The 2011 Michigan Brewer’s Guild Winter Beer Fest was everything a beer lover born within these great peninsulas could love.  28 degrees, snow, bonfires and of course ounces upon gallons of some of the best beer made on planet Earth.

It’s amazing to see how Michigan beer has caught fire.  Having been in this business for several years, I’ve seen the struggles that most of the breweries have went through.  The times of being run out of stores and bars with the owner laughing at the thought of craft beer is far behind us.  With nearly 7,000 people in attendance on Saturday, this event sold out a month before the gates opened.  There were many beer lovers that didn’t get in this year, but the tickets went on sale December 1st, 2010.  So those that missed out need to move a little faster next year, for tickets next year will go on sale at the same time.  Mark it on your beer fridge, with a steak knife.

Scott Graham Director of the Michigan Brewer’s Guild said: “165 barrels of beer were poured or Saturday” that’s over 20,000 pints of beer!  If that doesn’t say Michigan loves it’s beer no matter what the temperature, then I’ll buy stock in InBev.”

There were 56 different breweries showing off some amazing brews.  The popular breweries had lines that stretched beyond the tents, but with 56 breweries to choose from getting a beer was never a problem.  Some of the special released beers only made it into the hands of those in line when that beer got tapped, but you can’t expect to get every small batch at such a large event.  Plus getting a beer from one of the brewpubs is why I go.

The breweries that distribute had their guns a blazin’, but getting a beer from a brewpub that I’d have Continue reading

Are you a beer lover or a beer snob?  All beer has it’s own place and time; and yes some are better than others.  But I for one choose to enjoy them all for what they are.  A beer isn’t bad because of its style or purpose.  A beer is bad only because of how it’s handled, stored or if it is infected.

Some will put forth that a beer is bad because it doesn’t meet their own idea of what the beer in front of them should taste like.  That becomes personal preference and has nothing to do with how good or bad the beer itself is.  The reason why we are lucky to have so many different breweries to choose from is directly related to the choices the brewer makes when writing a recipe.  If all beers were made the same we’d have one brewery. That takes all the fun out of it.

The classification of an IPA holds a wide spectrum of individual differences. Wheat beers also have so many differences that the style is mind-boggling. The amount of hops and what kind(s) are used greatly changes the taste and aroma.  As well as the type of malt and Ph balance of the water have taste and mouth feel effects.  Even when a home brewer is trying to create a clone, the beer comes out close but never exact.  Those differences should be enjoyed not scoffed at.

Mass-market beers also have their spot for the beer lover.  A pilsner of any kind is a great way to refresh or even switch to as you drink more then one beer.  Porter is a personal favorite, but can be a little much on a hot day.  Barely wines should be savored and depending on the alcohol content you may only want one, or two.

The beers you’ll find in a craft brewer’s man cave fridge may surprise you.  Even the most prolific brewer will crack a can of a Pabst or bottle of Czechvar. Being critical of all beer that is yellow and fizzy steals away one of the most painstakingly made styles on earth.  A well-made lager takes longer to make and shows it’s impurities more so then ales.

The next time you want to show off to your friends that aren’t big craft beer drinks don’t be so quick to put down what they lift up.  Instead learn more about the lager styles and bring some well-crafted lagers that they might not have tried.  Some of the older brands of American pilsners have more flavor then their commercial counterparts.   Most of the “Big Name” beers have been lightened up throughout the years to appeal to a wider base.  There are also craft breweries that make excellent lagers as well.

Detroit Beer Company and Atwater Block Brewery, both out of Detroit make wonderful lagers.  But don’t just stop there; check out what your local beer store or beer bar has in the cooler.  You might be amazed at what the lighter side of beer has to offer.  Above all else never stop trying new beers from different breweries and remember that each beer has a spot for the true beer lover.

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House Chamber, Michigan State Capitol
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June 2007 Lansing, MI House of Representatives State Capital building. That was when a great thing for Michigan’s growing beer industry happened. House Resolution No. 301 was introduced by State Representative Rebekah Warren of district 53 out of Ann Arbor. Resolution 301 declares the month of July to be Michigan Craft Beer Month. One of the best things the state government has ever done; honoring the independent business owners and the glorious beer that they make. This has become an annual event and now coincides with the Michigan Brewer’s Guild (MBG) legislative day.

MBG legislative day, June 2010; Rep. Warren again gets the honor to introduce Resolution 301. Even though it wasn’t announced until the very last moment of the House session, it was worth the wait. Not only did the House of Representatives make me happy to be a Michigander, but the Senate made the wise choice to present a concurrent resolution. Senate Resolution No. 164 is the first time that the Senate jumped on board.
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UPDATE: OberON, you will still be able get bells in Lansing.  More information can be found in our most recent episode here.

It’s only the 29th of January and this year is looking like an above average news worthy one.   Early this morning it was leaked out that Bell’s Brewery Kalamazoo, MI will may no longer be sending beer to the Lansing based distribution company Nick&Nick Classic Wines.  In a nutshell this means that what Classic Wines has in-stock is might become all the Bell’s beers that will be available; for a time that is as yet, undetermined.  This decision was made by Larry Bell himself.

The current talks of a buy-out between Classic Wines and M&M Distributing (mid-Michigan’s Anheiser-Busch distribution house) have started a brush fire of rumors and speculations about what is going to happen with these brands that have been the bread and butter for Classic Wines (est. 1987).  With the lions share of Michigan and other states top Micro-brews, Classic Wines’ business has grown right along with the Micro-brews that they have been offering for over 22 years.  With the raise and fall of the craft beer industry’s many different players, Classic Wines has always stood strong and pushed forward in the land-locked middle of the great mitten shaped lower peninsula of Michigan.  Sometimes this region of Michigan is over looked.  We do have the state capitol, but no huge lake or distinctive culture.  So growth in this market has been tough at best, but Classic has grown.

With Michigan beers themselves standing out as sought after beers for their command of brewing new variations of or classic styles, the over 70 breweries are finally getting attention on a national scale.  Before Michigan could get this far in the beer world, it had to start somewhere.  That start is Bell’s.  At last look Bell’s ranks as the 26th largest brewery in the US, and though some may not admit it, Larry Bell is the father or uncle to Michigan’s brewing culture.  Selling his first beer back in 1985 to now selling over 90,000 barrels per year.  With this success comes hard times and tough choices.  Larry and Bell’s Brewing have had many of both through out 24 years.

Just a few years back Bell’s pulled out of Chicago to avoid being in a distribution house that didn’t live up to expectations.  This resulted in 2 years with out Bell’s beers.  A new line of products were made to be sold under a different brewery name and labels.  So even though “Bell’s” couldn’t be sold Larry found a way to sell them something.  You can’t hold a smart man down, you can only underestimate him.

So now, Mr. Bell is handed yet another tough choice: sit idle and let his beer go to a distributor that he may not have faith in, or fight to maintain the right to put his beers (his passion, our refreshment) in the hands of someone who he knows will take care of Bell’s beers and name.  The last choice may not make the average consumer happy.  The greater Lansing area may not get any Bell’s product for sometime.  Hoarding may happen, people that can’t make it through this will drive way out of their way to get the beers they love.  Don’t forget, Larry may have started this beer revolution here in Michigan, but there are over 70 different others that have used his flame to light their own torches.

Be well and drink,