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Boatyard Brewing

When an unfamiliar visitor stumbles upon the north side of Kalamazoo, they may feel as though they have taken a wrong turn as the main attractions shift from restaurants and breweries to old warehouses and large factories. However, if they look closely they will notice a small 10 barrel brewery that decided to call this part of town home. 

After several years of preparation, Brian C. Steele and Dan Gilligan were finally able to give Kalamazoo its newest craft brewery, Boatyard Brewing Co., in June of 2014. Their mission is to be a brewery where you get to know the staff while you’re enjoying one of their 11 beers on tap. It is also not uncommon to get a Boatyard history lesson during your visit. Their story is an intriguing adventure of two home-brewers and their attempt to bring quality beer to the north end of Kalamazoo.    

Roughly 5 years ago, Steele approached Gilligan with the idea of opening up a craft brewery. Gilligan immediately accepted the proposal and partnered with Steele to begin this journey with great intentions. One particular goal of theirs was for the brewery to have a Michigan centric name.  After going through tons of copyrighted names, they discovered that “Boatyard Brewing Co.” had not been used. Calling back to boating adventures that they shared with family and friends, Steele said, “We decided to aim for a culture of boating. Most of the time it’s relaxing, family oriented, and fun and so we went with Boatyard.”

To embark on their nautical brewing journey, Steele and Gilligan needed a location around Kalamazoo for their Boatyard Brewing Co.

During their search a building became available on the north end of Kalamazoo. It seemed like a great location for a temporary home. Steele and Gilligan rented out a section of the building they thought would be the perfect size for them after some renovations.

Several weeks went by during the restoration and the guys began to feel at home. They started to call their new place “a location of opportunity.” Despite many people telling them that being on the north side of Kalamazoo was a big risk, Steele and Gilligan never abandoned their ship. They eventually purchased the entire building from their landlord. This allowed Boatyard to have a permanent location with plenty of room for innovation and expansion.

As Steele and Gilligan said, this location became a place of opportunity. They were able to explore new ways of brewing by cultivating a few strains of yeasts from different areas within the brew house. This lead to the creation of the “Alice” and “Betty” series, which contain different ales using these wild yeasts.

Proud of their results, Boatyard plans to brew several different ales from the Alice and Betty series for the upcoming Kalamazoo Beer Week in January. Boatyard is also partnering with The Union to do a tap takeover with the Alice series at their location on S Kalamazoo Mall.

In another effort to support Kalamazoo commerce, Boatyard has also been partnering with the local food truck, Sloppy’s, to help feed hungry customers at the brewery. Steele and Gilligan enjoy their relationship with Sloppy’s because of the opportunities it has created for everyone. Both businesses are able to focus on their specialties with relief that the other is attending to other consumer needs.

After being open for almost 2 years, Boatyard has made partnerships that have brought other local businesses to the north side of Kalamazoo. Thanks to the help of DiscoverKalamazoo, Boatyard has become a part of the “Give a Craft Beer Trail” to help promote their brewery. The trail provides its participants the opportunity to explore 11 breweries around Kalamazoo County. This has contributed to attracting outside travelers and locals to the north side for the first time.  

Through the combination of great beer, local business partnerships and a friendly staff, Boatyard has been able to make their mark on an unexpected area of Kalamazoo. As Steele explained this impact perfectly, “We’ve kind of become the ‘anchor’ on the north end.”

Cellarmen's

HAZEL PARK, MI – If you hear loud music coming from 24310 John R, you can be sure the four bearded men inside the building are hard at work brewing up something deliciousand none of the neighbors are complaining.  

The 12,000-square-foot former lumberyard is now home to Cellarmen’s, Hazel Park’s first brewery, cidery, and meadery. The meadery opened this October, just in time for the Fall Beer Fest in Detroit.

Cellarmen’s tasting room is decked out in wood paneling and second hand furniture sets. The space gets its personality from homemade tables (made from wood from the lumberyard), local art for sale, and a soundtrack that skews toward heavy metal.

Cellarmen's

“It looks a little bit like your grandpa’s basement,” said Ian Radogost-Givens, one of the four cofounders of Cellarmen’s.

