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.

A Visitor’s Guide to Exploring Frankenmuth – Michigan’s Little Bavaria

To celebrate the kick off of Zehnder’s Snowfest in Frankenmuth next week, guest blogger Craig Sterken takes us on a tour of some charming attractions in Michigan’s Little Bavaria.

If you’ve ever dreamed of spending a winter’s day in a charming alpine village, but don’t have the funds to fly to the Bavarian Alps, a weekend visit to Frankenmuth, Michigan might be the thing for you. Nicknamed “Little Bavaria”, this small city in the heart of mid-Michigan will have you believing you’ve been transported to your dream village within minutes.

Photo by Craig Sterken Photography

Teeming with charm, Main Street offers shops, boutiques, restaurants, a brewery, and a step back in time with horse and carriage rides.  A carriage ride will take you through a picturesque neighborhood and through the downtown area. Afterwards, you have your choice of two well known restaurants. On opposite sides of the street you’ll find Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth, famously known for their chicken dinners and the Bavarian Inn, widely known for its home-cooked German fare. Both establishments also host gift shops and fine wines.

The Cass River wends its way through town and is flanked on one side of the river by the Bavarian Inn and the Bavarian Inn Lodge. An appealing covered bridge, known as “The Zehnder’s Holz Brucke” spans the river connecting the two properties. Available to both cars and foot traffic it adds to the delightful scenic views of Frankenmuth.

Photo by Craig Sterken Photography

For shoppers who want more than the boutiques in town offer, there is River Place. Over 40 shops offer goods for the discriminate shopper. River Place has pleasant walkways, benches, and paths to stroll, linger, and enjoy, even in winter. For entertainment beyond shopping you can also visit Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Indoor Waterpark. Providing wet and wild family fun and relaxation it can be a wonderful respite from the winter weather. They even provide complementary shuttle service to Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth restaurant.

Photo by Craig Sterken Photography

Though Frankenmuth is widely known for their many festivals throughout the year winter brings Zehnder’s Snowfest. One of the most well known snow-sculpting competitions in North America, it is also host to the National Collegiate Ice Carving Championship and the High School Snow Sculpting Competition. You’ll be able to watch the snow sculptors at work and ice carvers employing their skills with chainsaws, picks, and even handmade tools created for the job. This year will be the 23rd annual completion and will be held January 22-27.

Photo by Craig Sterken Photography

Don’t forget to visit the southern outskirts of town and visit Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. Bronner’s is the World’s Largest Christmas Store. Founded in 1945 by Wally Bronner, it is open year round and bustles with activity as shoppers, tour busses, and cars come and go. Over 100,000 lights are lit throughout the season and it provides the perfect atmosphere for getting yourself in the Christmas mood. It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon shopping for ornaments, artificial trees, Santa suits, or for resting your heels in their cafeteria.

Frankenmuth just has so much to offer. On a recent visit my wife and I stopped for wine tasting at St. Julian Winery, shopped for a comforter at Frankenmuth Woolen Mills, ate lunch at Tiffany’s, and bought freshly roasted chestnuts from a vendor on Main Street.  So, if you’re looking for a weekend full of family fun, a good meal, or a romantic getaway with that alpine village feel, Frankenmuth delivers. Visit one of the bustling shops or just quietly sit on a bench sipping hot chocolate and watch the fun unfold around you.

Craig Sterken is a freelance photographer and lifelong resident of Michigan. His photos have been published in travel publications, magazines, brochures, and websites throughout the state.  His prints adorn the walls of homes, offices, hospitals, and businesses and can be purchased online or in various galleries and shops in Michigan. Visit his website CraigSterken.com or on Facebook  for more information.