Monday, January 23, 2017

Edelbrau to Revive Traditional Brewing Methods to Craft Full Flavored Beers

The Ann Arbor area will welcome another new brewery later this year, with Edelbrau Brewing Company targeting a summer opening in Pittsfield Township. Principals Spike Oliver and Teo Watson-Ahlbrandt plan to explore historical methods of brewing to craft their beers, with the goal of providing a uniquely flavorful experience for drinkers. Later on I'll post an interview with Spike elaborating on that theme, but for now here is the official press release:

PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – How are the traditions of beer defined? Can traditional beer-making methods enhance the modern approach to brewing?

Those are two vital questions that brewer Teo Watson-Ahlbrandt and business development veteran Spike Oliver will explore at their new brewery, Edelbrau Brewing Company. With the sustained emergence of craft brewing, the pair believe their approach, which weaves together history, artistic expression, and modern science, will give Ann Arbor and Southeast Michigan something unique to look forward to.

“The traditional aspects of craft beer are often forgotten as the market expands and focuses on quick turnaround,” says Watson-Ahlbrandt. “We want to pay homage to Old World methods of making beer as well as traditional beer styles, taking what has been forgotten and re-interpreting it for today’s palate.”

“We’re challenging ourselves to create a portfolio of beers that reflects something new from something old,” adds Oliver. “An artist has the flexibility to work in water color, oil, spray paint, clay, or other media to create a piece of art. The end result and the experience will be unique depending on which medium is chosen.”

With a production facility secured at 719 W. Ellsworth Rd., Watson-Ahlbrandt and Oliver are actively looking for additional space to open a pub with a retail store and taproom where they can also host events and conduct brewing classes. They are targeting an opening for August of this year.

“Right now we’re working on getting licensed and making flavorful and unique beers that we can distribute to the Ann Arbor area,” says Oliver. “But our full vision is to create a space where Ann Arborites can feel cozy, have a great pint of beer, learn about brewing, and be entertained.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Become a Real Expert at Upcoming "BeerSavvy Bootcamp"

Certified Cicerone Annette May drops some knowledge.

Sure, you can name all your favorite "dank" hops. You've memorized all the double IPAs and imperial stouts on the Internet's "best beers" lists. You know which #whalezbro brews to trade for which other #whalezbro brews. You have a beer cellar. Hell, you've even authored more than a thousand reviews on the rating sites. Why, you're a beer expert!

Are you?

Do you know the six core beer styles that form the foundation for the many others?

Can you detect – and name – the most common off-flavors found in beer?

Do you know what their causes are?

Do you understand proper service techniques for both bottle and draft beer?

If you answered no to any of these questions, you may want to check out the "BeerSavvy Bootcamp" class being offered Tuesday, January 24, at Liberty Street Brewing in Plymouth. The class is designed to prepare participants for the Certified Beer Server exam, the first level of certification offered by the Cicerone Certification Program.

Tickets are $99 and include the class and a study book, but not the cost of the CBS exam itself. Of course, you're not required to take the exam; anyone who is looking to boost their beer IQ is welcome. Learn more and register online here.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

HOMES Coming: Inside Ann Arbor's Next Brewery

Owner Tommy Kennedy and head brewer Nick Panchamé of HOMES Brewery.

Like many people in their mid-30s, Tommy Kennedy wondered what was next for him in life. He had a family and a career in health care he enjoyed, but somehow something seemed missing. That something was beer.

"On my 34th birthday – February 20, 2015 – I challenged my wife and a few close friends to help me think of what I could pursue that I would be most passionate about, and we landed on starting a brewery," he says.

Two years of hard work, eight investors, and a loan from Ann Arbor State Bank later, and HOMES Brewery – named for the mnemonic device schoolchildren use to memorize the names of the Great Lakes – is just about ready to open its doors for business.

"We're shooting for late February or March. All the licensing and the unseen work is done, now it's mostly the cosmetic stuff," he says, gesturing toward a pile of lumber stacked haphazardly on the rough, unfinished floor, "And we should probably make some beer."

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Conversation with Dave Engbers of Founders

Dave and Dave, circa 2011.

Interview with Dave Engbers, co-founder and president of Founders Brewing, conducted November 11, 2016, on behalf of Ashley's.

Founders beers have been part of the Ashley’s lineup since you started distributing in the Ann Arbor area, which must have been in the late 1990s?

Yeah, since 1998 or 1999. We started brewing in November 1997, with the beer getting to market in early 1998. Initially we distributed only in Western Michigan before we looked to expand into Ann Arbor and Detroit in 1999 and then the rest of the state.

Can you talk a little bit about those early years in the beer business? The landscape must have been much different then than what we see now.

