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beer and brat festival

Nothing says Memorial Day weekend like a giant cookout.

For the last 12 years, Crystal Mountain has been hosting just that, bringing together Michigan breweries and unique takes on that favorite summer staple: the brat.

This year, Crystal Mountain will host its 13th Annual Michigan Beer and Brat Festival on May 26 from 4-8 p.m.

The festival takes place at the base of the four-season resort’s ski slopes—a unique, outdoor atmosphere that keeps attendees coming back every year.

beer and brat festival

“Everyone is ready for summer to begin, there’s nothing more summer-like than beer and brats,” said Brian Lawson, director of public relations at Crystal Mountain.

Attendees to this year’s festival can look forward to a variety of twists on the age-old combination. Thirty-five Michigan breweries will be present along with over 100 of their craft beers. Those attending will be able to pair those selections with 24 different kinds of brats from local markets. Past favorites have included flavors like asparagus, morel mushroom and Roadhouse salsa.

Lawson said the festival has become a favorite way to spend the holiday for guests and brewers alike.

“It’s a big cook out, in a lot of ways. It’s like one big Memorial Day party” Lawson said.

He added that he is consistently surprised, and flattered, by how enthusiastic the Michigan brewers are about the festival.

“We’ve gotten a sense from the brewers that they’re just as excited to come here as the guests,” Lawson said. “We’re grateful and flattered to get such great participation from the breweries on a holiday weekend.”

A few non-beer beverage makers will also share some offerings at the festival. Iron Fish Distillery is a neighbor to the resort and the two often collaborate. They’ll be pouring drinks made with their craft spirits at the festival. Traverse City’s Brengman Brothers winery will also have some special offerings.

As is tradition, the festival will also feature a car show. The British Car Club will show a selection of vehicles. Lawson said this component of the festival started as a happy accident. Now it’s a favorite part of the festival. In the last few years, Tesla and electric vehicle owners have also brought their cars to display. As advocates of sustainable energy, Lawson said the resort is proud to host them.

Musicians Drew Hale and The Rock Show Band will provide live music.

Tickets can be purchased online. General admission tickets are $30 in advance and $35 the day of and come with a 9 ounce glass and five tokens. VIP tickets are $60 in advance and come with a 9 ounce glass, 10 tokens and access to the festival an hour early at 3 p.m. Kids are welcome to attend at the general admission ticket price, with tokens usable towards food and pop.

The Michigan Beer and Brat Festival takes place the day before the North Mitten Half Marathon, 10K and 5K. For those who’d like a taste of the action but don’t want to consume beer and brats the day before their race, the resort will host Micros on the Mountaintop that Sunday, May 27. The event features a chairlift ride to some of the Michigan brews celebrated at the Beer and Brats Festival. Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 the day of.

 

beer and brat festival

 

Sponsored by Crystal Mountain

 

 

dutch girl brewery

Dutch Girl Brewery has added a lot to their plate recently. It is not a surprise how quickly breweries are learning the importance of having good food readily available for their guests. Thus, DGB has literally added plates to their tables, with the opening of a kitchen inside of their brewery. It was always in DGB’s plan, they just didn’t expect it to happen this soon. A tough situation a lot of breweries without food face is the simple fact that their customers can only drink so much before they need to put food in their stomachs.  

Finding the right person was always going to be the determining factor as to when the kitchen would open its doors. Having an owner with a background in the culinary arts, the expectations were high before they even set out to find their Head Chef. Much to their surprise, the problem was easily solved with Aaron Shapiro. An excited California native, he’s ready to bring the flair and flavor he has cultivated with over 20 years of culinary experience working in breweries, preparing banquets, and cooking in large and small scale restaurants – to the Lakeshore. You can have all the experience in the world, but one thing Shapiro always keeps in mind is his clientele.

“Whenever I’m looking at what I want to serve, there are three elements I always look at. Most importantly, who is my audience? What type of clientele being served is of the utmost importance when deciding on flavors and dishes. Second, I look at what has worked in the past. Third, I consider the cuisine I am serving, at the time. When I have used these items as factors, my successes have increased exponentially. I take a lot away from international cuisine, and in particular street foods,” said Shapiro.

