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After weeks of rumblings among industry insiders, and days of speculation on social media, the news concerning potential changes at Arbor Brewing Company has been officially confirmed. Ownership is shifting, but the company’s roots will stay in Michigan.

arbor brewingArbor Brewing Company, one of Michigan’s oldest craft beer brands, has joined the Farm + Ferment family of Michigan-based hospitality businesses, that includes Michigan Hop Alliance, Northport Farms, Baia Estate Vineyard, Bigalora Wood Fired Cucina, Bacco Ristorante and Cloverleaf Fine Wine, through an acquisition by ABC Brew Holding, LLC and ABC Brew Production, LLC.

“It’s such an amazing opportunity to be able to join this group!” René Greff, a founding co-owner of ABC said. “We’ve heard nothing but good things” regarding Farm + Ferment, she added.

Farm + Ferment’s ABC Brew Holding, LLC and ABC Brew Production, LLC have acquired the membership interests of Arbor Brewing Company founders Matt and René Greff, and the other investors, in both Arbor Brewing Company, LLC and Corner Brewery, LLC, respectively, and engaged the Greffs in a 10-year agreement. Along with the business assets, ABC Brew Holding, LLC will have exclusive brand rights throughout North America. Greff Brewing Services, LLC will retain exclusive rights to Arbor Brewing Company throughout India, and the two entities will share the brand rights throughout the rest of the world.

“In an era of craft breweries being gobbled up by multi-nationals, we couldn’t be more pleased to be joining a consortium of local, independent Michigan operators representing the best of our industries,” René Greff said. “This strategic partnership will allow both the Arbor Brewing Company Brewpub and Microbrewery to continue to grow and thrive in an evolving craft beer marketplace, and it will free Matt and I up to do what we love best – promote and grow the brand here and abroad.”

According to René, the couple is planning to extend their annual stay in India next Spring to attend to the needs of the company there but will remain active and involved in Michigan as well.

“Acquiring a brewery fit perfectly with our long-term strategy,” said Mike Collins, managing principal, Farm + Ferment. “We’ve been very successful with our wine and hop businesses, and are continuing to expand the Bigalora Wood Fired Cucina brand. We were in the initial planning stages of a new brewery when we started discussions with the Greffs. We all knew right away that this was an ideal situation for everyone.”

Collins goes on to say that all current employees will remain, and ABC Brew Production, LLC has plans to expand the Ypsilanti location and eventually open additional brewpubs around the state.

Brian Tennis of Michigan Hop Alliance told MittenBrew.com “Farm and Ferment is a new entity that will focus on our hopyards, vineyards, and orchards as well as the new brewery and the winery being built in Northport.”

Tennis’ role will continues to be focusing “on our hop operations, including running the day to day Michigan Hop Alliance business. As well as overseeing our hopyards, brokering hops both foreign and domestically, and to work closely with our network of over 600 breweries around North America and Europe. I’m obviously very excited about working with everyone at ABC and will be providing the brewery with the best hops available with a stronger focus on Michigan grown ingredients.”

 

Michigan Hop Alliance

What differs in taste and aroma depending on where it is grown, and is squeezed to determine if it’s ready to be harvested? Hops, of course!

Hops are a key ingredient in the brewing of beer, and the United States has become the largest hop producer in the world. Traditionally, brewers might have ordered hops from large Pacific Northwest operations. However, Michigan hop production has boomed and our state now ranks fourth in the country for hop production.

Michigan Hop Alliance

Brian Tennis

Among the many hop farms in Michigan, the Michigan Hop Alliance was one of the first. Roughly ten years ago, Brian Tennis and his wife, Amy, bought a plot of land hidden away in the little town of Omena. Originally intended as a camping property, they soon realized its potential as farm land. Cherry trees were already present on the property, so that’s where they started.

However, they soon discovered cherries could be difficult to maintain. Cherries can be highly sensitive to unfavorable weather patterns: late Spring frosts, high winds, hail, etc.

“Cherries only bloom once, so if something happens, they’re done. Hops can bloom again, so if something does happen, they have a second chance,” said Tennis.

It is along the 45th parallel that ideal growing conditions for hops can be found. The 45th parallel, upon which Tennis’ farm rests, serves as the halfway point between the Equator and North Pole. The 45th provides the right amount of daylight and water for hops to thrive.

“We really have a microclimate here: with the Grand Traverse Bay, Lake Michigan, and our rainfall,” said Tennis.

One variety currently flourishing on the farm is Summit hops. This dwarf variety grows on shorter ropes, and the hops grow in compact clusters. Summit is typically grown in the Pacific Northwest; Tennis is experimenting with how well it’ll do in Northern Michigan. He’s also experimenting with a variety of non-commercial hops that are typically grown in France, Japan, and Kazakhstan.

