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Upper Hand

ESCANABA, Mich. – Upper Hand Brewery is proud to announce that two of its beers were awarded medals at the 2019 World Expo of Beer.

Escanaba Black Beer was awarded a gold medal in the Dark European category, while Barrel-Aged Old Fighter took home bronze medals in both the Strong American and Wood-Aged categories.  

“Escanaba Black Beer is one of the three original Upper Hand recipes, and it has remained unchanged in our year-round portfolio since the day we opened,” said Upper Hand Brewery President and Founder, Larry Bell. “It is very gratifying to see it win top honors in its class.”

“I’m also delighted that the barrel-aged version of our Old Fighter was recognized with medals in two categories,” he added. “Like a good bottle of wine, we brewed this beer specifically to age gracefully, so it is incredibly validating to see it honored after over three years.”

There were 803 entries in this year’s World Expo of Beer, which is held annually in Frankenmuth, MI. It is Michigan’s largest professional beer competition. Upper Hand Brewery is the only U.P.-based brewery to receive awards at the 2019 event.

Escanaba Black Beer is available year-round in cans and draft.  Barrel-Aged Old Fighter is a small-batch, draft-only brand available at select bars and restaurants throughout the Upper Peninsula.

 

ABOUT ESCANABA BLACK BEER:

Escanaba Black Beer is at home around both summer fire pits and winter fireplaces. This dark, delicious, malt-forward black ale has a moderate roastiness that is balanced with a silky-smooth, mildly bitter finish (4.5% alcohol by volume – available on draft and in 12oz cans).

ABOUT BARREL-AGED OLD FIGHTER BARLEY WINE-STYLE ALE:

Barrel-Aged Old Fighter is a bold, brash take on the American Barley Wine style. Barrel-aged for fifteen months in blend of bourbon, rye, and port wine barrels, Old Fighter displays caramel, rich malt, and oak character throughout (12.7% alcohol by volume – available on draft).

 

ABOUT UPPER HAND BREWERY:

Upper Hand Brewery is a crew of hikers, campers, dog-walkers, anglers, hunters, bikers, and folks that just want to get out there. We believe that life’s mission is to do what you love, where you love, with the people you love. For us, that means brewing the best beer we can, in the best place on Earth: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

We put a lot of thought into brewing beer that reflects what we love about where we live. We have the unique opportunity to try and capture an experience—a sense of place—in each and every beer, and we take it seriously. That’s not to say we don’t have a lot of fun. The U.P. is full of adventures and we love making beer that makes those adventures even better.

A little more about us: our founder—Larry Bell of Bell’s Brewery—had always dreamed of opening a brewery in the Upper Peninsula. Little clues of those dreams can be found in many of the classic Bell’s brands, which pay tribute to the U.P. in their names and label artwork. His dream became a reality when we broke ground on our 20-barrel brewhouse in 2013, and we haven’t looked back since.

 

 

imperial beverage

Michigan — As of March 10, 2018, Imperial Beverage acquired beer distribution rights from Highland Park based Great Lakes Wine & Spirits. The purchase of Bayside Beverage in Marquette, Great Lakes’ Upper Peninsula beer division, includes all beer brands in U.P. counties, which will be added to Imperial’s current portfolio of beer, wine and spirits.

In the Upper Peninsula, Great Lakes distributes products in the MillerCoors family of brands, as does Imperial in the Kalamazoo area. “We are excited to be able to represent MillerCoors in the Upper Peninsula, and see it as a great opportunity to expand our partnership with them,” says Larry Cekola, VP of Sales and Marketing at Imperial. Imperial has been working with MillerCoors since 1985, and prior to this addition of the U.P. territory has distributed Coors, Keystone, Blue Moon, Molson and Killians in Kalamazoo, Branch, St. Joseph, and part of Allegan Counties.

In addition to the MillerCoors portfolio, Great Lakes serves as a wholesaler for Crown Imports (Corona, Modelo) and Boston Beer (Sam Adams, Angry Orchard) as well as a range of craft beer brands in the Upper Peninsula, including Michigan brands Griffin Claw, Latitude 42 Brewing Co., Cheboygan and Petoskey Brewing Co., as well as national brands like Alaskan Brewing Co. and Uinta.