Radogost-Givens cut his teeth at B. Nektar meadery in Ferndale, along with Cellarmen’s cofounders Jason Petrocik, Dominic Calzetta, and Andrew Zalewski. With five years experience under their belt, the men are ready to produce anything they can think of.

Current offerings in the taproom usually include 9-12 meads, ciders, and beers. Most are made with Michigan-sourced ingredients when possible, and they never use fruit concentrates—only fresh fruit and juice.

“The French Oak Wildflower is what a mead-head will drink. Then we have our Trasher beer, a Lager style Ale that we made for people in the town to relate to,” Radogost-Givens said. The Trasher is their best seller.

Not much has changed since the space served as a lumberyard, including the free popcorn that is kept ready for customers.

“For customers who came in and bought lumber here their whole lives, now if they came in for a beer, the space would still feel familiar,” Radogost-Givens said. “The place only needed a spit shine,” he added.

The guys feel right at home in Hazel Park, where, along with James Rigato’s new spot, Mabel Grey, they have helped the neighborhood earn its reputation as an up-and-comer.

“Hazel Park has gone beyond what most cities do to get small businesses off the ground. We’ve gotten so much support from city officials to open our doors, and now quite a few of them come here to drink,” Radagost-Givens said.

Mead has taken off in Michigan, and Radogost-Givens would like to put Hazel Park and Cellarmen’s on the mead drinker’s map.

“My goal is to bridge the space between Warren, where Dragonmead and Kuhnhenn are, and Ferndale, where Schramm’s and B. Nektar are,” said Radogost-Givens.

The brewery’s current production capacity is 8.5 barrels of cider and mead, and 1 barrel of beer at a time. They hope to bump cider and mead production to 10 barrels soon.

“Now that we have wrapped our heads around filling the taproom, we have been able to supply a few local bars with kegs,” Radogost-Givens said.

The men aim to start canning mead in the spring or summer of 2016.

Over the holidays, Cellarmen’s plans to release the second run of Cranpus, a cranberry orange zest mead made with allspice and two kinds of honey. For New Year’s Eve, they will host a party featuring a champagne mead that climbs to 14% ABV.

“If you’re looking for a nice friendly atmosphere, good drinks and good music, come by. We’re just four hard working sons of bitches making a dream happen,” Radogost-Givens said.

Cellarmen’s is open Thursday 5pm-Midnight, Friday 3pm-Midnight, Saturday 12pm-Midnight and Sunday 12pm-8pm. You can find more info on their Facebook page.

Michigan is often viewed as a trailblazer when it comes to the beer industry. Other states want to be Michigan. More and more states are seeing new breweries open that value keeping their community close by supporting other local businesses. And more breweries increases the demand for crops to supply them. Pilot Malt House, an artisan craft malt house, has seen great success in Michigan and is preparing to branch out. Virginia is in need for it to support the new breweries. One of Pilot Malt House’s small business partners resides in Virginia, so it just made sense. Right now, Virginia is the wild wild west for breweries—they are essentially what Michigan was four years ago.

“We are trying to take Michigan malting to Virginia to duplicate it with Virginia grown grain. I won’t be working there or living there. It will be another branch, Pilot Virginia – we are Pilot Michigan. We aren’t trying to be big but it is a good opportunity,” states Erik May, President/Owner of Pilot Malt House.  

Pilot Malt House

An official announcement was made earlier this morning in Loudoun Country by Todd Haymore, Virginia Agriculture and Forestry Secretary, welcoming Pilot Malt House to Virginia.  

Pilot Michigan and Pilot Virginia will each be autonomous, but business functions will be funneled through Michigan. To start, malt will be produced in Michigan and shipped to Virginia for distribution until the Virginia crop is ready. Shipping will then continue for malt variants that can’t grow in Virginia. It is a great way for both Pilot Michigan and Pilot Virginia to feel secure when it comes to unexpected weather changes that can damage crops without warning.

May adds, “The beer industry is all built on relationships. If we have relationships with growers, we can lean on people there if necessary. We won’t rely on it or have it as part of daily operations, but it is good security.”

A great thing about Virginia is their Farm Brewery Law. Unlike in Michigan, resident farmers in Virginia that fall under a certain size can easily be licensed as a brewery. Typically the brewery is in a barn on the land. Pilot Virginia will be co-located on a farm with a brewery as well as the only hop processing outfit in Virginia.  

