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Comstock Park, MI – Speciation Artisan Ales is a small production-only brewery focused on mixed cultured sour and wild ales. They aim to highlight the yeast and bacteria in their beer, noting how it can change from batch to batch, develop over time, or represent a unique place in time through its specific “terroir.” This plays into the evolution theme of the brewery, as they celebrate each beer that is created as unique and cannot be duplicated. Speciation’s two main brands Genetic Drift, a farmhouse saison, and Incipient, a sour golden ale, provide the base of these experiments in which consumers can compare how each batch provides a new experience.

Currently, Speciation is open once per month for direct bottle sales to their customers. Bottles can be reserved online the week before the release, but frequently sell out within a matter of minutes. However, there is hope for those who want to give them as try, as Speciation has announced plans to expand into a tasting room in the coming months. They have acquired additional space next to their current production facility which will serve as both barrel storage and a tasting room.  Speciation plans to be open weekly for limited hours out of their tasting room for both draught pours and bottle sales to go.

speciation

Great American Beer Festival

Most recently they made a big impression at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival. Speciation donned long lines and quickly ran out of beer at each session. They were also cited in several publications as a “must try brewery” and critics raved over their Tequila barrel aged Incipient with Agave, Blood Oranges, Limes, and Salt as well as their Rhubarb Vanilla Incipient.

 

transient artisan ales

Chris Betts quietly goes where the wind blows. Transient Artisan Ales’ founder/owner is soft-spoken and unassuming, which is respectable considering the stirring buzz his beers conjure.

He has kind, yet seasoned eyes, his hair is a little messy, and his beard is longer than his girlfriend would prefer. His clothes are relaxed and mismatched—a cross between Sunday-lounging on the couch, and a neighborhood pickup basketball game. However, I’m not sure he has much time for either. Trying to keep up with Transient’s demand since opening his Bridgman, MI brewery and taproom just over one year ago as a one-man show seems like enough to provoke perpetual exhaustion. His rubber, waterproof boots, however, are a dead giveaway that here is where he’s comfortable, and belongs.

Chris Betts

Betts brewed his first batch of beer at 19, as a sophomore at Truman State University, in Kirksville, MO. “You weren’t old enough to legally drink, but for whatever reason there was some loophole [in the law] where you could actually buy the ingredients to make beer at 18. And, we made some really terrible beer.” After graduating in 2008, and a handful of failed attempts to get his foot in the industry, Betts moved to Costa Rica to teach math. He lived there a year-and-a-half before deciding he’d wanted to give [brewing] another shot.

Originally from McHenry, IL, Betts found his way back home, and caught a break. He spent the next couple years moving up the ranks. After serving and bartending at Two Brothers Artisan Brewing, then commuting from the Chicagoland area to brew at Witch’s Hat Brewing Company and Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, he finally reestablished his roots in IL. As a precursor to the Transient we know today, Betts started gaining traction and a following for the beers he brewed under a licensing agreement as a tenant brewer at One Trick Pony, Aquanaut Brewing, and Hailstorm Brewing Co. For the OGs who’ve followed him the longest, Betts still has beer aging in barrels from over a year ago at Hailstorm. You’ll taste it, eventually. Although unsure of to what degree he’ll be able to continue to guest brew at his old stomping grounds, “I still enjoy doing it for the people who supported me from the very beginning,” he says. However, if he’s being realistic about continuing to supply his fans in IL with new Transient releases, he’s fairly certain that he’ll have to eventually succumb to a distributor.

In order to fully execute on his long-term vision for Transient, Betts chose Berrien County for his brewery’s permanent home for a very specific geographical reason: yeast and bacteria. His proximity to vineyards and their adjacent fruit farms, which lace the air with these naturally-occurring, evolutionary diverse microorganisms “was a perfect fit for what I wanted to do.” Betts’ focus has always been on fruited sours, barrel-aged saisons, and spontaneously-inoculated beer, despite the unexpected popularity of two of his most popular beers. Buckley, Transient’s’ 14% imperial breakfast stout, gnawed its teeth into DRAFT Magazine’s Top 25 Beers of 2015, and The Juice Is Loose, a hazy 8% Double IPA, had traders gushing for it across beer forums.

Modeled after Lambic pioneers in Belgium, Betts has a coolship outside behind the brewhouse where he tries to capture Mother Nature floating through the air, working her unpredictable magic. “We try to do it as traditional as possible,” he says, while not shy about experimenting when nature or resources allow. Betts just packaged a portion of the first 10 batches (i.e. 40 barrels) yielded from his coolship, brewed in 2016. The first bottles will be plain, unfruited, unblended. That doesn’t mean they’ll be average. This summer, he intends to transfer a couple barrels onto cherries, raspberries, and maybe blueberries. The remaining barrels, he expects, will age for two to three more years before he blends them into a Gueuze.

