Posts

GRAND RAPIDS – The 5th Annual Wood Aged Beer Fest (WABF) at Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids has come and gone. Friends, if you weren’t able to attend one of the two sessions on Saturday September 19th, I’m really, very sorry.

The ease and astute organizational flow of this beer festival have only improved since the first barrel-aged brew was poured.

“Having done this for five years, every year has been different,” said Brewery Vivant Owner Jason Spaulding. “We try to learn as we go, and focus in on a few things. We were in the street last year, and it seemed more of a street party atmosphere. We’re back in the parking lot [this year], and it’s more intimate. People have more time to enjoy the event and enjoy the beer. We tried to make sure it’s about the beer.”

Which, it is, of course. Previous WABFs have spawned larger production of favorites, such as the Wizard Burial Ground, a bourbon barrel-aged Quad. It was so loved by attendees, Brewery Vivant decided to scale up production and release it on a wider scale. Like Spaulding said, WABF is a big experiment—an opportunity for Vivant to test brews and have fun and for the public to help shape the future flavor profile of beers to come.

Twenty six beers were available during each of the two sessions held this year—another new component to the festival. An afternoon session and evening session, with an hour in between for cleanup and last call, seemed to go smoothly and everyone was able to taste to their hearts’ content without massive lines and crowded seating.

John Ward , Vivant’s Experience Warden, dressed appropriately in monk garb, said that “more than anything, we wanted to make it more accessible, not have 1200 people at a time, 1800 people at a time. Your lines are more cluttered, there are more things that can go wrong. This makes it easier on us, better for them, and a better overall experience.”

It was definitely a good experience. So many notable and fun beers available in one place, it’s hard to pick standouts, but I’ll try.

Angelina is the girl with lots of fests under her belt. Vivant’s first barrel ever, she’s been around for as long as the brewery has. A 6.7% ABV oak-aged house Sour, this beer is a good representation of what Vivant is.

Paris is another girl we’ve seen before. The nature of barrel aging makes things a little different each go around, and it’s usually a wonderful surprise. A wild red wine barrel-aged Saison, the mild funk works well with the notes the red wine imparts.

A few firkins were available. The unique properties of cask conditioning beer and serving it at a warmer temperature make for some very tasty, more traditional, and often surprising results, like the Tree Bucket Double IPA aged on brandy-soaked cherrywood.

Dead Wizard in the Basement, Wizard Burial Ground oak barrel aged with brettanomyces yeast came in at 11% ABV, making for a heady beer. Guardian of the Universe, a traditional, northern France biere de garde—Vivant’s Verdun—aged in a white wine barrel, had just enough tartness and twist but still kept true to its roots in a delicious way.

Head brewer Jacob Derylo, of course, loved everything, but he did share that Coming Up Peaches, a bourbon barrel-aged Tripel with fresh-from-the-farmers market peaches, might be his favorite this year.

“We’re having fun, making cool beer, and meeting cool people,” said Derylo. “I wake up every morning and want to go to work. I love my job. I make people happy. Not everyone can say that.”

Brewery Vivant has been a mainstay of the burgeoning East Hills area in Grand Rapids. They have witnessed new stores, restaurants, and community members become part of their circle. They give back to the community, in more ways than just providing beer. The WABF is a gathering place—an opportunity to talk to your neighbors and talk to those folks you haven’t seen in a few months, all over an expertly crafted glass of barrel-aged goodness.

“Why is it so popular? Because it’s cool. And it tastes delicious. It’s that simple,” said Derylo.

 

GRAND RAPIDS – Grand Rapids Beer Tours is once again offering outings combining beer and art for the city’s ArtPrize event.

Since beginning operations in June 2014, they’ve been giving locals and visitors a way to experience Beer City’s lively craft beverage scene with a personal aspect.

Brian Haik, Owner and Tour Guide, is a born and raised Grand Rapidian. He attended Grand Valley State University with the intention of becoming a history teacher, but decided that teaching people about the history of beer was a more desirable ambition.

