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.

Something Good’s Brewing in Grand Rapids

BOB Brewery

Grand Rapids, MI is home to a number of award-winning craft beers and breweries. Guest Blogger Kirsetin Morello tells us about some unique craft beers brewing in Grand Rapids this fall.

Change is in the air in Grand Rapids, MI, Beer City USA 2013. The crisp, cool West Michigan mornings have local brewers ditching their citrusy summer concoctions, topped with wedges of fruit, and turning their attention towards crafting heartier beer to warm chilly crowds.

At The B.O.B, brewer John Svoboda is looking forward to some substantially darker, deeper caramel malts this fall, rolling out his Oktoberfest beer, and taking advantage of seasonal crops. “In Michigan, we’ve got some wonderful fresh hops at this time, so we can incorporate those into brewing,” he explains. “They’re going to pick them in the morning and I’m going to use them that afternoon.”BOB Brewery

But don’t come in looking just for hoppier, darker beer. As the season progresses, think about spices, too, like nutmeg, apple, and cinnamon. “We try to look at it from a more culinary perspective,” says Svoboda. He describes the fun he has making a small batch of apple cinnamon beer, for example. “What you would do in the kitchen, we try to do in the brewery.”

Brewer Rob Wanhatalo (Wob), at The Mitten Brewing Company, is also shifting his focus this fall. “It’s not necessarily a color shift, but a shift to something a little more warming, like a stout or a porter,” he says. For example, they’ve got a Scottish ale coming up that’s more malt forward. He says customers are likely to see their Country Strong IPA and Triple Crown Brown throughout the fall, as well as a rotating stout and something more seasonal. “Last year I did a pumpkin beer,” he says.

Over at Harmony Brewing Company, co-head brewer Barry VanDyke is considering a pumpkin beer, too. “Ours was made with real pumpkins,” he says, describing the beer they brewed last year in collaboration with other local breweries. They used ginger to spice it, rather than traditional pie spices, which he says gave it a bit of a bite.

The Mitten Country Strong IPA

VanDyke is also looking forward to Jackson’s Joy, an amber colored Oktoberfest-style ale. (His brother, Jackson, is the other head-brewer.) “It’s really rich,” he says, “It almost smells like falling leaves to me. It’s a style of beer that plays perfectly with the change of the season.”

Harmony Star Stuff beer

 

 

 

 

In Grand Rapids, there’s no shortage of breweries for locals and visitors to peruse, regardless of season. With the recent opening of Osgood Brewing and Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery and Supply, the number of area breweries jumps to almost 40 (22 in the Grand Rapids area, 16 more within an hour and a half drive).

For a self-guided tour, including HopCat, America’s Best Brewpub (RateBeer.com, 2013) and Founders Brewing Co., the World’s 3rd best Brewery (RateBeer.com, 2013) click here for a downloadable copy of our Beer Tour Map.

Small beer tour map

If you’d rather get an insider peek at the process, both Founders Brewery and Brewery Vivant offer behind-the-scenes scheduled tours every Saturday. (Click their website links for times, cost, and more information.) Many other breweries will offer tours, too, if time permits: just ask.

To get a taste of several Grand Rapids’ craft beers, paired with fantastic food, join the Beer Romp on Saturday, October 19 from 12:00pm – 5:00pm. The Romp will include stops at 15+ local restaurants, including HopCat and Grand Rapids Brewing Company. Tickets are $40 in advance ($50 the day of) and include beer and food samples at each stop. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the local charity, Kids Food Basket.

If all of this sounds so tempting that you want to visit Grand Rapids for a few days, you can indulge yourself with a stay at the JW Marriott, whose Beer City USA hotel package includes 4 local beers served to your room upon arrival.

Or, come for the Grand Rapids Wine, Beer, and Food Festival, happening at DeVos Place on November 21-23. The JW and Grand Rapids’ other luxury hotel, the Amway Grand Plaza, are both offering hotel packages that include accommodations, two tickets to the event, parking, and more.

Hope we’ll see you in Grand Rapids soon. Cheers!

Guest Blogger Kirsetin MorelloKirsetin Morello is a writer, author, and blogger who’s called Grand Rapids home for more than a decade. She’s enthusiastic about yoga, basketball and travel, and is a reluctant runner. Kirsetin, her husband, and their three children love to explore everything West Michigan has to offer. You can find her online at www.KirsetinMorello.com.

 

Have you been to any of these Grand Rapids breweries? Which of their Michigan craft brews is your favorite? 

Michigan’s Craft Beer Craze Continues

Home to more than 100 breweries, Michigan is fifth in the nation for the number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs.  We were thrilled to see three Michigan cities take home Beer City USA honors this week, with Grand Rapids being named Beer City USA with more than 50 percent of the votes and Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor coming in second and fourth place, respectively.

To build on the beer craze that’s continuing to sweep the state, we recently asked fans to help us and Founders Brewing Co. choose a Pure Michigan beer style to be featured on tap at Founders this summer. More than 1,200 fans voted for their favorite of three styles – Vanilla Stout, Apple Ale and Wheat IPA, and today we’re excited to announce that Vanilla Stout will be available in the Founders taproom this July during Michigan Craft Beer Month.

Thanks to everyone that voted, and be sure to let us know if you plan to make a visit to Founders Brewing Co. this July!

In other related news, a new Pure Michigan radio ad begins airing today in regional markets that showcases Michigan’s craft beer offerings. Michigan beers featured include New Holland Brewing Company’s Dragon’s Milk, Huma Lupa Licious from Short’s Brewing Company, Grizzly Peak Brewing Company’s Steelhead Red and the Motown Lager from Motor City Brewing Works.

Take a first listen below, and learn more on michigan.org.

Do you have a favorite Michigan craft beer? Share with us below!