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WHAT:             10th Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival

WHEN:             Thursday, Nov. 16 (5-10pm) | Friday, Nov. 17 (4-10pm) | Saturday, Nov. 18 (1-10pm)

WHERE:           DeVos Place, Downtown Grand Rapids

WHO:               Savor the largest and finest culinary experience in the Midwest during this annual pre-holiday celebration. Drawing more than 18,000 people—from the novice looking for an introduction to the world of  epicurean culture to the connoisseur who appreciates the finest things in life—this is the weekend to gather with family and friends for a night on the town.

*Attendance at this festival is for those 21 years of age and older. ID is required for admittance.

FEATURING:

Enhanced Elite Wine Collection: The nearly 50 offerings are hand-selected by our consulting sommeliers and importing specialists as the “best of the best” top shelf vintages (such as Opus 1, Robert Mondavi Reserve, Cakebread and Dom Perignon) with at least a 90-point value in a recognized wine rating system. Samples require a minimum 10-ticket ($5) tasting fee due to the value of the wines. Hosted by the Tasters Guild and located in the center of The Vineyard, inside the Steelcase Ballroom.

Note: The third Thursday of November is known as “Beaujolais Nouveau Day” to celebrate the release date around the world for this popular vin de primeur, fermented for just a few weeks before being released for sale. On the Festival’s opening day, the Tasters Guild will recognize 2017 Beaujolais Nouveau by hosting special pouring in the Elite Collection, presented by David Stanley—Wine & Beverage Steward at Meijer.

The Vineyard: Over 100 wineries from around the world provide samples of over 1,500 assorted wines – including some hard to find, top shelf vintages. Whether you’re looking for dry or sweet red, white, rose or sparkling wines, they’re all here from six continents for your sampling. Over 200 Michigan wines are featured. Located in the Steelcase Ballroom.

Hemingway Hall: Raise a glass and toast one of the world’s most noted cocktail enthusiasts, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author (and former northern Michigan summer resident), Ernest Hemingway. Featuring award-winning spirits, artisan cocktails and passionate mixologists with samples and workshops as part of Cocktail Week GR (hosted by Experience Grand Rapids). Mixers, seltzer waters and carbonated caffeinated products will also be featured. Located along the riverfront, adjacent to The Vineyard.

Craft cocktail workshops presented by Coppercraft Distillery and New Holland Artisan Spirits and provide unique hands-on experiences for those wishing to learn tricks of the trade from top leaders in the new Hemingway Hall. Space is limited to the first 12 who step up to the bar for these 15-minute sessions, with tasting tickets required for sampling. Select sessions with Coppercraft are being hosted by noted author and beverage expert, Philip Greene, from the Museum of American Cocktails in New Orleans.

Beer City Station: Step into the world of creative craft beers, imported and domestic brews, hard ciders and foods that pair well with both. Meet the American craft brewer—the small, independent and traditional producers who display passion and excitement for their unique beverages. Located in Exhibit Hall C, off the Grand Gallery

Cider Row: Tap into the Cider Row at the Festival, featuring more than 20 cider producers from Michigan and nationally-known brands. Hard cider is among the fastest growing craft beverages, on a national scale. It is fermented to produce a range of flavors – from dry to sweet. Featured in the Beer City Station in Exhibit Hall C, off the Grand Gallery.

Pairings: Select restaurants partner with distinguished wineries, breweries and distilleries for special Pairings – gourmet multi-course meals served on-site in a casual yet intimate “bar top” setting. Several seatings are offered each day by each of the restaurants. Tickets are $35-$70 each and may be purchased in advance online, or at the Festival, on a first-come, first-served basis.

Ultimate Dining Experiences: Chefs from a record number of 15 area restaurants prepare and serve small plates of their culinary specialties to enjoy while you stroll around inside DeVos Place.The featured restaurants will be located throughout the Festival and designated by a knife and fork insignia. Use your tasting tickets to enjoy their special presentations. A perfect opportunity for an unparalleled dining experience. You will not leave the Festival hungry!

RendezBREW: The Coffee, Cordials and Dessert Café will be open in the Grand Gallery for the duration of the Festival. Start your Festival experience, or make it a nightcap, with unique pairings of coffee and lattes with a variety of cordials, indulgent sweets and other treats.