Under the agreement, Imperial has acquired a warehouse facility in Ishpeming and will be expanding their presence with the addition of new brands. Imperial has recently filled 15 new positions to staff the Marquette County facility including sales, warehouse, drivers and management.

March 12 marks the first day of operations for Imperial Beverage in their new Ishpeming facility. The 18,000-square-foot warehouse will be the fourth base of operations for the Kalamazoo-based Imperial Beverage, whose other facilities include a warehouse in Livonia and cross-docking facility in Traverse City.

 

Images courtesy of Imperial Beverage

 

anheuser-busch

ESCANABA, Mich. – Upper Hand Brewery is excited to announce packaging changes from twelve-ounce bottles to twelve-ounce cans beginning in Spring 2018. The cans, packaged in six-packs and specialty four-packs, will feature a new look that pays homage to the original labels, while establishing a stronger tie to their Upper Peninsula roots.

“Part of the allure of living in and visiting the U.P. is the amazing opportunities for outdoor recreation. Cans can go more places than bottles – whether exploring the trails, campgrounds, or beaches, we want our fans to feel comfortable bringing us along on their adventures,” said Laura Bell, CEO of Bell’s and Upper Hand Breweries.

The switch from bottles to cans also comes with a change to Upper Hand’s beer portfolio. Flagship brands UPA, Yooper Ale and Escanaba Black Beer will remain a part of the year-round brews offered by Upper Hand Brewery. In addition, an all-malt light lager, dubbed Upper Hand Light, will join the year- round brands upon their release scheduled for March. Upper Hand will release its first IPA in Summer 2018. The IPA, with a name to be determined, will join the four aforementioned brands in year-round production.

upper hand

Seasonal and specialty favorites Laughing Fish, 906 Ale and Double Ringer will be available in cans only upon their 2018 and 2019 releases. Upper Hand will continue draught offerings for its core brands, seasonal offerings, and select specialty beers.

 

ABOUT UPPER HAND BREWERY

Brewed on a 20-barrel system in Escanaba, Michigan, our beers celebrate the beauty and uniqueness of the north and our community. We may be a young brewery, but our roots run deep. Upper Hand beers are available throughout the Upper Peninsula, Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. We brew our beer in the North, where it is meant to be enjoyed. We invite you to visit and enjoy not only our beer, but the wonder and beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

 

upper hand brewery

ESCANABA, Mich — Upper Hand Brewery will be heading to Minnesota in January 2017, making it the third state where the brewery distributes its beer. Upper Hand beer is also available in Michigan¹s Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin.

The brewery will be working with Artisan Beer Company to bring their beer to the entire state. Artisan was created in 2011 and has statewide distribution in Minnesota. They have structured an enviable portfolio as a result of their continued focus and commitment to the distribution and promotion of leading craft and import beer, cider and mead.

Providing the freshest beer and best customer service is extremely important to us and we could not accomplish this without a strong distributor network. We¹re extremely excited to welcome Artisan to the Upper Hand family, commented Larry Bell, President and Founder of Bell¹s Brewery, Inc. (Upper Hand Brewery is a division of Bell¹s).

To celebrate the brewery¹s expansion, launch events will be held throughout Minnesota. Additional details will be announced on Upper Hand¹s website and social media outlets as they become available.

ABOUT UPPER HAND BREWERY

Brewed on a 20-barrel system in Escanaba, Michigan, our beers celebrate the beauty and uniqueness of the north and our community. We may be a young brewery, but our roots run deep. Upper Hand beers are available throughout the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin. We brew our beer in the North, where it is meant to be enjoyed. We invite you to visit and enjoy not only our beer, but the wonder and beauty of Michigan¹s Upper Peninsula.

up beer fest

Nothing could stop people from enjoying U.P. Beer Fest this past Saturday.

Not the 10-hour drive to Marquette (for downstate attendees).

Not the monsoon rainfall that started at nine o’clock that morning and didn’t stop until six o’clock that night.

And definitely not the mud pit or creek of flood water that surrounded all of the beer tents.