Shortly after opening in April 2016, Betts knew he needed reinforcements. He employed his girlfriend to manage the 49-person capacity taproom, and recently hired Brendan Williamson as assistant brewer. “He’s definitely on the same wavelength with what we do. He’s really talented,” Betts says of Williamson. Having only just passed their one-year anniversary, Betts isn’t blind to what it’s going to take to maintain Transient’s early momentum with stouts and IPAs, which now account for about half of his annual production, due largely in part to Buckley and Juice’s unexpected popularity. Initially, he thought, “Shit, now what? Now we have to brew a lot of it.” He could release Buckley once a month, “but it wouldn’t be as special.” He’s embraced the reputation, but affirms, “You can’t change everything you do based on demand. At least, we don’t want to.” His first love, his wild ale program, demands equal, if not more attention. So, he’s expanding operations to better accommodate both.

With the goal of being operational by this summer, Betts will be moving all of his clean beer production to a new facility directly behind Transient’s current brewhouse, which will remain exclusively for sours and saisons. The expansion will also allow for better quality control, helping prevent cross-contamination between the two methods, and make way for more storage of bottles conditioning. And, if Betts is lucky, enough space to navigate his forklift a full 360° without risk of toppling any of the hundreds of barrels aging patiently in their oak room.

Over the past year, Betts has crafted an impressive, ever-rotating lineup of eight beers on draft in the taproom. The catch is that they don’t last very long, so don’t assume what’s posted on Transient’s website is accurate. This spring, Betts will be adding three new options to the taproom lineup: a coffee on nitro, a homemade soda, and a revolving test batch of beer. Proudly, Betts doesn’t subscribe to mainstays. Rather, he’d prefer to offer a variety of styles. “We don’t ever plan to have that beer that we always have on. That’s not what I like about brewing. It’s a little boring. This keeps people on their toes.” Betts acknowledges, “Our menu changes really fast. It’s a constant that nothing is, that we’re always putting on something new. That’s the best part for me. I don’t want to be a shift brewer who comes in and has to brew an IPA for eight hours.” Betts did hint though, that he may have a dozen or so IPAs envisioned on his docket that could drop at any time.

transient artisan ales

If you you’re looking for their bottles and cans on store shelves, don’t hold your breath either. You’ll burn a tank of gas chasing them. Their current retail distribution footprint includes only six accounts in the Lower Peninsula: HopCat Grand Rapids, The S∅vengård, Craft Draft 2 Go, Cultivate, 8 Degrees Plato, and for those disappointing hours when Transient is closed, Sawyer Garden Center as a relatively close second chance. There’s also a single location in the U.P., Jack’s Fresh Market, in Menominee, as a nod to Williamson’s hometown, delivered by him personally whenever he makes the trek up north.

For any old school loyalists or recent admirers, don’t get too comfortable. Betts is flipping the script on his Reserve society to further reinforce more value for walking through his door regularly rather than visiting once a year to collect an entitled bottled allotment. Expect the program to evolve, soon. Even though Transient is expanding their brewhouse operations with a second on-site facility, that won’t necessarily translate into more beer. He started the subscription membership program long before the current taproom was open. At that time, he was only able to release one barrel of beer at a time, which meant there was an easily calculable, yet exclusive finite yield. That made capping the number who had access to it a shortlist of only 250 people. “We wanted those dedicated fans to have the opportunity to get it without having to wait in line, have to trade for it, or buy it online. I’m not a fan of people reselling beer.” The last time he checked, Betts says there’s “close to 1,000” on the waiting list to join. Dear, those people: You could be waiting a while.

Moral of the story: Visit the taproom.

 

Photography: Steph Harding

 

jolly pumpkin

Chicago, IL—Jolly Pumpkin is heading across Lake Michigan to open a new restaurant and bar in Chicago.  Jolly Pumpkin has announced it will be opening a location in Hyde Park, near the University of Chicago, in 2017.  The 5,800-square-foot restaurant will serve craft beers, distilled spirits, and wines available through the Northern United Brewing Company (NUBC) brand – including Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, North Peak Brewing Company, Nomad Cidery, Civilized Spirit and Bonafide Wines, as well as a full pub menu.

“We’re excited to expand our restaurants outside of Michigan,” says NUBC partner Ron Jeffries. “Hyde Park is the perfect location for us, the vibrant neighborhood shares an eclectic vibe with that of our company and Chicago’s craft beer scene parallels some of the greatest in the US.”

