Monday, July 29, 2013

16th Annual Michigan Summer Beer Fest

What will Michigan craft beer fans tolerate to celebrate the state’s popular offerings?

Torrential downpour?

Ground so muddy even pallets sunk into it?

More samples than any single human could try?

Political intrigue?

Our party managed to avoid most of the rainfall, enjoying a summer festival decidedly cooler -- and muddier -- than several in the past.  The air was dry and crisp, yet the sun still shone brightly for most of the events.  Tents full of Michigan breweries stretched across the festival grounds farther than they’d ever been before, offering 800 different beers to tempt the palate.

No, I did not try all 800 beers.  Pretty sure you can figure that out based on the fact that I’m still alive to write this.

We did, however, try a lot of beer.  As we wandered from tent to tent, greeting old friends and new (everyone at the Summer Beer Fest is a friend, after all), we discovered treasures from all over the state.

Kuhnhenn Brewing, the eclectic Warren brewery known for its experimental beers, did not disappoint.  They had a line of beer carefully crafted to taste like cocktails, with Mardis Gras themed offerings such as the Hurricane and the Sazerac.  Rather than use spirits to achieve their desired taste, Kuhnhenn brewed beer based on flavors that would mimic the original cocktails’ profile, which made these offerings truly different from beer-cocktails or any other beverage I’ve had before.

 White Flame, the first brewery in formerly dry Hudsonville, offered a deep, rich imperial porter aged in cherry bitters casks.  This process imparted a cherry flavor that maintained its sweetness without becoming overwhelming, like a dry chocolate cake infused with a hint of cherry.  This is one of my favorite stouts in the state.

Griffin Claw Brewing Company has exploded on the scene, offering a spectacular sour saison for review.  The saison is such a fragile beer that souring it can sometimes result in a taste too strong, such that it hides the fruity tones, the yeasty bite, and the gentle but insistent hazy straw flavor.  Griffin Claw hides none of this, allowing all of those beautiful summer flavors to be enhanced by the sour aging process, resulting in a perfect hot weather beer.

I am finding that I cannot say enough good things about Greenbush.  This brewery never backs down from a challenge, and the selection they brought to the Summer Beer Fest was just fantastic.  I had the
opportunity to try their imperial blueberry cream stout (Cabra Perdida), which does not show its cards all at once.  The sweet, thick, creamy ale boasts just a whisper of blueberry; enough to remind you it’s there, but so faint that you may not believe yourself a few minutes later....prompting another swallow.

There were dozens more breweries with fantastic offerings: Hopcat’s sour beers were excellent, Pike51 had a fantastic Thai spiced beer, Bell’s bourbon aged Uberon brought a whole new dimension to a Michigan classic, and Rockford Brewing Company nailed the session ale with their Obsession Rye.  Indeed, the beers available and the camaraderie that’s always present was in full force, despite the rain and the mud.  Heartfelt thanks to everyone -- from the Michigan Brewer’s Guild and its many members to the people who come together to celebrate Michigan’s fantastic beer culture!

View the rest of our photos from this event here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Brewery Terra Firma is Now Open with 7 Beers on Tap

Brewery Terra Firma opened its doors at 2959 Hartman Rd.on the historic 10-acre Dracka Farm just south of the Grand Traverse Mall over the 4th of July Holiday. The brewery is now pouring seven beers crafted onsite and will eventually house 40 taps of Brewery Terra Firma beers. Taproom hours are 10am-10pm Monday through Saturday and 2pm to 9pm on Sunday

The brewery is primarily a production facility which will be distributing it’s beer in the seven county area surrounding Traverse City serviced by H. Cox & Son. Distribution began early this week with Manitou Amber Ale and Gladstone American Pale Ale already arriving in local establishments. The taproom adjacent to the brew house seats 64 people along with an outdoor beer garden. Food is not prepared onsite; patrons are welcomed and encouraged to bring their own food. Local snacks and soda will also be available to complement the wide variety of beer.

The current beer menu offers a variety of well balanced styles including a blonde ale, amber ale, american pale ale, india pale ale, black IPA, extra special bitter, and a porter. The Bee Hive Honey Blonde is brewed with buckwheat honey sourced from the sustainable apiary on the brewery’s farm. The Manitou Amber Ale is the original Northern Michigan classic which was one of Michigan’s most popular and most widely distributed brews in the late 90s under Traverse Brewing Company. The Black Orchid Vanilla Bean Porter is a rich porter laid down over Madagascar vanilla beans. Future releases include the Donkey Smasher Imperial Brown Ale and brew master John Niedermaier’s famous Ancho Chili Dutch Double Chocolate Porter.

