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Drink beer. Bike 15 miles. Drink more beer. Repeat at the end of the summer. Rain or shine, the third annual “Fly to the Coq” event took place Sunday. With the White Pine Trail running parallel to Rockford Brewing Company, bikes are a familiar sight to their patrons. However, this past Sunday, the side of the brewery was flooded with bikes looking picturesque in the grass.

“This is a great way to meet people with similar hobbies — beer and biking,” said cyclist Leslie Caliguri.

The event initially started with the simple goal to get more people out on their bikes. It starts at the Rockford Brewing Company and ends at Brewery Vivant using the ways of the White Pine Trail, bike lanes and designated bike paths totaling 15 miles. Using the brewery’s mascots for inspiration, the event’s name comes from Rockford Brewing Company’s Fishing Fly and Brewery Vivant’s — Fly to the Coq.

It is a great way for bike riders of all levels to ride safely together and enjoy one thing in common: great beer. In the past two years, the event has evolved from just a bike ride to a special tapping at each brewery. Instead of just having the usual draft lines available for bikers to consume before and after the ride, last year the organizers took it up a notch and the two breweries brewed a beer specifically for the event.

Each brewery brewed the recipe, called Fly2Coq, at its own location for the event. Although these beers are brewed separately from one another, they share a recipe collaboratively conceived in the minds of the Coq’s Head Brewer, Jacob Derylo, and the Fly’s Head Brewer, Jeff Sheehan.

This year’s recipe revolves around the Chinook hop, grown right here in Michigan. A lot of spelt was used in the recipe as well giving it a spicy characteristic. Both beers offer earthy, floral and tropical tastes. Brooks Twist, Operations Manager at Brewery Vivant, describes their version as very bright and sharp, while Rockford Brewing didn’t filter its beer as much, leaving it with a creamier feel in the mouth.

Even though the event is over, fans of the two breweries haven’t missed out entirely. Both Brewery Vivant and Rockford Brewing Company are still serving pints of the Fly2Coq. And if that isn’t enough, stay tuned for the end of the summer when the event occurs again, but this time in reverse — Coq to the Fly.

GRAND RAPIDS — The dreary drizzle on Saturday didn’t keep bike enthusiasts away from CRANK, The Spoke Folks annual fundraiser and bike celebration. The bicycle co-op took over Logan Street SW to take part in bike-related activities and socialize with fellow members of the biking community. Ultimately, the goal was to celebrate the fun in biking.

“There are very real reasons why people should be on a bike, but at the same time I don’t want it to become this whole serious thing where it’s just boring,” said The Spoke Folks Executive Director Jay Niewiek. “That’s why this is a celebration, not a vendor fair or anything like that.”

Entry to the event was free, and attendees could register to participate in a slow bike race, bike decorating contest, fix-a-flat challenge and more. People at the festival could also ride a number of unique bikes, including a swing bike and a tall bike. Niewiek designed a “toilet trike” and Motorless City Bicycle Company of Detroit furnished a three-way bicycle with a functioning tap handle in the middle for the event.

Biking and beer just seem to go together, so it’s no surprise that the event featured brews from New Belgium and Brewery Vivant, two breweries which are outspoken about supporting the biking community.

Brewery Vivant’s philosophy revolves around sustainability, and supporting sustainable modes of transportation factors into that. So they look for ways to foster the biking community.

“[Brewery Vivant is] a sustainably inclined business, so they want to be socially proactive in that sense,” said Mariah Kennedy, The Spoke Folks Director of Operations.

Brewery Vivant has a silver “Bike Friendly Business” certification from The League of American Bicyclists. One way the brewery they shows its support for the biking community is by teaming up with Rockford Brewing Company once each year to host a group bike ride between their two brewpubs.

But events aren’t the only way to foster biking in Grand Rapids. Accessibility to hardware and maintenance are of utmost importance as well. Kennedy, a former employee of Brewery Vivant, said the brewery also provides its employees with a 50-dollar helmet reimbursement, which she took advantage of to get a 10-dollar helmet.

“The owners just have an intuition that this is something that people they care about care about, so they want to make it more accessible to their employees,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy is also partially responsible for planting the seed that got the bicycle pump and repair station installed outside the Brewery Vivant brewpub. She said that repair station helped inspire Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc.’s initiative to have five more installed around the city.

It isn’t shocking that Brewery Vivant would stand behind a local business that seeks to make bike education, maintenance and materials accessible to everyone.

“I think they already wanted to be part of something like [The Spoke Folks], and I just happened to be a link,” said Kennedy.

The Spoke Folks aims to give anyone who is interested a space without barriers to learn and engage in biking.

