Posts

Brownies

Masen James Bakery is taking craft beer to another level by baking it right into their brownies, cupcakes, and fudge… oh my!

Inspired by a longtime passion for baking, owner Clarice Dennison was encouraged by her daughter Sydney Dennison to open up Masen James Bakery storefront after a chance encounter with Goose Island Brewery during their Bourbon County release in 2014. Conversations sparked and friendships were molded. This year, Masen James was given 2 cases of 2014 and 2015 Bourbon County to bake 1,000 craft beer brownies for Goose Island’s Black Friday release. Yes — wipe the drool off of your mouth and keep reading, it gets better.

2015 has been a whirlwind of creative goodness for Clarice and Sydney. They teamed up to bake sweet and savory treats for events at the Downtown Outdoor Market on Ionia over the spring and summer, while working on opening a storefront on Monroe Center during ArtPrize. The main focus? Infusing craft beer into many of Clarice’s concoctions while enhancing the unique flavors in the beer.

Brownies

 

Mason James Bakery doesn’t like things to get stale. Their seasonal menu changes on a daily basis to maintain freshness and keep up with demand. Their craft beer brownies are baked in a special pan so they are all corner pieces, making each brownie crisp and chewy on the outside and oh so moist and gooey on the inside — they nearly melt on your tongue.

I was treated to a brownie baked with New Holland Dragon’s Milk Reserve with Toasted Chilies, topped with a chili powder sugar. Holy wow!!! These brownies practically punched me in the face with flavor. First, you taste the rich chocolate brownies are known for, then your eyes light up as you savor the slight hint of heat from the chilies. YUM!

Next I enjoyed a Saugatuck Brewing Co Neapolitan Milk Stout brownie topped with a chocolate ganache and sprinkled with a crushed dried strawberry topping. The familiar trifecta of strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate flavor of the Neapolitan Milk Stout poured out into the brownie, the crushed strawberry topping made for a beautiful finish. Delicious!

Clarice has had a passion for the culinary arts since she was a little girl, but didn’t go to culinary school and instead ended up working for Spectrum Health. After she started making craft beer brownies, Sydney told her “Mom, you have a gift; you need to share that gift. I am not the only one who is saying that, friends and strangers are telling you this. Teach me how to bake and we will do this together. I will help you put your product out there.” Sydney continues. “After being turned down a few times, I brought some of her products to the Downtown Outdoor Market, we got our foot in the door in the spring of 2014, and we built up clientele. This is my mom’s dream, but I am so happy I can help her fulfill it.”

Masen James Bakery also offers a wide variety of artisanal sweet and savory scones, cupcakes, cookies, macarons, fudge, bread, and more.

Taste Masen James Bakery’s goodies for yourself at 40 Monroe Center NW in downtown Grand Rapids. If you’re out and about this weekend, swing by the Pyramid Scheme Bake Sale and Craft Show on Sunday, December 20 from 12:00pm – 4:00pm where they will donate all proceeds to Well House.

7.8% ABV, Draft

Appearance: Golden and clear overall, but somewhat cloudy. There is a slight bubbly carbonation, and it pours with a small head that leaves a thin lacing.
Aroma: Immediate dry hop smell trails into sweet grain scents.
Taste: With a lemon citrus aftertaste, this beer is not overly bitter. The hops appear right around mid-drink. It’s grainy and sweet.
Mouthfeel: This brew is creamy with a prickly carbonation. Thin to medium bodied, it feels crisp to the tongue.

This hopped up version of Oval Beach Blonde maintains a crisp and refreshing feel. Hop on a Blonde is an excellent summer beer with a little extra kick of hops (without all the bitterness). I rate this as an exceptional beer that can please many palates.

5.8% ABV, Draft

Appearance: Dark red with a medium to high head.
Aroma: Floral notes with some spice.
Taste: Yeasty with some moderate spice.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied.

