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resilience ipa

Growing up on Lake Michigan, most of my formative memories include water: getting up on skis, hunting in the shallows for crayfish, night swims. Even in my first memory I’m bobbing up and down in water, floating outside North Manitou in my mother’s arms, eyes fixed on the horizon’s infinite line. The water was healing; communion. Encounters with fire on the other hand were strictly “play.” We contained aerosol can flamethrowers to bursts of pyromania. Raging bonfires were extinguished by a couple buckets of water. Surrounded by the safety of its elemental opposite, I never imagined fire as a threat.

Last month, California was on fire and no one could put it out. For weeks on end the Camp Fire ripped through communities, swallowing forests with its the hellish maw. Now doused, the damage is done and the fire has earned its place as the deadliest in The Golden State’s history. Upwards of 80 people lost their lives and around 20,000 buildings were destroyed. At a minimum, the economic cost will exceed billions.

Perhaps struck hardest by the devastation, the city of Paradise was lost almost entirely to flame. As a Michigan native, this kind of disaster is difficult to comprehend. We complain about snowfall and cool summers, but only on the rarest occasion does nature come for our homes. Just recently the Butte County Sheriff’s Office lifted evacuation orders, permitting survivors to salvage and rebuild what remains of their city. In a majority of cases, families will return to nothing but ash.

Chico, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s home base a couple towns over, was spared a similar fate. Even so, they weren’t left unscathed. With more than 40 employees losing their homes to the fire, Ken Grossman, Sierra Nevada’s founder, felt compelled to do something in the best way he knew how: brewing a beer. And so Resilience Butte County Strong IPA was born. From its inception, Sierra Nevada promised to donate every penny earned from draft and can sales directly to Camp Fire relief, but they also released the beer’s blueprints, hoping others in the industry would brew the same recipe and chip in to the fund. This grassroots movement to recruit local breweries quickly grew into the largest display of synchronized philanthropy the craft community has ever seen—over 1,400 breweries worldwide will donate 100% of the proceeds from their batches of Resilience IPA.

From the sidelines, it’s pretty heartwarming to see craft beer band together like this, and while our reputation for “Midwest Nice” precedes us, the number of Michigan breweries who signed up for the cause still impresses. The Mitten Brewing Company were early adopters, the 19th of all and the first in Michigan. After spotting the call to action on Facebook, brewer Jeff Williams immediately reached out to participate. “We do a lot of charity work as is, so this jives with how the company works,” Williams said. “The grain is getting donated, the hops are getting donated, basically we’re just donating our time, so why wouldn’t we do this? It’s unfathomable what that fire did, gulping down football fields in seconds.”

Williams’ nonchalance makes the project sound like a no-brainer, but his attitude reveals how ingrained cooperation is into his, and craft beer’s, core values. Extending help to strangers thousands of miles away exemplifies the spirit of craft beer as a means of aid, not selfishness. As co-brewer at the Mitten, Jon VanderPloeg puts it, “One of the reasons I’m here is because of that culture. Not just to make a huge pile of money. We didn’t do anything but make a batch of beer, but there was an organization willing to say this isn’t all about profit, this is about helping people.” Available on draft Thursday, December 20th, their recipe deviates to feature 100% Michigan grown ingredients: hops from Michigan Hop Alliance, malt from Empire and Motor City Malt, and yeast they’ve cultivated in house. Essentially, it’s a big high five from a group of Michiganders who have come to care about their community at large.

With their version of Resilience set to hit draft lines this weekend, City Built Brewing Company’s head brewer, Dave Petroelje, joined the chorus of support as well. In our conversation, Petroelje shed light on his personal connection to fire. “The Resilience IPA project has a special meaning to me because I grew up in Northern California. One of my sisters lives an hour away from Paradise. Now every time I go to visit her, I always think, when is a fire going to come through her part of California?” As the climate continues to warm, and droughts and fires intensify, it’s a scary question to ponder. “Everybody thinks about earthquakes when it comes to California disasters, but fires are quickly becoming even more destructive,” Petroelje said. If this is only the prelude to what California can expect in the coming decades, it’s at least a comfort to know that there’s a global net of goodwill waiting when the going gets tough. “Corporate social responsibility is a big part of the brewing culture here in West Michigan and Founders and Vivant have set that standard in a lot of ways,” Petroejle said.

To see Founders throw their hat in the ring only proves him right. Their Resilience IPA went on at the Grand Rapids taproom December 15th, providing much needed optics for the relief fund. Jeremy Kosmicki, head brewer at Founders, shared his reverence for the Californian operation. “Sierra is one of the most respected brewers in the country, so when they ask for help, they have a lot of pull.”

That sentiment has echoed from many participants. “Growing up in California, Sierra Nevada’s a big part of my beer history and education, so to be a part somewhat in collaboration with them is pretty awesome,” Petroejle said. There’s no question that Sierra’s Pale Ale is one of craft beer’s foundational pillars. Their portfolio may appear simple or streamlined compared to other more outlandish breweries, but their quality control has always stayed top notch. Resilience IPA is another example of their commitment to high caliber beer. “It’s a fairly straightforward recipe so as many breweries as possible could get their hands on the ingredients,” Kosmicki said. That said, the simplicity doesn’t imply a lack of substance. “It should turn out tasting like Sierra’s Celebration Ale which is an absolute favorite of mine.”

Yes, taste matters, but ultimately the motivation behind this IPA is more important than its flavor profile. While many of us in Michigan enjoy a white Christmas, we should make effort to find Resilience IPA and support those who have endured such tragedy. We can show, even through our drinking choices, that Michigan is always ready to lend a helping hand.

