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Grand Rapids, Mich. — Coldbreak Brewing Equipment started modestly: Boyd Culver, a home brewer working in the tool and die industry at the time, needed an immersion chiller. So he made one himself. He made another out of leftover materials and sold it on Ebay. That was the beginning of his small business.

coldbreak brewing

Chris Musil & Boyd Culver at City Built Brewing Company

Over the course of a decade, and with the help of Culver’s middle school friend Chris Musil, the company has evolved into much more. Coldbreak Brewing Equipment’s innovative jockey boxes have put them on the map for breweries large and small across the United States.

“We’ve branched out nationally, but we’ve really developed a stronghold on the industry in Michigan,” Culver said.

At the 2018 Michigan Brewer’s Guild Winter Beer Festival, 62 of the more than 140 Michigan breweries in attendance poured from Coldbreak Brewing Equipment jockey boxes. Coldbreak’s Michigan clients include such breweries as Founders Brewing Company, Bell’s Brewery and New Holland Brewing Company.

Around the country, Coldbreak jockey boxes are used by the likes of Alaskan Brewing Company, Deschutes Brewery and Russian River Brewing Company, among others.

“It’s pretty cool that the two beers that battle back and forth every year for the best beer in America, Bell’s Two Hearted and Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, are both being poured through our boxes,” Culver said.

Culver and Musil started making jockey boxes when their friend Matt Michiels, owner of Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery, requested one.

“We purchased an example to follow and thought, ‘We can make this better,’” Musil said. “That’s kind of our philosophy whenever we make something.”

Culver and Musil started selling their jockey boxes to other breweries, and now the product accounts for over 70 percent of Coldbreak’s business, Musil said.

Coldbreak’s jockey box performs because it was designed with breweries in mind. It serves everyone from the brewer to the consumer.

“We use only stainless steel equipment, so a brewer doesn’t have to worry about corroded chrome fixtures affecting the taste of their beer,” Culver said. “We put our inlets and outlets on the same side, so when a festival bartender’s keg blows, they get to see that it’s blown before they get covered in beer.”

Coldbreak is the only company that offers custom wrapped jockey boxes, enabling breweries to showcase their brand. The design also supports heavy custom tap handles, so even a brewery’s marketing director can feel good about pouring from a Coldbreak jockey box.

Culver and Musil’s dedication to creating the best product for their customers comes from their relationships within the craft beer industry.

“We’re equipment guys, but we find ourselves in the mix a lot with brewers,” Culver said. Those friendships motivate Culver and Musil to constantly seek quality.

“People in the craft beer community take a lot of pride in their products, but they also have an incredible amount of humility,” Culver said. “Everybody is so willing to help each other, and that’s so fun to be around.”

Catch Coldbreak Brewing Equipment at the 2018 Craft Brewers Conference, booth 3224, hosted by the Brewer’s Association in Nashville, April 30-May 3.

winter beer fest

The Michigan Brewers Guild’s Winter Beer Fest was (understandably) pushed back one week due to local flooding of the Grand River. With knee-jerk reactions on social media, and many shots taken at the MBG, lucky number 13 for the annual Fest proved that all events are realistically not immune to the guarantee of happening “rain or shine.” The Guild had to be the bearer of bad news when they announced the event’s postponement after accounting for safety concerns and what would’ve been a logistical nightmare hosting over 9,000 ticket-holders knee-deep in water.

With a universal good vibe in the air, sunny skies above, and dry ground below our feet, we polled a cross-section of those in attendance about what they enjoy about drinking beer outside in a parking lot in Febru… um, we mean March. Yeah, March.

winter beer fest

 

Ali Brodhacker, 31, Three Oaks, MI

How many MI beer fests have you attended?

Nine.

What do you enjoy most about them?

The entire community. It’s cool watching all these people come out and try different beers they might not otherwise be exposed to. I love seeing my brothers and sisters in the brewing community who are actually brewing the beer and pushing it every single day—these fests are a meeting of the minds.

So, you work for a brewery?

Absolutely. I’m the marketing director at Greenbush.

Any comments about how the flood affected you?