My partner Mike [Stevens] and I were just a couple young kids cutting our teeth. We weren’t shy about telling people we were naïve about the industry we were getting into. For example, we knew about the three-tier distribution system, but didn’t really understand the politics of it. Initially our gut reaction was that as long as we made a quality product and put it out in the market at a fair rate, then everyone would support us. But reality woke us up fast.

How so?

We didn't realize how many retailers were loyal to certain wholesalers, and unfortunately it wasn't always about the quality of the products but rather the relationship with the retailers. Craft was so new and there weren't enough consumers interested in our brand. The enthusiast community wasn't large enough to impact the larger market.

We were just a couple of nice Midwestern guys, not really aggressive. As a result, we were getting a lot of doors shut in our faces and it didn’t take long before we knew we had to change tactics. Others had these long-term relationships with wholesalers that we didn’t. It wasn’t unusual to find accounts who didn’t buy from our wholesalers because they just didn’t like us.

Distributing beers that were so new and different must have been difficult.

Well, it didn’t take a genius to walk into an account with Bud and Bud Light on tap and figure they probably weren’t interested in us. We’d mostly see those, along with Miller Lite, Guinness, Molson, Labatt, Killian’s, Bass Pale Ale, and maybe this beer called Bell’s might have one tap handle. Ashley’s was an early adopter, but in those days trying to convince an account to buy a keg that cost $125 vs. $47 usually meant getting laughed at.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Arbor Microbrewery to Host Beer Off-Flavor Class

Certified Cicerone Annette May. 

What does it mean when a beer is "skunky" or "oxidized"? What makes a beer taste like butterscotch, green apples, or creamed corn? What's the difference between an ester and a phenol?

If you want to know all of this stuff and more, then you'll want to check out Fermenta's upcoming Beer Off-Flavor class, taking place Sunday, November 6, at the Arbor Brewing Microbrewery in Ypsilanti. Using the Siebel Institute's Sensory Training Kit, Certified Cicerone and beer educator par excellence Annette May will take you through the eight most common off-flavors in beer, including their causes and how to recognize them.

This class is essential for homebrewers, folks studying for the BJCP exam, those pursuing Cicerone certification of any level, or any beer enthusiast looking to deepen his or her knowledge of the world's best beverage. Tickets are $30 for Fermenta members or $35 for non-members. For more information and to purchase, go here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tickets for Saturday's Zwanze Day Event at Jolly Pumpkin Still Available

Damn Dark Lord Day. The hell with Heady Topper. Kick KBS to the curb. The beer dork event, bar none, is Brasserie Cantillon's annual Zwanze Day, which is this Saturday, October 1. Only 60 locations worldwide are selected to participate in the release of this #whalezbro sour ale from Brussels, and Dexter's own NULL Taphouse (aka Jolly Pumpkin) is one of them!

But unless you've been living under a rock, you probably already knew that. Maybe what you didn't know is that tickets for this event are still available. In my case, I was faced with the cruel choice of going to Zwanze Day or watching the Michigan Wolverines beat the crap out of the Wisconsin Badgers in person. I chose my Wolverines, but I'm writing a nasty letter to Belgium complaining about scheduling stuff like this during football season.

Anyway, the folks at Jolly Pumpkin have made sure this event goes way beyond an ultra-rare, OMG beer release. They've invited more than a dozen breweries from across the country known for their sour ales to also participate, and the list will make even the most jaded of Michigan beer dorks soil his trousers. Names like Jester King, Allagash, Tired Hands, Monkish, Lost Abbey, and plenty more. See? Go change your pants.

I could go on and on, but why bother when Jolly Pumpkin already has. If you need no further details and want to go straight to buying your tickets, follow this link.

Wolverine Launches Packaging Re-Brand for October

Photo from Wolverine State Brewing's Instagram.

Wolverine State Brewing is re-branding the packaging for its bottled products, as well as re-naming (or re-re-naming, actually) one of its staple brews. Here's the official press release with the details:
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Wolverine State Brewing Co. is excited to announce a packaging re-brand of its flagship lagers. The update encompasses three brands: Wolverine Premium Lager, Gulo Gulo IPL, and District 16 Amber Lager, formerly known as Wolverine Amber Lager.

The new labels and carriers will be on shelves beginning in early October.

The project’s aim was to bring all labels into a cohesive line and set the stage for future seasonal and year-round bottle releases, which are set to begin in spring of 2017. The repackaging comes on the heels of a recent agreement that puts Wolverine State Brewing Co. flagship bottles in Kroger locations statewide.

The re-brand is the latest in a series of milestones for the brewery. In 2015, the company completed a 6,000 square foot on-site expansion. This expansion will bring the brewery's production capacity to nearly 5,000 barrels by the end of 2017. In May 2016, the company received a bronze medal from the World Beer Cup for its Raucher Smoked Lager.