Danielle Haik, Brian’s wife, helps run the walking tours. They have three additional tour guides and drivers to handle the burgeoning business.

This is the second year they’re scheduling ArtPrize tours. They begin with a walking tour taking place on the first day of the competition, Wednesday, September 23rd, from 3pm to 6pm.

“The walking tour has you going to four venues this year—Founders, HopCat, Grand Rapids Brewing Company, and BOB’s Brewery,” said Brian Haik.

“The driving tour goes to Founders, Mitten Brewing Company off of Leonard and then Grand Rapids brewing Company,” he added.

If you’re contemplating joining them on one of their popular tours, you’ll need to make your reservation soon. Spaces are limited and many tour sessions are already booked solid.

“There are a lot of extra people in town who want to drink beer and who want to do ArtPrize,” said Haik.

Grand Rapids Beer Tours specializes in providing an intimate experience.

“It’s not like a giant party bus,— we’re not like some companies where their specialty is just transportation. Our specialty is taking people to places and experiencing the breweries. We prefer to keep it smaller, that’s why we have a fifteen-passenger van.”

People appreciate having a responsible driver for a day of drinking with friends.

“On a four hour driving tour, for example, samples equal about a pitcher of beer per person. That’s a good amount, and they don’t have to worry about driving at all!” he said.

“What separates us is we educate people on the tours. It’s not going to be a booze cruise,” said Haik. “You’re going to be learning about the breweries you go to, learning about the beers, and you’ll get a behind-the-scenes brewery tour at one of the stops.”

“I’m passionate about what I do. I have love for the culture and Grand Rapids, it’s my home,” he added.

Future plans include tours to areas of the lakeshore from Saugatuck to Traverse City. They’re entertaining the idea of doing a cider tour, and possibly a gluten-free tour that includes mead if there’s enough interest to support it.

Private tours are available in addition to public tours shown online.

“Sixty to seventy percent of our tours are private tours. Bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, birthday parties, business groups,” said Haik. “We’ve had people from pretty much every continent already. From China, Guatemala, Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand, all over the whole world really.”

They’re capable of filling a gap in public transportation, sometimes driving from the city to the lake shore to pick up a tour group for a day of brewery-hopping. They can also offer hotel pickup and drop off in many places, ask for availability when you book your tour.

Drink craft beer, wine, and cider at the Cheers to Michigan Brew Fest and help raise money for a good cause. Financial advisors Waddell & Reed are sponsoring this beer festival at The Deltaplex on Saturday, Sept. 26 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. to benefit Friends & Families of Cystic Fibrosis (FFCF).

The event will include over 20 craft breweries, wineries, and cider mills. Bands Fast Hand Blues Band, Forrester, Jesse Cline & Michael Carnavo, Fled Five, and Pop Cult will provide musical entertainment, along with DJ Jason Veeder.

The goal is to raise awareness and funds for those afflicted with the life-threatening genetic disorder. FFCF is a local nonprofit organization that keeps the funds it raises in the West Michigan region. Those involved in the organization make care packages for children and young adults who are hospitalized with the disease, assist families with medical supplies and equipment that may not be covered by insurance, and help families contending with the disorder with a variety of other costs.

Advance admission is going for $35 and includes entry, 15 tasting tickets, and an FFCF collectible beer mug. Admission at the door will be $45. Tickets are available online. Visit the FFCF website to learn more about the event.

b04de981e801362b841d6b3e9dd29760_f1996

KALAMAZOO – Think your homebrew is a winner? Enter it in the annual Bell’s Homebrew Competition on Sept. 19 at the Kick-Off and Expo event at Bell’s Eccentric Café, and you could find yourself in Denver for the 2016 Great American Beer Festival (GABF).

The first place winner gets to brew his or her recipe at Bell’s original brewery and have it served on tap at the Eccentric Café. The first place winner will also win a free trip to the 2016 GABF in Denver as a guest of Bell’s Brewery with exclusive access to some of the festival’s events.

