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fermenta

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — Fermenta: Michigan Women’s Craft Collective, is co-hosting a spirits event at New Holland Brewing‘s The Knickerbocker Sunday, April 22 from 2-4pm.

For this “Shaking & Sipping” hands-on event, attendees will learn how to properly taste gin, rum, and bourbon while also making historically significant cocktails with each base spirit.

The event is open to the public, welcoming both Fermenta members and non-members to participate and partake. Ticket price includes samples of each liquor, three cocktails attendees will prepare and a light snack.

Limited tickets are available for purchase here: https://shakeandsip.eventbrite.com

Prices are $25 for non-members and $20 for members.

With each event Fermenta hosts, the non-profit raises money towards their scholarship fund to further women’s education in the craft beverage industry. This allows members to apply for and attend workshops, classes, and seminars around the state.

 

About
Fermenta is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit trade group initiated by Michigan women, committed to diversity, camaraderie, networking, and education within the craft beverage industry. The organization hosts events with an educational focus and networking opportunities and provides a network that encourages conversation about the importance of diversifying the craft alcohol industry, ways to foster progress, and provide opportunities for a variety of voices and visions

 

cocktail week gr

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich – Get ready to toast the return of Cocktail Week GR, November 8-19, celebrating Michigan craft spirits. The third annual event is hosted by Experience Grand Rapids and will highlight local distillers, specialized Cocktail Week GR Menus, and feature events organized by the U.S. Bartending Guild (USBG) – Grand Rapids chapter.

Throughout the 12-day event, participating local restaurants will offer two Michigan cocktails and an appetizer for $25 or less. Many local distilleries and restaurants will also offer special events and distillery tours, including the USBG Cocktail Contest at Stella’s Lounge and a “Sunday Funday” trolley tour to participating Cocktail Week GR bars.

Cocktail Week GR culminates with the annual Grand Rapids Wine, Beer and Food Festival at DeVos Place Convention Center, November 16-18. The event is the perfect complement to the festival’s Hemingway Hall venue, where craft producers and mixologists will showcase their finest spirits, mixers, garnishes and cocktails.

A full list of Cocktail Week GR events and happenings will be updated regularly at http://www.CocktailWeekGR.com. Participating restaurants and menus will be posted on October 31 with continued updates throughout the event.

Our Brewing

Our Brewing Company, a micro-brewery, small winery, and micro-distillery in the heart of downtown Holland, MI is still “smaller on purpose”—but they have recently added a twist to their lineup: draft cocktails.

What exactly are draft cocktails?

One thirst-inducing example of what to expect when ordering a draft cocktail would be Our Brewing Company’s own variation of a Vodka Spritz. Hand made in bulk using UltraPure, a gluten-free organic liquor, along with ingredients like fresh ruby and white grapefruit juice, with jalapeno agave simple syrup, mixed with just the right amount of fizz.

Our Brewing

Each cocktail is created, then placed into a keg to be served on draft alongside Our Brewing Company’s craft beer and cider, which are still at the front and center of their 20 draft-lines. At least 15-16 taps will remain craft beer, 2-3 ciders, and now approximately 1-2 draft cocktails will be featured daily. It will be as easy as ordering a craft beer or cider. If you’re in the mood for a cocktail, the bartender will simply need to add ice to a glass, pour the draft cocktail directly from the tap—just like they would for their beer or cider—and voila! Drinks for everyone!

 

If you are craving a craft beer with a bit of a twist, Our Brewing Company has you covered, as they have something on tap called the IPA G&T. Jenney Grant, Director of Leisure Craft Libations, describes this Beer-tail as “Combining the classic flavors of a Gin and Tonic with our Mosey Session IPA for the perfect summer libation.”

Our BrewingThe creativity doesn’t end there. Our Brewing Company will offer frozen cocktails via a slushy machine. Yacht Rock Punch—A special offering made in honor of the Yacht Rock! celebration on Saturday, June 18. “This frozen cocktail will make you feel like you’re sailing away with a flock of seagulls. Made with light and dark rum, house-made rhubarb syrup, crushed ice and a splash of lime,” Grant explains.

