LANSING, Mich— A 2-year version of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA), which lowers the federal excise tax for breweries, was passed on Wednesday, December 20, 2017  by the 115th U.S. Congress. This savings will allow Michigan’s nearly 300 small brewers, including many manufacturers and entrepreneurs, to reinvest in their businesses, expand their operations and hire more workers.

Under the bill, the federal excise tax will be reduced to $3.50/barrel (from $7/barrel) on the first 60,000 barrels for domestic brewers producing less than 2 million barrels annually, and reduced to $16/barrel (from $18/barrel) on the first 6 million barrels for all other brewers and all beer importers. The bill would maintain the current $18/barrel rate for barrelage over 6 million. The legislation is currently written as a 2-year provision. The provisions of this bill are effective January 1, 2018.

The effort to bring meaningful federal excise tax relief to small brewers has been a primary political objective for the Brewers Association (BA) and state guild from across the country for almost 10 years.

“We would like to thank all of our brewery members who have helped support of this effort over the years traveling to DC and reaching out locally to emphasize the importance of this legislation and how it will help stimulate economic growth and create jobs throughout Michigan. We would especially like to recognize the Brewers Association for their tireless leadership,” Scott Graham, Executive Director of the Michigan Brewers Guild.

“Our expectation is that small brewers will use their savings related to the re-calibration of the federal excise tax on beer to invest in their breweries, expand their operations, create more jobs and hire more American workers,” said Bob Pease, president and CEO, Brewers Association. “We are very appreciative that Congress has enacted these bipartisan, strongly supported measures.”

“We are very excited to invest our tax savings back into our brewery and our people,” says David Manson, Ambassador of Fermentology of Blackrocks Brewery in Marquette.

Currently, Michigan craft brewers contribute over $2 billion to the state’s economy and are responsible for an estimated 14,400+ jobs.

We’d like to thank House of Representatives co-sponsors Jack Bergman (R), Bill Huizenga (R), John Moolenaar (R), Daniel Kildee (D), Fred Upton (R), Tim Walberg (R), Mike Bishop (R), Paul Mitchell (R), David Trott (R), Debbie Dingell (D), John Conyers, Jr. (D), and Brendan Lawrence (D); as well as Senate co-sponsors Debbie Stabenow (D) Gary Peters (D) who supported the bill> for joining 303 and 54 of their House and Senate colleagues as co-sponsors of this bill. Their support will help <State>’s small and independent brewers continue to grow and thrive.


suds and snow

Over a decade ago, Suds & Snow started as a small beer festival meant to break up the winter. On Saturday, the 11th annual Suds & Snow was larger and more alive than ever.

Held at Timber Ridge Resort each March, Suds & Snow continues to be the “ultimate party in the woods.” Throughout the remainder of the year, Timber Ridge Resort is a campground; in the winter, however, it transforms into a place where locals can still enjoy the outdoors. The resort hosts fat tire bike races throughout the winter, maintains groomed cross-country ski trails, and finishes the season with a unique beer festival.

suds and snow

With a Mardi Gras theme, this year’s Suds & Snow was colorful, light-hearted, and full of funk and jazz. Many attendees return each year, bringing along new friends to enjoy the festival. There were over 2,500 tickets sold online for this year’s festival, with even more sold at the door. Offered again this year were early bird and VIP tickets, which allowed early access into the festival as well as an exclusive festival Silipint.

Upon arriving to the festival, attendees had to make the legendary hike back into the woods. The festival could be found in a valley toward the back of the resort, encircled in breweries, food vendors, and live music.

The festival set up in the valley allowed for what seemed like two different festivals. The front space adorned a bonfire and live music as well as hilltop adirondack chairs and cornhole. A throughway in the middle led to the back of the festival which featured more breweries, food vendors, and a DJ.

This year, the festival hosted 23 breweries from around the state, including Beards Brewery, New Holland Brewing, Tandem Ciders, and Blackrocks Brewery.