Food & Beverage Seminars / Workshops: Esteemed individuals from the culinary world host lively and informative demonstrations on the Meijer Food Stage throughout the three-day Festival. Beverage seminars, held classroom-style in the rooms off the Grand Gallery, give attendees an in-depth look into the world of wine, beer and spirits. These are offered at no additional charge.

 

COST:              $15 – Thursday (and advanced ticket sales for Friday & Saturday)

$20 – Friday & Saturday

3-Day Pass – At $40, this option allows admission each day of the Festival and is intended for those who want to get the most out of their tasting experience. Online sales end Thursday, Nov. 16 at 5pm (Box Office sales for the pass end at 10pm on Thursday, Nov. 16).

Food and beverage samples require varied amounts of sampling tickets of 50-cent denominations (sold at the Festival). We suggest guests start with at least $20 worth of tasting tickets.

WEBSITE:       GRWineFestival.com

A Festival App is available in both the Android and Apple systems, this free app allows guests to peruse beverage lists (including notes, ratings and personalized lists), workshops/seminars, restaurant menus and also purchase admission and pairing tickets. Download it now and plan your visit, as well as use it to navigate the Festival.

 

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — More than 18,000 people are expected to enjoy a vast menu of food and beverage at the 9th Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival coming up Nov. 17-19 at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.

grw-3001This pre-holiday celebration welcomes everyone from the novice looking for an introduction to the world of epicurean culture to the connoisseur who appreciates the finest things in life. Considered a “night on the town” or the ultimate “Saturday afternoon tasting room experience,” this 3-day event exposes attendees to dozens of area restaurants and over a thousand wine, beer, cider, mead, malt beverage and spirit offerings. Complimentary workshops and seminars add to the overall experience.

New this year…

Enhanced Elite Wine Collection: First introduced last year, this feature has matured into its second year (just like a fine wine) and will be hosted by the Tasters Guild — an organization founded in Michigan in 1987 representing now over 30 active chapters throughout the country. The nearly 50 offerings in the Elite Wine Collection have been hand-selected by our consulting sommeliers and importing specialists as the “best of the best” top shelf vintages, chosen from among 1200 assorted wines at the Festival. These high-end wines—like Opus 1, Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon, and Dom Perignon—require a minimum 10-ticket ($5) tasting fee due to the cost of the product being served. Each of these wines have at least a 90-point value in a recognized wine rating system and are regarded as among the most exclusive wines of the Festival, according to industry experts. No need to invest hundreds of dollars in a full bottle — the Elite Wine Collection allows you the opportunity to sample these wines for a minimal cost. Located in the center of the Vineyard, inside the Steelcase Ballroom at DeVos Place.

The GR Mixer blends together award-winning spirits and mixers into craft artisan cocktails, the region’s noted mixologist and distillers who will serve up hands-on workshops guaranteed to educate and entertain. These complimentary 15-minute workshops will amp up your bar-tending skills, just in time for holiday entertaining with family and friends.

Nearly two dozen craft beverage workshops will be held throughout the weekend, presented by Coppercraft Distilling and New Holland Artisan Spirits. Held in the Secchia Lobby, running along the western edge of the Steelcase Ballroom and overlooking the Grand River, the new craft cocktail concourse workshops are limited to the first 12 people who step up to the bar at the scheduled times.

Bartenders from six-one-six inside the JW Marriott are also planning an exciting “Chopped”-style competition during their Pairing aimed to perfectly match cocktails with prix fixe menu.

Once again, the Festival is the culmination of Cocktail Week Grand Rapids, which this year runs Nov. 9-20 and is presented by Experience Grand Rapids.

Returning features…

Beer City Station: The Festival’s popular beer area returns to Exhibit Hall C on the Main Floor of DeVos Place off the Grand Gallery. Step into the world of creative craft beers, imported and domestic brews, hard ciders and foods that pair well with both. Meet the American craft brewer—the small, independent and traditional producers who display passion and excitement for their unique beverages. New products, as well as traditional favorites, will be offered for sampling.

Cider Row: Tap into the Cider Row at the Festival, featuring almost 20 cider producers from Michigan and nationally-known brands. Hard cider is among the fastest growing craft beverages on a national scale. It is fermented to produce a range of flavors — from dry to sweet. Featured in the Beer City Station in Exhibit Hall C off the Grand Gallery.

Flavored Malt Beverages: This sector of the beverage industry is taking off with hard iced tea; sodas—such as root beer, orange, cherry, lemon and other fruit flavors; seltzer waters and carbonated caffeinated products. Featured in the Beer City Station in Exhibit Hall C off the Grand Gallery.