“We have over twenty different hops, and the Hop Alliance has really become a trial land for myself and other farmers,” said Tennis.

Michigan Hop Alliance often works with other farmers throughout the process to grow, pick, dry, and/or pelletize the hops. In many cases, Michigan Hop Alliance will also market the hop, aiding the farmers along the entire process.

The growing process starts with cleanly propagated plants, consistent maintenance, and an organic approach. Tennis even has sheep on hand to help maintain the bottom of the hop bine; by eating growth at the bottom, the sheep naturally provide the bines with proper air flow, decreasing mildew and promoting further growth.

Michigan Hop Alliance

And, as we sneak into September, the hops are nearly ready for harvest.

“If you squeeze them, and they bounce back, they’re not quite ready. You also want to make sure the lupulin is schoolbus yellow,” Tennis explained.

The hops Tennis tends to are found in some of your favorite beers. The Michigan Hop Alliance works closely with breweries throughout the state, including Grand Rapids Brewing Company, Brewery Vivant, Short’s, and Stormcloud.

homebrew

Ben Darcie at Gravel Bottom Brewery and Homebrew Supply in Ada, Michigan, believes that all of us should have the opportunity to brew a 100% Michigan made beer. Even the homebrewers.

As the locavore movement continues to gain popularity in our area, it only makes sense our craft beer follow suit.

But what makes a Michigan beer a Michigan beer? Is it local brewers, utilizing Michigan’s agricultural bounty? Or is it using only locally grown hops and collaborating with Michigan Maltsters? Perhaps it’s a combination of all these things, and more.

“For the first time in Michigan homebrewing history, people can actually make a 100% Michigan beer at home,” Darcie states with a touch of excitement in his voice—and why not? This is huge.

homebrew

 

Think, for a moment, what goes into a beer. Water, hops, malt and yeast. Michigan water is wonderful and plentiful, easily sourced for all. Michigan hop farms have exploded over the last ten years or so, with a wide range of varietals to meet most of your brewing needs. The focus on malt has been huge in the last three to four years, with four start up malt houses opening between 2015-2016 alone. But yeast? Yeast is a new one, and finally we have a Michigan company, Craft Cultures, located in the UP, that completes the Michigan ingredient circle.

While Craft Cultures has offered its product to many of our local breweries (for example, 57 Brew Pub and New Holland’s Pub Only offerings), Gravel Bottom is one of the first homebrew store to approach them to create packaging specifically for smaller batch brews. “We are the only [store] in West Michigan, possibly the lower peninsula, that has 5 gallon pitches of Michigan propagated yeast,” Darcie shares.

homebrew

One of the goals Darcie had when coming aboard at Gravel Bottom was for home brewers to have the opportunity to make Michigan beer, and he took it upon himself to contact Craft Cultures and request specialized packaging for carrying their product within the shop. All the yeast from Craft Cultures is captured and propagated in state, and they even carry two indigenous strains of yeast as well—Keweenaw Ale I and Eagle River Ale II, with more available soon.

“For the first time we can make a beer  at home that is 100 percent reflective of our state. Which is really really awesome… It’s all about our air, it’s all about our soil, it’s all about our sun. it’s all about our elevation and our water. It is all us, 100 percent our state and I think that’s what makes it so cool.” Darcie’s commitment to this concept is palpable.

So visit Gravel Bottom Homebrewing Supply and see their extensive selection of Michigan grown product for yourself. “The biggest thing that separates us is our extensive hop selection. We carry between 60-75 different options. With the addition of Michigan malts and Michigan yeast, it definitely sets us apart in the entirety of West Michigan. We are very, very excited to offer this.”

From the very beginning, embracing the homebrewing community was a part of Gravel Bottom’s existence, and meeting homebrewers where they are, from novice to expert, is part of the experience of the shop. Darcie and crew are there to help.

In addition to the knowledgeable staff and a plethora of Michigan grown product, a free homebrewing class is offered the first Saturday of every month, and a hands-on brewing class is offered every 3rd Saturday, alternating between extract and all grain brewing. Classes are $20 or $40, and include the class session, a pint of beer and $20 off at the homebrewing shop if you spend $100 or more.

Darcie was kind enough to offer some recipes for your experimentation. Check them out following this article.