“Spoke Folks started with just local cyclists who wanted a place where they could wrench on their bikes and have all the tools,” said Kennedy. “If you look at how much tools are, especially particular tools you only have to use once, it’s very expensive.”

“What I love about this space is that people come in from a wide variety of backgrounds,” said Niewiek, “and at least while they’re in my space, I get to control the fact that they’re all treated like human beings.”

You heard it on MittenBrew.com first, and now it’s confirmed — Rockford Brewing Company will release its Belgian Multigrain Anniversary Ale in limited bottles on April 7, beginning at 5 p.m.

The beer will be available in 2013 and 2014 versions, both in 750mL bottles. A limited quantity of 100 bottles is available from 2013, with 500 being made available from 2014. There is a limit of two bottles per person, per day.

“Belgian Multigrain was among the first brands available when RBC first opened in 2012 before it later became known as our annual Anniversary Ale. It is very meaningful for us to choose our first and second anniversary brews for RBC’s first ever bottle release,” said co-founder Seth Rivard.

MittenBrew sat down with Rockford Brewing Company co-owners Seth Rivard and Jeff Sheehan at the brewery for a discussion about the brewery’s growth and future plans for distribution.

In addition to now being available statewide, the pair announced a bottle series starting in April.

ROCKFORD — MittenBrew.com, the leading source for Michigan craft libation news, reviews and event coverage, has announced it has teamed up with Rockford Brewing Company to release its second collaborative beer.

The beer, named Grandma’s Cookies, will be released at a Feb. 24 release party at Rockford Brewing Company beginning at 5 p.m. The party will be open to the public at no charge.

In addition to Rockford Brewing Company, the beer will be made available at the Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival, held Feb. 27 and 28 in Comstock Park. Grandma’s Cookies will also be available on tap at several beer bars throughout Michigan beginning March 2.

Additional release parties are also being planned the first week of March. Details for these parties will be finalized in the coming weeks.

“I was thinking about making an oatmeal raisin cookie beer for a long time,” said Jeff Sheehan, co-owner of Rockford Brewing Company. “We discussed it, and the suggestion came up that we make a beer that tastes like cookies without actually using cookies. That was a good direction to go.”

The oatmeal raisin cookie beer is classified as a dark amber ale, and will clock in between 6 and 7% ABV.

Members of the MittenBrew.com team joined Rockford Brewing in late January for the brew day, led by lead brewer Brian Roeters.

“We decided to use grains that contribute that dried fruit or raisiny type character to the beer so it will have that taste without actually raisins. There are oats in the beer as well, and a touch of cinnamon,” said Sheehan.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be working with RBC on this collaboration,” said Bryan Esler, partner at MittenBrew.com. “As we’ve grown over the past few years, we’ve always wanted to think outside the box on how we approach our collaborations.”

The beer follows in the footsteps of Nutter Berry Wheat, a 2013 collaboration between MittenBrew.com and Saugatuck Brewing Company.

MittenBrew.com plans to release a different branded beer twice a year, and plans are already underway for a fall release.

ROCKFORD — MittenBrew.com, the leading source for Michigan craft libation news, reviews and event coverage, has announced it has teamed up with Rockford Brewing Company to release its second collaborative beer.
The beer, named Grandma’s Cookies, will be released at a Feb. 24 release party at Rockford Brewing Company beginning at 5 p.m. The party will be open to the public at no charge.
In addition to Rockford Brewing Company, the beer will be made available at the Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival, held Feb. 27 and 28 in Comstock Park. Grandma’s Cookies will also be available on tap at several beer bars throughout Michigan beginning March 2.
Additional release parties are also being planned the first week of March. Details for these parties will be finalized in the coming weeks.
“I was thinking about making an oatmeal raisin cookie beer for a long time,” said Jeff Sheehan, co-owner of Rockford Brewing Company. “We discussed it, and the suggestion came up that we make a beer that tastes like cookies without actually using cookies. That was a good direction to go.”
The oatmeal raisin cookie beer is classified as a dark amber ale, and will clock in between 6 and 7% ABV.
Members of the MittenBrew.com team joined Rockford Brewing in late January for the brew day, led by lead brewer Brian Roeters.
“We decided to use grains that contribute that dried fruit or raisiny type character to the beer so it will have that taste without actually raisins. There are oats in the beer as well, and a touch of cinnamon,” said Sheehan.
“We couldn’t be more excited to be working with RBC on this collaboration,” said Bryan Esler, partner at MittenBrew.com. “As we’ve grown over the past few years, we’ve always wanted to think outside the box on how we approach our collaborations.”
The beer follows in the footsteps of Nutter Berry Wheat, a 2013 collaboration between MittenBrew.com and Saugatuck Brewing Company.
MittenBrew.com plans to release a different branded beer twice a year, and plans are already underway for a fall release.