Bell’s will cover the airfare cost of a round trip to Denver—so long as the winner is within the continental U.S.—as well as lodging for two nights. While the winner is in Denver, he or she will team up with Bell’s for the 2016 Pro-Am Competition, which pairs homebrewers with commercial brewers to compete for top honors. The winner will also attend the awards ceremony and members-only session.

The only requirement of entering the competition is that participants use Bell’s wort in their brew, which they can obtain at Bell’s Homebrew Competition Kick-Off and Expo event on Sept. 19.

The Kick-Off and Expo event will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and sign-up for wort pick-up will start immediately at 11 a.m. and distribution of the wort will start at 1 p.m. Only a limited amount of wort is available, so it will be distributed in a first-come-first-served fashion. In the past years, over 200 individuals have been able to receive wort.

Learn more about the event here and start planning your perfect recipe. Entries are due by Oct. 25 at 7 p.m.

KALAMAZOO – Bell’s Brewery, Inc. celebrated its 30th anniversary on Saturday with its own beer festival dubbed “Funvitational.”

Homer Stryker Field was transformed into a carnival atmosphere complete with a Ferris wheel, games, photo booth, and food vendors. The main features, though, were the beer tents spread around the field that housed ninety breweries from near and far. Many of them had never served beers in Michigan before and don’t distribute here. All of the local Kalamazoo breweries were invited to participate alongside those from as far away as Belgium. Each guest brewery’s table had two taps for serving its carefully curated selections.

Guests arrived at the festival grounds on foot, by bike, and in cars, buses, and shuttles—including the silly, yet functional Big Banana Car.

The 3,000 ticket holders began their celebration as early as noon in a holding area where they exchanged their shiny multicolored event ticket for a wristband, commemorative tasting glass, and a guide booklet containing pages of carnival style tickets valid for 12 beer samples and $8 worth of food. They were able to bring and share their favorite beers while waiting for the festival to begin. Many rare and special brews were being passed around from group to group as they anticipated the official start.

When the time came to move from the holding area to the the festival site, the Detroit Party Marching Band led the line with their enthusiastic style of showmanship and lively tunes.

Numerous breweries deviated from their announced plans and brought special surprises. Perhaps the biggest was Cigar City Brewing from Florida who brought its coveted Double Barrel Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout, a beer brewed only once and now retired. Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project from Colorado pleased fans of its Petite Sour series by adding Raspberry to its lineup.

Russian River Brewing Company from California served Supplication and its highly rated Pliny the Elder Double IPA, although it wasn’t Pliny’s debut in Michigan as it had been served at the American Homebrewers Association conference in Grand Rapids last year. The line for its table stretched across the field until the taps ran dry midway through the evening.

Bell’s served more than 30 beers at its home plate setup, as well as several from its Upper Hand Brewery division that doesn’t distribute in the Lower Peninsula. Bell’s Brewery’s retired Batch Number series was well represented with six of the earliest incarnations on tap. New beers created for the occasion made their debuts throughout the event.

BellsFunvitational (1)

“When we started planning this a year ago it was like ‘Ok, we know this is our 30th anniversary, what do we need to do to make sure that we have enough awesome beer to do it?’” said Vice President Laura Bell. “Because we can’t just put something in a barrel and then two weeks later have it be what you want it to be or try to organize all of the brews so, yeah, we’ve been working for about a year to make sure we had new and different exciting stuff.”

Guests and breweries alike were buzzing about Funvitational being one of the most organized and enjoyable events they’ve been a part of. Anne Sprecher of Wisconsin’s Sprecher Brewing Company, which also celebrated its 30th anniversary of brewing recently, said “This is awesome. Very well organized and it is what they say it is, it’s fun!”

“Our goal is to make this fun for brewers, too, right? You get invited to beer festivals and you’ve got to set up your own shit, and so everything is already tapped and set up for the brewers (at Funvitational),” said Bell. “All they have to do is show up and they get to play for an hour before everybody gets here. If you’re throwing a birthday party you don’t tell people to come and do all the work.”

