Seven Things You Should Know About Grand Rapids as Beer City, USA

Grand Rapids, MI proudly held the title of Beer City, USA in the year 2013. Today, guest blogger Lyndsay Isreal from Experience Grand Rapids shares seven interesting things to know about Beer City, USA.

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

The Beer City, USA Contest has officially ended, and Grand Rapids is proud to retire the title! Here are 7 interesting facts about Beer City – and how the competition has helped boost an already-booming beer industry in West Michigan:

1. Grand Rapids tied with Asheville, NC in 2012 with 17,849 votes. In 2013, they put a stake in the ground with 27,005 votes in a week-long online poll. The Grand Rapids Society of Brewers (GRSOB), taproom owners, taptenders and enthusiasts headed all over town to encourage people to vote.

2. The vote was founded in 2009 by Colorado homebrewer Charlie Papazian as a nonscientific poll to put the spotlight on tasty beers. Portland, Oregon, Asheville and Grand Rapids are the only cities that have won! (Asheville won three years and then split the win with GR in 2012) Kate Avery of Brewery Vivant says that “Beer City put GR on the map…and now we’re lucky to have the competitors and companions Beer City nurtured”.

Photo courtesy of Brewery Vivant

Photo courtesy of Brewery Vivant

3. Beer City has led to more and better homebrewing. Jason Warnes, a dedicated member of his homebrew club The Brewsquitos, is now co-head brewer at The Mitten Brewing Co. He agrees that Beer City is changing the homebrew community. “We have almost doubled the size of the group in the last two years. Not only that, the brewers themselves have become better. Breweries also have been more active in getting homebrew clubs in their tap rotation, through homebrew competitions that the brewery hosts. Suppliers have increased in the past few years too, there are now several places to choose to buy your homebrew supplies.”

4. The festivals, releases, and food-pairing events all over town have garnered national attention…and tons of beer tourism.  Cool Brews. Hot Eats. 2014 was an opportunity for chefs all over town to show a little love for the craft beverages…and they knocked it out of the park, using beer and cider in unique menu items that had locals dining out every night for.  The Michigan Brewers Guild hosts three beer festivals a year, and selling out in the first ten minutes is no longer uncommon.  Founder’s famous KBS had people camping out in Michigan March weather for two days to leave with bottles of the cave-aged imperial stout.  That’s dedication.

Photo courtesy of The Mitten Brewing Co.

Photo courtesy of The Mitten Brewing Co.

5. The Beer City Ale Trail Map was released this winter by Experience Grand Rapids with thirty-two Grand Rapids craft beverage hot spots on it. That’s a lot of stops for one city! Make sure you request an Ale Trail Map at the next GR brewery you visit so that you can check them off one by one…preferably not in one weekend.

6. Our craft beer obsession in GR has fostered growth in all sorts of complimentary industries: cider, hotels, restaurants, distilleries and wineries. Jason Lummen, founder of The People’s Cider Company, is grateful for Beer City. “Beer culture makes projects like mine possible”, and amidst so much variety, “we’ve created an adventurous consumer”. Hotels in Grand Rapids have embraced the enthusiasm and now offer all sorts of beer packages when special events are happening in town. Growler fills, t-shirts, and even Brew and Renew spa packages (hint-at the JW Marriot) are options for people booking for a beer fest.

7. Beer City has come to an end! In a surprise move by Papazian, 2013’s poll was declared the final contest. Good beer has been spotlighted and Grand Rapids couldn’t be more thrilled. When asked if the trend was about to die down, Avery, Wanhatalo, Warnes and Lummens all gave a resounding No. Wob Wanhatalo, co-head brewer with Warnes, says that “The timing was right. It won’t level off, the culture for craft beer established in GR is all about eating, drinking and being social- at each place you get something different. It’s why I do what I do.”

What is your favorite thing about Grand Rapids, Beer City, USA?

Lyndsay Israel originated in Northern Michigan and is now a dedicated Grand Rapids resident.  When she grows up, the plan is to teach high school English and Chemistry classes.  She writes to show how much she loves the mitten state!  Look for her articles at The Awesome Mitten and Experience GR, or follow her on Twitter @lyndsayisrael.

Five Ways to Celebrate Michigan Craft Beer

To keep the momentum from National Beer Day going (or in case you weren’t able to enjoy a Michigan craft brew yesterday), here are five ways to celebrate Michigan craft beer from The Awesome Mitten.

Photo courtesy of Chaz Parks

Photo courtesy of Chaz Parks

1. Visit a brewery: Ever wonder how the magical process of brewing works? Give your local brewery a call to see if they offer tours of their facilities so you can take in all the glory that is Michigan craft beer. As you wander the rows of huge fermenters, mash tuns and other crazy contraptions, your guide will educate you on how each part works to put beer into your glass. They’ll show you the process of combining water, barley, malts, hops, and yeast into that euphoric substance that makes every happy hour truly amazing.

2. Take it to the beach: One staple for every Michigander’s summer is Bell’s Oberon, enjoyed on a sandy beach someplace along the Great Lakes State’s coast. Nothing compliments the soft sand between your toes like a couple of Oberons, some golden rays, and a cool breeze. Across the state, at any liquor store you decide to poke your head in, you’ll find a six-pack of this summer nectar gazing back at you, kooky sun and all. With the addition of Bell’s providing Oberon in a 16-ounce can for the first time, you can ditch the solo cup and sport your craft beer pride this summer. While others across the country will flock to crowded, salty waters, us Michiganders are lucky to cherish our secluded, freshwater beaches with Oberon in hand.