I’m actually a huge fan of how everything was handled. I really respect how the Brewers Guild reacted to the flooding. They were on top of it, and seemed pretty transparent to the public by sharing pictures of the flooding and what it could’ve done to the Fest last weekend. It was a crappy situation for everyone involved, but I have more love for them now.

 

Simion Stewart, 29, Holland, MI

How many MI beer fests have you attended?

This is my very first beer fest, period.

So far, what’s your take?

I love that everyone here—I mean everybody is enjoying themselves. I’m sure that there’s probably some of the best beer in the world here right now, and I get to try it. I know I’ve tasted trash before, but what’s going on here today, I gotta admit, is awesome.

I know you’re only a couple hours in, but is there anything that stands out?

Everything seems cool. I didn’t expect the entertainment or the fires, both are a nice touch. The food options, I think, will come in handy to keep people simmered. And, I like seeing the light security. They’re not in your face, but the environment is a good time and feels safe.

Why did you decide to make this your first beer fest?

It’s simple: To try something new. I’ve never had craft beer before today, but I’m sold. This has made up my mind. I’ll be back.

winter beer fest

The Watrous Family, Grand Rapids, MI: Kevin, 51, wife Cathy, 50-something, and their daughter Helen, 22

How many MI beer fests have you attended?

Kevin and Cathy: 13. Seven Winter, five U.P., one Detroit.

Helen: This is my fifth.

What’s been a highlight?

Cathy: Winter Beer Fest is our absolute favorite. There’s just an untouchable jovial atmosphere. People are in costume, but it’s freezing [laughing]! We all know it’s going to be cold, but we prepare for it, and embrace it.

Kevin: The people. We’re all here—9,000 of us—to enjoy the same thing for the same reason.

Helen: Exploring new beer with my family—it’s a pretty special experience.

Helen, you’ve been to five beer fests at a pretty early age. What’s the connection?

My parents. I live in Charlevoix, so they’ve helped me fall in love with craft beer, thanks to Short’s.

Have you seen anything evolve?

Cathy: The one we’ve seen change a lot over the years has been the U.P. Fall Fest. We were there in ‘13, and we just love seeing how much it’s grown. Marquette is just beautiful, the weather usually cooperates, and the town is really starting to embrace it. We were also really surprised about the Detroit Festival. We went a couple years ago, and we hadn’t spent much time in Detroit before that. We drove in a couple days early to explore the city, and it was awesome to see its revival.

Any suggestions?

Kevin: More water stations, and for the Brewers Guild to distribute the maps and beer lists sooner.

 

Korey Stubleski, 31, Toledo, OH

How many MI beer fests have you attended?

This is my second.

What’s stood out?

I’ve discovered very quickly that there’s way more variety in Beer City USA than Toledo.

Any Michigan breweries that have caught your attention so far?

Speciation and Transient. I’ve loved everything I’ve tried by them.

Any constructive criticism for how we do things in Beer City?

I thought there’d be more water, more easily accessible. Other than that, I dig the entertainment, and the people here have been very cool and hospitable.

 

Josh Gordon, 30, Grand Haven, MI

As Plant Production Manager at Odd Side Ales, how many MI beer fests have you attended?

This is my fifth year at Winter Beer Fest, and I’ve been to four Summer, and three in Detroit. Still haven’t been able to make it up to the U.P. Fall Fest in Marquette.

What do you enjoy most about them?

We’re [employees in the industry] in a unique, special position. By far, I love the set-up on Friday—getting here early, knocking it out, and then getting to hang with all my friends. What’s also really cool is when we bring other guys from the production facility out to fests, they get to see the consumer go crazy over what we spend all day brewing and packaging. It’s those people who support our product that give us a means to make a living.

Have you seen the consumer change at fests?

Overall, they’re definitely more experienced and getting more knowledgeable about the beer everyone’s making. Keeps us on our toes.

Anything you’d like to see different?

Oh, man, that’s tough. I really don’t know what you could change, to be honest. It doesn’t have any bearing on those attending, but from an operations standpoint, the end of the night on Saturday is kind of a bummer—just knowing it’s over and we have to tear down and wait until the place clears to load out. But, the Guild takes really good care of us. I’ve seen beer fests in other states ran really poorly. This one’s pretty kick ass.

winter beer fest

Lindsey Yax, 31, Grandville, MI

How many MI beer fests have you attended?