Growers Champagne Flights: Add a little extra class to your glass with an intimate tasting with Bradford Hammerschmidt from Imperial Beverage. These special flights offer champagnes you will not find anywhere else in the Festival. Each of the champagnes will be paired with specially selected cheese and crudités. Flights offered Saturday at 4pm and 7pm only. The cost is $40 per person. Reservations may be made online or on site space permitting.

Pairings: Select restaurants partner with distinguished wineries and breweries for special limited-seating Pairings — gourmet multi-course meals served on-site in a casual yet intimate “bar top” setting. Tickets are $45-$65 each and may be purchased in advance online or at the Festival on a first-come, first-served basis. This year’s restaurants include: Ganders, San Chez, six.one.six, Reds at Thousand Oaks, Vander Mill Cider and Wolfgang Puck’s The Kitchen.

Ultimate Dining Opportunities: Chefs from about a dozen of the area’s top restaurants prepare and serve small plates of their culinary specialties.

RendezBREW: The Coffee, Cordials and Dessert Café will be open in the Grand Gallery for the duration of the Festival. Start your Festival experience, or make it a nightcap, with unique pairings of coffee, lattes and cocktails crafted for your enjoyment with a variety of cordials, indulgent sweets and other treats.

Seminars & Workshops: Esteemed individuals from the culinary world host complimentary demonstrations on the Meijer Food Stage. Complimentary beverage seminars, held classroom-style in the rooms off the Grand Gallery, give attendees an in-depth look in to the world of wine, beer and spirits. Cocktail workshops are also offered for a unique hands-on experience for those wishing to learn tricks of the trade from top leaders.

Tickets for the Festival are $15 for Thursday (and for advanced Friday and Saturday ticket sales) and $20 for Friday at Saturday at the door. A 3-Day Pass is available for $40 and allows admission each day of the Festival and is intended for those who want to get the most out of their tasting experience. Online sales end Thursday, Nov. 17 at 5pm (Box Office sales for the pass end at 10pm on Thursday, Nov. 17). Food and beverage samples require varied amounts of sampling tickets of 50-cent denominations (sold at the Festival). We suggest guests start with at least $20 worth of tasting tickets.

It’s that time of year again, the time when the beer people dress up a little (maybe), and the wine people dress down a little (maybe), and meet in the middle for the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival.

This one’s always a little different from the yearly and seasonal beer festivals filling the calendar. It’s indoors and a more tightly contained; the crowd is more diverse and perhaps less casual and the beer vendors themselves are more diverse. Bigger names like New Belgium and Sam Adams, and out-of-state brands like Blue Point from Long Island and Summit from St. Paul set up booths next to Michigan breweries.

But still, as the Michigan craft beverage industry has grown and evolved, so has this festival. It always finds new ways to highlight Mitten State products, and this year was no exception. This year, in addition to the Brewer’s Loft, the festival featured a craft cider area as well. (Maybe a cider “back porch?”). It also welcomed Michigan craft distillers like Coppercraft and Michigan meaderies like B. Nektar.

Michigan brewers always welcome their place in this festival. Greg Korson, one of the owners of Tapistry Brewing in Bridgman, says it’s good for beer to share the stage with food and wine. “There’s a growing awareness that beer pairs with food as well as, if not better than, wine,” he said. “We want to be a part of helping people understand that. There’s flavor to this; there are subtleties.”

Tapistry had a couple of beers on tap that showcased the wide flavor profile Korson spoke of. Its Mr. Orange blood orange wit featured a balanced sweetness flavored with, of all things, rose petals. On the darker side, its Autonomous Unit oatmeal raisin cookie ale offered dessert in the form of a brown ale warmed with cinnamon and smelling just like grandma’s cookies.

Tapistry was actually one of only a few breweries offering draft beer (another notable difference between this and most beer festivals). Christopher Mier of Right Brain Brewery had an explanation: marketing and branding is a big deal here. Because so many industry reps, distributors, and vendors attend this event, the brewers want to show them what they’ll be stocking or buying in stores. Cans and bottles showcase the brand; taps don’t.

Again, that’s a change, but the brewers see it as a good thing. With so many people from the industry, “you get that one-on-one time,” said Mier. “You can meet the decision-makers.”