Many Bell’s Brewery employees were part of the ample workforce who did the preparation and continued to ensure a smooth day for all in attendance.

Maine Brewing Company owner Daniel Kleban, who has roots in Michigan, spoke highly of his experience.

“I had no idea what to expect coming to this festival. I was just happy to be invited because I have a great respect for Larry and Laura, and John [Mallett, Director of Operations], and what they’ve done here with this brewery,” he said. “I had no idea if people would know who we were. I mean, we don’t sell beer here so it’s great,” he added about the welcome he’s received by people coming to his table for pours of Lunch and Another One.

“Obviously we love Michigan beer, and there are festivals that showcase that and the Guild does a fantastic job doing that,” said Bell. “We wanted to do something a little bit different, and having the opportunity to have breweries from all over the world here who don’t distribute to our state and to get to bring that here is something that we’re really proud of and excited for.”

“I think people take beer too seriously sometimes and at the end of the day, we make beer and beer is fun so let’s celebrate not only being able to drink some really great beers but have fun with our community,” said Bell. “Just take a deep breath, enjoy yourselves, don’t think about it too hard!”

A fireworks display behind home plate closed the festival after a rousing speech by President and Founder Larry Bell as he and his hard-working team were applauded by the crowd. Afterward, many people made their way to the Bell’s Beer Garden for the final outdoor show of the season, a free dance party with DJ sets of funk and soul music.

HARBOR SPRINGS – You know what would make a romantic fall resort stay even more romantic? A beer festival. That’s exactly what Boyne Highland Resort plans to host. The second annual Hops ‘n Highlands Microbrew Festival will take place Sept. 26 from 1-6 p.m, and festival-goers can enjoy chairlift-views of the changing colors and surrounding lakes, zip-line rides above the festival grounds, and discounted spa services.
Admission is free for attendees aged 21 and older, and four-ounce pours of over 150 beers from more than 40 Michigan breweries will go for $2. Those who want to take advantage of even more resort services can reserve a special Hops ‘n Highlands event package, which includes hotel lodging right at the resort, an hors d’oeuvres reception with Michigan beers on tap, a breakfast buffet, a commemorative t-shirt and pint glass, and 5 drink tickets, starting at $105 per person.
The event will feature classic festival eats, including grilled brats and a variety of selections from local food trucks. Entertainment during the festival will be provided by Huckleberry Groove, and even more is scheduled to follow after the festival ends at 6 p.m.
Learn more about the event on the Boyne Highlands website.

HARBOR SPRINGS – You know what would make a romantic fall resort stay even more romantic? A beer festival. That’s exactly what Boyne Highland Resort plans to host. The second annual Hops ‘n Highlands Microbrew Festival will take place Sept. 26 from 1-6 p.m, and festival-goers can enjoy chairlift-views of the changing colors and surrounding lakes, zip-line rides above the festival grounds, and discounted spa services.

Admission is free for attendees aged 21 and older, and four-ounce pours of over 150 beers from more than 40 Michigan breweries will go for $2. Those who want to take advantage of even more resort services can reserve a special Hops ‘n Highlands event package, which includes hotel lodging right at the resort, an hors d’oeuvres reception with Michigan beers on tap, a breakfast buffet, a commemorative t-shirt and pint glass, and 5 drink tickets, starting at $105 per person.

The event will feature classic festival eats, including grilled brats and a variety of selections from local food trucks. Entertainment during the festival will be provided by Huckleberry Groove, and even more is scheduled to follow after the festival ends at 6 p.m.

Learn more about the event on the Boyne Highlands website.

MARQUETTE Ask anyone at the U.P. Fall Beer Festival and he or she will say it’s the favorite festival of the year. Of course, under the influence of amazing craft beer, it’s easy to say that about any festival.