The food vendors were local favorites, MI Grille and Roaming Harvest. MI Grille served a Mardi Gras jambalaya while Roaming Harvest featured their well-liked tacos.

The live music exemplified the theme, bringing a little bit of New Orleans to Northern Michigan. Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish, from Grand Rapids, energized the crowds with their upbeat rockabilly-influenced music. Hannah Rose & The Gravetones kicked things up with an interesting mix of funk, jazz, blues, and rock. Tell Yo Mama closed out the night with an eclectic mix of cover songs.

The 12th Annual Suds & Snow will take place at the beginning of March 2018, and is sure to be even more memorable. You can visit their website for updates and more information.


Photography: Kaitlyn Rickman

up beer fest

Nothing could stop people from enjoying U.P. Beer Fest this past Saturday.

Not the 10-hour drive to Marquette (for downstate attendees).

Not the monsoon rainfall that started at nine o’clock that morning and didn’t stop until six o’clock that night.

And definitely not the mud pit or creek of flood water that surrounded all of the beer tents.

Everyone was just too determined to have fun and drink great Michigan beer.

It makes sense. Although it may not be official, the term “favorite festival” is uttered by many in regards to this annual September event. For craft staff, September means summer madness is finally slowing down. There is an air of relaxation around it all—a loosening of the tension between shoulders.

As for attendees—a majority are Upper Peninsula residents, and their love for their region is palpable and proud. Nothing at all would sway them to say anything negative about the festival. It’s on their home turf—the beautiful Lower Mattson Park on Lake Superior—providing excellent views and close vicinity to downtown happenings.

Between the great hospitality of Marquette and the impressive organizational skills of the Michigan Brewers Guild, everyone is happy.

The Guild’s only one-day festival on their yearly calendar, there was still plenty of time to experience all the activities surrounding the U.P. festival. Leading up to Saturday was Marquette Craft Beer Week, a whole week dedicated to blending the local craft scene with other breweries from all over the state. Marquette restaurants, taprooms, and bottle shops played host to a variety of awesome happenings: White’s Party Store, an amazing local bottle shop and homebrew equipment destination, hosted multiple tastings with Upper Hand Brewery, New Holland Brewing, and Bell’s Brewery.

Jamie Strand, owner of White’s as well as the head organizer of Marquette Craft Beer Week, said the participation reach-out had been amazing.

“It used to be U.P. Craft Beer Week, but Marquette is such a center for craft beer in this region that it made sense to make the change.”

A Pint Above, a nonprofit organization celebrating Marquette’s craft scene, was on hand to help provide pourers at the festival as well as help coordinate events throughout the week.

Local Marquette brewery Blackrocks held their special release of barrel-aged Gnomas, a delicious and higher gravity twist on the original recipe, at their downtown production facility. Short’s Brewing Company premiered a special pairing menu with Lagniappe’s, a local Cajun Creole eatery. The Recovery Room, a newly opened restaurant and bar in place of the old Rover, hosted a double Tap Takeover alongside Dragonmead Microbrewery and Beards Brewery.

There were plenty other special events to whet the taste buds leading up to U.P. Beer Fest.

This year, the festival itself played host to 6,000 people, 86 breweries, and countless drinking options. To start celebrating fall, many breweries brought beers to highlight the seasonal transition. Oktoberfests, Brown Ales, Barrel Aged Stouts and Porters—they were all popular choices, especially as the day boasted cooler weather and rain that blasted through waterproof gear.

Fetch Brewing Company brought their Mad Swag Triple IPA, a deliciously malt-forward and hop-forward beer that made the taste buds sing with bitterness.

Many people went feverishly from booth to booth, asking after an infamous peanut butter Stout that turned out to be Grand Armory Brewing Company’s Nutter Your Business.

People jumped across a creek of flood water to drink the Tobacconist Porter by Our Brewing Company.

David Gill, President of the local Marquette Homebrewers, said fondly, “It’s been nothing but rain at all of the U.P. festivals this year, so maybe this is just us saving up our karma points for next year. Although weather will never stop people up here from attending a beer fest.”

