Friday, August 4, 2017

Kicking Off the 2017 Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference


Milwaukee. The name is practically synonymous with beer. And to be honest, despite advertising promises, Milwaukee beer was not always the "best" beer. But here amidst the towering semi-ruins of past brewing grandeur, a new beer renaissance is taking shape, and thanks to the annual Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference (aka #BBC17) taking place in Laverne and Shirley's old stomping grounds, I'm here to conduct some research on this important subject.

My first Beer Bloggers Conference was in 2014 in San Diego, and I had a blast. This year I've brought Amy along with me, because she likes to conduct research as much as I do. The actual conference is taking place, appropriately enough, in the old Pabst building, now known as the Best Place. Today we'll be enjoying presentations from Julia Herz of the Brewers Association; John Kimes, head brewer at the Pabst Milwaukee Brewery; a panel of area folks on Milwaukee's beer past and present; Chicago beer guru Randy Mosher, and Susan Evans, who has the job every beer dork in the country coveted when it was first announced, director of the Smithsonian Food History Programs at the National Museum of American History.


Following the presentations, we'll be forced to drink beers from the conference's sponsors, including Brenner Brewing, Global Beer Network, Good City Brewing, Lakefront Brewery, Stone Brewing, Rogue Ales and Spirits, Third Space Brewing, Deschutes Brewery, and, of course, MillerCoors and Pabst.

After that, dinner at MillerCoors, and then we hope to get into some good local pub crawlin'. Follow our adventures on Twitter at @allthebrews. More to come...

Friday, June 2, 2017

Roundup the First of Session #124: Late, Lamented Loves

At a time when beer dorks seem obsessed with what's new and what's next, I thought, in this month's edition of The Session, we might take a refreshing pause to look back on beers that we remember fondly but which are no more.

Once again, apologies for the extreme lateness of the announcement of this topic. I'm doing a roundup here of those who met the 24-hour challenge. For those who could not, never fear! Send me links to your posts at annarborbeer@gmail.com or tweet me at @allthebrews in the days and weeks ahead. I'll do another roundup later in the month, if need be.

Before getting to the roundup, I'll briefly mention my own late, lamented beer loves. I have two in mind, one from my halcyon beer-discovering days in the 1990s and one of much more recent vintage.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Session #124: Late, Lamented Loves

Sorry, Internet. I dropped the beer ball on this one.

Back in January, I approached the esteemed Stan Hieronymus and Jay Brooks about hosting the June edition of The Session, an ongoing monthly series where beer bloggers around the web opine on a common topic. In the intervening months, I got unexpectedly busy with both personal and professional things and plum forgot about this.

Nevertheless, I think the chosen subject, "Late, Lamented Loves," is still worth talking about. I mean a beer you remember fondly but which is no longer in production.

It needn't be an objectively "great" beer, though it could be. It could also be a nostalgic or youthful memory. It could be a "go-to" you still reflexively want to reach for. It could be all of these things.

Maybe the brewery and the beer are both long gone. Maybe the brewery is still around but just decided for whatever reason not to continue producing the glorious nectar you still pine for.

Whatever the case, there's probably at least one beer that's already leapt to your mind that fits into this description. Maybe even more than one, and, if so, feel free to go there.

Normally, if the designated host does his job properly, Session participants get a month to collect their thoughts. But because I suck, you get one day. I'll post about my own late, lamented loves tomorrow, the designated day, and for anyone up to the challenge, send me your own thoughts on beers you miss for me to include. Email notices to me at annarborbeer@gmail.com or tweet at me at @allthebrews.

If you still want to participate, but need more time than a day, hit me up anyway. I'll continuously update in the days and weeks ahead as necessary. Because I'm a dope.

So... what are your late, lamented beer loves?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Arbor Brewing Begins New Chapter in Business Evolution

Farm + Ferment principals Mike Collins and Mike Messink toast their new business arrangement with Arbor's Rene and Matt Greff.

Note: This article was originally published May 11 in Current magazine under the headline "Former Owners Speak on Sale of North American Portion of Arbor Brewing."

It’s been a staple on downtown Ann Arbor’s Washington Street for more than two decades, and now the Arbor Brewing Co. Brewpub – along with its sister establishment, Ypsilanti’s Arbor Brewing Co. Microbrewery – is entering a new chapter in its business evolution.

Owners Matt and Rene Greff announced on Thursday that Arbor has become a part of Farm + Ferment, a family of Michigan-based businesses focused on craft beer, cider, and wine making. The new partnership sees the Greffs relinquishing ownership over the day-to-day operation of the businesses, but retaining the North American rights to the Arbor brand.

“Matt and I are shifting from more of an operations focus to a brand promotion focus,” said Rene. “So basically someone else gets to do the unpleasant stuff and we get to have all the fun.”

Included under the Farm + Ferment umbrella are several Michigan orchards, vineyards, and hop farms, including Northport Farms, Baia Estate Vineyard, and the Michigan Hop Alliance, a network of hop growers that joined in 2016.

“Farm + Ferment is a new umbrella company that will focus on brewing, cider, and wine making,” said Brian Tennis, founder of Michigan Hop Alliance. “My role will be to focus on our hop operations, overseeing our hop yards, brokering hops both foreign and domestically, and working closely with our network of over 600 breweries around North America and Europe. I’m excited to work with everyone at Arbor and will be providing the brewery with the best hops available, with a strong focus on Michigan-grown ingredients.”

“What’s awesome is we get to be involved in all aspects of brand growth, working with Brian on hop selection, growing the sour beer program, and other things like that because we’re no longer involved in the minutiae of management,” said Matt.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Arbor Brewing Joins Farm + Ferment Business Group

Photo by Allen Williams.