Jolly Pumpkin will be located at Harper Court, a 12-story University of Chicago office tower with retail on the ground level. “There has long been community interest in having a pub-style restaurant at Harper Court,” said James Hennessy, the University’s associate vice president for commercial real estate. “The addition of Jolly Pumpkin will enhance Hyde Park’s growing reputation as a new dining destination in Chicago while introducing a brewery to the neighborhood.”

This will be the fourth restaurant in the Jolly Pumpkin portfolio. The original being in Traverse City, followed by a downtown café in Ann Arbor, and a casual eatery in Midtown Detroit. While Jolly Pumpkin restaurants are known for their namesake sour barrel-aged beers, each location features a distinctive menu and identity.

Jolly Pumpkin Hyde Park will be a casual 30-plus tap bar with walk-up ordering service, indoor and outdoor seating. A unique bar will offer patrons a variety of draft beer and cider, as well as featured craft cocktails and wine. One beer that is sure to be featured on tap is Jolly Pumpkin’s Oro de Calabaza, an Artisan Golden Ale that the New York Times named the #1 Belgian Beer in the World in 2010.

As with all its locations, Jolly Pumpkin will be working with local purveyors in developing its menu.  While the restaurant will offer a menu all its own, it will include some iconic Jolly Pumpkin favorites like the JP Burger, truffle fries, the Perfect Chicken Sandwich, and artisan pizzas.

Located at 5251 S. Harper/1504 E. Harper Court, Chicago IL 60615, Jolly Pumpkin will be opening in late spring / early summer 2017.

Jolly Pumpkin is part of Northern United Brewing Co., which also encompasses the Grizzly Peak and North Peak craft beer brands, as well as Nomad Cidery, Civilized Spirits and Bonafide Wines. NUBC’s philosophy focuses on a dedication to conservation, inspiration and locally sustainable practices.

 

jolly pumpkin

Zwanze Day is a fictitious holiday created by Jean Van Roy, owner and brewmaster of Brasserie Cantillon. His intention is to celebrate and honor the playful spirit of the people of the Flanders region in Belgium, where the word “zwanze” describes a good-natured type of humor.

Each year Van Roy blends a batch of a special lambic creation and bestows a keg of it upon locations deemed suitable. There may be no better place on earth for such an honor than Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter, where whimsy is an ingredient in each brew.

This year, only 60 locations throughout the world were chosen to participate. Each one tapped their keg simultaneously, coinciding with Cantillon’s tapping in Brussels which equated to 3 p.m. in our Eastern Time Zone. A toast was made with Ron and Laurie Jeffries, the duo driving the success of the hosting business. It was the first time any place in Michigan had been given the opportunity to host the event. With some luck it won’t be the last, but not all event sites are chosen for repeats in subsequent years.

Perhaps the outstanding efforts of the staff of Jolly Pumpkin, and distributor Mike Turriff of M4 CIC, will be rewarded again. They curated a world-class festival unlike any other location fortunate enough to land a celebratory keg. The brewery grounds hosted a nearly full capacity crowd, in spite of some unexpected backlash over the price of admission. Aficionados who were willing and able to invest in attending had access to over 50 beers from more than 20 breweries rarely, if ever, found in Michigan.

Good weather held out in spite of the dark clouds on the skyline and occasional threatening rumbles of thunder. Smiles and good attitudes were found all around. “I think it’s probably one of the most well run beer fests I’ve been to, with a great low-key crowd,” said Courtney Satko. She decided to attend after weighing the financial cost of her ticket with the benefits, ultimately figuring the proceeds being given to the Feelgood Tap project was worth it as much as the beer selection was.jolly pumpkin

Executive Director of Feelgood Tap, Stephen Roginson, was happy to participate and generate awareness of what his charity does with the funds raised. It began in-house at Batch Brewing Company in March 2015 as a partnership with the Multiple Sclerosis Society to do work that was near and dear to Roginson, a founder of Batch, whose mother battles MS. Since receiving their 501(c)(3) status less than one year ago, the project has evolved to support a different cause each month and has attracted involvement from nearly 30 establishments that host a dedicated tap. “This is the first time that we’ve partnered on an event,” said Roginson. The charity’s recipient for the month of October, including Zwanze Day, will be the Michigan Humane Society.

According to Cantillon’s van Roy, this year’s Zwanze beer is a two-year-old Lambic aged on a mix of 82% raspberries, 18% blueberries, and .05% bourbon vanilla beans at a rate of 300 grams of fruit per liter. That’s approximately 10.5 ounces of fruit in 32 ounces of Lambic when converted to American standard measurements, a generous and expensive endeavor that resulted in a luscious deep pink beer that pleased the palates of guests.