This is my third.

Third time’s a charm, right? What are you digging about them?

I obviously love all of our Grand Rapids breweries, but having intimate access to sampling whatever I want from the rest across the state is pretty great.

What have you tried that you’d drive there to have again?

Right now, I’m drinking Mango M-43 by Old Nation. I’ve never had an IPA before that I’ve liked, and I looove this!

 

Ryan Sheldon, 31, Sylvan Lake, MI

How many MI beer fests have you attended?

Somewhere between five and 10.

What’s the selling point?

It’s a comprehensive selection of all styles and flavor profiles. Regardless of what you’re personally into, there’s something for everyone.

When you attend, do you have an agenda for what you want to drink?

I’m a homebrewer, so I’m always looking for beers that will challenge me to push my own envelope at home.

Is there a particular style you’re looking to explore next, and have you found an example here that’s inspired you?

Historically, the easy answer is anything bourbon barrel-aged. But, lately, I feel like it’s jumped the shark and become the sell-out. There are so many breweries that have become so sophisticated brewing big beers like these, that classic styles like pilsners, Kölsch, etc. are getting overlooked and falling by the wayside. It seems like everyone just runs to the bourbon barrel-aged beers or double IPAs with a high ABV and fancy name.

 

Despite the unavoidable inconvenience of rescheduling, the event ran like business as usual. It’s clear: the people make this thing tick. From every angle, this community is driven simply by a love for beer. It’s what makes festivals in the dead of winter, or the blistering heat of summer, continue to thrive.

 

winter beer festival

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich – After last week’s flooding of the Grand River in Comstock Park forced the rescheduling of the 13th Annual Winter Beer Festival, the Michigan Brewers Guild says it now has Saturday, March 3 tickets available to the previously sold out day, for $50 in advance and $55 at the gate. Tickets for Friday, March 2 are also available for $45 in advance and $50 at the gate. Online tickets can be purchased at http://www.mibeer.com/winter-festival.

Original tickets will be honored on the respective Friday and Saturday this weekend. Those unable to attend during the rescheduled weekend have until 11:59pm on Wednesday, February 28 to request a refund by emailing info@michiganbrewersguild.org.

Those traveling to the festival from the south should be advised that Northbound US-131 will be CLOSED at 28th Street (M-11) for bridge work from 9pm Friday, March 2 through 5am on Monday, March 5. Michigan Department of Transportation says northbound through-traffic should take westbound M-6 to eastbound I-196 to northbound US-131.

The Michigan Brewers Guild is the network of innovative and passionate brewers that serves as the recognized advocate for the Michigan craft beer industry. The mission of the Guild is to promote and protect the Michigan craft beer industry with an overarching goal to help craft beer acquire 20% of the market by 2025.

Michigan’s thriving brewing industry conservatively contributes more than $144 million in wages with a total economic contribution of more than $600 million. In terms of overall number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs, Michigan ranks #6 in the nation – thus supporting its claim as “The Great Beer State.”

 

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich – Anticipated flooding on the Grand River in Comstock Park has forced the Michigan Brewers Guild to postpone this weekend’s popular Winter Beer Festival to next weekend, Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3. All tickets already purchased will be honored on the respective Friday and Saturday of the new weekend.

After meeting with the Whitecaps staff and taking into consideration information provided to us by the National Weather Service and the Kent County Emergency Management, the MBG Board of Directors has decided to take cautious approach and postpone the festival by a week to allow the Grand River to drop below the flood stage.

Rain is forecast for Friday morning between 5am and 10am. That will contribute to the levels of the Grand River, which is expected to crest its 18-foot flood stage on Friday afternoon and rise as much as three feet above that over the course of the weekend. The Sheriff’s Department has issued Flood Warnings for this section of the Grand River untilTuesday, February 27.

“We reviewed several contingency plans and discussed multiple options before coming to this decision,” says Scott Graham, MBG Executive Director, “but in the end the safety of our attendees, our breweries and volunteers is of utmost concern.”

