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mitten brewing

The latest Mitten Foundation project will benefit Safe Haven Ministries

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — This winter, The Mitten Brewing Company and The Mitten State have teamed up to proclaim “Love Shouldn’t Hurt.” The companies’ Mitten Foundation collaboration will raise funds and awareness for victims of domestic abuse.

Sales of LOVE IPA, a red India Pale Ale brewed for the cause, or a LOVE tee, hoodie or glass will support Safe Haven Ministries: a Grand Rapids organization dedicated to serving women and children who have suffered domestic abuse.

“Helping families in our area this winter is as easy as enjoying the Michigan beer and apparel you already love,” said Scott Zubrickas, co-owner of The Mitten State.

mitten brewing

The fundraiser kicks off on November 21 and will continue until the companies have raised $10,000 for Safe Haven Ministries. The funds will underwrite shelter costs for area women and children seeking safety from domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse is a prevalent issue nationwide: one in three women have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to a national report from the CDC. The problem pervades Grand Rapids, too.

“Last year, our two companies came together to grant money to our Westside neighbors in need of heating assistance. We noticed that the bulk of the applications came from women, but more interesting was that they were all survivors of domestic abuse,” said Dana Mate Dones, president of Mitten Foundation, Inc. “This year we understood that the best approach to helping was through the experts in the subject, Safe Haven.”

Safe Haven Ministries provides emergency shelter, case management, support groups and more to women and children suffering from domestic abuse. The organization also provides education and prevention programs for businesses, schools, healthcare providers and other members of the community.

mitten brewing

LOVE IPA will be sold only at The Mitten Brewing Company’s Grand Rapids location at 527 Leonard St NW. LOVE branded apparel and goods will be available for purchase online at themittenstate.com or at The Mitten State shop at 415 Bridge St NW.

“We’re confident that with the help of our amazing customers we can meet our goal and ensure that area women and children in crisis are safe and warm this winter season,” said Chris Andrus, co-owner of The Mitten Brewing Company.

 

gray skies

 

Grand Rapids, Mich – Gray Skies Distillery released their first straight rye whiskey November 7 and will follow shortly with a limited-edition release of their Breakfast Bourbon on November 20. Both spirits will be available for purchase in their tasting room and through licensed retailers, bars and restaurants around Michigan via statewide distribution. Michigan Straight Rye Whiskey was aged in charred new, oak barrels for over two years and bottled at 90 proof. Breakfast Bourbon was aged over two years and bottled at 87 proof. Breakfast Bourbon spent time in two different barrels, starting in in charred new, oak barrels before it was finished for 9 months in maple syrup casks. These two whiskeys bring the total number of American whiskeys Gray Skies Distillery offers up to five: Michigan Straight Rye Whiskey, Breakfast Bourbon, Breakfast Rye, Single Malt Whiskey and Michigan Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Each Gray Skies Distillery whiskey is painstakingly made from grain in 500-gallon batches. Gray Skies proudly uses an inefficient pot still for its whiskeys to maintain maximum flavor at the expense of productivity. Each whiskey is double distilled before resting in barrels on-site for years. With five premium American whiskeys available and a growing, aging whiskey stock Gray Skies Distillery continues to define Michigan craft whiskey.

“Michigan Straight Rye Whiskey is a perfect complement to the coming cold weather. It’s the ultimate cocktail whiskey with a strong rye backbone that stands up to other ingredients” said Steve Vander Pol, co-owner of Gray Skies Distillery. “Because this is a straight whiskey, no additional flavors were added. My tasting notes include figs, chocolate, black pepper and cinnamon. This flavor profile was created using only grain, water, yeast and time in oak barrels.”