It's official. Arbor Brewing Co. is now part of Farm + Ferment, an umbrella company of Michigan-based hospitality businesses. Below is the press release straight from the horse's mouth. I'll have a write-up for Current magazine later.
Ann Arbor, Mich. – May 11, 2017 – Arbor Brewing Company, one of Michigan’s oldest craft beer brands, has joined the Farm + Ferment family of Michigan-based hospitality businesses, that includes Michigan Hop Alliance, Northport Farms, Baia Estate Vineyard, Bigalora Wood Fired Cucina, Bacco Ristorante and Cloverleaf Fine Wine, through an acquisition by ABC Brew Holding, LLC and ABC Brew Production, LLC.

Farm + Ferment’s ABC Brew Holding, LLC and ABC Brew Production, LLC have acquired the membership interests of Arbor Brewing Company founders Matt and René Greff, and the other investors, in both Arbor Brewing Company, LLC and Corner Brewery, LLC, respectively, and engaged the Greffs in a 10-year agreement. Along with the business assets, ABC Brew Holding, LLC will have exclusive brand rights throughout North America. Greff Brewing Services, LLC will retain exclusive rights to Arbor Brewing Company throughout India, and the two entities will share the brand rights throughout the rest of the world.

“In an era of craft breweries being gobbled up by multi-nationals, we couldn’t be more pleased to be joining a consortium of local, independent Michigan operators representing the best of our industries,” René Greff said. “This strategic partnership will allow both the Arbor Brewing Company Brewpub and Microbrewery to continue to grow and thrive in an evolving craft beer marketplace, and it will free Matt and I up to do what we love best - promote and grow the brand here and abroad.”

“Acquiring a brewery fit perfectly with our long-term strategy,” said Mike Collins, managing principal, Farm + Ferment. “We’ve been very successful with our wine and hop businesses, and are continuing to expand the Bigalora Wood Fired Cucina brand. We were in the initial planning stages of a new brewery when we started discussions with the Greffs. We all knew right away that this was an ideal situation for everyone.”

Collins goes on to say that all current employees will remain, and ABC Brew Production, LLC has plans to expand the Ypsilanti location and eventually open additional brewpubs around the state.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Arbor Brewing Eyes Expansion Through New Business Partnership

Arbor Brewing owners Rene and Matt Greff will continue to be involved following a pending transaction that will see Arbor join a new business group, details of which are to be announced later this week.

Early this morning the Metro Times reported that Arbor Brewing Co. was being sold to the owners of Bigalora, the gourmet pizza restaurant chain with locations in Ann Arbor, Royal Oak, Rochester Hills, and Southfield, among others. A few hours ago, Jessica Haynes of The Ann Arbor News provided further details, quoting Mike Collins, a principal for Farm + Ferment, Bigalora's parent group, as follows:
"We're in the final stage of discussions about a partnership with Arbor Brewing Company, and will provide detailed and accurate information in a formal announcement once a transaction is complete."
I reached out to Rene Greff, co-owner of Arbor, for comment and received a similar statement in reply. Here's what she said:
"We are in the final stages of discussions for a partnership and will be sending a press release as soon as details have been finalized. I can tell you that Arbor will be joining a group of Michigan-based businesses, that Matt and I are going to continue to be involved, and that other than expansion, there will be no major changes."
Stay tuned for more details as this story continues to develop.

Update 5/10: Rene Greff today issued a longer official statement:
"Arbor Brewing Company is joining the Michigan-based Farm+Ferment family of businesses. ABC founders Matt and Rene Greff will continue to be involved with the business, both the brewpub and the microbrewery will continue business as usual, and all employees will be retained. The new partners plan to build on the success of the ABC brand and will be announcing renovation and expansion plans in the coming months."
Still waiting for a press release with more details. Continue to stay tuned.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Raising a Farewell Glass in Honor of a Beloved Cat

Max, 2004-2017.

I know this is a beer blog, and over the years I feel like I've done a good job sticking to beer. But if readers will allow this indulgence, there is something I need to say about the loss of one of my best friends, my cat Max. He frequently contributed to this blog, though no one would know it because I usually deleted what he typed.

Below is a farewell which I read to him during his final time with me. I'm publishing it for a few reasons. One, because grief makes you do strange things. Two, because I wanted more people to know about this very special cat and what he meant to me. And finally, because, I don't know, maybe others who have gone through this same miserable experience can take something from it.



I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel;
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.

But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
A use in measured language lies;
The sad mechanic exercise,
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.
—Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “In Memoriam A.H.H.”

I love you, Max, with my whole heart. And I will not ever forget you, no matter how many more days beyond yours that our Maker apportions to me. You’ve been a loyal and loving “child,” friend, companion, and confidant from the moment you and your brother, Sam, chose to adopt me in 2005, on that stressful day when I was moving into a new apartment and Hurricane Katrina was devastating my favorite city. How the two of you decided on a 34-year-old bachelor who had never lived with cats – and knew not a damn thing about how to care for them – is an enduring mystery, as is the identity of the soulless villain who put convenience ahead of consideration when he discarded you like so much refuse by the side of the road.

I remember it took me almost three weeks to name you boys. Initially I wanted to give you literary names (I was working for Borders at the time, after all). If comic books count as literature, then I can say mission accomplished. But even if they don’t, I knew, as soon as the idea popped into my head to name you after Steve Purcell’s quirky, anthropomorphic animal detectives, that this was exactly right. And there wasn’t a moment’s doubt as to which one you would be: Max, the more fearless, energetic, and adventuresome of the pair. The name has always suited you, and while I’ve heard “Max” is actually a common name given to cats, there is no chance a single one of the others could have ever out-Maxed you. You are the archetype, the Platonic ideal, the embodiment of all that is Max.