“All will be all on the same plantation. 80 acres total with 10 acres being for variety trials. What we grow here may not work there and vice versa. They do winter varieties and plant in winter and harvest it earlier. We plant in April and harvest by the end of July/early August. There will be a sharing of resources both ways,” states May.

Pilot Virginia is expected to start functioning Summer 2016.

shorts brewingfunky buddha

Bellaire — Short’s Brewing Company and Funky Buddha Brewing are collaborating to brew an Old Fashioned inspired beer that incorporates native fruits from Michigan and Florida, their respective native states. It will be released for the first time at Extreme Beer Festival in Boston.

The beer will be called Tip ta Tip, a reference to the peninsulas that both breweries are located on. Funky Buddha traveled to Bellaire in August and together they brewed an American ale with Michigan cherries. Short’s then traveled to South Florida to brew an orange, yarrow, and rosemary gruit made with Florida oranges. The two will be aged separately in bourbon barrels before being blended together.

Tip ta Tip will be released as a part of Short’s Private Stache series early next year. Private Stache beers do not see distribution and are sold exclusively at their pub in Bellaire.

Learn more from both breweries about the collaboration on this episode of the Short’s Cast.

Photos: Michael Murphy IV.

shorts brewingfunky buddha
Bellaire — Short’s Brewing Company and Funky Buddha Brewing are collaborating to brew an Old Fashioned inspired beer that incorporates native fruits from Michigan and Florida, their respective native states. It will be released for the first time at Extreme Beer Festival in Boston.
The beer will be called Tip ta Tip, a reference to the peninsulas that both breweries are located on. Funky Buddha traveled to Bellaire in August and together they brewed an American ale with Michigan cherries. Short’s then traveled to South Florida to brew an orange, yarrow, and rosemary gruit made with Florida oranges. The two will be aged separately in bourbon barrels before being blended together.

Tip ta Tip will be released as a part of Short’s Private Stache series early next year. Private Stache beers do not see distribution and are sold exclusively at their pub in Bellaire.

Learn more from both breweries about the collaboration on this episode of the Short’s Cast.
Photos: Michael Murphy IV.

Grand Rapids- Alexander Atkin, brewer, musician, and by all accounts friend to everyone who encounters him, needs the community’s support.
Alex was traveling in Guatemala when he suffered a devastating motorcycle crash. The full extent of his serious injuries and their consequences are currently unknown. A medical evacuation flight brought him to Grand Rapids overnight Tuesday for surgery and subsequent treatment. His long term prognosis remains to be determined.

“For now, we are just grateful he’s alive. His helmet was smashed and cracked in half, yet his CT scans have shown us his brain is operating perfectly,” said Kate Pillsbury, friend and fellow musician.

Alex is uninsured and will need financial support to cover the mounting costs of his treatment and recovery. According to Pillsbury, Alex’s parents had to front $30,000 to get him home.

His sister, Shannon Crosby, set up a GoFundMe account for donations. Mitten Brewing Company, where Alex is a brewer and cellarman, is holding a benefit on January 7th from open to close including a silent auction, raffle, and live music by The Crane Wives.

“Alex is the rare kind of person that gives himself for other’s experiences. Making music for your ears, brewing beer for your joy, and lending ears for your mind. Everyone has those friends who, without trying, manage to stand above the rest, and Alex is, most definitely, of that breedthe highest quality of person,” said Ben Darcie, friend and bandmate in South of Wealthy Trio.

Additional benefits and projects are in progress. Details will be shared as they become available.

 

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GRAND RAPIDS – Mitch and Whitney Ermatinger are coming home to Michigan. The husband and wife team has officially announced plans to open Speciation Artisan Ales, the first 100% wild ale brewery to be located in Grand Rapids, by late 2016. The small scale brewery will focus on producing high quality mixed fermentation sour and funky beers to be released monthly in bottles.

Both raised in West Michigan, the Ermatingers have chosen to return to start their brewery in Grand Rapids because, “The enthusiasm for beer is unparalleled to other areas of the country, and yet many of the innovative techniques and styles of beer have not yet caught on in the Michigan market,” said Co-Owner Whitney Ermatinger.