“Breakfast Bourbon offers a playful twist on a typical bourbon whiskey. Unlike our rye, this is not a straight spirit. We infused maple flavor into the whiskey by taking a traditional bourbon and finishing it for 9 months in a barrel that was previously used to age maple syrup,” Vander Pol continued. “The maple finish amplifies the sweetness inherent in bourbon whiskey and imparts a creamy mouthfeel to the viscous finished spirit. These whiskey releases expand our craft whiskey offerings to five distinct spirits, highlighting what a small batch distillery can do.”

Gray Skies Distillery was named Michigan Distillery of The Year in 2016 at the 7th annual New York International Spirits Competition on the strength of its gold medal winning Barrel Finished Gin. The Gray Skies Distillery line up of spirits are currently available in hundreds of licensed retailers, bars and restaurants around Michigan. Distribution is currently limited to Michigan, but the distillery hopes to expand into additional states with future whiskey releases.

 

About Gray Skies Distillery:

Grain to glass, locally made in Grand Rapids.

At Gray Skies Distillery, we don’t try to be everything to everyone. Instead, we focus our attention on our process, flavors, environment and those looking for the unexpected. We take pride in introducing traditional spirits – like gin, whiskey and rum – with a surprising flavor twist, making them unique to Gray Skies Distillery. Our small-batch process is married with traditional methods to create a spirit that is innovative and exceptional in quality. We are committed to working with local businesses whenever possible to craft our flavor-forward spirits. From local malted barley to repurposing Michigan maple syrup barrels, our innovative ingredients push the limits on what good spirits truly embody.

 

speciation artisan ales

Imagine life’s first strands, the RNA in volcanic pools wriggling like an eel in attempt to express itself. As it reacts to cyanide and sugar, nucleotides are formed—RNA’s baby food. From these humble beginnings we have a miracle that science is still trying to understand. Information unfurls, cells are born. Earth settles. Not too hot, not too cold, the stage is set for life to really go bananas. Multi-celled organisms split and explode in unnamed oceans. Fish grow legs and walk on land. Things are changing. Flash-forward a few billion years and we have humans drinking beer in cities. They share the planet with termites, giraffes, and more. After all this time, life has done a lot of differentiating.

When drinking Speciation Artisan Ales I end up thinking about these large spans of time, certainly in regards to the patience required for the beers to mature, but more so in how the flavors feel so outside of time, prehistoric, like those first eukaryotes struggling and succeeding to become life. How when you have a sip time narrows, the palate a petri dish for yeast to slow dance on. They say there’s beer to drink about and beer to think about. These beers demand attention. “That’s the goal with the beers that we make,” owner Mitch Ermatinger said. “They’re not meant to be shotgunned, we want you to sit and enjoy.”

speciation artisan ales

Mitch Ermatinger

While rewarding in their complexity, brewing with the wild yeast can feel like leading blind sheep to the pasture. “We try to guide the beer in the direction we want it to go through, but we leave a lot of fermentation up to nature,” Ermatinger said. “Here’s some food, munch on it and make something magical.” There does seem to be something mysterious at play beneath the cage and cork. How did he learn to coax magic out of microbes?

By now, many are familiar with the Speciation origin story. As a brewer at Colorado’s Former Future, Ermatinger helped spearhead Black Project, a spontaneous fermentation side project so popular it eclipsed its forebearer and became the main gig. In spite of acclaim and a handful of medals won at GABF, Mitch always had the dream of someday opening his own place. There would need to be a homecoming. That came in 2015 when he and Whitney Ermatinger, his co-owner and wife, returned to West Michigan with experience and a business plan. His reputation snowballed as he helped Harmony Brewing Company launch their sour program and distributed personal test batches to community bottle shares. “I was hoping that the quality of the beer would show that we were worth their time and money, and that we were serious about making world class beer,” Ermatinger said. Call it guerilla marketing-lite.