Laurie Jeffries, Brewery Director at Jolly Pumpkin, said her husband Ron “mentioned to Shelton Brothers a few years ago that it’d be really cool to get a Zwanze Day, and he just put it out to the universe. We got notification earlier this year that there was a possibility; that we were on the list.” In August they were notified they were definitely a selected location, but it wasn’t clear there would be enough beer to send a keg until a few weeks before the big event. Luckily it was allocated to them and arrived along with four more of Cantillon’s coveted beers.

jolly pumpkin

Ron Jeffries, whose title at Jolly Pumpkin is Chief Squeegee Operator/Brewer, can’t recall when he had his first Cantillon, but remembers it was not at all what he was expecting. Eventually he met Jean Van Roy at a Shelton Brothers festival and “was so starstruck I couldn’t talk. I could barely smile, swallow, and nod. Seeing him blending last year (at the festival), I was literally blown away by his blending skills and palate. I blend beers almost every day and was just floored. He’s a master, without a doubt. For him to choose us as one of the 60 places in the world to serve this special Zwanze beer is a huge honor for me personally,” he said.

Similar to Ron Jeffries’ respect for Jean Van Roy, Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company founder Jonathan Buford expressed his admiration for Jeffries. “Ron’s cool and Ron likes us, and you run with that when Ron likes you! You just do. It’s like the cheerleader in high school you don’t know why she likes you but you’re gonna like her back. If she invites you to a party you go with her,” he quipped when explaining their long trek from Gilbert, half an hour southeast of Phoenix. The two also met at a Shelton Brothers festival, but it wasn’t until a second encounter at Anchorage Brewing Company‘s Culmination event that they bonded. Patrick Ware, partner and brewer, said it happened when Buford blurted out “I hope I never see you again” to Jeffries as they parted and instead of being offended he turned around and told him it was one of the funniest things he had ever heard. Buford admits he doesn’t know where the idea to say that came from but he’s glad it happened. “He appreciates people who don’t take this too seriously, like him,” he speculated.

Revelry Brewing Company of Charleston, South Carolina is setting their sights on eventually producing enough beer to distribute in Michigan. For Jay Daratony, Revelry’s “janitor”, participating in Zwanze Day at Jolly Pumpkin was a homecoming of sorts. He’s originally from Dexter and still has family in the area.

Head brewer Ryan Coker spoke about their new barrel cellar coming online soon with up to 300 barrels and 12 foeders that will hopefully increase production to a point where they can share it here.

jolly pumpkin

“We want to do it (distribute) in the right pockets I guess so to speak, put it in the right hands,” he said, implying Michigan beer lovers are capable of appreciating it.

The Revelry crew enjoyed their visit for Zwanze Day. Coker joked “What’s cool about Dexter is I had a checklist and it was to catch a fish, ride a horse, shoot a gun, and drive a four-wheeler, and I checked all the boxes today and still made it to the beer fest on time!” Sean Fleming, a Revelry partner, added “This is fun, it’s a total honor for us.”

That’s a sentiment shared by nearly everyone who was fortunate enough to be present for the first of what many hope will become an annual tradition in Dexter.

 

Photography: Steph Harding

jolly pumpkin

Zwanze Day is a fictitious holiday created by Jean Van Roy, owner and brewmaster of Brasserie Cantillon. His intention is to celebrate and honor the playful spirit of the people of the Flanders region in Belgium, where the word “zwanze” describes a good-natured type of humor.
Each year Van Roy blends a batch of a special lambic creation and bestows a keg of it upon locations deemed suitable. There may be no better place on earth for such an honor than Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter, where whimsy is an ingredient in each brew.


This year, only 60 locations throughout the world were chosen to participate. Each one tapped their keg simultaneously, coinciding with Cantillon’s tapping in Brussels which equated to 3 p.m. in our Eastern Time Zone. A toast was made with Ron and Laurie Jeffries, the duo driving the success of the hosting business. It was the first time any place in Michigan had been given the opportunity to host the event. With some luck it won’t be the last, but not all event sites are chosen for repeats in subsequent years.
Perhaps the outstanding efforts of the staff of Jolly Pumpkin, and distributor Mike Turriff of M4 CIC, will be rewarded again. They curated a world-class festival unlike any other location fortunate enough to land a celebratory keg. The brewery grounds hosted a nearly full capacity crowd, in spite of some unexpected backlash over the price of admission. Aficionados who were willing and able to invest in attending had access to over 50 beers from more than 20 breweries rarely, if ever, found in Michigan.