The cocktail recipes have been developed with the help of former Coppercraft Distillery bartenders and Our Brewing Company Co-Owner Trevor Doublestein. Making sure each recipe has the right proportion of ingredients is key. Too much alcohol, soda, or even fruit juice could ruin an entire batch. However, keeping things simple was important—especially during the summer months, when keeping lines short and glasses full is key.

“I think this is the future of cocktails. It’s awesome that we can add this to our brewery and be one of the first places to offer something as different and cool as draft cocktails,” Doublestein explains. “It’s great to be able to go into this as an opportunity to keep our creative juices flowing—not just with beer—but with fun, experimental cocktails. Doing it with no stress and having as much fun as we can while doing it!”

Our Brewing Company has bottled a few of their draft cocktails to have on hand in 10 oz bottles. If they have a week or two where the craft beer and cider is overflowing their draft-lines they can still pour the pre-mixed concoctions directly from the bottles for customers to savor and enjoy.

With clever craft beer concoctions, and humorous names to match the flavor—such as By The Sour of Greyskull sour beer, or Smackintosh cider—the creativity and whimsy that pours into to their craft beer and cider has seamlessly flowed into their draft cocktail lineup.

While they have begun with familiar cocktails, like a Moscow Mule or a Manhattan, they have absolutely put their Our Brewing Company spin on it. For instance, they decided to add citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges alongside pomegranate to a Gin and Tonic. Boom. Now that classic Gin and Tonic has turned into a different experience altogether!

Our Brewing

Our Brewing Company’s entire draft-line will remain seasonal. If it isn’t fresh, they will not use it—something that has always held true for all of their beverages. This code of freshness typically pleases customers palates as well. Most of their patrons aren’t craving a hot chocolate in the summer, or salivating for a watermelon cocktail in January for that matter.

Our Brewing Company will be celebrating their Draft Cocktail release with a Yacht Rock! Costume Party on Saturday, June 18 at 8 p.m. Offering up 4 – 6 cocktails on tap and in bottles, including Sangria: Fruit, Brandy and Wine. Need we say more? Golden Sunset Punch: Whiskey, honey syrup and a bit of lemon. Top if off with a bit of mint and you’ll be able to taste a Lake Michigan sunset. Plus a special surprise cocktail to be released Saturday night.

 

Sponsored by Our Brewing

Photography: Steph Harding

gray skies distillery

For Brandon Voorhees and Steve Vander Pol, co-founders of Gray Skies Distillery, longtime friends, and Grand Rapids natives, the entrepreneurial spirit has ran through their blood for two generations. Voorhees’ father and grandfather, and Vander Pol’s father were business owners who raised them on the value that a viable idea is just a little hard work away from becoming an achievable reality.

Every day for two years while living in Denver, Vander Pol drove past Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey on his way to and from work. When he finally stopped in to visit, he was captivated by the distillery’s whiskey and atmosphere. As soon as he got his first fix of this budding scene in Denver, Vander Pol knew that crafts spirits were going to be what propelled him home to Grand Rapids.

gray skies distillery

In January 2014, Vander Pol made a phone call to Voorhees that changed both of their lives. Voorhees recounted that Vander Pol’s call on that gray and dreary winter day in Grand Rapids was “totally unexpected and out of the blue,” but one he’s thankful he received.

Vander Pol cut straight to the point with Voorhees, who was big into craft beer, and a homebrewer, “Would you ever consider going one step further, and making liquor? There’s a really amazing craft spirits movement happening out here in Denver, and I think opening a distillery would be something the community in Grand Rapids would be interested in, too.”

The idea peaked Voorhees’ interest. As soon as he hung up the phone with Vander Pol, he Googled “how to make whiskey,” downloaded a 150-page how-to guide on the subject, and read it in its entirety before he went to bed. Voorhees called Vander Pol back the next morning and committed without hesitation, “Let’s do it.”