Right Brain brought three of their four canned beers to help influence those decisions: CEO StoutNorthern Hawk Owl amber, and Smooth Operator cream ale. Smooth Operator is a newer release, and you should definitely give it a try. It’s a pilsener beer brewed like an ale and sweetened a bit with some corn in the batch. It is indeed really smooth. “Like it says on the can,” Mier pointed out, “‘for when you just want to drink.’”

Another good newbie showcased at this festival is Atwater’s just-released Lebkuchen Christmas Ale. In keeping with Atwater’s German heritage, this ale is brewed to taste like a popular German Christmas cookie (named, as you might have guessed, the “lebkuchen”). Whereas many Christmas ales bring the spice, this one brings the sweet with a mixture of honey and almond, tempered a bit by ginger. It smells good, it tastes great, and you should definitely ask Santa for some.

And while you’re at it, you should put a Duba & Company Steak and a bottle of Ciderye from Crow’s Hard Cider on your wish list. Obviously, neither of these things is craft beer, but each does represent another aspect of the craft industry in Michigan.

Duba & Company was one of the food vendors tucked between breweries in the Brewer’s Loft. Jeff Duba, the company’s owner, says that wasn’t by design, but it still seemed like a good fit. Duba himself works in the beer world as a server at Brewery Vivant, and he sees a clear parallel between the food and the beer that he sells. “Heritage [beef] is the microbrew of meats,” he said. “It’s the last frontier of the craft industry.”

Benjamin Crow of Crow’s Hard Cider (and also Good Neighbor Organic Winery) told a similar story. His products — including the rye whiskey barrel aged cider he’s named Ciderye — are made in Michigan using Michigan-grown ingredients. And though his booth may have been downstairs, he definitely had the brewers’ easy-does-it attitude. “We like to be the laid back guys down here,” he said.

Wherever you turn at the Wine, Beer & Food Festival this weekend, you’re sure to find craft. It’s a testament to the quality of that craft that Michigan beer can take such a prominent place at an event like this.

It’s that time of year again, the time when the beer people dress up a little (maybe), and the wine people dress down a little (maybe), and meet in the middle for the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival.
This one’s always a little different from the yearly and seasonal beer festivals filling the calendar. It’s indoors and a more tightly contained; the crowd is more diverse and perhaps less casual and the beer vendors themselves are more diverse. Bigger names like New Belgium and Sam Adams, and out-of-state brands like Blue Point from Long Island and Summit from St. Paul set up booths next to Michigan breweries.
But still, as the Michigan craft beverage industry has grown and evolved, so has this festival. It always finds new ways to highlight Mitten State products, and this year was no exception. This year, in addition to the Brewer’s Loft, the festival featured a craft cider area as well. (Maybe a cider “back porch?”). It also welcomed Michigan craft distillers like Coppercraft and Michigan meaderies like B. Nektar.
Michigan brewers always welcome their place in this festival. Greg Korson, one of the owners of Tapistry Brewing in Bridgman, says it’s good for beer to share the stage with food and wine. “There’s a growing awareness that beer pairs with food as well as, if not better than, wine,” he said. “We want to be a part of helping people understand that. There’s flavor to this; there are subtleties.”
Tapistry had a couple of beers on tap that showcased the wide flavor profile Korson spoke of. Its Mr. Orange blood orange wit featured a balanced sweetness flavored with, of all things, rose petals. On the darker side, its Autonomous Unit oatmeal raisin cookie ale offered dessert in the form of a brown ale warmed with cinnamon and smelling just like grandma’s cookies.
Tapistry was actually one of only a few breweries offering draft beer (another notable difference between this and most beer festivals). Christopher Mier of Right Brain Brewery had an explanation: marketing and branding is a big deal here. Because so many industry reps, distributors, and vendors attend this event, the brewers want to show them what they’ll be stocking or buying in stores. Cans and bottles showcase the brand; taps don’t.
Again, that’s a change, but the brewers see it as a good thing. With so many people from the industry, “you get that one-on-one time,” said Mier. “You can meet the decision-makers.”
Right Brain brought three of their four canned beers to help influence those decisions: CEO StoutNorthern Hawk Owl amber, and Smooth Operator cream ale. Smooth Operator is a newer release, and you should definitely give it a try. It’s a pilsener beer brewed like an ale and sweetened a bit with some corn in the batch. It is indeed really smooth. “Like it says on the can,” Mier pointed out, “‘for when you just want to drink.’”
Another good newbie showcased at this festival is Atwater’s just-released Lebkuchen Christmas Ale. In keeping with Atwater’s German heritage, this ale is brewed to taste like a popular German Christmas cookie (named, as you might have guessed, the “lebkuchen”). Whereas many Christmas ales bring the spice, this one brings the sweet with a mixture of honey and almond, tempered a bit by ginger. It smells good, it tastes great, and you should definitely ask Santa for some.
And while you’re at it, you should put a Duba & Company Steak and a bottle of Ciderye from Crow’s Hard Cider on your wish list. Obviously, neither of these things is craft beer, but each does represent another aspect of the craft industry in Michigan.
Duba & Company was one of the food vendors tucked between breweries in the Brewer’s Loft. Jeff Duba, the company’s owner, says that wasn’t by design, but it still seemed like a good fit. Duba himself works in the beer world as a server at Brewery Vivant, and he sees a clear parallel between the food and the beer that he sells. “Heritage [beef] is the microbrew of meats,” he said. “It’s the last frontier of the craft industry.”
Benjamin Crow of Crow’s Hard Cider (and also Good Neighbor Organic Winery) told a similar story. His products — including the rye whiskey barrel aged cider he’s named Ciderye — are made in Michigan using Michigan-grown ingredients. And though his booth may have been downstairs, he definitely had the brewers’ easy-does-it attitude. “We like to be the laid back guys down here,” he said.
Wherever you turn at the Wine, Beer & Food Festival this weekend, you’re sure to find craft. It’s a testament to the quality of that craft that Michigan beer can take such a prominent place at an event like this.