All the hard work culminated on January 14, 2017 when Speciation released its inaugural beer Genetic Drift, a funky Saison with wild yeast harvested from a crab apple flower found on family property in Holland, MI. Traces of this original culture are sprinkled throughout much of Speciation’s lineup, cultivating a unique identity to the brand. If not the sexiest beer in the Speciation portfolio, Genetic Drift at least serves as a powerful mission statement. As Charles Darwin put it, “Species undergo modification, and existing forms of life descended by true generation from preexisting forms.” Meaning? As the culture evolves over time, it’s important to respect its ancestry. It’s pretty romantic. The dust off a petal helped launch a brewery.

Now, just shy of two years later, Speciation has grown into a different sort of beast. Previously opening the garage only once a month for bottle releases, they’ve finally unveiled regular hours to the public: Thursday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Fans have been chomping at the bit. It’s been a long time coming, unfortunately marred by unanticipated frustrations. “My biggest regret is not finding a landlord who was on board with what we’re doing, even basic things like opening a tasting room,” Ermatinger said. “It’s caused a lot of stress dealing with someone who impedes our vision for the company.” Thankfully, after plenty hard fought battles, the team has assembled a space that fits the beer they make.

speciation artisan ales

Mitch & Whitney Ermatinger

Hidden in a warehouse on the outskirts of Comstock Park, the building looks more like a place you’d get a root canal than a Berliner Weisse, but once inside the facade seems like an intentional fakeout. The air is thick with a dungeon musk. Low light and picnic tables accentuate the farmhouse cozy. There’s this pervading feeling that you’ve stepped into another era—Jurassic chic. Looking around though, the obvious set piece is the number of barrels stacked high against the walls. It’s a confident decoration choice, confessional in a way: here you are surrounded by what you’ll eventually drink. Spotting a Gray Skies Distillery logo on a barrel teases possibilities; what kind of collaborative experiment could be aging in there?

From snagging Gray Skies barrels to joint recipes with HOMES, Speciation’s collaborative spirit has proven a testament to their success from day one. “We can all make beer better,” Ermatinger said. “Every time we collab with another brewery we learn something about their process, and it goes the other way around too.”

Their relationship with City Built Brewing Company reflects that symbiosis. Brewing roughly ninety percent of Speciation’s wort, City Built provides them the liquid foundation for yeast to create alcohol. They do make a buck as the host brewery, but more importantly, it conveys a mutual respect. Ed Collazzo, City Built’s co-founder, clued me in to a dynamic shift in their partnership. “Beyond our friendship, he needs a brewery because he doesn’t have one. For our new sour program, we’ll need a space to avoid getting bugs in our brewhouse.” City Built has been kicking out awesome kettle sours for a while, but the decision to up the ante with wild fermentation could have to do with friendly competition. “We’re encouraged to do better because he’s in town. There’s a lot of thought behind his plan, both in quality and how he’s changing the sour game in Michigan.” It’ll be a bit before we taste the fruition of this endeavor, but we can sense the Speciation influence in City Built’s November can release, #happyfriendsgiving, a Cranberry Berliner Weisse with lactose.

Another key to the success of the tasting room will be Quinn Vollink, Speciation’s taproom manager. A long time face at The Sovengard, his relationship with the Ermatingers and passion for sour beer landed him a full-time spot handling day-to-day operations. “The big thing for me is educating the public on our process and getting people excited about what we do,” Vollink said. “I’m a Zingerman’s alumni and I put big pride in making sure everyone leaves happier than when they first arrived.” Knowledgeable and friendly, whether you want to talk to him about yeast strains or the Talking Heads, you’ll want a spot at the rail to get to know Quinn.

speciation artisan alesMitch clearly appreciates the help too, “For two years I was working 80-100 hours a week and I was burning out. Then we had a kid. When we had Quincy it made me realize I needed to delegate or I would die. Despite this being so much fun I don’t want to work my life away.” This trust to relinquish control is necessary in both fatherhood and beer. Volatile and fickle, I imagine brewing a sour isn’t altogether different from raising a toddler. “I can’t control all the microbes, there’s too many variables. But I also don’t want control, I want the beer to go in different ways, come together and make something unique.” Spoken like a true dad.

