craft brewers conference

The Brewers Association held their annual Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo in Philadelphia earlier this month. The 2016 edition of CBC drew a record 13,600 attendees and 835 exhibitors from all around the globe to the Pennsylvania Convention Center for the largest brewing industry trade show and educational series in North America.

Many representatives from Michigan participated, demonstrating our state’s value in the business. Ambassadors from several facets our state’s brewing industry exhibited their wares, offered education, or attended the tradeshow to network.

From ingredients, to brewing systems and serving systems, to some of the best brewed products; Michigan companies provide nearly everything beer-related.

craft brewers conference

Motor City Growlers displayed a product called “The Craft Station”, manufactured at their plant in Sterling Heights. Steve Lemieux, President, describes it as a “self-contained growler filling machine, that also can be used to expand capacity for any bar or restaurant. It comes complete, everything you need to start up and run and have eight extra taps,” he said. Many of Motor City Growler’s employees are former autoworkers who have found second careers in the beer industry through this innovation.


Boyd Culver, founder and co-owner of Coldbreak Brewing in Cedar Springs, wanted to get their jockey boxes “in front of as many brewers as we could, and there’s no better opportunity than the CBC,” he said. “Most of the components are made in Michigan, and we assemble them right there in Cedar Springs. Everything we make is USA made, high quality, we put a lot of effort into it,” Culver added. “We’re very proud of what we do.”

Motor City Growlers

Psycho Brew of Greenville attended as exhibitors for the first time. “Last year we went to the one in Portland and kind of checked it out as spectators to see if it was worth coming here,” said co-owner Chris Breimayer. “We thought we would try it this year because there’s really nobody in our size bracket. Everybody’s got big equipment,” Breimayer said. Two barrels to 5 barrels are their most commonly produced sizes. On display at CBC was a 10 barrel system that was being delivered to Farmington on their way home from Philadelphia.

“Everything is made in Michigan, all local, we buy all the steel local as much as we can,” Breimayer said, minus a few fittings they aren’t able to get locally. “We’ve had a really good response,” he added.

Motor City Growlers

Psycho Brew has established themselves as a trusted name across the United States and internationally. “Most of our equipment goes out of state,” he said. “We’ve sent some stuff over to Poland, and Panama.” Breimayer said. They’ve placed three systems in Poland at three different breweries.

West Michigan breweries have utilized their systems as well. They ventured into bigger tank territory when they created Cedar Springs‘ 15 barrel equipment last year, and Elk Brewing hired them to outfit their new facility.

Craftwerks Brewing Systems, a producer of larger brewing systems, held down a prominent corner of the showroom floor. Barry Johnson, Account Manager, estimated it took 12 hours to set up their impressively sizable display of equipment. “This is the biggest show on the planet, as far as in our industry, and so virtually every brewer is going to pass through this hall.” he said.

Craftwerks products are made in Michigan from American steel. “Every dollar made stays in Michigan. When I go through the shop, I see the guys whose families are being supported by the stuff that we’re making,” he added as he motioned toward the display.

According to Johnson, the company scored several solid leads for sales and will share the wealth with smaller companies when it’s a better fit to do so. “When we quote out a system, if a beginning brewery gets sticker shock or just doesn’t have the funding to do it, I give them Psycho Brews’ number and say ‘call Chris at Psycho Brew. It’s going to be an incredible system to get into and I’ll talk to you when you’re ready to make the next step’,” he said.

Brian Tennis, owner of New Mission Organics and Founder of Michigan Hop Alliance, answered inquiries about sustainable and organic farming and small industry hop farms at the exhibit for Hop Growers of America, USA Hops. “We’re representing all the (hop) growers in the United States, not just Michigan, but Michigan obviously grows the best hops in the country,” asserted Tennis.

craft brewers conference

“To be part of this is a real honor. They asked us specifically; they wanted someone outside the traditional growing regions of Yakima Valley and Willamette Valley. Michigan is now the fourth largest hop growing region in the country and it’s top ten in the world,” he said.

Also taking place within the conference was the competitive World Beer Cup, highly regarded as the Olympics of beer. More records were broken with nearly 7,000 beers entered by over 1,900 breweries from 55 countries that were judged by an elite panel of accredited judges from 31 countries. Two hundred eighty seven medals were awarded overall, with 5 Michigan breweries among the winners.

A Gold medal, the highest honor in each category, was awarded to Black Lotus Brewing Company of Clawson in the category of Old Ale or Strong Ale for “Ninja Pirate”.

Silver was brought home by Mitten Brewing Company of Grand Rapids for “Triple Crown Brown” in the category of English-Style Mild Ale.

Three breweries earned Bronze medals. Wolverine State Brewing Company of Ann Arbor in the Smoke Beer category for “Raucher”, New Holland Brewing Company of Holland in the Belgian-Style Flanders Oud Bruin or Oud Red Ale category for “2014 Vintage Blue Sunday”, and River’s Edge Brewing Company of Milford for “Dirty Frank Stout” in the Export Stout category.

Many Michigan beers could be found on tap at various bars across the city. Pilot Malt House hosted a special tap feature at Fox and Hound, sponsored by the Craft Maltsters Guild. Three beers using their malt and other ingredients produced in Michigan were served. One was brewed in Ashburn, Va. at Lost Rhino Brewing Company for their fifth anniversary. They chose to brew a lager exclusively with Michigan ingredients for their celebratory beer.  The two brewed in Michigan were Crystal Falls Pale Ale at New Holland Brewing Company’s Pub on 8th with Steve “Bert” Berthel, and Besto Pils from Pigeon Hill Brewing Company in Muskegon.

