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.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Schedule for 2017 Downtown Ann Arbor Oberon Pub Crawl Announced

One of these years I need to take a new picture.

Oberon Day is Monday, March 27, and once again Downtown Ann Arbor will be the biggest scene – outside of the Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo – for celebrating Bell's beloved spring seasonal, Oberon Ale. This should give you ample warning to plan your "sick day" from work so you can join the day-long revelry. Here is the schedule:

You don't have to dress in your finest Bell's or Oberon regalia, but if you do, someone from Bell's might buy you a glass or two. And if you just can't wait that long, there are Sunday midnight Oberon tapping events planned at Ashley's and Sidetrack in Ypsilanti.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

North Peak Collaborates with Busch's to Release Exclusive New Beer in March

Northern United Brewing Co. in Dexter, brewers of the distributed North Peak beers, have announced a collaboration with local supermarket chain Busch's. Read the official press release all about it:
Busch’s Fresh Food Markets and North Peak Brewing Co. have partnered to release their first-ever craft beer collaboration. Newfangled Pale Ale is a beer that celebrates the two brands' commitment to the craft industry and local business. With a shared emphasis on freshness, consistency, and quality of their products, these two brands have created a top-notch beer specifically crafted for our local region. With its Michigan-grown ingredients, Newfangled delivers a fresh, exceptional taste to our community, from our community.

“At Busch’s Fresh Food Markets, we strive to promote and sell locally produced food and beverages,” says Marty Phelan, category manager for Busch’s. “Our ‘Brewed for Busch’s’ program allows us to partner with high-quality local breweries, like North Peak, to create unique beers for our guests to enjoy.”

Beginning in March, Busch’s Fresh Food Markets will exclusively offer this 5.5% ABV Newfangled Pale Ale, brimming with Citra, Cascade, and Michigan Cascade/Chinook hops at its 16 stores throughout Michigan in Ann Arbor, Clinton, Carleton, Dexter, Farmington Hills, Livonia, Novi, Pinckney, Plymouth-Northville, Rochester Hills, Saline, South Lyon, Tecumseh, West Bloomfield, and now in Canton.

North Peak is part of Northern United Brewing Co. NUBC’s philosophy focuses on a dedication to conservation, inspiration and locally sustainable practices. Find NUBC products at stores, restaurants and bars all throughout Michigan, including: North Peak Brewing Co., Mission Table, and Jolly Pumpkin in Traverse City; Jolly Pumpkin and Grizzly Peak Brewing Co. in Ann Arbor; and Jolly Pumpkin in Detroit. North Peak can also be found outside of Michigan, in select markets.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Former Wine Seller Reopens As 48-Tap Beer Bar on Ann Arbor's North Side

After about eight months of renovation, former beer and wine retailer The Wine Seller, located at 2721 Plymouth Rd. on Ann Arbor's north side, officially re-emerged today as Rappourt Brew & Chew, a 48-tap beer bar and eatery. It looks to be a welcome addition to this part of town, particularly as it's in my neck of the woods.

The new bar features a wide variety of drafts from around the country, like Prairie Artisan Bomb! Imperial Stout and Standard Saison from Oklahoma, and around the corner, like Witch's Hat Train Hopper IPA and Edward's Portly Brown Ale from South Lyon. A couple taps are also devoted to wine.

The food menu, developed by Chef Dennis Kennedy, formerly of Ale Mary's Beer Hall in Royal Oak, is smallish but diverse. Dishes include a Fried Tomatillo BLT, Coconut Curry Mahi Mahi, Citrus Crab Cakes, and Chicken Enchilada Verde. There are also creative takes on old favorites; for example, the Watermelon Caprese Salad, with feta cheese, nicoise olives, and dried cherries, and the Rappourt Burger, with a chophouse blend of brisket and sirloin topped with gruyere cheese, mixed greens, roasted tomato, onion jam, and minted berry relish.

A grand opening is planned for the spring, but for now things remain in a little bit of an experimental phase, according to Hardik Patel, one of the owners. Coming in the future will be a happy hour and beer and wine dinners. Speaking of wine, there's a substantial retail area, and you can select any bottle to open for a $12 corkage fee. Beer will be added to the retail area, though the focus will be mostly on draft, with growler fills being available eventually. Look for a menu of cocktails to be added in the future as well.

The hours, also subject to tweaking, are as follows: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Follow Rappourt on Twitter and Facebook for the latest. I'll have a more informative update sometime in the near future.