Good weather held out in spite of the dark clouds on the skyline and occasional threatening rumbles of thunder. Smiles and good attitudes were found all around. “I think it’s probably one of the most well run beer fests I’ve been to, with a great low-key crowd,” said Courtney Satko. She decided to attend after weighing the financial cost of her ticket with the benefits, ultimately figuring the proceeds being given to the Feelgood Tap project was worth it as much as the beer selection was.jolly pumpkin
Executive Director of Feelgood Tap, Stephen Roginson, was happy to participate and generate awareness of what his charity does with the funds raised. It began in-house at Batch Brewing Company in March 2015 as a partnership with the Multiple Sclerosis Society to do work that was near and dear to Roginson, a founder of Batch, whose mother battles MS. Since receiving their 501(c)(3) status less than one year ago, the project has evolved to support a different cause each month and has attracted involvement from nearly 30 establishments that host a dedicated tap. “This is the first time that we’ve partnered on an event,” said Roginson. The charity’s recipient for the month of October, including Zwanze Day, will be the Michigan Humane Society.
According to Cantillon’s van Roy, this year’s Zwanze beer is a two-year-old Lambic aged on a mix of 82% raspberries, 18% blueberries, and .05% bourbon vanilla beans at a rate of 300 grams of fruit per liter. That’s approximately 10.5 ounces of fruit in 32 ounces of Lambic when converted to American standard measurements, a generous and expensive endeavor that resulted in a luscious deep pink beer that pleased the palates of guests.
Laurie Jeffries, Brewery Director at Jolly Pumpkin, said her husband Ron “mentioned to Shelton Brothers a few years ago that it’d be really cool to get a Zwanze Day, and he just put it out to the universe. We got notification earlier this year that there was a possibility; that we were on the list.” In August they were notified they were definitely a selected location, but it wasn’t clear there would be enough beer to send a keg until a few weeks before the big event. Luckily it was allocated to them and arrived along with four more of Cantillon’s coveted beers.
jolly pumpkin
Ron Jeffries, whose title at Jolly Pumpkin is Chief Squeegee Operator/Brewer, can’t recall when he had his first Cantillon, but remembers it was not at all what he was expecting. Eventually he met Jean Van Roy at a Shelton Brothers festival and “was so starstruck I couldn’t talk. I could barely smile, swallow, and nod. Seeing him blending last year (at the festival), I was literally blown away by his blending skills and palate. I blend beers almost every day and was just floored. He’s a master, without a doubt. For him to choose us as one of the 60 places in the world to serve this special Zwanze beer is a huge honor for me personally,” he said.
Similar to Ron Jeffries’ respect for Jean Van Roy, Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company founder Jonathan Buford expressed his admiration for Jeffries. “Ron’s cool and Ron likes us, and you run with that when Ron likes you! You just do. It’s like the cheerleader in high school you don’t know why she likes you but you’re gonna like her back. If she invites you to a party you go with her,” he quipped when explaining their long trek from Gilbert, half an hour southeast of Phoenix. The two also met at a Shelton Brothers festival, but it wasn’t until a second encounter at Anchorage Brewing Company‘s Culmination event that they bonded. Patrick Ware, partner and brewer, said it happened when Buford blurted out “I hope I never see you again” to Jeffries as they parted and instead of being offended he turned around and told him it was one of the funniest things he had ever heard. Buford admits he doesn’t know where the idea to say that came from but he’s glad it happened. “He appreciates people who don’t take this too seriously, like him,” he speculated.

Revelry Brewing Company of Charleston, South Carolina is setting their sights on eventually producing enough beer to distribute in Michigan. For Jay Daratony, Revelry’s “janitor”, participating in Zwanze Day at Jolly Pumpkin was a homecoming of sorts. He’s originally from Dexter and still has family in the area.
Head brewer Ryan Coker spoke about their new barrel cellar coming online soon with up to 300 barrels and 12 foeders that will hopefully increase production to a point where they can share it here.
jolly pumpkin
“We want to do it (distribute) in the right pockets I guess so to speak, put it in the right hands,” he said, implying Michigan beer lovers are capable of appreciating it.
The Revelry crew enjoyed their visit for Zwanze Day. Coker joked “What’s cool about Dexter is I had a checklist and it was to catch a fish, ride a horse, shoot a gun, and drive a four-wheeler, and I checked all the boxes today and still made it to the beer fest on time!” Sean Fleming, a Revelry partner, added “This is fun, it’s a total honor for us.”
That’s a sentiment shared by nearly everyone who was fortunate enough to be present for the first of what many hope will become an annual tradition in Dexter.
 
Photography: Steph Harding