Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Michigan: The State of Good Beer

Certified Cicerone Annette May wants to teach you all about beer at

I have a host of excuses for not posting anything lately, but here's one that is at least fairly legit: I've been busy writing a buttload of articles for the Detroit Metro Times's annual beer issue, out today. You can read about some top Michigan beers, Fermenta's first anniversary, beer education, the rise of craft lager, and more at this here link. Cheers!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Arbor to Celebrate 20th Anniversary with New Beer, Block Party

Rene and Matt Greff celebrate 20 years of Arbor Brewing in July.
It's deja vu all over again. Arbor Brewing, which opened in 1995 just one month before Grizzly Peak did, is also celebrating 20 years of beer by brewing up a commemorative batch of suds and closing Washington Street in front of the pub for a July 31 party. Here's the official press release:

When Arbor Brewing Company (ABC) opened our doors in July 1995, there were only seven breweries in Michigan. Twenty years later, as we put this finishing touches on our anniversary celebration, the number has swelled to nearly 200, and craft beer, once a niche product, has become an international sensation.

In typical ABC fashion, we are taking our celebration to the streets. ABC alumnus Matthew Altruda of Sonic Lunch and "Tree Town Sound" will emcee the festivities as we groove to the deep funk soul of local favorite Third Coast Kings and enjoy special opening performances by various bands featuring ABC staff and alumni.

Owner Matt Greff and head brewer Chris Davies have joined forces to create ABC’s 20th Anniversary Barley Wine, which will be tapped exclusively at the anniversary party along with a soured version we’ve been cellaring for months. These limited releases will also be available in 750 ml commemorative bottles solely at ABC on July 31. The party will feature two bars pouring pub classics like our award-winning Bavarian Bliss and new fan favorites like Strawberry Blonde Ale, Buzzsaw IPA and Ypsi Gypsi Pale Ale. We’ll also be serving up some great street food from our own kitchen plus an assortment of food carts.

The event will be on East Washington Street at Main Street in Downtown Ann Arbor on Friday, July 31, from 5pm to midnight.  As always, there is no cover and we are family-friendly as long as minors are with their parents. 

According to ABC co-owner Rene Greff, “We can’t wait to celebrate this occasion with so many people who have helped make Arbor Brewing Company the success that it is today and look forward to the next 20 years because the best is yet to come!”

Follow the latest ABC happenings on twitter and Facebook and use #ABC20years for up-to-date info or email

Of course, you can read more about the history of Arbor Brewing in my book, Ann Arbor Beer: A Hoppy History of Tree Town Brewing, which also includes a foreword from Rene and Matt Greff.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Grizzly Peak to Celebrate 20th Anniversary with New Beer, Block Party

Longtime Grizzly Peak head brewer Duncan Williams doing his thing.

Time flies when you're brewing beer. One of Ann Arbor's two original brewpubs, Grizzly Peak Brewing Co., celebrates 20 years on Washington Street this year. To mark the occasion, head brewer Duncan Williams will collaborate on a commemorative beer with several Grizzly Peak brewer alumni.

Next Thursday, June 25, Duncan will be joined by Ron Jeffries (Jolly Pumpkin), Stacey Roth (Griffin Claw), Sean Brennan (Original Gravity), and Nathan Hukill (Bitter Old Fecker) to brew a seven-barrel batch of XX Pale Ale, an extra strength version of the pub staple GP Pale Ale. It will be unveiled August 22 at an anniversary block party event in honor of Grizzly Peak's two decades of slaking Ann Arbor's thirst.

Grizzly Peak opened in 1995, originally the brainchild of California transplant Barry Seifer, who named the brewpub after a scenic boulevard in his native Berkeley. You can read more about Seifer's efforts to legalize brewpubs in Michigan and Grizzly Peak's early history in my book, Ann Arbor Beer: A Hoppy History of Tree Town Brewing.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

What I Did On My Beer Vacation: Cleveland Rocks Edition

Our Cleveland crew at the Platform Beer Co. beer garden.

When I think of Cleveland – which is not often – I generally think of two things: Great Lakes Brewing Co. and the latter-day theme song of The Drew Carey Show. (There was also the time I did shots in a Cleveland bar with the guy who played Larry on Three's Company, but that reminds me less of Cleveland and more of how hot I always thought the chick who played Terry was.)

So when my lady friend and partner in beer suggested we go to Cleveland over Memorial Day weekend, I thought, "Hot damn! We can go to Great Lakes and listen to 'Cleveland Rocks' in the car on the way there!" We did both of those things, of course, but oh so much more. And it was a blast. Turns out, Cleveland really does kinda rock.

As a result of all this painstaking research, I'm pleased to present, in no particular order, a long-winded list of some things to check out for any connoisseurs of beer, food, and fun traveling in or through Cleveland.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Jolly Pumpkin to Release Two New Sour Ales

The Jolly Pumpkin brewery in Dexter announced the impending release of La Roja du Kriek and Rojzilla Michigan Soure Biere, two new limited-edition ales to be distributed beginning this month in both kegs and bottles.

Patrons of beer festivals and the NULL Taphouse have probably already sipped the draft version of La Roja du Kriek, a blend of La Roja Amber Ale and Michigan tart cherry juice. Rojzilla is a new, aged blend also based off of La Roja. From the official press release:

(DEXTER, Mich)—Jolly Pumpkin’s quintessential beer – La Roja – may be hard to find, but two new specialty brews will hit the marketplace in limited quantities this month and are sure to quench the thirst of sour beer lovers around America. Rojzilla and La Roja du Kriek will be distributed in Michigan and 34 other states during the brand’s “April Showers Bring Jolly Pumpkin Sours” campaign.