Now business partners overnight, both men spent the following six months diving into the legalities of owning a business and the logistics of securing a building. Simultaneously, they absorbed every bit of knowledge they knew they would need. Vander Pol took classes in Denver and Louisville, while Voorhees did the same in Lansing, and both met for a week-long immersion workshop at Breckenridge Distillery. They pursued educating themselves on the good faith that by the time they secured a location they’d be fully prepared to deliver on their their first batch.

They were fortunate to find a building in the North Monroe industrial district. It’s an area they originally had in their sights — they could feel its presence as an extension of downtown, and foresaw its attraction to other businesses, and ultimately guests. At 13,000 sq ft, it was a little larger than essential to begin operations, but its footprint allows them to scale comfortably — especially for barrel storage, as their popularity grows.

The building was in “very rough shape” when they bought it, but they embraced it and restored it from the ground up. It needed a new ceiling, walls, electric, plumbing, HVAC — “pretty much everything,” the owners said. Vander Pol expressed, “We were very intentional about this neighborhood. We fell in love with the area because it was half-empty, but all full with potential to create positive synergy with the city and our neighbors.”

Vander Pol’s idea and Voorhees’ willing pivot from craft beer to spirits paid off when Gray Skies officially opened their tasting room March 17, 2016. Now the second distillery in Grand Rapids, alongside Long Road Distillers, they’re honored by the opportunity to elevate awareness for spirits in a city with such a strong affinity for craft beverages. Voorhees affirmed, “It’s exciting for us that we get to establish a relationship with the community and create connections with the consumer all by sharing our passion for making a quality product rooted in Michigan.”

As a small-batch distillery, distilling 500 gallons per batch at a time, Gray Skies is special in that they are grain to glass. Vander Pol explains, “We bring in whole grains — mill, mash, ferment, and distill them — all on site. And, by using all local Michigan grains, we can create mash bills that are exclusive to us.” They did just that with a toasted barley that’s never been used anywhere else, supplied by Pilot Malt House, for their first American single-malt whiskey, which will be available this December.

Gray Skies prides themselves on not conforming to the same expectations as their mass-producing, macro peers. Instead of repeating the same static liquor year in and year out, Voorhees said, “We’re doing classic spirits in a modern way. For me, small-batch means versatility.”

He’s particularly enthusiastic about taking creative liberties when it makes sense, “We have the freedom to experiment with some really unique things to push the envelop with flavor profiles.” Their Barrel Finished Hopped Gin is a testament to that. The introduction of Citra hops to the botanical profile is an invigorating take on gin that gives a clever nod to Grand Rapids’ craft aficionados who would appreciate its inclusion.

The experience Gray Skies provides in their tasting room is personal. It’s a chance to engage with both owners and bar staff in a meaningful way — one that’s different from ordering a drink in a bar and then becoming anonymous in a crowd. They serve over ten cocktails on a regularly rotating menu that feature either their gin or Utility Vodka. The drinks are impressive, mixed with house-made liqueurs, fresh fruit, or herbs. And, worth the visit alone is their scratch-made Moscow Mule… wait for it… on tap(!).

In addition to their gin and vodka, which are available by the bottle at their tasting room and in limited distribution around West Michigan, Gray Skies is moving to expand their portfolio. This summer, they’re set to release a spiced rum aged in red wine barrels, which will also see distribution. By the end of the year, they’ll add a white rum, apple brandy, and barrel-aged apple brandy aged in Journeyman Distillery rye barrels.

For the true connoisseurs of brown spirits, Gray Skies knows that good things come to those who wait. Taking very seriously the traditional methods for the two spirits they hope to ultimately be recognized for, Gray Skies will release their first straight bourbon and rye whiskies in 2018. Both have already been laid down in new white oak barrels to age for the next two years.

In the meantime, Gray Skies will shine.

 

Photography: Steph Harding

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.  

MittenBrew

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.


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