DGB’s kitchen offers a menu with a lot of gourmet deli style sandwiches. Even with a ‘small’ kitchen, it isn’t stopping some amazing flavors coming out of there. Their approach to their menu is simple.

“The least amount of ingredients tastes best – five or six ingredients in each dish. We are around the world when it comes to food with our weekend features. It is a unique item that is a one off and offered at $10. Most of our weekend features sell out before the weekend is over. The features starts on Friday around 4pm and go until gone,” said Kelly Finchem, co-owner of DGB.

Keeping with the simple theme, DGB likes to leave beer out of the food menu. Everyone’s palates can be so different that it is hard to list a catch all for the guests with each food item. However, Shapiro does have a soft spot for one beer in particular.

“Our Just One More lager has a great flavor profile, and will lend itself to many different flavors. More times than not, I will lean into that one for a suggestion to our guests, when discussing beer that goes with our food, it’s just a good marry. But for me… it’s the Big and Tall Pale Ale,” said Shapiro.     

dutch girl brewery

In addition to a new kitchen, DGB is kicking up dirt and making their debut with their very first bottled beer, Dirty Boots. Dirty Boots is an imperial milk stout brewed with seven types of grain and milk sugar. It is one of their most popular beers and has a name near and dear to the owner’s, Kelly and Luke Finchem, hearts—it is named after their German Shorthaired Pointer, Bo, and his notorious muddy paws.

The actual recipe for Dirty Boots came from Luke practicing a milk stout at home for a couple years, then collaborating with Josh Lentz, DGB’s head brewer, to perfect the recipe. It is their most popular and highest rated beer.

“We are doing our first run, 90 cases, so 1,080 bottles of beer on the wall. We are hand bottling and hand labeling this run. The label is from Blue Label Digital, who was able to do a nice metallic design on it. It was important to get this metallic look to go with the watercolor design done by Jacob Zars. Zars worked collaboratively with Mark Curtis of C3Designs to place our logo into the artwork. It went through eight or nine renditions to make it happen. We are very happy with how it turned out,” said Kelly Finchem.

Dirty Boots was released to the public on Black Friday at 10 a.m. along with a continental breakfast. The 22oz bottle sold for $8.99 with no limits. If you missed out on Black Friday bottle release, don’t worry, there are still bombers available at the pub. Keep an eye out for Dirty Boots distributed around town, future beer pairing dinners at the brewery, and in case you weren’t aware, DGB also serves hard cider, wine, and moscato wine for those looking for something different to try.

Catch Kelly and Luke for a taste of Dirty Boots on Sat, Jan 7 from 4-6pm at Siciliano’s Market.

 

halloween

Are you about to eat some of the worst Halloween candy? Do you have kids who gave you all the crap they don’t want after pillaging the neighborhood? Are your pockets filled with terrible treats you drunkenly took from that bowl at the party? Did you encounter old people who insisted you not leave until you’ve taken a piece with you? Are you worried about what to do next with your undesirable treats?

MittenBrew’s got your back. Just pair the worst Halloween candy with beer!

halloweencandy-4I think we all know this first culprit: candy corn. This last resort in a candy dish is this unenticing looking kernel, whose only credibility stands on the fact that if you stack up all the kernels, it looks like an ear of corn. When pairing it with beer, the best way to choke your way through it is with Tapistry Brewing Company’s Mr. Orange, their Witbier brewed with blood oranges, chamomile, and rose hips. The soft nature from the wheat malt in the beer will coax out the slight marshmallow like quality of the candy corn. Now that this base of mallow sweetness is established, the chamomile and rose hips can be featured and shine through, thus enhancing the experience and creating more complexity. Starting to feel fancy yet?