This taproom specialty is a well-balanced Irish Ale, with some sweet and spice qualities that make you wanting another sip. The creamy mouthfeel is immediately evident in the appearance of this beer — with a look that’s reminiscent of a Guinness as opposed to an Irish Red Ale. A hint of fruit makes this brew easy drinking and very enjoyable.

5.8% ABV, Draft
Appearance: Dark red with a medium to high head.
Aroma: Floral notes with some spice.
Taste: Yeasty with some moderate spice.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied.
This taproom specialty is a well-balanced Irish Ale, with some sweet and spice qualities that make you wanting another sip. The creamy mouthfeel is immediately evident in the appearance of this beer — with a look that’s reminiscent of a Guinness as opposed to an Irish Red Ale. A hint of fruit makes this brew easy drinking and very enjoyable.

DOUGLAS — When Scott Farney describes the success of Saugatuck Brewing Company, he breaks down its evolution into three main phases.

First things first — brew. Second, have a pub with good grub. Last, have a banquet room (and name it after a nearby ghost town).

Of course, there’s sales and ever-growing distribution. But Farney, the company’s sales manager, knows it really comes down to the beers and the perfect place to consume said libations.

The eyes of most folks walking through the doors of the West Michigan brewery focus on the flowing tap handles around the L-shaped bar — incidentally about 16 people can belly up on a stool.

Named the Lucky Stone Pub, the bar is surrounded by both tall top and traditional tables along with booths, most often filled with smiling patrons being served outstanding pub grub.

“We have an Irish or English style feel to the place, which is what we’re really going for — a warm, friendly atmosphere where you can taste great craft beer learn about great craft beer,” Farney said. “That’s another part of what we want people to experience right when they walk in.”

One part of the learning experience comes with a brew-on-premise system adjacent to the bar — Saugatuck is the only brewery in the Mitten that has a system where customers can brew their own beer and bottle it to take home.

The other part of learning is the knowledge of the brewpub staff. Bartenders and waitresses are trained to answer questions about each brew just as well as the brewer could (or at least as close as you can get).

”Every single person on our staff knowledgeable on craft beer and all the great food we sell,” Farney said, adding that Saugatuck was recently named in the Top 5 brewpubs for food by Revue Magazine. “If there’s not a brewer here readily available to answer questions, the front line is our servers, our bartenders. When folks come to a brewery like this, they expect — and rightfully so — to be able to have their questions about our brews answered.”

The emphasis on knowledge of its brews shows in that, while Saugatuck boasts an acclaimed food menu, the center remains the first phase in its original plan — the beer.

“There’s great craft beer available throughout the entire state of Michigan,” Farney said. “There is great beer within 20 minutes of any direction of us. I think that good food service and really good tasting food enhances the entire atmosphere and the entire experience of great beer.”

And it doesn’t get any fresher than going to the pub for a pour — the brews come straight to the tap handles from the 10 tanks in the back.

“You are getting the freshest beer possible when you come here,” Farney said. “Saugatuck Brewing Company is all about being a balanced brewery from start to finish. We do lean more toward a balance and drinkability in all our styles.”

One way Saugatuck keeps its true-to-style beers unique is by using a variety of yeasts in the brewing process. Still, the company is never afraid to dabble in the extreme and unique. Its Neapolitan Milk Stout, for example, is unmatched by any other brew.

“We don’t use a house-style yeast strain,” Farney said. “A big part that creates that balance in our beer is managing different yeast strains and styles and — in part— those traditional characteristics and pronounced styles in those beers.”

As far as extreme styles, Saugatuck is known for its frequent limited releases in small quantities. It also has a small barrel-aged program.

“We are also unique in that we are not a one trick pony,” Farney said. “We’re able to go the other way and make the extreme beers just as well as other breweries that are doing the extreme styles.”

Bringing all three phases together has spelled much growth and growing pains for the brewery. When it opened in 2005, Saugatuck started in a smaller building across the street from its current operations at 2948 Blue Star Highway. In 2008, the brewery and pub moved to its larger location inside a building that housed a former manufacturing plant.

And, sure enough, it’s a building with plenty of room for growth.