La Roja (7.2% ABV | 25 IBU) was the second beer to be released by Jolly Pumpkin, after opening in 2004. This artisan red ale, brewed in the Flanders tradition, is deep amber in color with earthy caramel, spice and sour fruit notes that are developed through natural barrel aging.

Flanders ales are fermented with usual brewer’s yeast in an unfiltered and unpasteurized fashion, then placed into oak barrels to age and mature. The mature beer is then blended with younger beer, to adjust the taste for consistency. The name comes from the usual color of these ales, which are descended from English porters of the 17th century.

Due to the extensive time involved in the production of La Roja, it is only released in limited quantities and is considered one of the most sought-after sour ales in the country.

Rojzilla – Michigan Sour Biere. Aged for a year-and-a-half in a 100-bbl oak foudre before being blended with a few “normal” size barrels of varying ages to create a complex, mellifluous combination of flavors and sophistication. (7.4% ABV | 750ml)

La Roja du Kriek – Sour Amber Ale with Michigan cherry juice. This is what happens when 3,100 gallons of 2013 La Roja meet 50 gallons of Michigan tart cherry juice, aged in oak barrels and bottle conditioned – a perfect blend of sour and tart joie de vivre! (7.5% ABV | 750ml).

Locally, look for these beers plus several others to be tapped at events at World of Beer (May 21), Ashley's (May 26 @ 6 p.m.), HopCat Ann Arbor (May 28 @ 5 p.m.), and at NULL and the Jolly Pumpkin locations in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Traverse City (June 6-7). Follow Jolly Pumpkin on Facebook for other scheduled events and all that jazz.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Celebrating American Craft Beer Week, Ann Arbor Style

Next Monday marks the beginning of American Craft Beer Week (ACBW), and there are various beer-oriented activities going on around town as a result. Here are a few highlights:

  • Wolverine State Brewing, 2019 W. Stadium Blvd., is offering a VIP card beginning Monday, May 11, which entitles the bearer to all sorts of swell discounts and privileges throughout ACBW. These include (but are not limited to) 25 cents for your first beer each day, $2 beer specials the rest of the time, and $5 off the May 14 beer and appetizer pairing in the taproom. VIP cards are $18 or $25 with a special commemorative silipint, which you can use in the taproom all week if you want. See more details on Wolverine's website.
  • Arbor Brewing Brewpub, 114 E. Washington St., has different discounts and specials each day, including a tour of the brewhouse with head brewer Chris Davies on Saturday, May 16, from 12-2 p.m. RSVP to Go here to see all the other ABC happenings.
  • Arbor Brewing Microbrewery, 720 Norris St., Ypsilanti, is gonna party like it's 1995 in honor not only of ACBW but also of the 20th anniversary of Arbor Brewing's founding. Look for daily Facebook contests, '90s throwback pint prices, specialty brews, and some classics from the kitchen. Follow the brewery on Facebook for updates. And don't forget the first Halcyon Sundaze of the season on Sunday, May 17, from 2-9. I'm working on my setlist as I type this!
  • World of Beer, 1300 S. University Ave., is kicking things off Monday with a 6-9 p.m. tap event featuring Coronado Brewing and Latitude 42 Brewing. On tap look for Coronado's Islander IPA, Orange Avenue Wit, and Sock Knocker Imperial IPA; Latitude 42's Lilikoi Wheat Ale and Party at the Moon Tower IPA; and a collaboration brew between the two: 10 Degrees of Separation English Brown Ale. Use hashtag #wobtrip throughout the week for a chance to win an excursion to three American craft breweries, and watch WOB's Facebook page for more.
  • Each day of the week, HopCat Ann Arbor, 311 Maynard St., is featuring a different brewery on tap. Monday is Dogfish Head (Aprihop, Namaste, Black and Blue, and more), Tuesday is Coronado and Latitude 42, Wednesday is Arbor Brewing, and Thursday is Brooklyn Brewery. Keep an eye on Facebook for specific beer information and tapping times.
  • On Thursday, May 14, from 7-9 p.m., the Beer Grotto, 303 S. Ashley St., is hosting "Hoppy History Night," featuring yours truly talking about and signing copies of Ann Arbor Beer along with featured beers from Arbor, including Buzzsaw IPA, Demetrius Sour Ale, Euchre Pilsner, Phat Abbot Tripel, Strawberry Blond Ale, and a special firkin of Ryeclops Rye IPA. Arbor owners Matt and Rene Greff will also be there to give hugs and high fives.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Glasshouse Brewing to Open on Ann Arbor's West Side Later This Year

Founder and brewer Brent Payeur stands in front of the building at 2350 W. Liberty St. that will house Glasshouse Brewing Co., scheduled to open this summer.

It started with Short's Pandemonium Pale Ale.

That was the "A-ha!" brew that introduced Brent Payeur to the world of craft beer. Seven years later, his relentless explorations of that world have him poised to take the ultimate plunge: opening his own brewery.

After long delays, construction is set to begin next week on Glasshouse Brewing Co., and Payeur couldn't be happier to finally begin making his dream a reality.

"We got our microbrewery license cleared by the feds over a year ago, but the city has been harder," says Payeur. "They had a problem with classifying our building and the number of parking spots and so on, but we have our building permit now and we're good to go."