Photo courtesy of Chaz Parks

Photo courtesy of Chaz Parks

3. Attend a Michigan Brewers Guild beer festival: While all beer festivals are a wonderful thing, there’s nothing like the festivals put on by the Michigan Brewers Guild. Ranging in location from Detroit to Marquette to Grand Rapids and bringing over 60 breweries from all across the state, the Guild festivals tend to make grown adults act like children in candy stores. Upon entry, you’ll be handed a golden cup to beerdom, the holy grail of Michigan craft beer lists, and a map. As you meander around beer heaven, sampling beers that are brewed only once, this is also an amazing opportunity to discover those indie-breweries looking to make a name for themselves. Some define day-drinking by overindulging themselves with a light-tasteless substance but, in Michigan, we day-drink ample amounts of craft beer while wearing pretzels around our necks.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Michael

Photo courtesy of Lauren Michael

4. Get to Comerica: What’s a more American combination than beer and baseball? Maybe apple pie with American cheese melted on top, but I think a Founders sounds way better. This summer, when you’re walking through the gates of Comerica Park in downtown Detroit, make your way to right field where you can find Michigan craft beer bliss. What could be more satisfying then watching Miggy crank home runs your way with a Two Hearted in hand? What about lasting nine innings with an All-Day IPA clinched between your fingers, as Verlander throws another no-hitter? Sounds like the perfect outing in the Motor City.

5. Attend a Beer Pairing: Brewers are masters of their craft, spending diligent hours perfecting the science that is brewing. Chefs work endlessly to provide dish after dish to anxiously-awaiting costumers. When these two gurus combine forces, it’s a night to remember. A three-course meal that combines food and craft beer in perfect harmony is a perfect night to spend with a friend or significant other. As you take your tastebuds on this foodie quest, note the little things, like how your spicy curry dish was paired with an IPA to give your mouth some relief or how that brown ale helped you savor the smokiness of that tenderloin. This will make you a hero at barbeques this season; pairing up pale ales with burgers and ribs will get you invited to everyone’s summer grillout.

Did you celebrate National Beer Day yesterday? What did you do? 

Bio PicA dexterous Detroiter. Born again Yooper. All around Michigander. Chaz is a Libra that enjoys nature hikes, dancing to techno, Michigan Craft Beer, digging through vinyl, pizza, tattoos, urban exploration, long walks on the beach, bike rides and blue eyes. You can reach Chaz on Twitter and Instagram at @BrewChaz.

For the Love of the Brew: An Inside Look at Brewing Michigan Craft Beer

Today is National Beer Day! To celebrate, we asked Frankenmuth Brewery‘s own Brewmaster, Jeff Coon, to give us the inside scoop on brewing Michigan craft beer. If you’re a Michigan craft beer connoisseur, see how you can learn to brew your own! 

Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Brewery

Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Brewery

If you’ve always wanted to see what it’s like to be a baseball player, you can go to a fantasy camp and hit pitches from an old-timer. If you ever felt the need for speed, you can go to NASCAR events and drive around the track a few times. What if your passion is Michigan craft beer? How do you get started in brewing? With some help from Frankenmuth Brewery and myself, it may not be as hard as you think.

As a lifelong homebrewer, I’ve always loved the science of brewing beer but I never had the ability to go into an actual brewery and see how they work. Once I became the Brewmaster at Frankenmuth Brewery, we sat down and talked about ways to get people further interested in the brewing process. Then it hit me, “Why not have a program where you can be a Brewmaster For A Day?”

Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Brewery

Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Brewery

With that in mind, we decided to create our own class that would teach the basics of beer at the oldest brewery in Michigan. After walking through the brewing process, participants get to sit down with me and sample some of the brews we have on tap. It’s a time to reflect on what went right during the creation of the beer and see how they pair with some of the delicious menu items we have at Frankenmuth Brewery.

If you’re a homebrewer like me, your mouth is probably salivating at this point and, even if you aren’t, we hope to inspire you to try brewing a Michigan craft beer of your own.

If you’re already brewing your own beer at home, here are a few tips that can make the process much easier:

Take A Copious Amount Of Notes: The only way to insure that you are creating great, quality beer every single time you brew is to keep track of ingredients and important specifics. By doing so, you’ll be able to recreate what has made your beer good and avoid prior brewing mistakes.

Test Your Raw Ingredients: Find out what makes each ingredient the proper fit for your brew and test them before adding them into the process. If you’re using something that doesn’t taste right to begin with, you’ll likely be the bearer of a bad final brew.

Don’t Feel Limited In What You Can Brew: Most amateurs feel that they can only do the most basic brewing at home, but if you keep an open mind, you can easily create many different kinds of Michigan craft beer. If you come to the Brewmaster For A Day course, I’ll show you how to do a more complicated lager brew with only a shallow pan and beach towel.

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Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Brewery

Brewing beer is a process that takes time, patience and a good set of senses. It isn’t as simple as just heading to the tap and pouring a brew. From sampling raw ingredients to adding yeast during the fermentation process, it’s the small details that can truly make beers from Michigan breweries something special.

So what’s it like to be a Brewmaster? Well, aside from being the best job in the world, it provides a unique experience for learning everything about beer. As a student in the Brewmaster For A Day program at Frankenmuth Brewery, you can be a part of that experience too.

Frankenmuth Brewery is giving fans a chance to win a free spot in their next Brewmaster for a Day class. For details, visit their Facebook page here!

Happy National Beer Day! What are you doing to celebrate in Pure Michigan?

gQV1Kwc99eTgyLTNIRhbeSfAZG_rGNu0PzazD8BiGlgAs an avid homebrewer since he was a teenager, Jeff Coon has helped to successfully revitalize the craft beer selection at Frankenmuth Brewery, the oldest brewery in Michigan. Following the rules of German Beer Purity Law, he has kept the brewery’s German heritage in tact while also exploring other kinds of new beers.  Follow him on Twitter @BrewingPastor.