Brett Helzer, the new Head Brewer at the Jasper Ridge Brewery, is settling nicely into his job after taking over brewing operations at the popular restaurant and brewpub. Brett has been hard at work brewing a variety of craft beers new to the establishment, as well as several old favorites.
A Grand Rapids native, Brett attended college at Michigan Technological University in Houghton where he received a degree in engineering. After returning to Grand Rapids, Brett took up home brewing in his spare time as a hobby. “I didn’t expect to like home brewing as much as I did” Brett said. “I never really thought it would become a passion of mine.” But he soon found himself immersed in the art of home brewing. After several years of honing his skills he entered a home brewing competition in Grand Rapids where he took home a silver medal for his brown ale. Brett says “this was a turning point, taking brewing from a hobby into a full time career.” Four years after he began home brewing Brett landed a job at a small craft brewery, Harmony Brewing Company, where he learned how to commercially brew and the ins and outs of the craft beer industry. Eight months later, Brett applied for the open brewer position at the Jasper Ridge Brewery and soon after was hired as Head Brewer.
In Brett’s short time at the Jasper Ridge Brewery he has brewed an amber rye, stout, pale ale, IPA, several styles of wheat beer, and a brown, which is in fact very similar to his home brew he won the silver medal for in Grand Rapids. Brett’s newest brew, ‘Rye’d the Tiger’ is “An American amber ale with a generous portion of rye malt thrown in.” Brett is happy to say his ‘Rye’d the Tiger’ has “gotten a really good reception” from the customers and is a current favorite at the brewery.
As for the future of brewing at Jasper Ridge Brewery, Brett is eager to share his ideas and vision for what we can expect on tap from him, stating, “I have a lot of interesting things in mind that I think people in the area will be receptive to.” His long-term goals include an Imperial IPA and Imperial Stout, but for the immediate future Brett intends to create an Octoberfest beer, a Kolsch and a traditional Finnish style beer called a “Sahti.” Brett describes it as “an interesting amber beer that uses a lot of juniper branches and berries.”
When not in the brew house working on his self described “labor of love”, Brett can be found behind the bar where he enjoys conversing with the customers and receiving feedback on his brews. “The highest compliment I can get as a brewer, better than medals or awards, is ‘can I get another’; it means I have something people enjoy.” Brett says his “goal is to get people out of their comfort zone and try something different.” If Brett’s impressive track record thus far is any indication, the craft beer future at the Jasper Ridge Brewery will without a doubt be bursting with unique flavor, excitement, and innovation.
The Jasper Ridge Brewery is located in Ishpeming’s Country Village and is open for lunch and dinner daily at 11am, with happy hour 3:30-6pm, Monday –Friday. Check them out at www.facebook.com/JasperRidgeBrewery or www.jasperridgebrewery.com
Their current tap beer list includes, Rye’d the Tiger, JRB Nitro Stout, JRB Upside Down Brown, Ropes Golden Wheat, Blastin’ Blueberry Wheat, JRB Pale Ale, and JRB IPA. Growlers are available to go anytime.