Thursday, August 20, 2015

Old German to Open New Sidewalk Patio

Adrienne Nickles at work on the new Old German patio.

Some news you can use in the waning days of summer. Sayeth the press release:

The Old German welcomes its patrons to dine in the open air with a brand new biergarten patio opening Monday, Aug. 24.

Located in the lower level of Grizzly Peak in Ann Arbor, this additional seating gives patrons of Old German a chance to enjoy the outdoors for the first time. Old German’s new patio features furniture crafted by local woodworker Adrienne Nickles, the owner and artist behind Michigan Reconstructed, the patio is being constructed along the sidewalk of S. Ashley Street between W. Huron and W. Washington streets.

Working along with Janelle Sterling and Kate Peterson to bring the designs to life, Nickles is building several different styles of seating and tables for the patio, as well as with trellises to support hops plants, which lend themselves to the beer-inspired theme.

Owners of the Old German and Grizzly Peak Brewing Company, Jon Carlson, Greg Lobdell and Chet Czaplicka, shared a vision to give Old German patrons an outdoor space that is both modern and rustic. Once open, visitors can enjoy the fresh air and kick back with one of the Old German’s award-winning craft beers. The owners are avid supporters of the local area and took an interest in Nickles’ dedication to quality craftsmanship, artistry, and sustainability. Nickles’ woodshop is located in downtown Ann Arbor, just a couple blocks from the Old German.
"When I was designing the patio space, I thought, 'Where would I want to go with my friends? Where would I want to take my family?'" Nickles said. "That was the inspiration."

The woodwork on the patio will be constructed primarily from oak lumber, reclaimed from the Ann Arbor area. "My passion is using re-purposed materials to make something beautiful. Most of the material for this project is urban wood, and any other material will be coming from local businesses," said Nickles. "Jon and Greg are so cool about contributing to sustainability."

An important aspect of the business overall, this new addition is expected to add to the overall aesthetic of Old German, as well as its upstairs neighbor, Grizzly Peak Brewing Company.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Salt Springs Brewery Open in Saline

As everybody doubtlessly knows by now, Salt Springs Brewery is now open in Downtown Saline as of a couple weeks ago. Before embarking on a summer beercation to Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula (about which more later), my beer partner and I paid a visit to the place. Here is a quick first impression.

Beer. The beer list offered an eclectic mix (English IPA, ESB, kolsch, cherry stout, porter, hefeweizen, and saison), with the ESB and kolsch being the standouts to my palate. We did not, however, try the hefeweizen, porter, or cherry stout, so if your tastes run more to any of those, I got nothin'.

Food. The food menu went well beyond the usual pub fare, featuring such things as chicken liver pate, croque madam, tarte flambee, and boudin blanc. We opted for the mussels, because mmm, mussels. There was a clear effort to source ingredients locally (such as shrimp from the farm in Okemos, sauerkraut from The Brinery, etc.). Although nothing truly felt "overpriced" for the area, it should be noted the menu is not really aimed at those on a budget. I have to deduct a point, though, for the lack of anywhere to put empty mussel shells (we had to use the rim of a plate, which quickly became crowded and messy). And another minus for the use of brioche on the burger. Brioche sucks.

Ambiance. The brewery and taproom are situated in a former Methodist church, so if you like to drink beer amidst stained glass windows and vaulted ceilings, you will appreciate this space. Really, they did a nice job renovating and decorating the old church into a place of beer worship.

Service. Grand opening weekend caveat applies: The place was absolutely slammed and everything was new. That said, we sat front and center at a bar with four people working behind it, and it was frustratingly difficult to get anyone's attention. One bartender occasionally scanned people's glasses but made no attempt whatever to look up and make eye contact. As a result, we ended up leaving without ordering the second round of beers and food we were fully prepared to.

Bottom line. Beers were competent, if not amazing. Food was good but priced according to Ann Arbor standards. Atmosphere seemed great (the brewery also sports an attached biergarten). Service could use a bit of improvement, but opening weekend caveat applies.  Saline's not too far, so go check it out for yourself. I'm just some guy with a blog, you know?

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.