aha conference

GRAND RAPIDS — We had a great time throughout the American Homebrewers Association’s National Homebrewers Conference held at DeVos Place last week. Below are links to all of our coverage, as well as some of our favorite photo moments. Photos by Steph Harding.

MittenBrew Coverage

THURSDAY: Expo

FRIDAY: Keynote

FRIDAY: Club Night

GRAND RAPIDS — Seminars are a part of any conference that the most devoted of attendees geek out about — technical details, pie charts, information from the EXPERTS. Homebrewers are no exception. In fact, they may enjoy it more than most. With the intricacies of their field and the easy accessibility of so many experts at hand, the National Homebrewers Conference offered up some seminars ranging from blending yeast strains to vintage beer, there was something that interested everyone.

Here’s a synopsis of some of the seminars, representing some hometown speakers.

Farm to Glass: Brewing With Local Ingredients

MittenBrew spoke with Nick Rodammer from the Brewsquitos Home Brewing Club, who, along with Erik May from Pilot Malt House and Brian Tennis from New Michigan Organics Hop Farms, hosted this seminar.

“We’ll be talking about the use of local ingredients, especially malt and hops. It’s an emerging trend, especially in Michigan. Brewers want to use local more and more. We’ll talk about how big the industry is now, and what brewers think about it. Brian will talk about owning a small hop farm, and Eric will talk about owning a small malt house and the challenges they face.”

Surveying brewers across the country, they’ve gathered data about the use of local ingredients and how much the trend is growing across the nation. Matt Michiels, owner and brewer at Gravel Bottom had this to say:

“It was a really great seminar, really exciting to watch the local resources come up. Watching Michigan and the young entrepreneurs like Erik May starting Pilot Malt House and watching the whole hop industry around us bloom with these great farms is really exciting. It’s exciting to finally have all the ingredients to make an all locally sourced, all Michigan beer.”

The Malt Nerds History Hour

Speakers John Mallett, Director of Operations at Bell’s Brewing and Andrea Stanley, owner of Valley Malt, provided attendees a brief history of malted grains, showcasing the artisan process we have lost since the industrialization and modern attempts to re-make these products — without the vermin.

Showcasing how the old malting houses used to work, we found out that the heat of killing the malts in the malt houses inspired some interesting outerwear. Nothing.

Naked men in little cotton booties, on the third story of a malt house, flipping the malt over in high heat and smoke. The joke goes that the sweaty naked dudes who kilned your malt that gets made into your beer provide that unique taste we are missing these days. Maybe.

I think a lot of half-naked sweaty guys are probably still making beer.

It was an entertaining seminar to say the least.

Stanley, while embracing the advances of the industrial style but sticking to the maltsters roots, is doing some interesting things with her product in New York. Attendees to the seminar were offered some rustic, pre-1880’s style Porter to sample, made the ‘old fashioned way’.

