Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Arbor Brewpub to Revamp Long-Running Monthly Beer Tasting Series in 2016

Photo: Allen "Shaggy" Williams.

Big changes are coming to Ann Arbor's first modern brewery. Beginning in January, the 20-year-old Arbor Brewing brewpub is undergoing a $200,000 makeover, including an expanded bar, renovated kitchen, revamped menu, and the creation of a more open dining area.'s Jessica Webster has all the details on that stuff.

But that's not all that's changing. The brewpub's long-running signature event, the monthly beer tasting series, is also receiving an overhaul to start the new year. Begun only a few years after the brewpub's opening in 1995, each month the beer tastings have offered attendees approximately two dozen beers from other breweries, along with a few of Arbor's own, typically grouped according to styles or broad themes like Belgian beers, porters and stouts, Michigan-made beers, or wheats and witbiers.

This format has served the event well for the past 17 years, according to owners Matt and Rene Greff, but with the increased popularity of what has come to be known as craft beer and changes in customers' tastes, it was time to update things for a new generation of beer lovers, they said.

Here, then, is your first look at what to expect in 2016:

January: New Beginnings
  • Featuring all new breweries and/or new brands from existing breweries
  • Arbor will debut a new beer

February: For the Love of Hops
  • Feautirng new beers that showcase the variety of American pale ales and IPAs
  • Arbor beers: Mr. Delicious Double IPA, Buzzsaw IPA, Largebeat Wheat IPA, HXL, Sacred Cow IPA

March: In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb
  • Featuring half high-gravity beers, half session beers: either above 8% or below 5% ABV
  • Arbor beers: Ypsi Gypsi Session IPA, Jackhammer Old Ale, Steamroller Russian Imperial Stout, Super Snapper Very Special Bitter

April: Out of the Ordinary
  • Featuring unorthodox beers, weird but worth drinking, such as Dogfish Head's ancient ales, Right Brain Mangalitsa Pig Porter, New Belgium Coconut Curry Hefeweizen
  • Arbor beers: Anahata Chakra Honey Lavender Ale, Old Tjikko Spruce Pale Ale, Porter de los Muertos Mole Porter

May: Old World Ales and Lagers
  • A historical tasting of beers from Belgium, Germany, the UK, and other European countries with age-old beer industries
  • Arbor beers: Uskratch Maibock, Big Ben Mild Ale, Knights of Burtonia Bitter Ale, Gobsmacked English IPA, Euchre Pils, Phat Abbot Dubbel and Tripel, Triple Stone ESB, Rabbit's Pipe Belgian Pale Ale

June: All Summer Long
  • Featuring light, easy drinking, and refreshing summer seasonals including wheat and fruit beers
  • Arbor beers: Bliss Hefeweizen, Strawberry Blonde Ale, Festival Saison

July: Made In Michigan
  • Celebrating Michigan Craft Beer Month with Mitten-made beer

August: Think Global, Drink Local
  • Featuring local brewers’ versions of beer styles from all possible continents

September: Fall Favorites
  • Featuring Oktoberfests, brown ales, pumpkin beers, and harvest beers
  • Arbor beers: Oktoberfest, HopTown Brown Ale, Cotswold's Nut Brown Ale

October: Spooky Scary
  • Featuring beers with creepy names like Avery Mephistopholes Stout, Rogue Dead Guy Ale, Goose Island Night Stalker Imperial Stout
  • Arbor beers: Violin Monster Autumn Ale, Dark Side India Black Ale

November: Wild Winter
  • Featuring sour ales and beers made with all wild yeast or via open and spontaneous fermentation
  • Arbor beers: Biere Divette, Brune, Framboise, Special Reserve, rotating sour draft beers

December: Home for the Holidays
  • Featuring Christmas and other holiday beers
  • Arbor beers: Wenceslas Winter Fuel, Terminator Doppelbock, Winter Warrior Belgian Stout, Polar Vortex Belgian IPA

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Get Your Growler Filled at the New North Ann Arbor Plum Market

Beer buyer Patrick Mulrooney is ready to use some serious science to fill your growler.