Brewery Terra Firma (Terra Firma-Latin for Solid Earth) sits on ten acres of farmland that will generate ingredients used by the brewery to make its beers. Hops, herbs, fruits, vegetables, and even honey will be produced, using sustainable production methods, environmentally conscious waste management, and innovative water and heat reclamation systems. Brewery Terra Firma will be a contributor to the local economy of Traverse City and is already becoming a model for the next level of ultra-efficient microbreweries. The goal of Brewery Terra Firma is to brew the best beer possible, and to respect the land, the community, their patrons, and their employees while doing so.  Terra Firma is the vision of Brew Master, John Niedermaier. 

For more information on the brewery, visit Brewery Terra Firma on Facebook or at

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Our Brewing Company

Holland, Michigan, has been home to one of the most successful and well known breweries in Michigan for years. As the third highest producing brewery in the state, New Holland Brewing is synonymous with the Michigan craft beer market. Dragon’s Milk and Mad Hatter are household names, even outside of Michigan. It would take a lot of moxie to open a brand new corner brewery just a block from New Holland’s downtown taproom...and moxie is exactly what Trevor Doublestein and his wife Lisa possess, as they recently opened Our Brewing Company to the public.

Residing in a small space in Holland’s beautiful downtown district on East 8th Street – literally 100 feet from New Holland’s taproom – Our Brewing Company provides a comfortable, rustic experience. Given Trevor’s background in contracting, he was able to turn a previously boring office space into a welcoming environment complete with finished hardwood floors, a painted tin ceiling, and plenty of exposed architecture which has become so popular of late. The barstools, which look like outdoor patio furniture but are sturdy, metal, and surprisingly comfortable, add to the casual atmosphere.

All of the brewing equipment resides downstairs; in addition to their primary brewing system, Our Brewing Company will occasionally ferment beer directly in the kegs! This practice allows them to test some experimental batches without disrupting the volume of their primary system. It is here where head brewer, Ed DeGalan, works his craft. Trained at Chicago's Siebel Institute and having gained experience at Finch's Beer Company (also in Chicago), DeGalan brings a philosophy of experimentation to Our Brewing Company. “I am interested in blurring the lines between beer styles, and introducing hybrid and otherwise unknown beers to the market,” he told us.

Chief among those new styles was the Paterbier. DeGalan has essentially created a session Belgian pale ale – something akin to what the monks would drink on a regular basis. This light, low alcohol (4.3%) beer had characteristics of fruity esters and a bready finish, not unlike a saison. For those of you who love Belgian style ales but are put off by the traditionally high alcohol content, I cannot recommend this beer highly enough.

Paterbier: 4.3% alcohol, 104.3% flavor.

We also got to try the Dry County Stout. This Irish stout was so dry, it had a spicy quality. Both Laura and I actually assumed this quality was derived from an addition of rye to the grainbill, but the brewer explained that the spiciness had been attained without any rye added. A surprising stout, delicious both cold and warm, and different than most dry stouts you may have tried.

Finally, we sampled the Andes Mint stout. I'll be frank; mint stouts are not my favorite genre. Mint stouts are typically labeled as sweet or milk stouts, and the tannin-like quality of mint (especially harsh mints, like peppermint) tend to overwhelm the overall balance of the beer. DeGalan's stout, however, was different. Brewed with a ridiculous amount of actual Andes mints added at the very end of the boil, this sweet stout did not have a harsh aftertaste, but rather possessed that sweet chocolate/mint combination one equates with a hotel stay. Or the end of a meal at Olive Garden, if that happens to be a positive memory for you.

What's great about Our Brewing Company isn't that it's competing with its neighbor, New Holland; it's that it complements New Holland. A corner bar serving beer created ten feet away with a small footprint and a cozy atmosphere can coexist here in conservative Holland and add to the landscape. The town flourishes with the two breweries, and the winners are fans of Michigan beer. Congratulations to Our Brewing Company as we raise your glass to our moustache!

Laura doesn't have a moustache.  Just...FYI.

More pictures available at our Facebook Page.

This website and its content is copyright of Seth and Laura Porter - Michigan Beer Blog - © Michigan Beer Blog 2010. All rights reserved.

Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in any form is prohibited other than the following:
1. You may print or download to a local hard disk extracts for your personal and non-commercial use only.

2. You may copy the content to individual third parties for their personal use, but only if you acknowledge the website as the source of the material.

You may not, except with our express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content. Nor may you transmit it or store it in any other website or other form of electronic retrieval system.

Powered by Blogger