Over 9,000 tickets have been sold for the festival, with a “Sell Out” status for Saturday at 6440. Friday tickets are still available for purchase for $45 in advance (www.mibeer.com/winter-festival) or $50 at the event at the main Whitecaps ticket office.

At this point, the Guild expects most of the 142-member breweries to participate in the rescheduled dates and the event to run just the same.

The Michigan Brewers Guild is the network of innovative and passionate brewers that serves as the recognized advocate for the Michigan craft beer industry. The mission of the Guild is to promote and protect the Michigan craft beer industry with an overarching goal to help craft beer acquire 20% of the market by 2025. 

Michigan’s thriving brewing industry conservatively contributes more than $144 million in wages with a total economic contribution of more than $600 million. In terms of overall number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs, Michigan ranks #6 in the nation – thus supporting its claim as “The Great Beer State.”

 

 

winter beer fest

LANSING, Mich—Tickets for the wildly popular Michigan Brewers Guild 13th Annual Winter Beer Festival, will go on sale on Thursday, November 30 at 10am at MiBeer.com. The 13th Annual festival will be held Friday, February 23 (5-9pm) and Saturday, February 24 (1-6pm) at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, just north of downtown Grand Rapids.

Friday tickets are $45 in advance and $50 at the gate if any remain available; Saturday tickets are $50 in advance. In past years, Saturday tickets for this outdoor craft beer celebration have sold out as quickly as 17 minutes and will sell out in advance of the festival again this year.

Enthusiast Members (active as of October 30) are invited to a ticket pre-sale which opens at midnight on Tuesday, November 28 and ends at 11:59pm on Wednesday, November 29. Enthusiasts are also admitted into all Guild festivals one hour prior to the general public (with valid membership). Access to festivals is just one of the benefits for Enthusiasts for their $55 a year annual membership.

The Michigan Brewers Guild is the network of innovative and passionate brewers that serves as the recognized advocate for the Michigan craft beer industry. The mission of the Michigan Brewers Guild is to promote and protect the Michigan craft beer industry with an overarching goal to help craft beer acquire 20% of the market by 2025. 

Michigan’s thriving brewing industry conservatively contributes more than $144 million in wages with a total economic contribution of more than $600 million. In terms of overall number breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs, Michigan ranks #6 in the nation – thus supporting its claim as “The Great Beer State.”

 

winter beer fest

Before I worked in the craft industry, I was a beer festival attendee. My perspective only stretched as far as to see the glorious, seemingly never-ending flow of beer from taps. I sought out IPAs and Flanders Reds, but would absolutely try anything. My friends and I would all get different pours and trade them around, forgetting who had what, but enjoying all the different flavors and tastes anyways. People around me would start the beer battle cry and we would all join in, knocking elbows with friendly, slightly intoxicated neighbors and doing our best imitations of freed animals howling at the moon. It was always an atmosphere of (slightly reckless) happiness and friendship.

emilyA couple of years later, I speak from the other side of festival operations as a brewery employee. The air of happiness and friendship is still very much there, but for different reasons. Beer is hard work. As an employee of a Michigan brewery, I now appreciate the science, creativity, innovation, patience, and elbow grease it takes to churn out one magical recipe. I respect brewers for their meticulous natures and passion for creation. I appreciate all of the pubtenders and barbacks for being on the front lines of service. I admire sales representatives and marketing gurus who grow the brand and spread the good word of beer. And I bow down to brave individuals who put every last iota of capital and confidence into opening their own small businesses.

I started as a pubtender in a small brewery to learn the beer and study the brand. I tried out brewing, and while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t the everyday vocation I wanted to devote myself to. I am now a brewery sales representative who dabbles in marketing. I’m also the lead on festivals and events, working with new people and old friends every day. Like all workers in the craft industry, I wear a lot of hats, and gladly. I am still new to the industry, but I recognize that the best brewery team is one that not only believes in the brand, but also in all of its individual members.

And only the best craft and brewery teams are brought to the Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Fest. Not only is it hosted by the largest craft beverage organization in Michigan—this festival takes place in Grand Rapids, known by many as Beer City, USA. For Michigan breweries, this is our semester’s final exam, making all of the festival-goers our very enthusiastic and very opinionated graders.