Find a list of participating breweries here. 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Saugatuck, Mich. — The Mitten Brewing Company is bringing its signature craft beer and pizza to a third Michigan town: Saugatuck.

The brewery’s new location at 329 Water Street will open on Friday, June 8. It’s located across the street from The Mermaid Bar and Grill, Coppercraft Distillery, Ridge Cider and just a few doors down from Coral Gables.

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The small building is a pre-Civil War home that had been converted to a commercial space.

“We seem to have an affinity for choosing old buildings at the Mitten,” said The Mitten Brewing Co-Owner Chris Andrus. The Mitten’s original location is in an historic Grand Rapids firehouse.

Like The Mitten’s original location, the new space required some rebuilding—much of which Andrus and Co-Owner Max Trierweiler did themselves.

The new space will seat 80 patrons: 36 indoors and 44 outside on the covered patio and in the lawn on picnic tables Andrus and Trierweiler built.

Andrus and Trierweiler built the new bar from 1840s-era lumber—from back when Saugatuck was a lumber town and port. The wood was a gift from Saugatuck Brewing Company Founder and Former Saugatuck Mayor Barry Johnson, who Andrus said is a friend and mentor to The Mitten.

“That bar is pretty much the centerpiece of the building,” Andrus said. “It’s a neat piece from the former mayor of Saugatuck himself. We’re really excited to have that.”

In addition to a pub and restaurant, the space will host a small brewhouse that will focus on sour beer production. Apparel made by The Mitten State will also be available for purchase on site.

Adding another location was a natural next step for The Mitten Brewing Company, Andrus said.

“We’ve spent the last 5 years making our brand as strong as possible, and we’ve been reinvesting in our processes and our people,” Andrus said. “What we do best, in my opinion, is our taproom experience and the way our staff interacts with our guests. We wanted to bring that to a new place. Saugatuck was a natural fit.”

Andrus and Trierweiler hired 21 local residents to run the Saugatuck location.

 

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The Mitten Brewing Company has built itself around bringing the worlds of craft beer and baseball together. Something the two worlds share is the idea of pitching.

In baseball, pitching refers to throwing the ball towards home plate to start a play. In brewing, it refers to throwing yeast into wort to start fermentation. The “Art of Pitching” series is an opportunity for the brewers at The Mitten Brewing Company to test out new ingredients and techniques.

 

“With this series, we’re trying different yeast strains that we may or may not use typically, in concert with making different recipes that we may or may not make either,” said Robert “Wob” Wanhatalo, head pub brewer at The Mitten Brewing Company. “A big part of it is to go out on a limb and try new things–trying new styles, or modifying styles.”

Six different brewers and teams at The Mitten Brewing Company have developed recipes that will be released periodically at the pub through Mar. 19. The styles include an India Pale Lager, Blackberry Black Gose, Rye Stout with oak spirals, Imperial Roggenbier, Bohemian Pilsner and the brewery’s first New England IPA.

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Miguelangel Graciano, Taylor Darling, Jason Warnes, Aaron Ross, Robert Wanhatalo, Jon VanderPloeg, Austin Kapteyn

The homage to baseball doesn’t stop with the series’s name–the brews feature names like “Fastball,” “Corkscrew” and “Circle Change.”

The idea for the series originated with a mug club member who was pitching ideas for beer names at the bar, said Brewery Quality Control Manager Aaron Ross. He lobbed “The Art of Pitching,” and the idea stuck–not as a beer name, but as an opportunity to get creative.

“Last year’s event was really successful. We had a couple new styles that we’d never made before,” Ross said.

Those who enjoyed the event last year can look forward to more experimental styles this year. Five of the recipes are completely new, and one is a spin on one of last year’s brews.

“Last year we sort of stuck in our comfort zones and did styles that you’d typically find on our board,” said Wanhalato. “This year, we’re trying out different lagering techniques, different lager yeast strains and beers that we haven’t made yet that you’re going to see on tap for this event.”

The series will culminate on Monday, Mar. 19, when all six beers will be tapped at the pub. The public is invited to speak with the brewers about the series from 4-6 p.m. Monday is The Mitten Brewing Company’s “Flight Night,” which offers flights at 25 percent off from 4 p.m. to close. Visitors are invited to purchase a flight of all six Art of Pitching brews and vote for their favorite on a Facebook poll that will be open that day only.

There will also be a charitable component to the Mar. 19 event. From 5-8 p.m., a portion of the sales will be donated to the brewery’s spring and summer charity project, the “Ted Rasberry Gift.” The money from the event will go to the Whitecaps Community Foundation to fund the Inner City Youth Baseball and Softball Program–a free program for inner-city youth ages 6-14 that holds games at seven neighborhood parks, including Rasberry Field.

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“We do this program every year, and we thought this would be a cool way to kick it off,” said Chris Andrus, co-owner of the brewery. 

“In the past, it’s been a good fundraiser for the Inner City Youth Baseball and Softball Program,” Ross said. “I’m excited that we’re offering that opportunity again this year.”

 

10.2% ABV, Draft

Appearance: Black with a small head.
Aroma: Bourbon and vanilla.
Taste: Light bourbon flavor, with vanilla tones.
Mouthfeel: Strong bodied but very balanced.

For a bourbon brew, Death to Flying Things certainly is one of the easier drinking brews for the style. This latest offering from Mitten Brewing Co. is surprisingly well-balanced between bourbon and vanilla. Watch out though — the 10.2% ABV is very well hidden and will sneak up on you quickly. Despite that, Death to Flying Things is a great relief from some of the stronger, bourbon-heavy brews.