Before the industrialization, you would use all dark roasted kilned malts until someone discovered that you can use two-row and a pale base and then use a little bit of a dark caramelized sugar. This changed the whole game. Your extraction rates out of darker malt are not nearly as high as that of a good pale malt, so it became cheaper for everyone to make porters. But — the flavor isn’t quite the same. The rustic malt, despite having almost the same profile as that of a modern porter has a quite distinctive, smokier taste.

The Shenanigans of Barrel Aging

Jason Heystek and Brett Kosmicki, head cellarman and cellar guru from Founders Brewing Co., walked attendees through the barrel aging process, especially pertaining to their high-volume brands KBS and Backwoods Bastard.

Starting with a single barrel and now with thousands in production, Jason and Brett talked about the types of barrels procured — from SZRP — Blis Maple syrup barrels to rye and bourbon, and one time, tequila (they don’t recommend that) and the difficulties of procurement back in the day. Likening it to the drug market initially, they’ve now developed relationships and contracts with company to produce the quantities needed to make the delicious brews we know and love.

Despite the whole process being a pain in the ass, we know why they do it. The taste makes the trouble worthwhile. The boozy flavors and the roundness of the oak, the taste of the vanilla in the wood, impart themselves into the beer that in unmatchable any other way. It’s hard work, the nuts and bolts of the whole process time consuming and difficult, but we love them for it.

GRAND RAPIDS — Club Night. An extenuation of the Beer City Social Club, homebrew groups from all over the country use the evening to highlight who they are, what they are about and, most importantly, the beers they brew.

Club Night is THE party — some of the best, award winning homebrewers are in attendance and the vibe of the event is all fun. Booths are centered around a theme-be it silly, creative, innovative or off-the-wall, it captures the spirit of these brewers and the spirit of their beer.

Wrestlers, gnomes, chickens, mobsters and monks — you never knew who would serve you your beer. MittenBrew stopped, drank and chatted with some of the crews — homegrown and from across the country.

Primetime Brewers — Grand Rapids

We caught up with Josh Johnson from Primetime during the Beer City Social Club. Tasting a few of their specialty brews like the Spooky Fruit (who doesn’t like to say ‘spooky’ when ordering a drink?) — a sour apricot ale and 4 Tree Cider, an English Cider with sweetened with maple syrup, French oak aged with spruce tips added.

“We’ve got a very experienced amount of guys. Jeff Carlson, our founder, is a multi-award winning cider maker of the year, Eric Fouch, our President, loves to make very experimental beers, has lots of innovative ideas. John Applegarth, who has won lots of Belgian competitions — there’s a breadth of experience within this group. The expo has been super fun. As a beer nerd, you walk around and get to see gadgets, all sorts of stuff. It’s like being in a Lego store for a kid, it’s a nerdy alcoholics paradise. I’m looking forward to tonight with club night. It’s gonna be fun — what can 4,000 different minds create beyond the bounds of regular beer?”

GRIST (Grain Results In Something Tasty) Brew Club — Arlington, Va.

Rick Rawlings, president of this Northern Virginia/DC area club packed the wife, kids and eight sweaty, smelly dudes into an RV and made the 13 hour trip to Michigan. I found them when he yelled across the room, “anyone wanna get laid?” A camouflage print lei safely on my neck and a sample in my hand, we talk.

“We’ve got a great club culture, from really junior guys who have brewed their first beer two to three months ago with kits, and then very senior members who’ve brewed for the past 20 years. A real big breadth of experience. We’ve got lots of guys who like to compete, locally and nationally, and two guys who made it into the AHA National Homebrew Competition finals this year.”

A session IPA, black IPA, a honey Sasion and a Hefeweizen (which took third place in a DC homebrew competition) were some of the beers on tap. 

Michigan, as a topic of conversation, comes easily. Rick’s mom is from Michigan, and I’m a NOVA native. And, apparently, the word about our brew culture is getting around. “We’ve got a lot of folks who have an affinity for Michigan because of the beer. Clearly, Michigan’s brew culture is big enough that we know about the culture here. All of our people are well in tune with what’s happening. It’s a really great place, and we’re really enjoying it.”

Society of Oshkosh Brewers (SOBs) — Oshkosh, Wis.