Like a majority of fellow breweries, we plan our beer list carefully (and usually months in advance). We want to bring recognized favorites, but also new styles and maybe a few surprises. Some of those surprises, like a barrel-aged beer, take months to age, with brewers carefully tasting and testing the product until that exact moment that it’s pronounced perfect. And when we tap that beer, crossing our fingers that it wasn’t damaged in transportation or that the tap lines aren’t too cold to pour through, nothing makes us happier than handing it over to an eager attendee.

The weather for this year’s Winter Beer Fest ran the gamut of possible Michigan forecasts. Friday kicked off the festivities with heavy rains downways, sideways, and everyway, drowning everyone, yet spirits remained high. Saturday ushered in a cold snap, welcoming back some fluffy white snow following a pretty mellow winter season. Luckily, the biggest issue weather caused was a few flyaway tents, so festivities went forward.

winter beer fest

A huge attribute to the success of a festival is the volunteer staff. Sometimes, they are the close friends and family of fellow brewery staff. Sometimes they are complete strangers eager for a new experience. Whatever their motivations, they are often thrust into the thick of things with nothing but their enthusiasm to guide them.

We had a great mix of volunteers pouring with us at this beer festival, all with different experience levels. A couple had never poured beer before, while a few others were volunteer veterans, pouring with ease and fielding questions like they owned the place. This mix of strengths caters to all of the different festival goers as well. First-time attendees want more questions answered while some just want the beer options listed as efficiently as possible. Either way, it’s always good to have help.

Even with advanced planning and care, things don’t always go quite the way we want—weather, forgotten supplies, broken down vehicles, sick workers—it all happens. This is usually the nature of the beer business. Luckily, the Michigan craft industry is known for camaraderie. We all lend out a lot of spare wrenches, air tanks, and even volunteer workers at festivals to ensure that all attendees are allowed the best possible time of their lives. At this year’s Winter Beer Fest, we forgot an air tank, meaning we had no way to push beer through the taplines (sheer will does not work). I knew I could reach out to friends in the industry for assistance, and it was no surprise when someone had an extra they could lend us. Later that day, we helped jumpstart another brewery’s vehicle.

The Michigan craft industry is very much a community—a lot of give with little take. We only want to help each other excel in order to grow the industry into further success as a whole. It all comes down to our beer in a person’s hand. With our whole hearts, every fiber of our being, we want people to enjoy it. But we want honest feedback. We want questions and discussions. Most of all, we want to have a conversation with people about our beer and our brand.

With the number of Michigan breweries growing monthly, Michigan craft-drinkers are becoming more and more educated. They recognize quality, they ask questions about ingredients and brew systems, and they appreciate something new. The constant challenge of fulfilling and exceeding every attendee’s expectation keeps us all on our toes and guarantees an innovative and creative future for the industry as a whole.

Whether craft is a hobby or a career, Michigan craft is all about passion. We believe in what we drink and who pours it no matter what side of the bar we’re standing on.

 

Photography: Amee Rutan

winter beer fest

There’s something about having over 1,000 of the most cared for craft beers at your mitten-covered fingertips that makes standing outside in winter weather simply worth it. For the Michigan Brewers Guild’s 11th annual Winter Beer Fest, they recognized the increasing demand for their signature February event and for the second year in a row they re-upped adding Friday making it a well deserved two-day event.

For those who weren’t quick enough to snag a ticket for today, which sold out in minutes, Dianna Stampfler, Public & Media Relations for the Guild, welcomed the public to consider Friday in an effort to be a part of something new. Less crowds, shorter lines and special tappings that might not be repeated today were obvious benefits to making day 1 of WBF the new norm. Truthfully, she acknowledged, “you could actually still get tickets yesterday, too.” However, after the intimate experience yesterday offered, we don’t think it’ll be long before the secret about Friday gets out.