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You remember that Bazooka Bubble gum and how it loses flavor within 15 seconds of chewing it?
No problem for us. The best thing to pair with something that loses its flavor entirely, is yet another thing that has next to no flavor—Natty Light anyone? No, in all seriousness, just spit the damn thing out and take a big step up and drink
Our Brewing Company’s Vienna Lager as you cheers to Bazooka Joe instead. Maybe buy him a beer too, because his wrapper comics blow (get it?) just as much as his bubble gum so he probably needs it.

halloweencandy-5Circus Peanuts have a weird, marshmallow banana flavor and soft texture that I think can only be tamed by coating it with Roak’s Devil Dog Oatmeal Stout. The banana flavor finds companionship in the beer’s roasty bitterness and bready burnt toast notes, making it almost taste like some sort of chocolatey banana baked dessert. Plus, part of the proceeds for the beer go towards a local VA hospital in Detroit. Now you can genuinely feel good about eating this candy, so long as you steer clear of eating it on its own…

halloweencandy-1I know this one is rated low on Halloween candy lists, but I personally love this stuff, besides the fact that I feel like I might choke to death every time I have one. Those hard Butterscotch Candies that make you feel like you’re at your grandma’s house create a fun pairing with the Cranker’s Coconut Porter. There’s just something about chocolate, butterscotch, and coconut that really make the palate sing.

Black Jelly Bhalloweencandy-3eans are ominous looking. More of an acquired taste, it’s not exactly a crowd pleaser amidst all the super sugary, waxy chocolate covered, non-complex candies out there. Perhaps Short’s would resurrect their Black Licorice Lager for it? But in the meantime, I’ll settle for pairing these unfavorable beans with an appropriately spice-forward Grand Pumpkin from Harmony Brewing. It’s brewed with pumpkin, chai tea spices, ginger root, cinnamon bark, darjeeling tea, cardamom pods, nutmeg, clove, and vanilla beans. The multitude of spices and herbs together can now combine with the black licorice notes of the jelly beans to create a sweeter, more harmonized pairing with plenty of complexity.

(P.S. I recommend bringing your unwanted Good & Plenty to this anise party too.)

I choose Dots candy with Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja for our next pairing. Partly because this candy is fruity, and partly because this beer is sour, but mostly because this candy tastes awful and I need a powerful, funky, tart cherry, balsamic-like, Flanders sour to wash it down. You’re welcome.

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Candy buttons. They confusingly don’t look like candy, their flavor is lackluster, and each button comes with a piece of paper stuck on it. What’s not to love, right? Love it even harder, as you pair this sheet of sadness with Latitude 42’s very own Nectar of the Goddess, which is a blood orange and passion fruit, honey-infused wheat beer. Just pop in a button, take a sip of beer, pop another button, take another sip of beer…and soon enough you’ve got an inebriated sugar buzz to prepare you for handing out candy to strangers. The softness from the wheat, and the sweetness from the honey align with the sweet candy, while the passion fruit and blood orange characteristics resonate with the artificial “fruitiness” of these bizarre buttons.

halloweencandy-6Taffy candy never really reveals its flavor due to the opaque wrapper, but insteads shrouds itself in mystery by only revealing its Halloween themed wrapping. What’s inside? Untrustworthy taffy candy of course! What better beer to pair with an unknown, chalky, chewy, kind of fruitiness than Rockford Brewing’s Michigan Weisse! Their take on a German style Berliner Weisse, lends tasting notes of banana, pear, and clove, that combined with its slightly tart character, will quell any further disappointment caused by dear, sweet mystery taffy.

Mints. Do you think I just came back from dinner or are you simply trying to tell me something? These “candies” make such a heartbreaking “thunk” when dropped into the candy bucket, but at least you’ll have something to aid your foul beer breath before you unleash it on the person you were about to talk to. However, since this is a place for pairing, do the traditional ‘mint and chocolate’ route by eating these with Dark Horse’s Plead The 5th Imperial Stout to cap off your night.

halloween

 

Beer pairs with all, so don’t underestimate the power of boozy goodness on top of sugary, sweet sadness to make a perfectly palatable night. It can change a meal, make or break a pairing, and can now officially resurrect your Halloween. Eating copious amounts of sugar for no real reason never felt so good!

brite eyes brewing

In August of 2015, Kalamazoo welcomed its newest brewery, Brite Eyes Brewing Co. Just like the other local breweries, Brite Eyes wanted to add their own twist to the craft beer scene in Kalamazoo. So they decided to serve their delicious Michigan beer with breakfast!