Plum Market's new north side store – their second store in Ann Arbor – opens tomorrow at 8 a.m., and it has something you won't find at its older locations: a fancy high-tech growler filling station.

The station, part of the supermarket's sizable beer department, includes six taps and a PEGAS counter-pressure filler, which dispenses beer fast and foam-free (see a demo here), extending growler shelf life. Plum stocks both 32 and 64 oz. growlers, which are available for $5.

As of now, beer by the glass is not an option, but beer buyer Patrick Mulrooney says it's likely something that will come in the future. A wine and coffee bar in the front of the store can be used for any special beer events the store hosts, he says.

Mulrooney has more than 13 years' experience in beer and wine retail, including a previous stint with Plum Market and as a beer buyer for an Ann Arbor bar. He oversees an extensive bottled selection, which boasts an emphasis on Michigan and other craft beers and includes both cold and room-temperature offerings. Single bottles are available for customers who want to create their own mix and match six-packs.

For tomorrow's grand opening, Mulrooney is tapping five different bourbon barrel aged beers, which will be available only in 32 oz. growlers, aka howlers. The beers, if you're curious, and you are, include: Epic Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout, Founders Backwoods Bastard, Perrin Li'l Griz Brown Ale, Saugatuck Neapolitan Milk Stout, and Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine.

Oh yes, the store also has food and other stuff. Visit for more info, or just go check it out for yourself, beginning tomorrow. Yay!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Glasshouse Brewing Now Offering Founding Memberships

Ahead of their currently projected November opening on Ann Arbor's West Side, Glasshouse Brewing is offering founding memberships. Here's the hot-off-the-press release:

Ann Arbor’s newest craft brewery is gearing up for its grand opening. Coming early November, Glasshouse Brewing Company will offer original, inventive, and daring flavors. In the meantime Founders Mug-Club Memberships are on sale at their website! By becoming a founding member you will receive 10 free growler fills (limited to one per month) in addition to $1 off pints, and being among the first to hear about their newest brews and upcoming events! Founding memberships are a limited time offer!

Get yours by going to before the doors open at 2350 W. Liberty Street this November!

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Short Pour Catches Up

Coming soon to Ann Arbor: more of this.
Recent items worthy of note...

  • A brewery for my homies. A new Ann Arbor brewpub by the name of HOMES (I assume that is for the Great Lakes mnemonic) has been proposed for a property on Jackson Ave., across from Veterans Park. Prospective owner Tommy Kennedy says he is motivated by the lack of restaurant options on the city's west side.
  • Cruisin' for brews. Closer to downtown, a longtime auto shop on Ashley St. is closing down as the building's owner plans on turning the space over to an as-yet-unidentified restaurant and bar with a brewery, winery, and distillery on premises.
  • Tales of Ann Arbor beer. A while back, Ann Arbor social media maven and raconteur Rich Retyi interviewed me about the city's beer history and current scene for the Ann Arbor District Library's "Ann Arbor Tales" podcast series. The AADL made it the "Download of the Day" for October 9, and if you need something to listen to while you're at work or making dinner or whatever, you can check it out here. It's about 38 minutes.
  • Say my name. The Michigan Daily's Karen Hua recently had a nice feature on Ann Arbor's brewing history, in which yours truly makes a cameo appearance. Explaining my place in the local scene, she says, "The man even has the word 'bar' in his name." True enough!
  • While we're on the subject of me. The beer named after me, Uncle Dave's Rye Peppercorn Ale, should be on tap at Grizzly Peak right about now. Check it out; it's really good, and I'm not just saying that because it's named after me. Did I mention it's named after me?

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Rain, Oktoberfest, and Other Things

Arbor Brewing's Matt and Rene Greff in their everyday attire.