Before the gates opened to the public, members of the Guild were privy to an Enthusiast Hour. A worthwhile membership perk available upon joining, this gave the ultra-dedicated a nearly private hour of being able to sample at their leisure. As soon as the public entered, we met Kara Kanwischer, 21, of Grand Rapids – the first person through. This was her first beer fest experience. When asked about what she looked forward to most, Kanwischer set the tone for the rest of the day — “I’m just pumped to be able to experience all these new beers, and then travel to visit the breweries in person.”

winter beer fest

“Plus, Saturday was sold out,” she added.

Not short on passion or creativity, brewers brought their A game. Known for their wildly ambitious homemade ingenuity, Dark Horse Brewing Co. brought a replica of the Mackinac Bridge as their “booth.” Their owner and fearless leader Aaron Morse casually told us, “Yeah, we just came up with idea this past Tuesday [to do something new and crazy], and built it Wednesday and yesterday.” He joked, half seriously, “We’re kind of known as ‘Last Minute Brewing Co.’” Still, Morse and Co. managed to pull it off. In addition to their large-scale interactive set design, they brought big, higher ABV beers to battle the cold. Morse recommended and poured us a sample of Blueberry Double Crooked Tree. But, there are also blood orange, coffee, and hot pepper variants for when you cross that bridge.

Our state’s craft beer scene is a team sport. Tom Payne, Director of Artistic Fermentation at 57 Brew Pub & Bistro, was all smiles showing off their Rally Round the Family. A wild fermented version of their 57 Chevy Michigan IPA, Payne proudly shared, “In twenty years, that’s the BEST beer I’ve ever made!” He was quick to not take all the credit. Payne made sure to sincerely thank Jeff Williams, head brewer at Pike 51 and Steve Berthel, Head Pub Brewer at New Holland Brewing. Williams shared ten-year-old barrels that were used for his Renegades of Funk, and Berthel supplied the wild cultures. Rage Against the Machine much? Testify.

Payne showed a sincere love for his craft and the people who help him keep it funky. Check out his ShutterBug Cherry Saison, which he brewed with MittenBrew Owner, Steph Harding — lovingly named in her honor because she’s pretty good with a camera, too. When asked what sparked them brewing together, he didn’t hesitate, “Why not? We’re friends.”

Before we switched gears to dark beers, Griffin Claw Brewing Co., turned us on with their Apridisiac – a wild ale soured with apricots that carried an even balance of sweetness to balance the tartness. And then, we took a hard turn to sampling Flying Buffalo, a bourbon barrel-aged Russian imperial stout. Attendees today, however, will get to try its coffee variant — but it’s the Krakatoa, also tapping today, that will likely get you hot and bothered. This Russian imperial stout is aged for a couple days with ghost peppers. Angie Williams, self-proclaimed Cellar Bitch (she’s actually the biggest sweetheart), said she had to wear a mask and gloves when blending the peppers and adding them to the tank. “It was brutal,” she said, “but it’ll warm your gullet.” Andy Jarois, in packaging and design, sold us by promising “it’s a really good throat feel.”  

While you’re waiting for your throat to cool off, go get in line early for one of sixteen Dragon’s Milk Reserve variants at New Holland Brewing’s Stop and Taste trailer. Their campground vibe compound offers a tricked out Airstream (with built-in tap system) to relax in, handcrafted lounge chairs, fire pit and giant Jenga. You’re going to need a place to hang out for a minute if you try to tackle their bourbon barrel stout portfolio.

One of New Holland’s partners and resident “Beervangelist” Fred Bueltmann, also VP of Brand and Lifestyle, said making all the Dragon’s Milk variants happen was “a great marriage between our marketing team and brewers.” It started from a casual roundtable idea late last year that turned into a whiteboard wish list of close to fifty variants. Bueltmann and team take the Michigan Brewers Guild festivals very seriously. “We know the audience is thirsty and wants something special. Our attempt to pull this off is really just a response to that expectation.”

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While taking our time with our pour of Dragon’s Milk Reserve with coconut aged in a rum barrel, we chatted with Dave Fischer of Grand Rapids, who was enjoying Dragon’s Milk Reserve Sarsaparilla. Fischer, who also attended on Friday last year came prepared yesterday with a short list of essential beers he wanted to try. “I could be here all day and still not try everything I want — there’s just so many good beers.” Well-stocked with a pretzel, meat and cheese necklace, before he excused himself to cross off another beer on his list, Fischer said of anyone hesitating to attend, “I wouldn’t let the cold hold me back. This is such a good time.”