Everyone was just too determined to have fun and drink great Michigan beer.

It makes sense. Although it may not be official, the term “favorite festival” is uttered by many in regards to this annual September event. For craft staff, September means summer madness is finally slowing down. There is an air of relaxation around it all—a loosening of the tension between shoulders.

As for attendees—a majority are Upper Peninsula residents, and their love for their region is palpable and proud. Nothing at all would sway them to say anything negative about the festival. It’s on their home turf—the beautiful Lower Mattson Park on Lake Superior—providing excellent views and close vicinity to downtown happenings.

Between the great hospitality of Marquette and the impressive organizational skills of the Michigan Brewers Guild, everyone is happy.

The Guild’s only one-day festival on their yearly calendar, there was still plenty of time to experience all the activities surrounding the U.P. festival. Leading up to Saturday was Marquette Craft Beer Week, a whole week dedicated to blending the local craft scene with other breweries from all over the state. Marquette restaurants, taprooms, and bottle shops played host to a variety of awesome happenings: White’s Party Store, an amazing local bottle shop and homebrew equipment destination, hosted multiple tastings with Upper Hand Brewery, New Holland Brewing, and Bell’s Brewery.

Jamie Strand, owner of White’s as well as the head organizer of Marquette Craft Beer Week, said the participation reach-out had been amazing.

“It used to be U.P. Craft Beer Week, but Marquette is such a center for craft beer in this region that it made sense to make the change.”

A Pint Above, a nonprofit organization celebrating Marquette’s craft scene, was on hand to help provide pourers at the festival as well as help coordinate events throughout the week.

Local Marquette brewery Blackrocks held their special release of barrel-aged Gnomas, a delicious and higher gravity twist on the original recipe, at their downtown production facility. Short’s Brewing Company premiered a special pairing menu with Lagniappe’s, a local Cajun Creole eatery. The Recovery Room, a newly opened restaurant and bar in place of the old Rover, hosted a double Tap Takeover alongside Dragonmead Microbrewery and Beards Brewery.

There were plenty other special events to whet the taste buds leading up to U.P. Beer Fest.

This year, the festival itself played host to 6,000 people, 86 breweries, and countless drinking options. To start celebrating fall, many breweries brought beers to highlight the seasonal transition. Oktoberfests, Brown Ales, Barrel Aged Stouts and Porters—they were all popular choices, especially as the day boasted cooler weather and rain that blasted through waterproof gear.

Fetch Brewing Company brought their Mad Swag Triple IPA, a deliciously malt-forward and hop-forward beer that made the taste buds sing with bitterness.

Many people went feverishly from booth to booth, asking after an infamous peanut butter Stout that turned out to be Grand Armory Brewing Company’s Nutter Your Business.

People jumped across a creek of flood water to drink the Tobacconist Porter by Our Brewing Company.

David Gill, President of the local Marquette Homebrewers, said fondly, “It’s been nothing but rain at all of the U.P. festivals this year, so maybe this is just us saving up our karma points for next year. Although weather will never stop people up here from attending a beer fest.”

With so many great distractions from the weather, attendees and breweries alike had a fabulous time. And sure, when the torrential downpour came down like a nonstop wave of water, 6,000 people crushed under all of the beer tents and brew staff held onto their tent poles for dear life; but it was no matter—it just brought people closer together and closer to the beer.

 

upper hand brewery

ESCANABA, Mich. – Upper Hand Brewery is excited to announce the upcoming release of its newest specialty beer, Double Ringer, a Double India Pale Ale (IPA).

Meant to celebrate the spring thaw in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Double Ringer is the ninth beer to be released since Upper Hand opened its doors in November 2014, including four year-round offerings.

“You’ll find few places where spring is more vibrant than northern Michigan. With its intense aromas and flavors, Double Ringer will stir up your senses, just like the perfect spring day,” commented Larry Bell, President and Founder of Upper Hand Brewery and Bell’s Brewery, Inc. (Upper Hand is a division of Bell’s).

