Monday, August 29, 2016

Some Thoughts on a Recent Controversy

This post may anger or otherwise upset some people. It is not intended to. But witnessing the past few days’ worth of online outrage over a dispute between a local brewery and an individual contractor they engaged for design work has left me dismayed at what I believe to be a fundamental lack of perspective.

As I know and consider myself friends (or at least friendly) with most of the individuals involved in this dispute, I do not wish to “take sides.” It is not my dispute. Neither, however, is it the dispute of the hyperjudgmental mob taking to the Internet to trash people they don’t know, imputing all manner of nefarious motives to them and feeling free to issue categorical opinions, all on the basis of a few Facebook posts.

Here, then, is my attempt to provide some of that sorely lacking perspective. But before I get to that, there are a couple disclosure-y things to note so that you, the reader, can properly judge what I have to say.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Stroh's: The Return of a Detroit Icon

A month ago, I wrote a quick piece for the Metro Times about Stroh's beer being brewed in Detroit again after three decades in exile. Last week, I was invited to try the new version of Stroh's Bohemian Pilsner, hot off the taps at Brew Detroit, a contract brewing facility in Corktown. Today, the beer is available in bottled form at stores around the area.

So, you're wondering, what does it taste like? Here's the official label description:
Established in 1850, the Stroh Brewery Co. is proud to honor our brewing heritage by reintroducing Stroh's Bohemian-Style Pilsner. Our Master Brewer has crafted an exceptional European-style pilsner brewed in the heart of Detroit, using Saaz and Magnum hops with Vienna malt. The result is a crisp, balanced pilsner, with a floral aroma, subtle hop spice, and a rich, bready maltiness. Brewed for everyday enjoyment, this is a Bohemian-Style Pilsner worthy of the Stroh's name.
As I sip on one now, that description seems pretty accurate. The nose is mainly biscuity with only a hint of floral hoppiness. It's light amber in color and medium-bodied, with a solid foamy white head. The taste is of sweet malt, followed by a balancing bitterness in the finish. It's definitely not a fizzy yellow drink, but at 33 IBUs and 5.5% ABV, neither is it in any danger of becoming a darling of BeerAdvocate dorks.

Verdict: The new Stroh's Bohemian Pilsner is pretty much as advertised – a decent everyday drinker with enough flavor to satisfy but not so much as to overwhelm. I have heard tell the price is on the order of $6.99 a six-pack, but have not confirmed this. Now if they would put these in 30-packs of cans, you'd have a great beer for boating, camping, golfing, or passing out with your underage friends in your parents' basement.*

Update 8/23: Seems as if there may be some kind of distribution snag, with some outlets reporting they don't expect to receive the beer until the end of this week or early next. In Ann Arbor, the Busch's on Plymouth Rd. had space saved on the shelf for six packs (in the "domestic" area), with a listed price of $8.49; however, no beer was there. Seems folks may need to wait a wee bit longer.

Update 8/24: Looks like it will be coming Friday, according to this Instagram post from distributor O&W.
* Not that I ever drank when I was underage.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Glasshouse Brewing Set to Open

Glasshouse owners Brad and Brent Payeur with head brewer Kuma-Ofori-Mensa.

Whenever I talk to business owners I marvel that there are any businesses at all. The sheer amount of bullshit required to launch a new venture, such as, say, a brewery, would be enough to dissuade most people.

But fortunately for humanity, there are crazy folks like Brad and Brent Payeur, the brothers behind Glasshouse Brewing on Ann Arbor's west side (occupying the back of the same building housing the city's oldest continuously operating business, Diamond Glass & Feiner's).

The Payeurs hired Arbor Brewing veteran Kuma Ofori-Mensa to produce the beers, which he has dutifully done – there are six in the tanks ready to be drunk. They include an English-style bitter; a robust porter; a saison brewed with rye, lemongrass, and grains of paradise; an amber wheat ale; an American IPA; and a cherrywood-smoked stout.

The only reason you aren't enjoying these beers right now is the state of Michigan and its Byzantine, antiquated, dopey license approval process. Despite the fact that Glasshouse has been in planning for over a year, Lansing still hasn't managed to get around to bestowing its blessing on the endeavor. So whenever that happens, which should be soon, Glasshouse will officially open its doors.

In the meantime, I was able to try the IPA and the smoked stout. Both were quite tasty – the smoke is subtle in the stout – which one expects from an experienced brewer like Kuma. He plans to create a wide variety of solid as well as experimental beers in the future.

So there's the update. Keep an eye out for Ann Arbor's newest brewery, opening whenever the politically ordained nonsense runs its course. Hours will be 4 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday, and noon to midnight Saturday and Sunday.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Craft Beer Culture: Has It Jumped the Shark Or Do You People Just Need to Get Off My Lawn?

The Session
In a 2011 interview, Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione famously referred to the craft beer industry as being “99 percent asshole-free.” At the time, it sounded about right. Maybe it still is. But craft beer’s exponentially increasing popularity has brought a host of new people into the fold, and when one takes a look at the larger beer community these days, one has reason to suspect that Calagione’s estimate may need to be adjusted downward.