MITTENBREW MICHIGAN WHEAT IPA

OG: 1.060
FG: 1.015
ABV: 6.1%
IBUs: 66
SRM: 5.3

All Grain Recipe
Target Batch Size: 5.5g
Target Boil Size: 6.75g
Efficiency: 70%
Boil time: 60m

Mash Time: 60m @ 152*f
Fly Sparge @ 170*f

8.5lbs Pilot 2-row Brewer’s Malt
4.5lbs Pilot White Wheat
1.0lbs Pilot Munich Malt

1oz MHA Centennial (12.1%aa) @ 60min
1oz MHA Cascade (9%aa)          @ 15m
1oz MHA Centennial (12.1%aa) @ 10m
1oz MHA Chinook (12.1%aa)     @ 5m

Yeast: Craft Cultures Yeast Lab CCYL110 California Ale Yeast
Temperature: 60-65*f

MHA = Michigan Hop Alliance


MITTENBREW MICHIGAN ENGLISH RYE PALE ALE

OG: 1.055
FG: 1.014
ABV: 5.5%
IBUs: 42
SRM: 6.7

All Grain Recipe
Target Batch Size: 5.5g
Target Boil Size: 6.75g
Efficiency: 70%
Boil time: 60m

Mash Time: 60m @ 152*f
Fly Sparge @ 170*f

8.0lbs Pilot 2-row Brewer’s Malt
3.0lbs Pilot Munich Malt
2.0lbs Pilot Rye Malt
0.5lbs Pilot PB Toast

1oz MHA Chinook (12.1%aa) @ 60min
1oz BCH Crystal (3.2%aa)      @ 10m
1oz BCH Crystal (3.2%aa)      @ 5m

Yeast: Craft Cultures Yeast Lab CCY123 Dry English Yeast
Temperature: 60-65*f

MHA = Michigan Hop Alliance
BCH = Black Creek Hops


MITTENBREW MICHIGAN HONEY BROWN

OG: 1.058
FG: 1.015
ABV: 5.9%
IBUs: 23
SRM: 18

All Grain Recipe
Target Batch Size: 5.5g
Target Boil Size: 6.75g
Efficiency: 70%
Boil time: 60m

Mash Time: 60m @ 156*f
Fly Sparge @ 170*f

6.0lbs Pilot 2-row Brewer’s Malt
5.0lbs Pilot Munich Malt
2.5lbs Pilot Toasted Brown Malt
1.0lbs Pilot PB Toast
1.0lbs Michigan Honey (Added with 5m remaining in boil)

1.5oz BCH Hallertau (4.5%aa)      @ 60min
1oz    BCH Fuggle (4.5%aa)          @ 5m
0.5oz BCH Hallertau (4.5%aa)      @ 0m

Yeast: Craft Cultures Yeast Lab CCY123 Dry English Yeast
Temperature: 60-65*f

BCH = Black Creek Hops

 

For more information about Gravel Bottom and specific classes offered, follow them on Facebook or check out their website.

michigan hop

OMENA — Streetcar Partners Management, LLC has purchased a controlling interest in New Mission Organics and Michigan Hop Alliance. The entities will be merged and retain the name Michigan Hop Alliance under the Streetcar umbrella of companies.

Brian and Amy Tennis founded New Mission Organics in 2005 and were among the first hop farmers in Michigan, planting their first acre on the Leelanau Peninsula in 2008. They have since grown to become a leader in innovative hop production in the Midwest with more than 20 hop varieties in production, including several being grown for the first time on a commercial scale in North America.

The Tennis’s formed the Michigan Hop Alliance in 2010 to process their own hops, as well as hops from farms across northern Michigan. They have assisted dozens of hop farm startups as the Michigan hop industry has grown—sharing knowledge, equipment, and facilities. Both ventures will continue and expand operations under the new Michigan Hop Alliance tag at the Omena farm location. Brian Tennis will assume the role of President and Director of Marketing for Michigan Hop Alliance (MHA) going forward.

“Amy and I could not be happier to announce this new venture with Streetcar and begin a new chapter in our lives,” said Brian Tennis. “With our new partners we will be able to grow and innovate much more rapidly and reach brewers and farmers not only all over Michigan but across North America and service our International clients more effectively.”

The new partnership will allow for an increase in hop production—featuring even more varieties, expanded hop processing capabilities, and an expanded greenhouse operation that will supply clean hop plants for MHA and fellow hop farmers. In addition to the new partnership with Streetcar, MHA has agreed to become the exclusive distributor for the hop farming and processing group Old Mission Hop Exchange of nearby Grand Traverse County.

“We are excited to partner with Michigan Hop Alliance, one of the premier hop operations in the Midwest,” said Mike Collins of Streetcar. “We believe there is tremendous room for growth in Michigan’s hop industry. Michigan craft beer is booming and it’s only natural in a state as agriculturally-diverse as Michigan that a local hop industry should develop to help support it.”