Owners Brian and Shelby Pierce wanted to open a brewery in Kalamazoo that would offer something for everyone to enjoy. They began by brainstorming different types of drinks each of them enjoyed.  Brian was a craft beer enthusiast, while Shelby loved to have a hot cup of coffee or tea. Their interests then led to the idea of opening a coffeehouse brewery.

“A coffeehouse and a brewery crowd are very similar. A lot of them are probably the same people so why not just be a one stop shop. Plus, we can make really fun tea beers and coffee beers because we have the stuff in house,” said Brian Pierce.

brite eyes brewing

 

Once word was out about this new venture, many people showed their support and gave the owners ideas for the new coffeehouse brewery. For example, the idea of serving coffee on nitro. Brian and Shelby loved the idea and did tons of research on how they could build upon it for Brite Eyes.

To go along with their nitro tap, Brian and Shelby partnered with the Michigan-based coffee company Johnny Java’s. They connected with the family-owned company during their visits to the Kalamazoo’s Farmer’s Markets and thought Johnny Java’s freshly roasted coffee would be perfect to serve at Brite Eyes.

When it came time to decide on food options, breakfast ended up being accidental during a soft opening while waiting for their beer license.

“Breakfast was kind of a mistake. When we soft opened, we were experimenting with morning hours because we’re a coffeehouse also,” said Brian Pierce. “We thought, lets first try being open at 6:30 in the morning and see if people would get out of their cars and come in since we don’t have a drive thru. And if we’re going to be open, we need to have scones or something, so let’s try breakfast.”

Their location on South Burdick St. in downtown Kalamazoo also gave Brite Eyes the idea of catering to the morning crowd because of the businesses surrounding them.

“The hospital is right down the street and the police station is across the street, so we knew we would have a lot of morning traffic,” said Shelby Pierce.

The morning traffic heading into Brite Eyes is not only from people heading into work, but also for those leaving work. When Brite Eyes learned they could start serving their beer at 7am, they immediately adjusted their opening time. This allowed them to offer a cold brew with a hot breakfast to workers who have been working all night.

So, the next time you’re hungry and thirsty after your overnight shift, or wanting to explore a new brewery offering more than just creative beer, consider Brite Eyes.  Their bright and open space with the smell of coffee provides a coffeehouse feel as you enjoy your hot breakfast. While your personalized dark and tan with nitro coffee will remind you that you are at a Michigan brewery.  

 

GRAND RAPIDS–Any restaurant engaged in the annual Cool Brews. Hot Eats. has an appetite for enhancing beer culture. Though beer has been paired with food for a long time, there are still folks out there who are newcomers to the concept. Thankfully they can experience this phenomenon at 51 different locations throughout Grand Rapids from February 17-28th.

cool brews hot eatsExperience GR is working with the area’s restaurants to create these unique beer and food pairing deals and centering the week and a half long event around the annual Winter Beer Festival.

I’ve taken some time to look through the pairing options that we have coming up for Cool Brews. Hot Eats. I was pleased to see a range of subtle uses of beer as a cooking medium, all the way to creative collaborations of pairing a specific glass of Michigan beer with either a lunch or dinner plate.  

While digging through the various restaurant offerings, I found out that everyone is obsessed with cheese. Go figure. Beer and cheese will forever be the ultimate pairing, so venues have decided to play up this known fact by offering selections such as the Beer Cheese Soup at Tom and Chee’s ($3.50/Cup, $5/Bowl), which is made with a Five Cheese Blend and New Holland Brewing Company’s Sundog Amber Ale. Aperitivo is offering The Meltdown, their ever-changing fancy grilled cheese paired with beer. They’ll create your special pairing AND you’ll get $2 off if you order both.

If you’re excited to gorge on meat and beer, don’t you worry. Cool Brews. Hot Eats. restaurant participants knew you’d crave it, and there is no shortage of deliciousness like pot roast and pork belly being offered. For instance — Ramona’s Table is serving up an Atwater Vanilla Java Pot Roast Sandwich plus a side dish ($9.99). The sandwich is made of Vanilla Java Porter Simmered Pot Roast served on a Grilled Pretzel Bun with Haystack Onions and is sure to stick to those ribs to keep you warm for excursions such as the Winter Beer Festival.

Looking for a fresh catch instead? Check out The Heritage at Grand Rapids Community College to educate your palate with their Dark Mahogany Shrimp Etouffee made with Founders Porter ($14.50). It’s sure to make for a satisfying lunch. Osteria Rossa also collected their ingredients from the sea with their Cioppino. Made with Brewery Vivant’s Farmhand, their Cioppino consists of P.E.I. mussels, Tomato Broth, Manilla Clams, Italian sausage, Potatoes, and Fennel. It sounds oh so fresh — yet hearty.

The beer selections themselves caught my eye most of all. Founders Brewing Company is forever present with their Porter, Dirty Bastard and All Day IPA (among others of course), but Atwater’s Vanilla Java Porter and New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk made an appearance on almost every other menu I saw.

Though these giants in the Michigan beer scene are prevalent, it was wonderful to see lesser known items pop up such as the Odd Side Ales Troll Toll IPA that will be used at the Black Heron for their Troll Toll Risotto and Łosoś ($22). This Parmesan and Lemon Risotto made with Odd Side Ales Troll Toll IPA comes with a Salmon Steak topped with a Cherry and Thyme Chutney. It will turn quite a few heads I’m sure.

Thought that you were all done with your beer pairings because you’ve moved onto dessert? Think again. Pairing beer with dessert is a special sort of perfection in life, and sure enough there are several venues that will indeed be proving this to you. CitySen Lounge anyone? Take a walk into the CityFlats Hotel and visit the Lounge so you can test out their pairing of Bell’s Double Cream Stout with their Peanut Butter Double Cream Stout Brownies that comes with Sticky Plum Jam and White Chocolate ($6). Decadence without a doubt.

With 51 restaurants, breweries, and brewpubs participating, be sure to visit as many venues as you can to get in on these great deals and personal approaches to pairing the fine suds of Michigan with a meal. The lessons gained can only comfort the residents and guests who lovingly call Grand Rapids, Beer City USA.

 

butchery

Harmony Hall, the companion to the flagship Harmony Brewing Company in Eastown, Grand Rapids, knows a thing or two about craft.

A smaller brewery in our saturated beer city, Harmony recognized right away the need to produce quality product, and that went beyond just the beer. From the beginning, it was about sourcing locally and providing craft food to compliment the craft beer. In the instance of the Eastown locale, it was about the pizza — fresh toppings, local farms, and a wood fired oven.

For the Westside location, Harmony Brewing dug into neighborhood roots and drew inspiration from the building itself. Harmony Hall is the former Rauser Quality Sausage Co., built in 1908. German, Polish, and Irish immigrants defined the vibe of the Westside of Grand Rapids, and brought cultural heritage as well as plenty of delicious food options, including locally made sausage.

Talking with Gabe Araujo, head Chef at Harmony Hall, he reiterates this point. “Anyone who knows Harmony [Brewing Company] know they have always been very adamant about using sustainable resources and keeping everything local and fresh.” Sausage and beer? Well, that just makes sense.

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Beyond the revitalization of the past and nod to the architecture of the building, Harmony Hall chooses not to just serve sausage, but to source its own product, butchering its pigs in-house and making all their sausages from scratch.

“All of the pigs come from local farms.” says Araujo, “currently Heffron Farms, and we’ll be working with Rakowski Family Farms as well soon. We’re in contact with Provision Family Farms, which raise all heritage hogs like red wattle. They are adorable and delicious.”

There is a renaissance beyond just the craft nature of the beer, and more and more places are realizing that the quality of the food they offer needs to stand with and compliment the quality of beer they provide. Harmony Hall is one of these early influencers, recognizing that the consumer who chooses craft over mass market probably isn’t one who will settle for frozen french fries and something dipped in ranch.

There’s a beauty in butchery, and it’s easy to see. We’ll just let these pictures speak for themselves.

Photography: Steph Harding

Pairing beer with a Thanksgiving day meal can be tougher than one may expect. As I think back to previous experiences of bringing bottles of English Brown Ales, Hefeweizens, and even a three-liter “Jéroboam” Chimay Grand Reserve, I remember how unmanageable it was to pair the beer with all of the dishes that were actually on the table. With so much variety in flavors and textures and styles, how can you choose what will work with your selection and what won’t?

I’d like to help you navigate those beers this upcoming Thanksgiving. I tested out five completely unique Michigan brewery beers that I know will pair well with all the components of your meal during different stages of the day.

Number One: The “I’m-ready-to-party-and-my-palate-is-fresh-as-a-newborn-baby” phase.

All right, you’ve just walked in the door and are greeted by family and friends, which means one thing: you need a drink. It’s going to be a very long day of consumption, so how about we start off with something subtle with lower alcohol content? I’d suggest popping open a bottle of Odd Side Ales Fig Brewton.

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The Fig Brewton is their version of an English Pale Ale brewed with figs. At 4% ABV this aromatic-forward brew is your ticket to beginning your light buzz on an empty stomach, because why would you eat something before the party? This dark amber and cloudy concoction is full of sweet fig aromatics, notes of brown sugar, light toffee and an earthy/dry fall leaf character. The flavor is very, very subtle. It contains a faint hint at fig and the earthiness with a balancing hop bitterness.

It’s happened. You’ve finally sucked down your first beer of the day and are probably feeling a tingly happiness in your belly. Ready to eat? Good, because we have a great beer for the first round.

Normally at this point there are a few lighter snacky dishes. Dishes such as layered salads, roasted pumpkin seeds, deviled eggs, polish roses, roast squash, and plenty of other food options are offered to the guests. You begin telling stories, gossiping with cousins, updating everyone about your kids, sharing photos and creating that base of food in your belly that you will regret later once you’re in a food coma.

At this pivotal point in the day, we are opening up our palate to various flavors. Pungent onion, bright salads, salty spreads, and so many other flavors are being introduced to our willing bellies. Because we’re in the initial phase of sharing, it’s time to break out a 750mL bottle of Rockford Brewing Company’s Country Ale. It’s a 7.3% ABV Saison that is hazy and a beautiful orange/honey color. The aroma is complex and layered with notes of lemon, white pepper, grape nuts cereal and just a touch of overripe strawberry. It tastes quite similar, but the flavor is more subtle than the robust bouquet. I found that this beer is all about aromatics and mouthfeel.

ThanksgivingBeer (7)

The Country Ale is quite bright with balancing acidity and a touch of alcohol warmth and some spice-forward heat and bitterness. It has a soft feel on the tongue with a dry finish. The beer is excellent as it warms up and will be exceptional with all of the brighter but varied flavors of the first round of Thanksgiving food. Use the spritzy carbonation, the pungent spices, and the bright acidity to scrape and lift off fatty foods and sweet flavors. The peppery notes will resonate with spices on the various dishes, while the lemon notes will resonate with vinaigrettes on salads and contrast with fattier foods like egg. Above all, the beer will rinse away any light to medium food flavor so you won’t feel quite as palate fatigued. I mean, come on. You aren’t allowed to get full right away!

The table has finally been set, the children have been wrangled, and your family and friends are now gathered around the table to tuck into the best meal of the year. There are so many dishes on the table that you’re drooling into! Turkey, honey baked ham, green bean casserole, mashed and sweet potatoes, the cranberry sauce, stuffing and gravy. For you vegetarians out there, perhaps there are delicious treats such as a mushroom and farro pie, pumpkin orzo with sage or perhaps a butternut squash, kale, and cheddar bread pudding. All in all, we have a literal feast in front of us that is just teeming with savory, salty and sweet flavors. Here comes the most important role for beer all day. We need beers to pair with everything that has been set before us.

My suggestion? Grab two completely different beers and pour them in separate glasses and drink them BOTH during the meal. This time around, I have chosen Pepper in the Rye from Brewery Vivant and the Leroy Brown from Big Lake Brewing.

Pepper in the Rye is a Rye Ale brewed with green peppercorns that comes in at 6.3% ABV. It’s a pretty amber brew that comes in a one-pint can. The aroma gives notes of strong orange peel, a light touch of lemon, some light barnyard funk, a big dose of those green peppercorns that actually make me feel heat in my nostrils, a bit of spicy rye, and bread crust or biscuit notes.

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The beer tastes pretty much the same as it smells. Bright spice notes of the green peppercorn are present, especially as it warms up. I detect cracker-like notes from the malt, and the earthy hops hang out way underneath the more robust characteristics. The Pepper in the Rye is a tart and brisk brew with spice forward bitterness to balance it all out. Alcohol warmth is present and smacks my tongue around just a little. Tartness ensues into the finish to create an overlapping effect to the other mouthfeel-oriented sensations.

It’s well balanced yet quite complex. The Pepper in the Rye is going to use its alcohol warmth, its tart character and its spice-forward bitterness to cut fat and sweet flavors just like what we experienced with the Country Ale. The tartness will balance out yet accentuate saltiness. Try pairing this beer specifically with your stuffing, vegetable casserole dishes like green bean casserole, and ANY of those vegetarian dishes I mentioned. Pumpkin orzo with sage paired with Pepper in the Rye? Forget about it!

We need some malt to sooth salt and resonate with savory meat flavors and sweeter dishes such as sweet potato casserole. Let’s keep it easy-going, malty and delicious with the Leroy Brown from Big Lake Brewing.

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The Leroy Brown is an almost clear and medium to light brown brew with pretty ruby highlights. It’s aromatics lend notes of chocolate, nutella, nuts, and soft breadiness. The flavor gives me notes of toasted biscuit, nuts, and milk chocolate, all on a layer of delicious bread notes. Mouthfeel with this beer is one of the best parts. Quite smooth, approachable, and simple. I feel that many Brown Ales these days tend to roam into porter category or have higher alcohol levels than I’d like, but this one hits the mark. Pair this lovely number with your turkey, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, glazed carrots, gravy, or your mushroom and farro pie.

It’s that time. Your belly aches from too much food and so you’re sitting far away from everyone so you can groan and fart in peace. Perhaps you’ve taken a nap at this point and aren’t sure if you want to go home to finish passing out or keep up your buzz and drink more beer.

For those of you who are willing to rally and end your day with a bit of dessert, look no further than pairing your pumpkin pie with Griffin Claw Brewing Company’s Three Scrooges Winter Ale brewed with orange peel, honey, and spices.

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The Three Scrooges comes in at a manageable 6.5% ABV. It’s a hazy and dark amber beer with strong spice and orange peel aromatics. Get notes of sweet bread, caramel, nutella, cinnamon and raisin? Me too.

It seems to be a trend with the chosen beers, but the flavor is not as punchy as the aroma. It’s subtle but still quite pleasant. I pick out flavors of toast, milk chocolate, light marshmallow, orange peel, and a honey/toffee character.

The Winter Ale is smooth as hell with a tight and dry finish and a touch of alcohol warming. Pumpkin pie, for me, is too often paired with more pumpkin or sweet allspice forward beers. I’d wager that this traditional dessert will pair quite well with the Three Scrooges Winter Ale because of its subtle sweetness and little pop of bitterness and acidity from the orange peel. It’s subtle enough to highlight your pumpkin pie without sweetening the ensemble up too much that you can’t finish the last bite. Layered and lovely, I think these two will get along just fine.

So there you have it. A Thanksgiving meal and a few beers to help you along your journey of palate happiness. Should you feel the need, as I expect you will, to cap off the evening with one last beer, please grab yourself a snifter and pull out your big and bold brews. English Barleywines, Wee Heavys, Imperial Stouts and a variety of beers brewed with fruit truly shine in these moments.

HOLLAND – The corner of Eighth Street and College Avenue became a gastronomic empire on Tuesday evening.

New Holland Brewing Company hosted “Rocktoberfest,” a star-studded event featuring a five-course meal with beer and music pairings curated by celebrity chefs and beer experts. The festivities were a benefit for Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank. Seventy five guests were treated to the sold-out feast for the senses.