I confess: It’s going to be difficult to make what I want to say sound like anything other than the gripings of an aging curmudgeon – or even one of Calagione’s assholes. But hear me out.

Lately I’m finding that I’m just not excited by the same things that so many more recent “beer converts” get worked up over. At Literature & Libation, Oliver Gray noted he was feeling something akin to a “beer midlife crisis.” If there is such a thing, I can think of many symptoms of this malaise.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Wolverine Brings Home Bronze from World Beer Cup

The Wolverine brew team (L to R): Rick Wilson, Matt Roy, Oliver Roberts, and Karl Hinbern.

Congratulations to Wolverine State Brewing, whose brew team just brought home a shiny new bronze medal from the World Beer Cup in Philadelphia for their Raucher Smoked Lager. The brew, currently available at the tap room at 2019 W. Stadium, was one of 79 entries in the Smoke Beer category. From the official press release:
Wolverine State Brewing Co is pleased to announce a bronze medal win for Raucher Smoked Lager from the World Beer Cup, known as the world’s most prestigious beer competition. The medal was awarded on Friday, May 6, in Philadelphia as a part of the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America.

The medal win is the first for Wolverine State in the World Beer Cup. Past awards for the brewery include several medals from the World Expo of Beer. That medal count is composed of five gold, four silver, and four bronze medals for a wide variety of categories, with gold medals awarded to Faustian Baltic Porter, Barista Coffee Lager, Amber Lager, and Hopstadt Altbier. Gulo Gulo IPL was also named one of DRAFT Magazine's Top 25 Beers of 2013.

Raucher is a smoked lager built on a base of German beechwood smoked malt. True to its style, it boasts a balanced profile of smoke, malt sweetness, and hop bitterness. The beer was developed by Brewmaster Oliver Roberts in 2015. It is currently available in the Tap Room.

The Tap Room, located at 2019 W. Stadium Boulevard in Ann Arbor, will celebrate the medal win this coming Saturday, May 14, with drink specials and a toast with Wolverine State staff at 7 p.m.

The World Beer Cup takes place every two years as a part of the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America. This year, over 1,900 breweries entered beers into competition. Of the 6,600 beers entered, 287 were awarded medals. Wolverine State’s medal was one of only five medals awarded to Michigan breweries. For more information on this year’s awards, access the press release here.

Wolverine State Brewing Co. was founded in 2006 by longtime friends and Ann Arborites Matthew Roy and Trevor Thrall. Production began at 2019 W. Stadium in early 2010 under the direction of Brewmaster Oliver Roberts, and the Tap Room opened at that same location later in 2010. Wolverine State, the leader of the Lager Revolution, specializes in creating balanced, unique, and innovative lagers, of which it boasts a portfolio of more than 65 varieties.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Wolverine Expands Capacity and Distribution Footprint

Wolverine co-founder and owner Matt Roy.

In over the transom is this latest news from Ann Arbor's favorite all-lager brewery.
Wolverine State Brewing Co. has officially completed a twelve-month, 6,000 square foot on-site expansion in the production facility at its 2019 W. Stadium location. The expansion ultimately allows for Wolverine State to more than double its production capacity, from 2,300 barrels to 4,700 barrels per year.

Additionally, Wolverine State has signed with several new distributors in the state as a result of an agreement with Kroger, which has brought Wolverine State bottled beer into all of its stores statewide. Both draft and bottles will be available in on- and off-premise accounts in new territories across the state starting this spring.

In addition to tearing down walls to add 6,000 square feet to the production facility, bringing in several new fermenters and brite tanks, and constructing a large new cooler, the expansion also entailed the creation of a new, much larger kitchen space and cooler.

Wolverine State Brewing Co. was founded in 2006 by lifelong friends and Ann Arborites Matthew Roy and Trevor Thrall. Production began at 2019 W. Stadium in early 2010 under the direction of Brewmaster Oliver Roberts, and the Tap Room opened at that same location later in 2010. Wolverine State, the leader of the Lager Revolution, specializes in creating balanced, unique, and innovative lagers, of which it boasts a portfolio of more than 50 different varieties.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Annual Downtown Ann Arbor Oberon Pub Crawl Returns March 21

Obligatory photo from seven years ago or so.

Nothing says spring in Michigan like the release of Oberon Ale, the iconic seasonal wheat beer from Bell's. Its return signals warm days and summer fun just ahead. This year's official release date is Monday, March 21.

In recent years, a new tradition has developed: the Downtown Ann Arbor Oberon Pub crawl. The event has increased in popularity each year and is now, with the possible exception of Kalamazoo, home of Bell's Eccentric Cafe, the largest Oberon release celebration in the state. Certainly, thanks to Ann Arbor's walkability, it's the largest such pub crawl.

Planning on joining the Bells team for some, most, or all of the March 21 crawl? Here's the (always somewhat tentative, timewise) schedule: