor Arts District. The event is free entry noon-5 p.m. and $5 after 5 p.m. All proceeds will benefit the New Territory Arts Association.

A highlight of the sixth annual event will be regional microbrews. Arcadia, The Livery, Founders and Short’s will be on tap throughout the day, as will California-based brewy Lagunitas. In addition, St. Julian wine and local food will be available for purchase.

Headliner band, Chicago Afrobeat Project (CAbP), will perform at 7 p.m., and other regional musical acts will take the stage throughout the day.

For more information about Artoberfest or to volunteer for this or other NTAA events and activities, e-mail info@newterritoryarts.org, call (269) 926-1926 or visit www.newterritoryarts.org.

LUDINGTON – A short drive to this lakeside resort town from Grand Rapids is well worth the trip for a nice weekend beer-oriented trip.

Anchored by the Aug. 18 Suds on the Shore Craft Beer and Wine Festival, it was a trip my friend Chuck and I were going to make either way, but the area has so much more to offer, including a brewpub and a bar devoted solely to Michigan libations. The great weather didn’t hurt, either, as it was a beautiful mid-70s Saturday afternoon, and downtown Ludington was as charming as it could be.

Heading up, we knew we’d have to stop in to Jamesport Brewing Co., the local brewpub. I was expecting a smaller place than the one we found — which included bar, restaurant, and outdoor seating areas — and was equally surprised by the fact that nearly all the tables were full at 1:30 in the afternoon.

The beers, which arrived a few minutes later, made it well worth the trip. The Blueberry Wheat Ale — complete with fresh blueberries in the glass — was refreshing and crisp, with the pleasant taste of a full blueberry every few sips.

Next we made our way the half mile or so to Ludington City Park, where Suds on the Shore was being held. The event, held to benefit United Way of Mason County, was surprisingly large: Hundreds of people migrated around more than 25 booths, which included major players in the Michigan brewing industry such as Founders, Bell’s, and Short’s, and even a smoking tent with a nice selection of fine cigars.

Most impressive though, was that this small Northern Michigan town was able to attract breweries from out of state, including Great Lakes Brewing Company and Crispin Cider.

I ultimately tried about six beers, including a few standards of which I’m a big fan, like Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale, but I also experienced some beers I’m not so fond of: Short’s summer seasonal Nicie Spicie, for example. I also tried New Holland Brewing’s Dragon’s Milk and Brewery Vivant’s Contemplation — an ale brewed with honey that was recently released in cans.

Following a few hours at Suds on the Shore, we headed back downtown to The Mitten Bar, an establishment I’ve wanted to visit since I learned about it a few months ago. The interior was surprisingly simplistic: All wood with just casks serving as the tables. There were no substantial decorations apart from two blackboards that announced an incredible selection of Michigan beers. That selection, along with some of the friendliest service I’ve ever had, made my visit one of the best bar experiences I can remember.

Ludington has a great thing going, between The Mitten Bar, Jamesport Brewing Co. and Suds on the Shore. The beautiful lakeshore location offers a great experience for craft beer enthusiasts, and is certainly one I won’t forget.

GRAND RAPIDS — Intermittent rain did not damper Thursday’s Beer-A-Palooza.

For the second year, the event was held 5-9 p.m. in the yard outside of Mangiamo! restaurant in the city’s East Hills neighborhood. In all, an estimated 100 attendees sampled beers from eight different Michigan breweries, including:

  • Arbor Brewing Company — Ann Arbor
  • Bell’s Brewery – Kalamazoo
  • Brewery Vivant – Grand Rapids
  • Dark Horse Brewing Co. – Marshall
  • Founders Brewery – Grand Rapids
  • Greenbush — Sawyer
  • New Holland Brewing – Holland
  • Saugatuck Brewing – Saugatuck

Participants received eight tickets, a taco bar buffet and live entertainment for a $25 entry fee. For the breweries, the more intimate, smaller feel of the event allowed staff members to connect directly with the consumer and gain new potential craft beer drinkers.

“Exposure is big for us,” said Scott Farney, sales manager for Saugatuck Brewing. “We try to make ourselves available for things.

“We’re smaller than a lot of these (other breweries at the event) — we need the visibility.”

Saugatuck specializes in traditional and balanced beer styles, such as its best-selling Oval Beach Blonde Ale. The brewery’s Singapore IPA is catching up in sales, Farney said, while its ESB Amber won Best in Show at the World Expo of Beer in April.

This past year, Saugatuck saw a somewhat unexpected rise in keg sales, as many Michigan bar and restaurants are adding a Saugatuck tap handle, according to Farney.

“I truly think quality-wise our liquid has gotten consistently better,” he said. “The quality has to be there.”

Despite being the Mitten’s third highest-selling craft beer company, New Holland was pleased to be part of this relatively smaller beer event (comparatively, the Winter Beer Festival draws crowds of more than 5,000).

“With craft beer being as popular as it is, this kind of event is perfect for attracting people on the fence,” said Eamon McCarthy, a brew assistant for New Holland. “There’s no excuse for us not to be here.”

McCarthy emphasized the variety of styles New Holland offers, which helps create a bridge to craft beer for any palate. The brewery has already finished brewing the entire season of its famous pumpkin ale, Ichabod, which is being released next week.

The 7th Annual Release Party is Aug. 20 at Logan’s Alley, 916 Michigan St., in Grand Rapids. In addition to tapping the brew, a special cask-conditioned Ichabod will be tapped at 5 p.m.

Meanwhile, for Arbor Brewing, the attraction to the event was location — in the heart of BeerCity USA.

“We love Grand Rapids,” packing director Aaron Stryker said. “This event has been on our radar for a few months now.”

GRAND RAPIDS — A chance visit has set in motion a collaboration between Brewery Vivant and the nation’s third largest craft brewery.

Vivant confirmed rumors today of two collaboration beers with New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colo. One beer will be brewed in Grand Rapids this month, while a second will be brewed in Fort Collins with an anticipated November release.

“Our common sustainability goals, open book management and focus on Belgian-inspired beer gave us a lot to talk about,” Vivant owner Jason Spaulding said. “Our companies are drastically different sizes, but that is what makes our industry so unique. This collaboration reflects the common respect that each of us have for craft beer and the people who make it.”

The launch coincides with New Belgium’s availability for the first time in Michigan beginning Aug. 27.

Spaulding considers the collaboration unique in that Vivant is a much smaller, locally-focused brewery compared to the nationally-known and distributed New Belgium. Last year, New Belgium brewed more than 700,000 barrels compared to Vivant’s 1,800 barrels.

“At one point while visiting their brewery, I realized that one of their fermenters contained more beer than we made in the entire fiscal year,” Spaulding said.

Brewers from each organization have worked together on formulating recipes — exchanging ingredients and ideas —  and then travel to the respective locations to brew the beer together. The Vivant/New Belgium project consists of two different beers.

The first was brewed in Grand Rapids and will be distributed through Brewery Vivant’s network. Called “Escoffier” — after the French master chef of the same name — it is crafted to go hand in hand with the food-beer experience that is part of Vivant’s focus.

The beer will be deep amber in color and utilize one of Brewery Vivant’s house Belgian yeast strains as well as wild yeast from New Belgium called Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, blending the flavor of both breweries.

A release party is scheduled at Brewery Vivant on Aug. 27, followed by a Michigan release of draft and in pint-sized cans. The beer will also be available in Chicago when Vivant starts distribution there in October.

A second beer will be brewed in Fort Collins and released through New Belgium Brewing’s national network. It will be part of their “Lips of Faith” series, available in 22-ounce bombers and on draft in November. The style and final recipe is still being developed as the breweries continue to work together.

KALAMAZOO — The laws of supply and demand struck Arcadia Ales, and resulted in the pulling out of several markets for the Battle Creek-based brewery three years ago.

But last Thursday, Arcadia embarked on a $5.4 million journey to expand its operations with a new facility on the downtown riverfront in Kalamazoo. The new facility — in the works since August 2011 — will allow Arcadia to keep up the demand of the Michigan and Illinois markets and back into select U.S. markets, but certainly is not abandoning the Battle Creek market, Arcadia Founder & President Tim Suprise said.

“Recognizing our company’s role within the Battle Creek community and maintaining loyalty to our existing patrons is just as important as the expansion itself,” Suprise said in a release. “We are continually grateful to our distributor and retail partners as well as the many customers who have made Arcadia Brewing Company a success in Battle Creek, and we are optimistically looking forward to developing an equally important role and worthy presence downtown and the greater Kalamazoo community.”

But mostly what the new facility provides is a relief for the company — established in 1996 — allowing them to get back to where they once were. The company currently distribtures throughout Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, Kansas and Pennsylvania. Suprise said they plan to expand into six more markets.

“We are going to go back to those markets we pulled out of in a selected fashion,” Suprise said. “Few other strategic markets as well, very measured and deliberate. We’ve done it the other way and we’ve seen how that worked out. We want to grow organically.”

KALAMAZOO — Bell’s Brewery has announced the availability of September’s award-winning homebrew in its tap room, named A Bit of Heat.

The homebrew, created by Geoff Groff and entered into Bell’s second annual homebrew competition, will be tapped at 3 p.m. July 21 at the Eccentric Café in downtown Kalamazoo.

