Tuesday, August 2, 2011

White Flame Brewing

Citizens of Hudsonville! This article takes some liberties with your town. Please take the comments in the tongue-in-cheek manner they were intended.

Prior to 2007, Hudsonville was a dark, medieval place. Apparently ignorant of the fact that teetotalers had lost their grip on the public discourse with the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the citizens of Hudsonville resolutely shut their eyes to progress, dug their heels in the sand, and kept their town free of alcohol for an additional 74 49* years. This encouraged economic growth outside the city as adults were forced to spend their imbibing dollars in other districts, but it really didn't do much for the city proper.

*Correction: Hudsonville did not actually become a dry city until 1958. This has been noted. 
In 2007, the citizens of Hudsonville realized the error of their ways, overturned the law, and paved the way for the city to enjoy all the delights of a modern landscape. . .including locally brewed Michigan Beer.  Four years later: enter Bill White. A Jamestown resident and building contractor, the Michigan housing market has not been kind to those in his profession. However, as an avid and successful home brewer, White saw opportunity: a previously dry city, halfway between Holland and Grand Rapids, minutes from his home, with available commercial real estate. Hudsonville was ripe for a microbrewery. Taking a fusion of his last name and his red headed wife’s nickname, White Flame Brewing was born.

Michigan Beer Blog had an opportunity to explore White’s new facility in July while it was still in the nascent stages of creation. In other words -- it was still more office building than bar room. White did have some great visual representations of what he was creating, though: White Flame will feature an open and comforting atmosphere, with a room for darts, a largely, semi private table for larger parties, and (initially) room for almost 70 people. His current 75 gallon brewing system will be capable of providing at least five different beers to begin with, and he has room to expand up to 12 taps, all running different beer. He did have a selection of beers available for us to taste, and I am confident that they are more than retail ready.

Three beers really impressed me: Willy’s Wheat (6.1%), a light and summery wheat beer with a hoppier pedigree than one typically associates with wheat beers. In terms of comparison, I would put it on par with an Arcadia Whitsun, with Whitsun’s aggressive citrus nose muted significantly and replaced by the floral hop character. The IPA (tentatively named Proven Fighter (7.2%) was excellent, with a more aggressive, floral hop character that did not hide the sweetness of the malt. Finally, proving that he is well versed in all types of IPAs, the Black Sheep (8.5%) Black IPA won me over. I’ve developed a real fondness for black IPAs; a good one combines smooth texture with some roasty malted notes without losing that edge from the hops, and White Flame’s beer does exactly what it needs to.

There won’t be food served at White Flame Brewing, putting it on equal footing with Odd Side Ales, Schmohz, and Right Brain. That said, White is considering the option in the future. In any event, regular craft beer drinkers know a lack of a kitchen in a brewery does not imply a lack of food, and White encourages his patrons to bring in local fare from around the Hudsonville area.

While we recently mourned the loss of the Grand Rapids Brewing Company, it is heartening and exciting to see the Michigan Beer market continue to expand. With White Flame opening halfway between Holland and Grand Rapids (and Grand Haven not far away), Bill White’s new brewery won’t just be the first microbrewery in a previously dry town. It won’t be just another new name to add to the list of Michigan breweries. It’ll be a perfect reason for a brewery tour from the Lake to Grand Rapids. The bad news, of course, is that we all have to wait until October for this place to become a reality. Until then, check back with the Michigan Beer Blog for updates on White Flame Brewing!


potthole said...

Not wanting to knock the article too much, but Hudsonville's ban on booze didn't start until 1989...


Seth said...

You are partially correct: my information was incomplete. Hudsonville was dry since 1958. There was a court ruling in 1989 confirming the legitimacy of the earlier law. Still, it was my mistake. Nice catch!

Jacob Libby said...

You're a good writer, Seth.

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