Greenbush Brewing Co. also went all in. Their typical beer fest modus operandi is to bring a few dozen beers, and yesterday was no different. They brought thirty-nine. And, if you don’t dally, you should be able to catch most of them still today. Marketing Director Aaron Darling counted them off for us. Nine were barrel-aged. Six were imperial cream stouts – five of those were variants of their smooth and roasty Pain: Cranberry, Peach, Mint, Peanut Butter and Honey Apple. And, three variants of Mr. Hyde, their coffee cream stout (Strawberry Vanilla, Chocolate and Orange) – all made with coffee from Infusco Coffee Roasters.

Greenbush’s Brewery Operations Manager Tyler Ream explained how, and why, they tackle nearly forty beers. “We love to experiment. With small batches, we can try something we haven’t done before and test whether it could turn into something bigger,” said Ream. They brought an army of fifteen employees as ambassadors to engage with guests for their feedback on what beers work and which ones could be tweaked. Interestingly, aside from the brewers, the festival beers are also a surprise to the staff working their taps – to keep the excitement about what they’re offering fresh and authentic. Greenbush owner Scott Sullivan echoed their philosophy to not deliver something static, “Festivals like this are an opportunity to crush what’s typical.”

The thread among breweries that they care about delivering a special experience to the people was consistent and sincere. Bill White, owner of White Flame Brewing Co., said, “This event is our Super Bowl. It’s our opportunity to prepare for 6-8 months to bring awareness to our modest brewery in Hudsonville.” For the past four years, White and his wife Jenn “The Flame” have worked diligently to constantly improve their increasingly popular bottle releases out of their taproom. The demand for Black Flame, their anniversary bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout with maple, has gotten so high that he intentionally allocates enough for the Winter Beer Fest, he says, “to give as many people as possible a chance to try it.”

To be in the company of over 120 breweries and thousands of your new best friends you haven’t met yet, Winter Beer Fest is an undeniably cool experience. Try a new beer you otherwise wouldn’t, or get another pour of the one you just fell in love with. Either way, bundle up and get here.

 

Photography: Bri Luginbill

Brewery_VivantBrewery Vivant, known for its unique Belgian­-American styles of beers, welcomes another GR Beer Week and hoards of craft beer fans to Beer City USA with it’s annual Brewer’s Big Breakfast. The Pub opens its doors early once a year ­­the Saturday of Winter Beer Fest­­ for breakfast. February 27, from 8am to 2pm, the highly anticipated breakfast menu will showcase a breakfast poutine, vegetarian eggs Benedict, house­made crullers and of course, the beer­mosa (Farm Hand spiked with OJ).

The breakfast originally started as a way to fuel the brewers before stepping out into the frigid Michigan temperatures to pour beer at Michigan Brewers Guild’s Winter Beer Fest at 5/3 Ball Park in Comstock Park. The idea caught traction with Executive Chef Christopher Weimer. “I’ve always liked cooking breakfast, and appreciated this style of cuisine. I don’t know that I’d want to subscribe to the lifestyle, or if I could, but once a year it’s fun for us to stretch our chops and step outside our traditional dinner routine.”

The day is fast paced in the kitchen, but guests revel in the unusual circumstance they’re able to find themselves in: enjoying kegs and eggs in the Brewery Vivant chapel. “The atmosphere is jovial and there is a palpable excitement running through guests and our staff as well,” Says Kate Avery, Director of Sales & Marketing, “It’s Winter Beer Fest after all. Even if you don’t have tickets, you still are able to be a part of this thing we call Beer City, USA.”

True to the Vivant spirit, the breakfast is open to all and no reservations are required. The community tables fill up with hungry beer lovers and foodies alike. People coming together over good beer and good food? That’s living the ​bon vivant​.

At 2pm breakfast will conclude, the pub will operate with a limited food menu while the kitchen resets for a 3pm return to regular, full dinner menu service. We’ll be eating and drinking well into the night. The Pub closes at midnight on Saturday.


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