How A Cocktail Napkin Crafted Michigan’s Largest International Beer Sampling Event

The World Expo of Beer in Frankenmuth is May 16 – 17, 2014. Today, guest blogger Blair Giesken and Go Great Lakes Bay tell us how a simple cocktail napkin helped set Michigan’s largest international beer sampling event into motion. 

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 2.39.12 PMThey say some of the best ideas start on cocktail napkins.  J.K. Rowling’s famous Harry Potter book series started on one. So did the idea for the flight route that later became the basis of Southwest Airlines. And the World Expo of Beer in Frankenmuth is no different.

This 2-day beer-centric festival of international proportion all began back in 1996 with one small sketch on a Bavarian Inn Roof Garten cocktail napkin and one big idea – to celebrate the beauty of spring in Frankenmuth.“In Germany, new seasonal beers are brewed and celebrated during their annual Maifests (Spring celebrations),” said Annie Rummel, who originated the World Expo of Beer and now serves as CEO of the Great Lakes Bay Regional CVB.  “We thought, why not honor the German Spring tradition with our own beer tasting event?”

And honor it they did. With the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado already highlighting domestic beer products and the strong relationship Frankenmuth already had with its sister city of Guzenhausen, Germany, the idea for this new beer-tasting event naturally evolved beyond local and domestic brews to embrace beers from around the globe.

As if coordinating an international beer festival for the first time wasn’t a tall enough order, Rummel and her talented team (along with countless community supporters) took the World Expo of Beer from a concept on a cocktail napkin to a full-blown festival in less than 5 weeks!

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 2.45.52 PMHoping to see a turnout near 5,000 people, the crew behind the first-ever World Expo of Beer could do nothing but smile and pull the tap that year as over 15,000 thirsty beer lovers streamed into the tents at Frankenmuth’s Heritage Park, commemorative tasting mugs in hand.

Each year, the Frankenmuth Jaycees and the entire community continue to welcome thousands to shout and sing “Ein Prosit” (German for “A toast to you”) and raise a stein in celebration of beers from around the world.  The festival has even expanded to tap into the hearts and minds of true beer connoisseurs everywhere, with great additions like the Fine Food & Craft Brew Pairing Event and Beer 101 “Basics of Beer” Course.

This year, the World Expo of Beer will tap countless kegs for the annual celebration – May 16th and 17th – bringing nearly 300 brews from the furthest corners of the earth (and right from our own backyards!) – to the tasting mugs of thousands.  Feeling thirsty already?  You can pre-purchase an admission package to this year’s festival with beer tickets included so you can skip the long lines!

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 2.47.11 PMLearn more about the World Expo of Beer, check out other things to do while you’re in the Great Lakes Bay Region, follow the World Expo of Beer and Go Great Lakes Bay on Facebook for updates on the free World Expo of Beer shuttle buses, and be sure to book your overnight stay nearby to cap off a day of tasting with a great night’s rest.  You’re going to need it!

Location: Frankenmuth Heritage Park – 601 Weiss Street, Frankenmuth, MI 48734 (just 500 feet from the Bavarian Inn Lodge)

Dates & Times: Friday, May 16th from 5-10 pm and Saturday, May 17th from 3-10 pm

Admission: $10 (includes a free commemorative beer sampling mug); Proceeds will be donated to charitable causes; 21+ only; Admission packages available here.

What unique brew are you most looking forward to sampling at this year’s event? 

Blair Giesken was born and raised in the Great Lakes Bay Region and now resides in Grand Rapids.

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.

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 9.41.05 AM

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.