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.

Craft Beer Countdown: 15 Can’t-Miss Lansing Area Hangouts

Today, guest blogger Ryan Ranspach from “I’m a Beer Hound” counts down 15 can’t-miss craft beer hot spots in the Greater Lansing area. 

Michigan’s craft beer culture has expanded dramatically over the last decade. While the Capitol area has only two full time brewing operations in Eagle Monk on the west side of Lansing and Bad Brewery in downtown Mason, there are an abundance of tremendous craft beer bars. Here’s our list of 15 fantastic places to enjoy a beer when you’re in greater Lansing.

15. Nuthouse Sports Grill–Rounding out our list is the catch-all sports bar located across the street from Cooley Law School Stadium, home of Lansing’s minor league baseball team, the Lugnuts. The Nuthouse has a fairly large, solid menu of bar food and plenty of space to watch a game. While still offering great game day specials on domestics, they have considerably expanded their commitment to having a variety of craft beers on tap from Michigan and beyond.

14. The Draft House–Located outside Dewitt on Old US 27, this quaint and dimly lit bar is a hidden gem of the area. The decor is that of an old barn complete with a grain trading board (used now as a way to track who has drinks bought for them from friends), old farming implements, and a cow’s head blithely mounted above the kitchen entrance. They have fantastic food with daily specials and a good selection of rotating craft taps.

13. The State Room–The restaurant inside the Kellogg Center on MSU’s campus has a surprisingly expansive craft beer list to go with their Encyclopedic wine list. They offer daily and weekly draft specials along with a wide selection of bottles, and their menu is outstanding and imaginative. Often forgotten being inside a hotel, this is one the area’s premier dining locations and also a perfect place to enjoy a relaxing pint after work.

12. Dusty’s Tap Room–Seeing the growing popularity in the craft beer culture, Okemos’ iconic Dusty’s Cellar and Wine Bar built a relaxing, up-scale pub adjoining their restaurant. With a solid draft & cocktail menu and food options to suit all appetites large and small, the Tap Room is a welcomed escape from the chain restaurants in and around the mall. Dusty’s has always been successful, and it’s no surprise that Tap Room has thrived over the last several years.

11. Woody’s Oasis Bar & Grill–On Grand River in downtown East Lansing, Woody’s Oasis Bar & Grill offers Mediterranean food just like their several deli locations around town. What sets the bar & grill apart is just that, a good sized bar with a good selection of Michigan and other craft beers as well as daily food specials. Affordable, delicious, and friendly, this is a good spot near campus to enjoy a drink without the craziness of some of the nearby college bars.

10. Midtown Beer Company–Holding the torch as downtown Lansing’s only true brewery, MBC has done a good job of re-branding themselves over the last couple years. It is a friendly pub with good bar food and a drink list devoted to Michigan beers and spirits, and they always one or two of their own beers on rotating taps. They have a great burger special on Mondays and other deals throughout the week.

9. Zoobie’s Old Town Tavern–Zoobie’s in Lansing’s Old Town district was the first bar in town to get a liquor license after the 21st Amendment ended prohibition. After being vacant for several years, it just recently reopened with a cool, retro atmosphere that aims to capture the old neighborhood bar days of the 1950′s. Though the food menu is limited to bar snacks, the beer and cocktail list is outstanding and makes this a great spot to grab a drink before or after dinner.

8. Taps 25–Taps 25 is a small and friendly bar located across from the Lansing Center and just down the street from the State Capitol. They have exactly 25 beers on tap which are listed on a large and well-organized TV monitor at the back corner of the bar. Situated next to a carry-out taco joint and nearby all that downtown has to offer, this is another spot to grab a beer at for happy hour or after dinner.

7. REO Town Pub–The neighborhood pub on South Washington near downtown Lansing wears a lot of hats. While having a diverse and loyal group of regulars, they also hold a delicious grilled steak special each Wednesday and frequently partner with the I’m a Beer Hound project to hold exclusive beer tasting events and area festivals. The Pub’s friendly atmosphere and commitment to helping spur growth in the area makes it a local favorite to enjoy after-work drinks at.

6. Harrison Roadhouse–The Roadhouse sits on Michigan Avenue in the shadow of MSU’s campus and all its major sports stadiums. Being a quick (though brisk in the winter) walk to just about any Spartan event, it has long been a favorite gathering place for fans, students, and alumni. A few years ago they vastly expanded their draft system allowing them to offer almost 30 beers on tap, the majority of them being Michigan and other craft beers. They also have great drink specials every day and a cozy patio for the summer months.

5. Reno’s Sports Bars (East & West)–With locations on both ends of town, the Reno’s Sports Bars have two of the largest draft beer systems in the entire area. They both feature huge food & drink menus, dozens of TV’s, and video game rooms. In terms of being customer-oriented, the Reno’s franchise has really stuck the landing on meshing a successful sports bar theme with an enthusiastic support for craft beer, and it has them near the top of the list for beer enjoyment in the area.

4. Beggar’s Banquet–Now in their 40th of year of business, Beggar’s Banquet remains in the pantheon of East Lansing dining and watering holes. They have endured changing times by continuing to serve fantastic food and drink at fair prices without pretenses or snobbery. Like many other places in the area, they have remodeled their bar and expanded their draft list substantially in the last few years. This redux has given the iconic restaurant a whole new dimension in terms of enjoyment and has made them one of the best places area for pints, snacks, and dinner. “Gimme Eat!”

3. Crunchy’s–Open since 1982 (originally serving only Stroh’s on tap), Crunchy’s is one of the premier beer bars in the area. They have 27 taps that rotate frequently and include some of the best micro brews from around the country. Their commitment to beer is matched by their commitment to keeping their bar as a hole-in-the-wall, come-as-you-are kind of place. In addition to serving solid and cheap bar food, when a limited release beer comes to the market, Crunchy’s is always among the first to serve it. This charming dive bar is a must-visit when you are in East Lansing.

2. HopCat East Lansing–Just recently opened, HopCat has stormed the gates of the Lansing area beer scene. Their original location, a smaller and quainter version of this one, has long been voted by beer enthusiasts and Beer Advocate as one of the best beer bars in the world. The new East Lansing property features a gaudy 100 beer taps as well as an extensive bottle list. Their menu is concise yet well-rounded and the space, while quite large, is still comfortable. This was an outstanding addition for Lansing beer enthusiasts and should be for many years to come.

1. Soup Spoon Cafe–No drumroll needed here. This is one of the best places to eat delicious, locally sourced food and drink hand-crafted beer in the area. Located near Sparrow Hospital on Michigan Avenue in Lansing, Soup Spoon has gone from a greasy spoon breakfast joint to one of the premier dining establishments in town. Their menu features dishes for all appetites and budgets, and they serve only Michigan beer on tap. If you love craft beer, and there is only one place you visit to eat and drink at in Lansing, definitely try Soup Spoon.

Where do you like to go to grab a Michigan craft brew? 

Ryan Ranspach writes for several websites including I’m a Beer Hound. Originally from the Detroit area, he now lives with his wife in Lansing. Having a wide range of interests, both work and recreation give him the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Michigan experiencing all the great things the state has to offer. His blog is available here.

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?