Streetcar’s other holdings include the Commerce Twp based American Expedition Vehicles, real estate development projects in Northport and the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit, and Baia Estate, a Northport based vineyard and winery located just a few miles from the farm of New Mission Organics.

Streetcar plans to establish synergy between the hop operation and its Northport agricultural development. Established in 2015 on 80 acres in the heart of the Leelanau, Baia Estate will grow to include a vineyard, hard cider apple orchards, additional hopyards, brewing and cider-making facilities, and a tasting room featuring estate wines, beer, and cider. In 2015 Baia began bottling Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, and Merlot from sourced grapes

 

We all have our favorite beers, but what if you had to pick your favorite without knowing what it was?

The TC Ale Trail, along with sponsors Drink My Brewcast, Michigan Hop Alliance, and MI Local Hops, brought back the Traverse City IPA Challenge for its second year. The TC Ale Trail promotes Traverse City brews through several creative events, such as Paddle For Pints. The Traverse City IPA Challenge, held downtown at Little Fleet, involved a blind tasting of ten different IPAs.

“I wanted to create another event that would join the local breweries together in one venue,  and what better place to do it than at The Little Fleet,” said TC Ale Trail Co-Founder Troy Daily.

At most beer festivals and events, attendees can choose from a tap list of old favorites and new experimental brews. However, the Traverse City IPA Challenge required attendees to use what they know – and like – about beer to find a new favorite.

Upon arrival, attendees were given a tasting glass, tickets for ten tastings and food, as well as a ballot for voting and tasting notes. The tickets for tastings were simply numbered 1-10; breweries were kept secret until voting had been completed.

Without knowing who brewed the beer, tasters had to evaluate each beer without previous knowledge or judgement. This required tasters to assess aroma, mouthfeel, and flavor profiles with each sip. Tasting notes could then be added to the ballot sheet to help make a final voting decision.

“The IPA challenge is a great way to blindly try new IPAs without the prejudice of knowing where it’s coming from,” said Chad Rickman, who attended the event and is an devoted IPA fan. “I try to guess what brewery makes each one and most of the time I’m surprised.”

Each IPA was crafted by a local brewery, most of which are a part of the TC Ale Trail. Breweries competing included: Right Brain Brewery, Rare Bird Brewpub, Beggar’s Brewery, Brewery Ferment, North Peak Brewing, The Filling Station Microbrewery, Bravo Zulu Brewing, Old Mission Brewing Company, The Workshop, and Brewery Terra Firma.

At the end of the evening, the taps were revealed and a winner prevailed. Third place went to newcomers Bravo Zulu Brewing. Second place went to Rare Bird Brewpub, for the second year in a row. And the trophy for “Traverse City’s Best IPA” went to The Filling Station Microbrewery. headbrewer Andy Largent gladly accepted the hop-shaped trophy as brewers and tasters cheered for his success.

GRAND RAPIDS — The first meeting of a new statewide group of hop growers took place Saturday, with the Founders Firkin Fest as the background to the meeting.

Currently called the Michigan Hop Network (with the name subject to change), the group won’t be selling hops — rather it is focused on promoting hops in general as a crop for farmers.

Brian Tennis of Michigan Hop Alliance says the final articles of corporation are being firmed up and should be “good to go in a few weeks”.

At this point in time the group is hoping to double or triple hop production in order to secure federal crop protection funds.

Currently there are only 300 acres of hops being grown commercially in Michigan. Boosting that to 900 acres would enable farmers to avail of USDA crop insurance, a much needed benefit to entice potential farmers.

“Right now we’ve got 1% (of the total hop crop) in the United States,” said Tennis, mentioning the state should be reaching the goal of 3% by 2016.

Another function of the group will be to work on legislation to make hop growing more attractive. House Bill 5275, the Farm to Glass proposal, would give tax credits to Michigan breweries using all-Michigan ingredients in their brews. It would be phased in over several years. “It’s something that we’re still working on with the legislature in terms of tweaking the verbage that’s in there,” said Tennis.

“We know right now that the malt industry is so small that there’s going to be very few beers out there that are going to be 100% Michigan malt, Michigan yeast and Michigan hops but we’re already doing some right now,” he said. “The Mitten [Brewing Company] is one, we’ve done some stuff with Kuhnhenn, and we’ve done some stuff with Short’s.”

Michigan is home to two malt houses, a yeast culturing lab, many hop farms and fresh water that is suitable for brewing.

Tennis also stated there are currently farm chemicals being used in the Pacific Northwest that could be useful in Michigan but are not approved here yet. The new group will be lobbying for legalization, although it won’t necessarily be a Political Action Committee. The focus will be more on promoting the growth, proper processing and use of Michigan hops.

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