“We are pretty blessed with an expansion of space to move into,” Farney said. “Right now, our limit is just shy of 10,000 barrels if we were running on maximum capacity.”

Farney said Saugatuck is always working to stay ahead by having a long-term and short-term plan each in place at all times.

“Because of [the] amount of growth we are experiencing, we have to stay ahead of the curve, he said. “So we do have a lot more planning going on, we don’t want the demand to dictate the supply. We want to stay ahead of that in a way that is logistically sound for our company.”

__
BREWERY OF THE MONTH DEAL: Saugatuck Brewing Company will be happy to give anyone visiting the brewery during the month of May who shows this article a 10% discount off an item purchased in the pub.

10.4% ABV, Draft

Appearance: Black with a small head.
Aroma: Bourbon and vanilla; very strong.
Taste: Lots of booze, with some vanilla coming through at the end.
Mouthfeel: Strong bodied.

If you think you know strong beers, think again. Saugatuck’s taproom-only Dramanatrixxx features a strong bourbon and vanilla flavor that’s on par with some of the best aged stouts available today. This is definitely a sipper, and with some slight chocolate at the end, this is a rich, unique brew.

I’d compare Dramanatrixxx to some of Founders’ best specialty brews (specifically KBS), but without the coffee this is a slightly sweeter brew. All in all, this has to be one of my favorite beers I’ve tried in quite a while.

DOUGLAS — Saugatuck Brewing Company is losing a valued staff member.

The West Michigan brewery announced Saturday the resignation of John Stewart, director of quality control, effective April 8.

Stewart, who joined Saugatuck Brewing in February 2012, is moving to Perrin Brewing Company in Comstock Park. Before joining Saugatuck last year, he spent seven years with New Holland Brewing Co. in Holland.

“We wish him the very best,” said Kerry O’Donohue, the brewery’s vice president of marketing. “We feel very lucky to have had him for a year.”

According to O’Donohue, Stewart was instrumental in his time with the brewery by implementing policies and procedures that will move the company forward as it continues to expand, improving quality, consistency and efficiency for the brewery.

“He was exactly what we needed at the right time,” O’Donohue said. “He’s pretty quiet until you get to know him, but he really leads by example.

“For our younger brewers he’s been awesome — he’s taught and trained them along the way. He has been hugely valuable for us.”

The brewery plans to replace Stewart as quickly as possible, and is already interviewing candidates.

“As we’re growing, we certainly need the manpower back there,” O’Donohue said.

He added that he expects Stewart will continue to be a friend to the brewery, and he is happy the decision allows Stewart to stay closer to his family.

“We wish him all the very best personally and professionally as he moves closer to home and family,” O’Donohue said. “Needless to say, he will be sorely missed.”

DOUGLAS — Saugatuck Brewing Company is losing a valued staff member.
The West Michigan brewery announced Saturday the resignation of John Stewart, director of quality control, effective April 8.
Stewart, who joined Saugatuck Brewing in February 2012, is moving to Perrin Brewing Company in Comstock Park. Before joining Saugatuck last year, he spent seven years with New Holland Brewing Co. in Holland.
“We wish him the very best,” said Kerry O’Donohue, the brewery’s vice president of marketing. “We feel very lucky to have had him for a year.”
According to O’Donohue, Stewart was instrumental in his time with the brewery by implementing policies and procedures that will move the company forward as it continues to expand, improving quality, consistency and efficiency for the brewery.
“He was exactly what we needed at the right time,” O’Donohue said. “He’s pretty quiet until you get to know him, but he really leads by example.
“For our younger brewers he’s been awesome — he’s taught and trained them along the way. He has been hugely valuable for us.”
The brewery plans to replace Stewart as quickly as possible, and is already interviewing candidates.
“As we’re growing, we certainly need the manpower back there,” O’Donohue said.
He added that he expects Stewart will continue to be a friend to the brewery, and he is happy the decision allows Stewart to stay closer to his family.
“We wish him all the very best personally and professionally as he moves closer to home and family,” O’Donohue said. “Needless to say, he will be sorely missed.”