With a little extra time on his hands, Ermatinger has started plotting a next move. “We applied for our winery license, so soon enough we’ll be making wild fermented wine and cider too,” he said. “They’re a funky wine. Similar to lambic.” Essentially wine that’s alive, natural wine is a middle finger to the bore and snobbery put on by sommeliers. “Because we’re not selling to wine people we’re going to be doing things that are unorthodox like a tequila barrel-aged white wine.” Maybe on paper that sounds like dorm room hooch, but the staff promises they would never release a product they wouldn’t drink. Regarding quality control, “Our beers take time, the production staff is constantly tasting them, making sure to see how they taste and if they’re ready or not,” Volink said. “We use the highest quality ingredients and we have fun getting them. I like that we don’t take shortcuts.”

Speciation also takes a page from the wine world when it comes to terroir—how climate, soil, and aspect affect taste. I like to think about it abstractly, like how it feels returning to a family cabin; how bombarded by stimulus both sensory and spectral, the environmental factors congeal into something, well, home. “The whole point of our beer is to make it taste like the place that you’re in. We’re proud to be part of the Michigan beer scene,” Ermatinger said. With a fully-fledged tasting room and a vision for the future, expect Speciation to only get better with time.

 

 

long road

 

New distillery Tasting Room to open in the heart of Downtown Boyne City retail district

Grand Rapids, Mich – Grand Rapids-based Long Road Distillers announced on Wednesday that they will be opening a new distillery tasting room in Boyne City, Michigan. The northern Michigan outlet will be the company’s first offsite tasting room apart from their headquarters on the West Side of Grand Rapids where they house their production facility, cocktail bar and restaurant. Visitors to the new Boyne City location will be able to sample Long Road’s line-up of handcrafted spirits, participate in special tasting events, and purchase merchandise and bottles to-go.

“The Long Road team is thrilled to join the Boyne City community,” said Kyle VanStrien, Long Road Distillers Co-Founder and Co-Owner. “It’s a beautiful town with a thriving retail district, engaged business community, and countless activities for residents and visitors to enjoy throughout the year.”

The Long Road Tasting Room will be located at 118 Water Street in the heart of the Central Business District in Downtown Boyne City. It will share a storefront with The Outdoor Beerdsman, a befitting partnership considering the handcrafted nature of the retailer who designs and prints their own apparel, and creates custom jewelry, all in-house.

“We’re excited to have Long Road Distillers join our downtown business community,” said Ashley Cousens, Executive Director of the Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce. “We think they’ll be a great compliment to the many options we have for residents and visitors to enjoy – our retail shops, brewpubs, restaurants, wineries and bars. This will add another unique attraction and a line of handcrafted products that help highlight the agricultural bounty of Michigan.”

Northern Michigan has become a vital part of the Long Road story and holds a special place in the hearts of VanStrien and fellow Co-Owner and Co-Founder Jon O’Connor.

“We are committed to using Michigan-grown ingredients in our spirits whenever possible,” said O’Connor. “MICHIGIN, our 100% Michigan ingredient gin, depends on ingredients grown in Northern Michigan. Our team spends several days each fall harvesting juniper on nearby Beaver Island, and we’ve incorporated galena hops from the Michigan Hop Alliance in Northport to add a citrus component to the gin’s botanical makeup.”

“As we’ve done in West Michigan, we’re excited to build partnerships with Boyne area farmers to develop new products that highlight the unique terroir of the region,” adds O’Connor.

While an official open date has not been announced, Long Road Distillers is actively seeking applicants for a Tasting Room Manager and Retail Associate team members.

To learn more about employment opportunities or to stay up to date on the Long Road – Boyne City location, visit fb.me/LongRoadBoyneCity.

 

 

issues and ales

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — Harmony Hall will host a night of political discussion focused on the highly anticipated upcoming midterm election. Michigan Radio’s next installment of “Issues & Ale” will take place in the hall on Wednesday, October 24 from 6:30-8:00 p.m.