Ryan Hamilton, Maltster, explained that the focus of the feature was to “showcase the terroir of locally produced malt, the sense of place manifested in agricultural products. The three beers that were there are one hundred percent pure Michigan beers, all Michigan ingredients. Bert’s [New Holland] actually including the yeast, that’s from Craft Cultures Labs.”

Worldwide, the craft beer industry continues to grow at a rapid pace, and Michigan is poised to be a large part of the conversation for the foreseeable future.


Photography: Steph Harding

German Translation: Grand Opening Celebration

CEDAR SPRINGS – Cedar Springs Brewing Company, a German-inspired, family-friendly microbrewery will soon be warming the heart of Main Street in Cedar Springs.

The brewery’s grand opening celebration will begin on Friday, Nov. 13 at 1 p.m. with a ribbon cutting and ceremonial first pour.

The festivities will continue throughout the weekend as they unveil the full menu for the first time. While Head Chef and “Curator of Culinary Creation” Shaun Wooden’s main focus will be traditional Bavarian cuisine, the menu will feature a wide variety of food, including a kid’s menu. Once inside, Grand Rapids natives may recognize panels from the former downtown Schnitzelbank restaurant within the microbrewery walls; a nod to the rich German history within Beer City.

The microbrewery will offer a unique bar menu featuring Lagers, Pilsners, Hefeweizens, Pale Ales… oh my! alongside Cedar Cider and Vino131 Wine. For the under-21 group and drivers among us, Cedar Springs Brewing is also offering Old Cedar Creek soda, which includes almost as many flavors as the styles on their beer tap list. The tap list will be updated in real-time on their Facebook page, complete with information on how much of each style of beer is actually left, thanks to the wonderful world of technology – and

Cedar Springs Brewing’s Head Brewer and “Barley, Malt and Hops Wrangler” Matt Peterson is utilizing traditional German open-fermentation methods to brew Lagers, and will also brew Ales on their 15-barrel brew system with a capacity of 1500 barrels per year. The brewing system didn’t have far to travel, as it came from Psycho Brew out of Belding, Michigan.

In the spring, a Bier Garden will feature a brick patio with trees and tables that will expand seating and face the White Pine Trail, greeting runners, bikers, and even snowmobilers in the winter.

Since Owner and ”Director of Happiness” David Ringler broke ground on this authentic German microbrewery back in October 2014, his goal remains the same: to be a family-friendly, laid-back restaurant, and microbrewery for the community of Cedar Springs—a place where friends can get together to enjoy a meal and a beer after a sporting event, or heading in or out of Beer City, Grand Rapids.

Cedar Springs Brewing Company is located at 95 North Main Street in Cedar Springs.

When you live in West Michigan, you can’t get too far without coming across something touched or inspired by the Dutch culture. With the Mitten State already making its mark in the beer industry, it is no surprise that the Dutch and beer cultures collide in Spring Lake.  Located directly across from Vander Mill Cider Mill and WineryDutch Girl Brewery (DGB) opens its doors with culture, vibrancy and smiles.

Saturday marked the first day Luke and Kelly Finchem, owners of DGB, got to share their brews with the public and embark on their journey in the brewery industry. The beers they shared with guests were as creative in name as they were delighting to the mouth.

Just One More, a Vienna Lager has a name that speaks for itself. An easy-to-drink, straight-up lager with the second pint going down just as easily as the first.

The 7 Mile Smile inspired by Spring Lake’s tagline, where ‘Nature Smiles for Seven Miles’” is an IPA that leaves its consumer smiling all the way to the very end.  Not a heavy, hop-forward beer, the hops shine through at the end, just what an IPA connoisseur wants to taste.

Trees is its DIPA – think pine tree in a glass. Very smooth and piney with a little sweetness to balance out the hint of hops.

Additional beers on tap included Street Scrubber (a saison) and Dirty Boots (an Imperial Milk Stout, also the nickname for the owner’s dog, Bo).

You won’t find a kitchen, at least not yet, at DGB, but don’t think you are going to starve to death. Its food options include packaged goods from all-local companies: meats, cheeses, crackers, spreads, soft pretzels and take out. The options will expand when DGB’s parking lot is added as a stop on a few food trucks’ routes. Customers will get to enjoy the variety from food trucks while drinking a DGB beer. For those that don’t consume alcohol, there are many varieties of Faygo pop for consumption as well.

Nick DeBone, Spring Lake resident, said, “I like how [DGB] supports and works with other local businesses.”

Supporting local businesses in the whole brewing process by using local hops, grains, equipment and fermenters by Pyscho Brew was very important to both Finchems in their business infrastructure.

Ambiance and atmosphere were key components in the owners’ research when visiting other breweries far and wide. Luke Finchem wants DGB to be a fun place to go, creating less of an industrial feel with no cold concrete counters or bad lighting. Instead, the walls are lined with Dutch culture, showcasing old pictures of Kelly Finchem’s family, wooden shoe tap handles and a sneak-peek view of the brewers working away through the garage door behind the bar.

“At the very least, a lot of Dutch people are excited,” said Kelly.

Andy Potts, is a home brewer in Grand Haven, shared, “It’s great to have another option in the Spring Lake/Grand Haven area.”

For all of the photos from Dutch Girl’s soft opening, please visit the MittenBrew Facebook page.