ANN ARBOR – When Grizzly Peak Brewing Co. opened in August 1995, it was just one of seven breweries in Michigan (including nearby Arbor Brewing Co., which opened one month earlier). Two decades later, as Michigan prepares to exceed 200 breweries, the state’s top-selling brewpub is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a hopped-up new beer, XX Pale Ale, brewed on June 25.
“We used the same amount of grain and hops as we use for a normal 14-barrel batch of our house pale ale, but we’re brewing only seven barrels, effectively creating a concentrated version,” explained Duncan Williams, head brewer. “It will be an extra strength pale ale, really malty and hoppy, coming out at around 7.5% ABV.”
Williams was joined in brewing the beer by a number of notable former Grizzly Peak brewers, including Sean Brennan of Original Gravity Brewing in Milan; Nathan Hukill, founder of Bitter Old Fecker Rustic Ales in Chelsea; Tim Schmidt, co-founder of Tecumseh Brewing Co. in Tecumseh; and Oliver Roberts, head brewer at Wolverine State Brewing, also in Ann Arbor. Ron Jeffries, founder of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter, and Stacey Roth, a brewer at Griffin Claw Brewing in Birmingham, were originally scheduled to attend but were unable to make it.
“I learned a ton here,” said Hukill, who brewed at Grizzly from 2012 to 2013. “It’s the Duncan School of Brewing so many have gone through. I don’t know where I’d be now if I hadn’t come here first.”
“I can’t really say why we’ve served as a sort of launch pad for so many successful brewers,” said Williams. “One reason is probably that we’re such a hands-on brewery, so those who come here really get a taste of what it’s like to be a brewer and either fall in love with it or move on to something else.”
The brew pub’s influence also extends well beyond Michigan. Other Grizzly alumni who have gone on to open their own breweries include Kevin Bloom (Manchester Brewing and Area 23 Nanobrewery, both in New Hampshire), Jeff Hancock (D.C. Brau in Washington, D.C.), and Will Lawson (Naples Beach Brewery in Naples, Florida).
XX Pale Ale will be tapped in August in time for Grizzly’s anniversary street party, exact date TBD. A sneak preview will be available at the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival, July 24-25.