“We’re making it easy to do your civic duty. Get informed while enjoying a delicious Harmony beer!” said Heather Van Dyke-Titus, co-owner of Harmony Brewing Company.

Issues & Ale is an ongoing event series designed to get the public talking about issues in Michigan in an informal environment. The events take place throughout Michigan Radio’s listening area and are always free to attend.

michigan radio

It’s Just Politics co-host Zoe Clark will host a panel of Grand Rapids political experts in a discussion about the upcoming midterm election. On November 6, Michiganders will elect a new governor and attorney general, select candidates in a number of contested races in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and vote on three statewide ballot proposals.

“This will be a fun and fast-paced discussion about some of the key races and ballot issues that people across Michigan will be voting on in the November midterm election,” said Steven Chrypinksi, marketing director for Michigan Radio.

Audience members will also have the opportunity to pose questions about the election to the panel.

“We’ve been talking to so many people who are feeling desperate for constructive, respectful dialogue about politics and the issues that impact all of us,” Van Dyke-Titus said. “We wanted to provide a forum for that conversation to happen.”

Van Dyke-Titus, a lifelong listener of NPR, looks forward to hosting the event in the midst of a tense political atmosphere.

“I’m thrilled to be able to collaborate with an institution that I value and respect so much,” Van Dyke-Titus said. “I’m also excited that the theme of the night is a preview for the midterm elections. I can’t remember a time when an election felt more important.”

 

harvest

The 2018 release features 100% local Michigan hops

 

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– According to a recent report from Hop Growers of America, your next craft beer is more likely than ever to contain Michigan hops. Founders Brewing Co. is celebrating the rise of local hops with this year’s release of Harvest Ale, a wet-hopped ale. An annual mainstay since the early-2000s, Harvest Ale is the brewery’s ode to the beauty of American hops grown in their backyard.

Founders proudly uses 100% locally-grown wet hops in this year’s batch of Harvest Ale, which speaks to the growth of quality in the local hop farming industry. Harvested as small flowers from trailing vines, hops add complex aromas and flavors to beer, and have distinct personalities that vary greatly from farm-to-farm. Founders sources from a number of local Michigan hop farms, including MI Local, Hop Head Farms, and Pure Mitten. To guarantee freshness, the brewing team works around the clock to transform the fresh hop cones into Harvest Ale. According to Brewmaster, Jeremy Kosmicki, “it is an arduous, tiring process,” but there are few beers he enjoys brewing more. Harvest Ale marks the return of fall, and the hands-on production process transforms the brewery into an aromatic, greenhouse-like space that is unique to this season.

Harvest Ale is available nationally in bottles through October 2018. Founders will also celebrate the return of the beer at their annual Harvest Party, a tribute to the American hop. Hosted at their Grand Rapids taproom on October 13, Harvest Party will feature live music, special food offerings and an impressive tap list. Harvest Ale is available in 4-packs of 12oz bottles and on draft across the brewery’s distribution footprint. It has a suggested retail price of $12.99/4-pack – please note that pricing will vary depending on the market.

 

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., – Founders Brewing Co. announced today that they will release Curmudgeon’s Better Half as the fifth installment in the 2018 Barrel-Aged Series. Curmudgeon’s Better Half, an old ale brewed with molasses and aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels, is preceded by Dankwood, Backwoods Bastard, KBS and Barrel Runner in the series. This marks the first time the beer has been bottled since 2012.

What tames an old ale like Curmudgeon? The tender embrace of oak and sweet maple, that’s what. That’s right, Curmudgeon’s Better Half features the brewery’s recently retired old ale, Curmudgeon, as the base beer. Aged for months in bourbon barrels that have previously held maple syrup, the result is sweet, rich and utterly delicious.