With so many great distractions from the weather, attendees and breweries alike had a fabulous time. And sure, when the torrential downpour came down like a nonstop wave of water, 6,000 people crushed under all of the beer tents and brew staff held onto their tent poles for dear life; but it was no matter—it just brought people closer together and closer to the beer.


ABV: 6%
IBUs: 30

I have a feeling that the folks at Blackrocks know a thing or two about surviving Michigan winters.

Located in Marquette in the U.P., winter starts sooner and ends later than most places in the country below 5,000 feet above sea level. I figured that if I were looking for a winter beer to review, then Blackrocks Brewery would be a good place to start.

It seems as though Blackrocks took a slightly different approach to this winter ale. What one expects from most winter seasonals probably involves a boozier ABV, baking spices and considerable sweetness. North Third Stout feels as though it’s the younger sibling to all those characteristics.

Appearance: North Third Stout pours black with a dark tan head. There’s plenty of foam to go around, and it sticks around for as much time as you could spend drinking it. This makes for some festive lacing, as though it should be hung on your Christmas tree (or perhaps you can just use the can to build your Festivus pole).

Aroma: Notes of heavy black malt and chocolate are forward. Behind those you can look for some faint sweetness and a pure, roasted malt aroma. Although some people might anticipate more of a holiday spice, or dessert feel, I have no complaints about the simplicity here.

Taste: The Taste pretty well lines up with the aroma. It’s simple, clean and roasty. Dark chocolate notes are heavy, and the highly roasted malt character comes through quite a bit more here. Thankfully, the roast character is far from seeming ashy or burnt.

Mouthfeel: This might be the only surprising part about the beer, in my opinion. There’s a bitterness that lingers a good handful of seconds longer than you’d imagine, which I find quite pleasant. The bitterness really doesn’t present itself on the tongue initially, which adds just enough complexity to keep this beer interesting, yet very drinkable.

Overall: Just as the can suggests, this beer is to be enjoyed after a day of skiing or snowboarding, next to a roaring fireplace. It’s a perfect beer to grab a six pack of, and throw back in a long weekend, or less. No surprises, no fatigued palate and no falling asleep in the middle of a conversation with your friends or significant other. Just remember to start drinking them after you’re done crushing slopes for the day!

5.5% ABV, Draft

Appearance: Deep amber with a light head
Aroma: Sweet malts with caramel wafts
Taste: Biscuity, caramel not overbearing, smooth finish
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied

This rich American Amber Ale is one of Blackrocks’ early recipes. The complex malt bill and hop schedule come together to give it an assuredly biscuity flavor with a slight hop conclusion. Caramel scents are very apparent but only come through in taste for a sweet, subtle finish.

5.5% ABV, Can

Appearance: Clear gold with a medium head.
Aroma: Citrus fruit with some yeast.
Taste: Similar to the aroma; sweet citrus with some bread-like flavors and wheat.
Mouthfeel: Light bodied.

Grand Rabbits, a cream ale by Marquette-based Blackrocks Brewery, is a play on the Grand Rapids name, thought of by the brewery during a visit to BeerCity USA. The ale is very drinkable, featuring flavors of citrus, bread and wheat. Grand Rabbits is a great spring-time beer, but can be enjoyed year-round, as it’s refreshing, crisp and flavorful.

9% ABV, Bottle

Appearance: Cloudy gold with a medium white head.
Aroma: Citrus fruit and some earthy notes.
Taste: Mild; not over-the-top in terms of bitterness. Citrus flavors are immediately present.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied.

Blackrocks Flying Hippo is the brewery’s first bottled beer — an Imperial Belgian IPA that rings in at 9% ABV. Flying Hippo is rather easy-drinking, not having the sharp bitterness that you might experience with other IPAs. Its crisp citrus flavors and Belgian yeast make this brew very enjoyable, offsetting some of the hop qualities.