Today kicks off the annual two-day Oktoberfest celebration in Downtown Ann Arbor, and in true Michigan fashion, the forecast calls for a cool and possibly rainy autumnesque day, so you'll want to dress accordingly. There is the traditional action of live oompah music, brats, and beers on Washington Street in front of the Arbor Brewing Brewpub, but across the way Grizzly Peak is celebrating not just Oktoberfest, but its 20th anniversary as well. Here are the details.

WHAT: Just in time for Oktoberfest, Washington Street between Ashley and Main streets will set the scene for Grizzly Peak Brewing Co.’s 20th anniversary bash. Revelers are welcome to join in and raise a stein to two decades of success as the highly regarded brewpub debuts a fresh and forward-focused look and menu. Check out live music and DJ Brian Alvarez keeping the beat during this two-day block party, as well as a photo booth and games like giant Jenga and Cornhole. Indulge at delicious outdoor food stations featuring German-inspired fare, Grizzly Peak beer, and a chance to sample brand new menu items, straight off of the grill.

EAT: The Grilling Station will feature slider-sized options of each of three new burgers: The Pork Belly Burger, complete with ale-braised pork belly, jalapeno goat cheese pesto and candied tomato jam; The 2 AM Burger, topped with cheese fondue sauce, fried pickles and crisp bacon; and the Teriyaki Burger, a sirloin burger with prosciutto, pepperjack cheese, pineapple salsa, and house-made Teriyaki sauce.

The Pasta and Sliders Station will feature a Truffled Mac n’ Cheese with three-cheese béchamel and breadcrumb crust as well as the Cuban-style Pulled Pork Sliders with pickled vegetable slaw, Swiss cheese, cilantro lime mustard aioli, and fresh cilantro.

The German Station will feature Pretzels and Bacon Beer Bratwurst topped with sauerkraut, in honor of Oktoberfest.

The Beer Station will quench any thirst with four Grizzly Peak beer options to choose from, including Grizzly Peak XX Pale Ale.

A commemorative beer stadium cup is complimentary with an initial beer purchase and is available for refill.

WHEN: 5 p.m. to midnight on Friday, Sept. 11, and resuming 3 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Sept. 12
In related news, the already nationally recognized Jolly Pumpkin is also achieving international accolades, most recently taking home three gold medals from the Hong Kong International Beer Awards for Oro de Calabaza (Best Belgian-Style Ale), Bam Biere (Best Saison), and Calabaza Blanca (Best Wit). Read more about it on

So put on your lederhosen (and poncho?) and celebrate the awesomeness of Downtown Ann Arbor's beer scene tonight and tomorrow. Prost!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Bell, Book, and Badgerow: Telling the Story of Two Michigan Beer Pioneers

A younger Larry Bell toasts his future success. Photo courtesy Bell's Brewery.

On Saturday Michigan's oldest operating brewery, Bell's, will celebrate its 30th anniversary in Kalamazoo, hosting a festival featuring breweries from across the country, including a number not normally seen in our fair state. Sometime next month, the Ypsi Alehouse is expected to open its doors in Downtown Ypsilanti, becoming Michigan's newest brewery. What do these two places have in common?

Bottles from the short-lived Real Ale Company.
In 1982, Ypsi Alehouse partner Ted Badgerow founded Michigan's first brewery in decades when he opened the Real Ale Company in Chelsea. Though Badgerow's brewery was open barely more than a year, it was around long enough for then-Ann Arbor resident Larry Bell to pay a visit and, later, buy some equipment from Badgerow during the brewery's liquidation. By 1985, Michigan's microbrewing torch passed to the Kalamazoo Brewing Company, today known as Bell's Brewery to lovers of great beer across Michigan and 21 other states (and growing).

I interviewed both Badgerow and Bell for my book, Ann Arbor Beer, wherein I tell the story of how they kickstarted Michigan's modern brewing renaissance (read an excerpt here.) Congratulations to Larry on three decades of making fantastic beer and to Ted (who has remained an avid homebrewer all these years) on his return to commercial brewing!

And, to anyone heading to Kalamazoo this weekend, perhaps I'll see you there.

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.