Lumberjacks and logs, these fellows incorporated their Wisconsin roots into their beers, plus brought some specialties on the side. Established in 1991, Jeff Eden, the group’s current Vice President in red and black flannel, shares his experience of his first AHA conference.

“It’s been good. I love Michigan, it’s been fun. We’ve had a good time.”

These SOBs brought beers highlighting maple and oak, plus some fun ones like Pumpernickel Rye, a “very unique beer the brewer has been working on for years and the Electric Lollipop “This is probably our wildest beer. Lollipops in the fermenter, hibiscus and some other crazy things.”

Kuhnhenn Guild of Brewers (KGB) — Warren

Meeting at Kuhnhenn Brewing since 2006, Justin Chartier guides this group of varied individuals who brought their ‘A’ game to the AHA conference this year and the last two years as well. With twenty two beers on tap and another keg or two lying around, they brought a wide variety of beer to Club Night.

A whole range of sours featuring different bretta strains and a barrel aged sour blonde that was deliciously perfect were some of our favorites. Six different session IPAs with different hops were made in collaboration with some other clubs in their area, changing the flavor profile but keeping everything else the same. KGB even brought a tangerine cremesicle mead — which tasted like a boozy melted ice cream, probably a bit dangerous in anything larger than a sample size cup.

“Our meetings have topics, and we try to do an event here and there,” said Chartier. “We do a lot of different festivals, and we’ll be at Michigan homebrew Fest in August. We also do a small group monthly brew at a member’s house to see their set up. It’s nice because you can see how people are doing different things. Everytime we do that, I pick up something new, so it’s pretty cool.”

616 Brewing — Grand Rapids

What do you say to Macho Man Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan? You say — ‘give me a beer.’

Scott from 616 Brewing and his cohort of 80s wrestling fanatics are at their first AHA Conference. A fairly new group, starting last fall and based on the Westside of the city, They are here, learning to improve their techniques, learn more about the craft, and most importantly, have fun — as their costumes can attest.


“We like to get new people into brewing as well. After this event, we will start some style competitions, stuff like that. Today, one of the beers we brought is a Belgian blonde, a collaboration with the GR Homebrewers. They did a Belgian dubbel, so we’ll do a black and tan with them. We also brought some IPAs, a KBS clone, and some other stuff. We are always taking new members, and I think we’re a pretty fun club.”

Oh yeah.

Glass City Mashers — Toledo, Ohio

This group brought a beer tree. Yes, a tree. With all cask condition ales, gravity fed, they hang, upside down, waiting for your glass.

Shannon, sporting an extremely lovely mohawk, brewed a Honey brown and a Belgian Wit for her first AHA Conference. “It’s awesome. It’s been really great. It’s kind of overwhelming, you walk around and are like — ‘ooh! Ah! What do I do?’ There are lots of friendly people. Our group tries to educate and teach and learn from each other. We’ve got a little bit of everything. I’m really enjoying the conference, and I really enjoy being a part of this group.”

GRAND RAPIDS — The conclusion of the National Homebrewers Conference happened last night with a Grand Banquet and awards ceremony. An amazing amount of people shuffled into one room to eat, drink and celebrate their fellow homebrewers.

There was a 45 percent increase in the number of competitors, with 8,172 homebrews judged in this year’s competition. The top three entries from 28 style categories advanced to the final round. From there, 1,020 entries were judges by 212 of the top beer judged in the country.

Robert Hilferding of Zephyrhills, Fla. won the Homebrewer of the Year award with his best-in-show entry in the Scottish and Irish ale category. The Meadmaker of the Year award was presented to Matthew Weide of Minneapolis, Minn. for his melomel, while Edward Walkowski from N. Abington Twp., Pa. won the Cidermaker of the Year award.

The winningest homebrewer was honored with the Ninkasi Award (named for the Sumerian Goddess of beer), having the most wins in the Final Round of the National HomeBrew Competition. This year, Arizona Society of Homebrewers’ Jeremy Voeltz was given this award.

A new award for 2014 — the Radegast Club of Year award — was presented to an AHA-registered club that made the most positive impact on its local community. This award was given to the Carolina BrewMasters of Charlotte, N.C. The group donated over $77,000 dollars to charitable community organizations in 2013.

The clubs themselves were also recognized. The Brewing Network won its fourth Homebrew Club of the Year award, and two Michigan clubs — Ann Arbor Brewers Guild and The Kuhnhenn Guild of Brewers Homebrew Club, were given top 25 honors.


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