Rockford Brewing Company is a product of the town, very much a part of this small west Michigan community.

Situated along the Rogue River in the heart of downtown, the outside of the building boasts touches of natural wood, alluding to the warmth you’ll find inside. Enter into the building and you’ll find the main pub — with tables and chairs built specifically for the brewery, harvested from a forest in Michigan.

Upstairs is the beer hall, with big long wooden tables and a wide open room, perfect for families during the day and also used as Rockford’s music venue, three days a week.

Rockford Brewing Company is all about hand crafted. From the interior, the local musicians that are highlighted (no cover bands here) and especially the beer, Seth Rivard and Jeff Sheehan, co-owners, purposely focus on the quality of their ingredients, the quality of their staff, and integrity of brand.

Rivard and Sheehan, coincidentally, were both looking to start a brewery in Rockford at the same time. While working with the city, Rivard discovered Sheehan was looking to do the same thing. “We talked and decided to team up instead of compete. It was a perfect fit,” says Rivard.

Just off the cusp of celebrating the brewery’s second anniversary, RBC is going stronger than ever, distributing mainstays and specialty, seasonal brews across the state.

“We have four or five regulars that we’ve had since we opened,” shares Rivard, “Our Carriage House, which is our lightest offering, a blonde ale. Our Hoplust IPA, with six different hop varieties, hence the name. Our Sheehans Irish Stout — a dry, smooth stout. People around here get mad if we run out — there’s a good following in town. Our Rogue River Brown, named after the brown trout in our river, and our Paradigm MPA.”

The Paradigm MPA, or Michigan Pale Ale, was introduced last spring, and has become quite popular throughout the state.

“The Paradigm is something we hang our hat on,” says Rivard. “It’s 100% Michigan grown ingredients, and we are one of the only brewery — if not the only — in the state with a year round offering of a 100% Michigan beer. We work with a barley farmer in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan Malt Company, and Hopyards of Kent, which isn’t too far from here. We distribute more of that than anything else.”

Supporting local community, Michigan culture and agriculture is something Rockford Brewing Company prides itself on. Just looking at the logo — a hand-tied fly (for fishing) — it’s not something common or representative of the beer world, but definitely something you associate with the city itself. Hand crafted beer, hand-tied fly — it makes sense. The folks of RBC share a love of the outdoors, and a healthy and active lifestyle.

In addition to the beer, Rockford Brewing Company hosts many outdoor events, such as the popular bike ride from Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids (Coq to the Fly) and vice versa (Fly to the Coq) through the White Pine Trail.

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The Permaculture Series is one of the ways that RBC incorporates that fresh, healthy attitude into its beers. Based entirely upon local farmers’ seasonal offerings, using only ingredients that are fresh and available within the time period of creating that beer.

“Let’s say when we work with strawberries, we have to wait until they are actually ready to harvest. And then that beer takes a little while to make. So, our seasonal brews are a little behind the traditional season, but true to the season. As opposed to making, for example, a pumpkin ale in June to have it out in August. That’s not seasonal. You’re drinking a beer because it feels right in the season, but where did the pumpkin come from?” says Sheehan.

Starting with its Ain’t Jemima, a Maple Sap beer, expanding to options such as the Rubarb Radler,  Raspberry Duality, and more, the Permaculture Series currently stands at 12 offerings throughout the year, with possibilities to expand only limited by crops available and the brewers imaginations.

“It’s the purest way to do it and we are very proud of the work we do with the farmers. It’s a little challenging to coordinate, but we believe it’s worth it,” Sheehan comments.

Building relationships with customers, the community, the farmers who grow their product and RBC employees is what makes the business.

“I like to tell our employees we are hopefully creating a culture that is a lifestyle, and beer is one component of it. We all have different lives, but we all have beer in common,” says Sheehan.

“The people of Rockford Brewery make the business. Yes, we make beer, but it’s not who we are, it’s part of who we are. It’s important to keep that in mind and to balance everything. It’s important for me— and Seth [Rivard] — to allow people to have the time and space to do what else they want to in their lives as well.”

Culture carries, and people who value the culture of craft beer seem to recognize the value of balance. It’s a cumulative effort, from owner to brewers to staff, to bring that harmonious attitude to the product and service they provide. Rockford certainly does that well.

Future expansions include an in-house kitchen and a rooftop deck. Look for Michigan-centric food to be on RBC’s menu, as well as beer, in the future.