Brewed solely with Equinox hops, Double Ringer is robust and hop-forward, coming in with an ABV of 10.0 %. Offering a blend of pine and tropical fruit aromas, with a bit of malt backbone, this Double IPA is a beer that should be enjoyed fresh.

It is named for that elusive, perfect throw made while enjoying a friendly game of horseshoes in the backyard.

Double Ringer will be available in limited quantities on draught and in bottles throughout the U.P. and Northern Wisconsin beginning in early April, just in time for spring.

upper hand brewery

MARQUETTE Ask anyone at the U.P. Fall Beer Festival and he or she will say it’s the favorite festival of the year. Of course, under the influence of amazing craft beer, it’s easy to say that about any festival.

However, this seems to be the feeling across the board—for both Upper Peninsula locals and Michiganders making the long trek up north. Perhaps it was the beautiful September weather—60 degrees and sunny—a perfect afternoon to usher in the fall season. Or maybe it was the location—Mattson Lower Harbor Park—a beautiful green space in Marquette’s harbor next to the historic ore docks.

More likely, it was a combination of weather, location, beer, and the excellent hospitality offered by the community of Marquette. Like most cities who host a Michigan Brewer’s Guild event, local businesses and residents welcomed visitors from all over the state to embrace Michigan craft.

Unlike other guild fests, the U.P. Fest only took place on Saturday instead of the customary Friday-Saturday block. But this hardly inhibited the merriment. Most festival-goers and brewery representatives made the festival a long weekend journey, with down-staters stopping on the way up to experience other beer destinations and catch up with their northern acquaintances.

Trevor Doublestein, owner at Our Brewing Company in Holland, MI, stopped in his Michigan birthplace of Petoskey on his way up to Marquette, bringing his father, Erwin, with him. “I came up with Trevor. I’ve been living in Holland for three years to help with the brewery,and I’ll be moving back to Petoskey soon. But this weekend I’ll be pouring and drinking with Trevor.”

The Our team connected with Beards Brewery in Petoskey, storing their kegs there before the next half of their journey to the U.P. And they were not the only ones stopping to take a beer break—soon Beards had staff from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales as well as official guild volunteers and attendees filling up the bar seats. Everyone was happily surprised to meet each other, catch up, and discuss the upcoming festivities.

When Saturday rolled around and the festival gates opened, everyone was ready to sample over 450 different beers from the 65 breweries that made it to Marquette. U.P breweries played excellent hosts to all of their visitors and counterparts while they juggled both pub crowds and festival crowds.

“This is a crazy, crazy weekend for us, but it’s going great,” said Dan Andrews, Blackrocks Brewery manager.

Michigan Brewer’s Guild festivals offer great variety from all regions of Michigan, and guests were treated to all styles of beer. Kuhnenn Brewing Company’s well known Fluffer IPA was featured, but it was also remixed into Grapefruit, Habanero, and Mango versions. Brewery Vivant kicked off the fall seasonal brews with Pumpkin Tart, a Belgian-inspired Ale brewed with real pumpkin. And Brewery Becker had attendees drinking in the old-style of the Vikings with Vargdricka, a Scandinavian Farmhouse Ale.

Veteran breweries supplied brilliant beer options as always, but there were also newer breweries to discover. River’s Edge Brewing Company (Milford), Cognition Brewing Company (Ishpeming), and Tripel Root (Zeeland) were all enthusiastic pourers at the festival, reminding us all that the craft beer industry is still growing across the state.

“We have made everything ourselves, from our beer to our tables, chairs, and building renovations,” said Laura Gentry, part owner and founder of Tripel Root.

They opened their brewpub in Zeeland this past December, bringing craft beer and the dining experience to the small community. The U.P. Beer Festival was their first, and they knew it was a no-brainer when they decided to come, bringing with them Kentucky Waterfall, a Bourbon Barrel-aged Black IPA and Perception Defines Reality, their already award-winning (3rd place People’s Choice Awards for Best Beer Name) Belgian Tripel.

“Both of us, my husband Nate and I, both went to Michigan Tech and love the U.P. And we knew coming to this festival would be more laid back and relaxed. I mean, it’s gorgeous!” said Gentry.