However, this seems to be the feeling across the board—for both Upper Peninsula locals and Michiganders making the long trek up north. Perhaps it was the beautiful September weather—60 degrees and sunny—a perfect afternoon to usher in the fall season. Or maybe it was the location—Mattson Lower Harbor Park—a beautiful green space in Marquette’s harbor next to the historic ore docks.

More likely, it was a combination of weather, location, beer, and the excellent hospitality offered by the community of Marquette. Like most cities who host a Michigan Brewer’s Guild event, local businesses and residents welcomed visitors from all over the state to embrace Michigan craft.

Unlike other guild fests, the U.P. Fest only took place on Saturday instead of the customary Friday-Saturday block. But this hardly inhibited the merriment. Most festival-goers and brewery representatives made the festival a long weekend journey, with down-staters stopping on the way up to experience other beer destinations and catch up with their northern acquaintances.

Trevor Doublestein, owner at Our Brewing Company in Holland, MI, stopped in his Michigan birthplace of Petoskey on his way up to Marquette, bringing his father, Erwin, with him. “I came up with Trevor. I’ve been living in Holland for three years to help with the brewery,and I’ll be moving back to Petoskey soon. But this weekend I’ll be pouring and drinking with Trevor.”

The Our team connected with Beards Brewery in Petoskey, storing their kegs there before the next half of their journey to the U.P. And they were not the only ones stopping to take a beer break—soon Beards had staff from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales as well as official guild volunteers and attendees filling up the bar seats. Everyone was happily surprised to meet each other, catch up, and discuss the upcoming festivities.

When Saturday rolled around and the festival gates opened, everyone was ready to sample over 450 different beers from the 65 breweries that made it to Marquette. U.P breweries played excellent hosts to all of their visitors and counterparts while they juggled both pub crowds and festival crowds.

“This is a crazy, crazy weekend for us, but it’s going great,” said Dan Andrews, Blackrocks Brewery manager.

Michigan Brewer’s Guild festivals offer great variety from all regions of Michigan, and guests were treated to all styles of beer. Kuhnenn Brewing Company’s well known Fluffer IPA was featured, but it was also remixed into Grapefruit, Habanero, and Mango versions. Brewery Vivant kicked off the fall seasonal brews with Pumpkin Tart, a Belgian-inspired Ale brewed with real pumpkin. And Brewery Becker had attendees drinking in the old-style of the Vikings with Vargdricka, a Scandinavian Farmhouse Ale.

Veteran breweries supplied brilliant beer options as always, but there were also newer breweries to discover. River’s Edge Brewing Company (Milford), Cognition Brewing Company (Ishpeming), and Tripel Root (Zeeland) were all enthusiastic pourers at the festival, reminding us all that the craft beer industry is still growing across the state.

“We have made everything ourselves, from our beer to our tables, chairs, and building renovations,” said Laura Gentry, part owner and founder of Tripel Root.

They opened their brewpub in Zeeland this past December, bringing craft beer and the dining experience to the small community. The U.P. Beer Festival was their first, and they knew it was a no-brainer when they decided to come, bringing with them Kentucky Waterfall, a Bourbon Barrel-aged Black IPA and Perception Defines Reality, their already award-winning (3rd place People’s Choice Awards for Best Beer Name) Belgian Tripel.

“Both of us, my husband Nate and I, both went to Michigan Tech and love the U.P. And we knew coming to this festival would be more laid back and relaxed. I mean, it’s gorgeous!” said Gentry.

Lines at brewery booths may have been long, but there was plenty to see and plenty to do while waiting. Many were soaking up beer and sunshine while also enjoying a variety of food vendors and musical entertainment. The Aral Sea Divers, Conga Se Menne, Jerry Kippola, and Green Gene the singing farmer provided tunes for lawn lounging and relaxed dancing.

The festival may have ended at 6 p.m. sharp, but downtown Marquette was ready to continue the craft celebrations afterwards, with everyone flocking to local bars, restaurants, and breweries for more music, craft beer, and music.