Brewed with paradise seeds, rose hips and habaneros at our original brewery located next to the Cafe, this dry habanero-ed IPA or Strong Pale Ale comes in at 6.4% ABV.

Groff, who is originally from Troy and now lives in Climax, has been homebrewing off and on since about 1999. Although he points out that he has brewed a lot more since joining the Kalamazoo Libation Organization of Brewers (KLOB), a local homebrewing club based in Kalamazoo, a couple of years ago.

He decided the day before picking up his Bell’s wort to experiment with peppers, something he had wanted to do for a short while. He used habaneros that he grew.

But don’t let the pepper factor scare you away. There’s just the right amount of heat, hence the name.

“It is well balanced and is not as spicy as people may think. The spice is enough to recognize that’s it in there and that it is peppery,” Groff said.

It comes out a bit more in the finish, he said.

Groff, along with Brewery Manager Andy Farrell and Specialty Brewer Zeke Bogan brewed about 10 barrels of A Bit of Heat in June on Bell’s 15-barrel system. This is also where Bell’s brews its experimental and small batch beers like The Wild One and an ongoing series of beers that use experimental hops directly from growers’ trial plots among others.

“The fact that you can brew 10 barrels in not more than a few hours longer then it might take a homebrewer to make five to ten gallons is quite cool,” Groff said.

Groff is a substitute teacher in Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties and hopes to start brewing professionally, perhaps even open his own brewery, someday.

Bell’s 3rd Annual Homebrew Expo and Competition Kick-off will be held on Sept. 8.

KALAMAZOO — Bell’s Brewery has announced the availability of September’s award-winning homebrew in its tap room, named A Bit of Heat.
The homebrew, created by Geoff Groff and entered into Bell’s second annual homebrew competition, will be tapped at 3 p.m. July 21 at the Eccentric Café in downtown Kalamazoo.
Brewed with paradise seeds, rose hips and habaneros at our original brewery located next to the Cafe, this dry habanero-ed IPA or Strong Pale Ale comes in at 6.4% ABV.
Groff, who is originally from Troy and now lives in Climax, has been homebrewing off and on since about 1999. Although he points out that he has brewed a lot more since joining the Kalamazoo Libation Organization of Brewers (KLOB), a local homebrewing club based in Kalamazoo, a couple of years ago.
He decided the day before picking up his Bell’s wort to experiment with peppers, something he had wanted to do for a short while. He used habaneros that he grew.
But don’t let the pepper factor scare you away. There’s just the right amount of heat, hence the name.
“It is well balanced and is not as spicy as people may think. The spice is enough to recognize that’s it in there and that it is peppery,” Groff said.
It comes out a bit more in the finish, he said.
Groff, along with Brewery Manager Andy Farrell and Specialty Brewer Zeke Bogan brewed about 10 barrels of A Bit of Heat in June on Bell’s 15-barrel system. This is also where Bell’s brews its experimental and small batch beers like The Wild One and an ongoing series of beers that use experimental hops directly from growers’ trial plots among others.
“The fact that you can brew 10 barrels in not more than a few hours longer then it might take a homebrewer to make five to ten gallons is quite cool,” Groff said.
Groff is a substitute teacher in Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties and hopes to start brewing professionally, perhaps even open his own brewery, someday.
Bell’s 3rd Annual Homebrew Expo and Competition Kick-off will be held on Sept. 8.

Grand Rapids has yet another reason to toast the town. Ten area breweries have teamed to create Beer City Pale Ale, a new craft beer produced in celebration of both the city’s newest title and Craft Beer Month beginning July 1.

“The breweries came together in a fun and fitting way to honor Grand Rapids’ newest claim to fame as ‘BeerCity USA’ and July’s month‐long celebration of craft beer. Cheers to each of them for such a creative and collaborative approach to making the most of these well‐deserved accolades,” said Experience Grand Rapids President Doug Small.

The breweries collaborated on a recipe that resulted in a red pale ale, amply hopped with all Michigan grown cascade and nugget hops. Each brewery produced their own version of the beer, which they will offer on tap throughout July.

Participating breweries include Harmony Brewing Company, The Hideout Brewing Company, White Flame Brewing Company, Jaden James Brewing Company, Michigan Beer Cellar, Pike 51, The BOB, HopCat, Founders Brewing Co. and Schmohz Brewery.

According to Barry VanDyke of Harmony Brewing Company, a “few other bars lucky enough to get their hands on a keg will sell the beer as well.”

Last month, Grand Rapids was named “BeerCity USA 2012” in a nationwide poll. The city shares the crown with Ashville, N.C. following a dead heat tie. In recognition of the burgeoning industry across the state, the Michigan State Legislature designated July as Craft Beer Month.


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