Lines at brewery booths may have been long, but there was plenty to see and plenty to do while waiting. Many were soaking up beer and sunshine while also enjoying a variety of food vendors and musical entertainment. The Aral Sea Divers, Conga Se Menne, Jerry Kippola, and Green Gene the singing farmer provided tunes for lawn lounging and relaxed dancing.

The festival may have ended at 6 p.m. sharp, but downtown Marquette was ready to continue the craft celebrations afterwards, with everyone flocking to local bars, restaurants, and breweries for more music, craft beer, and music.

It has been nearly 30 years since the idea and construction of The Vierling came to be. It lends its history to an already historic downtown Marquette, MI, a known destination in the Upper Peninsula for road trips and brewery tours.

“We were sitting on Presque Isle when I realized there were great views and a great opportunity,” said Terry Doyle, one-half of the ownership behind The Vierling.

His other half, Kristi Doyle,  grew up in the Upper Peninsula, with generations of her family leading the way.

“My wife landed me here. I wanted to originally stake my grounds in Florida, but that didn’t last long so we quickly came back up here.”

Wanting to break into the restaurant business, the pair bought an old café on the corner of Marquette’s downtown that featured great Lake Superior views. Nine months and a lot of elbow grease later, The Vierling Saloon and Sample Room opened its doors, showcasing an exquisite menu while providing a beautiful atmosphere to enjoy.

The space gives homage to the original owners, Martin and his son Louis Vierling, with original artwork and stained glass as the primary accents. With the additions of floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the water and a unique collection of international beer bottles, the Doyles made the space their own, combining history with personal style.

“This space has been a saloon, café, and even a Maytag refrigerator store, but it has always been a place where people come to meet, relax, and enjoy each other’s company,” said Doyle.

When it comes to the menu, the Doyles pride themselves on the whitefish that they get right from the harbor outside their window.

“When we went to Italy and visited Rome, I asked for their best whitefish. But it wasn’t even close to Lake Superior whitefish—the fish we serve here is the best.”

In 1995, The Vierling became famous not only for its whitefish, but also for being one of the first brew pubs in Michigan. They added a five-barrel brewing system, with beautiful equipment manufactured in Budapest, Hungary. Derek Anderson, aka Chumly, has been the brewer since the beginning in 1995 and has crafted a broad spectrum of beers for all different palates.

With craft beer being on the upward swing, Doyle said the best thing about having their own brewery was not having to worry about keeping up with all of the thousands of other beers on the market.

“We sell and make our beer here, and only here. People know what they want when they come here, and we provide it.”

The most sought-after brew featured here seems to be the Blueberry Wheat, a lovely American Wheat topped off with fresh, local blueberries. The Vierling offers many other styles, ensuring great flavors and aromas while keeping the ABVs reasonable.

“Some beers are so high in ABV, and we want to allow for the chance that people can enjoy different beers without overdoing it,” said Doyle. We have our Laid Back IPA, a Session Pale Ale that offers a refreshing amount of hops without going overboard.”

The Vierling is recognized as a historic marker for beer in Marquette, and have been long since joined by other craft breweries in the area. As others opened, such as Blackrocks Brewery and Ore Dock Brewing Company, the brewers have all come to know each other and collaborate on new recipes.

“All the brewers up here talk all the time. For the U.P. Fall Festival—one of our most challenging and busy days of the year—they like to collaborate,” said Doyle.

The fall festival is one of the many activities that keeps Marquette an up north destination year round. Alongside seasonal recreational activities such as fat tire biking, sled dog racing, and hunting, the Northern Michigan University presence means constant visitors and dinner reservations at The Vierling.

And while 30 years of successful business can be considered a remarkable triumph, Terry and Kristi Doyle recognize the craft beer trend and the universal crowd it attracts.

“We hope, this fall, to break into some new things. Maybe be more of a brewpub. Get things geared around the beer, because the beer is absolutely fabulous.”

With an emphasis on special events and tastings in their sample room, they hope to keep the historically elegant atmosphere while maintaining an affordable product for customers of all ages and means.

“We will be celebrating our 30th anniversary this October. We have been in the same spot for 30 years and not too many businesses can say that.”

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