In addition to the usual theme of pairing a food with a drink, live music by The Schrock Brothers band accompanied each course. While each dish was being served, they played a song chosen by the chef who created it.

New Holland Chef Dale Beaubien helped shape the monumental event.

“We started out wanting to showcase what the chefs in Holland can do, and we ended up with something far from it,” said Beaubien. “A lot of those guys had moved on or had scheduling issues. We planned it far enough in the future that we were like ‘Let’s get some of our other friends around’ and then it just happened.”

The chemistry of those involved was noticeable, and conversations observed between participants were nearly reverent.

The evening began with a cocktail reception with curation done by Beervangelist Fred Bueltmann, Vice President of Brand and Lifestyle and Partner of New Holland Brewing Company. Bueltmann is also the author of “Beervangelist’s Guide to the Galaxy”. He chose The Band’s “Ophelia” to be played while serving a Manhattan made with Zeppelin Bend whiskey, a vermouth made from Fenn Valley Pinot Noir, Michigan honey, lavender, and more.

The meal unfolded seamlessly, moving at a pace that allowed for immersion in the moments of bliss upon taking the first bite and sip of each sublime pairing as its song played in the background.

The first course of sautéed blood pudding was served with Poet Oatmeal Stout and Rick James’s “Cold Blooded,” as chosen by Chef Brandon Johns of Grange in Ann Arbor. At Grange, Johns is known for creating unique whole-animal dishes using locally sourced ingredients.

Home turf Chef Beaubien’s turkey tamale was served with The Carhartt Woodsman, a barrel-aged Pale Ale, and “Tres Hombres” by ZZ Top in the second course. Winter squash and Mayocoba beans complemented the mildly spiced tamale.

Chef Matthew Millar, a 20-year veteran in the West Michigan restaurant scene, chose “Eat a Peach” by The Allman Brothers to accompany the third course of smoked magret duck with spiced peach butter and Into The Rabbit Hole Maibock. Millar’s latest project, The Southerner, is located in Saugatuck.

The Rolling Stones’s “Goat’s Head Soup” title partially described course four—a goat combination of knackwurst, slow-cooked leg, smoked loin, and jus by Chef Paul Virant, a legend of the Chicago-area restaurant scene. Virant’s beer choice was uniquely tied into the evening as well. Schrocktoberfest, a Michigan-grown Oktoberfest Lager, was  brewed in the New Holland pub with the band earlier this year.

Course five was a very indulgent dessert manifested from dark chocolate, cocoa butter, fermented chili, orange, and coriander by Chef Matt Pietsch of Salt of the Earth in Fennville. This was paired with a Flight of the Dragons presentation: three snifters of Dragon’s Milk including the original, a coffee-infused version, and a rum barrel-aged version. Hoots and Hellmouth’s “Watch Your Mouth” played along, as patrons raved about the spectacular finale.

Rounding out the curating and pairing panel were New Holland’s own Pub Brewer Steve “Bert” Berthel and UK beer expert Melissa Cole.

Berthel brings a wealth of beer and food knowledge to the table as a brewer in Michigan for nearly 20 years and a proponent of local agriculture. He is committed to locally sourcing 100 percent of all ingredients used in the pub brew house in 2016.

Cole is the author of “Let Me Tell You About Beer,” which has been hailed as the perfect beginner’s guide to beer. She was brought into the project by Fred Bueltmann.

“Fred and I have known each other for a number of years now. The more we’ve talked about beer and food and the way we want to change the way that people think about it and talk about it and compare them—that’s when we we really click.”

While she was in town she also participated in a collaboration brew— details of it will be revealed later.

Andrew Steiner, Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank’s Communication Specialist, said, “We were thrilled to be able to have a presence at this event, it’s so special. We also think when people are eating, that’s a great time to talk to them about local hunger and about getting food to those who don’t have enough to eat.”

Proceeds from a silent auction also benefited the food bank. Prizes ranged from signed books to dinner packages.

Sponsored by New Holland Brewing

Photography: Steph Harding & Scott Meivogel


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