Locals may remember Mitch Ermatinger from his stint at O’Connor’s Home Brew Supply where he began his beer career in Spring 2011. He will be leaving his current post as brewer for Former Future Brewing Company in Denver, Colorado to head up this new venture. His extensive brewing and blending knowledge of sour beers was formed in large part by his work alongside James Howat, head brewer for Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales. He was on the Black Project team that won Great American Beer Festival medals for wild ales in 2014 and 2015.

“We have lived in Grand Rapids for much of our adult life and consider it home. We love the amazing and supportive beer culture that Grand Rapids has, and so it was the obvious place to establish our brewery,” Mitch Ermatinger said. “GR is a growing and vibrant city, with the overall market making a huge comeback in the past couple of years. More importantly though, Grand Rapidians are really tenacious about their beer!”

Using influences and ingredients from the local area, Speciation Artisan Ales hopes to highlight the unique terroir of Michigan in its flavor profiles. The brewery’s name was inspired by the variations that occur in nature over time to create an ever-changing product.

They plan to have a number of recurring beers as well as several special barrel aged and spontaneously fermented projects.

“We hope to expand the perception of what wild and sour beers are while still creating a variety of products that are accessible to all types of palates,” said Mitch Ermatinger.

Wild beers are differentiated by their wide variety of flavors created from combining different yeasts and bacteria, longer fermentation times, and variability within the product. The beer styles will be roughly split into three categories: Brettanomyces-focused beers, Sour beers, and Spontaneous beers.

“We know that other breweries around town are dabbling in sour beer, which we think is great and is preparing people’s palates for even more.” Mitch Ermatinger admitted.

Speciation Artisan Ales is currently in the planning stages as owners work to secure funding sources to get the brewery off the ground. They will be establishing in a yet to be determined location in the Grand Rapids area. The plan is to have fermentation vessels and barrels as the backdrop to the combined production area and tasting room.

Initially opening one day per month for bottle sales and tasting, Speciation Artisan Ales will eventually expand its tasting room hours to be open weekly. For updates visit their website, or follow them on Facebook.

Cocktail Week GR Logo Final

GRAND RAPIDS – The Grand Rapids Cocktail Guild, Michigan Distillers Guild, and Experience GR are teaming up to host 11 days of cocktail appreciation starting this week.

From Nov. 11-22, Grand Rapids residents and visitors can take advantage of restaurant specials, educational opportunities, and tastings all celebrating Michigan’s burgeoning craft spirit culture.

Throughout the duration of the event, called Grand Rapids Cocktail Week, 29 participating venues will offer a special on two cocktails made with Michigan plus a shared appetizer for $25 or less.

The Bistro, for instance, will have a Blackberry Basil Old Fashioned made with New Holland’s Walleye Rye and a Salted Caramel Mocha Martini crafted with Journeyman Distillery’s organic Red Arrow Vodka and Snaggle Tooth Coffee Liqueur. You can enjoy these two cocktails alongside a plate of roasted butternut squash or smoked duck tartlet. Or you can visit one of Grand Rapids’s own distilleries, like Long Road Distillers, and try two hand-crafted cocktails made with in-house liquor and Michigan ingredients with a plate of short ribs or fall root vegetable flatbread.

But the week isn’t only about tasting; education is also a key component. Grand Rapids Public Museum will get in on the action with an exhibit titled “American Spirits: The Rise & Fall of Prohibition.” Put your imbibing into perspective by finding out why America went “dry” in the first place and then why alcohol regained legality 13 years later.

The museum will also host the Iron Bartender Final Championship on Nov. 18. Six bartenders, all winners of the past six Iron Bartender challenges, will go head-to-head to see who can craft the best cocktail.

To close out the series, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) will pair up with Downtown Market to host a class and movie combination event called “Hey Bartender” through Big Screen Cuisine on Nov. 22. The event will start in the Downtown Market teaching kitchen, where lecturers from the Grand Rapids Cocktail Guild will discuss the history, practice, and technique that go into making cocktails. There will be snacks and sampling. Afterward, attendees will convene at the UICA movie theater to watch the documentary “Hey Bartender.”

These key events only scratch the surface of activities taking place during the week. Businesses throughout the Grand Rapids area will be hosting a variety of cocktail-related events. For a comprehensive list, check out the Experience GR website.