“We’re tasked with bringing out a handful of new barrel-aged beers a year and some of them may be new inventions and others, like Curmudgeon’s Better Half, will be hits from the past,” said VP of PPIL/ Barrel Maestro, Jason Heystek. “This was a beer that needed to get back into the rotation.”

Curmudgeon’s Better Half will be available in 4-packs of 12oz bottles, 750mL bottles and on draft in the Grand Rapids and Detroit taproom beginning on August 24 and everywhere else later that month. It will have an SRP of $16.99/4-pack and $12.99/750mL bottle although prices will vary by market. 12.7% ABV and 35 IBUs.

“The flavor profile of Curmudgeon’s Better Half has lots of rich specialty grains, toasted malts, caramel malts, and, of course, the perfect hop balance” said Brewmaster Jeremy Kosmicki. “After that it spends some time in bourbon barrel which gives you vanilla and coconuts tones and the maple gives you the perfect amount of sweetness.”

About Founders Brewing Co.

Established in 1997 by two craft beer enthusiasts—Dave Engbers and Mike Stevens—with day jobs and a dream, Founders Brewing Co. brews complex, in-your-face ales, with huge aromatics and tons of flavor. Founders ranks among the top 10 largest craft breweries in the U.S. and is one of the fastest growing. The brewery has received numerous awards from the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival and RateBeer and BeerAdvocate users often rate its beers among the best in the world. Located in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, Founders is a proud member of the Michigan Brewers Guild.

About the Barrel-Aged Series
Crafting legendary barrel-aged beers is an exercise in patience. We start by brewing complex, world-class beer worthy of time in a barrel. Then, our experience and years spent mastering our craft means we know exactly when it’s been aged to perfection. After one sip, you’ll know – it was worth the wait.

 

beer city pro-am

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH.  — The Beer City Brewer’s Guild is hosting the second annual Beer City Pro-Am, a competition that pairs local award-winning homebrewers with microbreweries to create unique recipes to be brewed and shared with the public.

This year’s event brings together 25 of the area’s best homebrewers with Grand Rapids microbreweries. Qualifying homebrewers were selected from the winners of local homebrewing competitions.

“It’s a good chance to connect the homebrewing community and the craft brewing community, because there’s a lot of commonality there,” said Nick Rodammer, co-founder of the event and Pro-Am Committee chair. “It’s also a good chance for local homebrewers to get a little bit of exposure for the quality of the beer they are making.”

Entries will be tapped in participating microbreweries’ taprooms for public enjoyment starting July 30 through August 3.

“I think we have a lot of really interesting releases this year,” Rodammer said. Lagers, ales and a variety of fruit-infused styles make the list, which can be found on the Beer City Brewer’s Guild website.

The beers will be judged by a panel of local, qualified judges based on aroma, appearance, flavor and mouthfeel. The winner will be announced at the Beer City Brewer’s Guild’s annual summer picnic on August 11.

Competing brews will also appear in two tap takeovers. Horrocks Market Tavern will have five Pro-Am entries on tap on August 3 from 5-8 p.m. Logan’s Alley will have 18 of the collaborations on tap from August 10-13, including last year’s winning entry from City Built Brewing Company and homebrewer Paul Arends: Monroe Weiss.

City Built Brewing Company had only recently opened its doors when its collaboration with Arends won last year’s competition. Edwin Collazo, co-founder of City Built Brewing Company, said he was still very involved with the Grand Rapids homebrewing community at the time. Collazo said he can see how maintaining a connection with local homebrewers can benefit the larger brewing community.

beer city pro-am

“How much better will our beer get and how much more innovative will our breweries continue to be because we’re brewing with people who are doing five-gallon batches, reading Zymurgy and other homebrew magazines,” Callazzo said. “[Homebrewers are] super passionate about they do too, so I think the chance to collaborate with them is a great thing for Beer City as a whole.”

And because the Pro-Am competition pairs the best of the best with the professionals, team members have plenty of knowledge to offer.

“It’s truly a collaboration. We really learn from each other,” Rodammer said.