Grand Rapids Wins BeerCity USA 2013 Title, Chicago Barely Gets Any Votes

photo courtesy Michigan.org

photo courtesy Michigan.org

 

We can’t say we’re all too surprised that Grand Rapids, Michigan has been named BeerCity USA, outright this time, for 2013.

The folks in west Michigan sure do love their beer, and who can blame them when the likes of Founders, Brewery Vivant and HopCat – just to name a few – are in their back yard.

In all 50,000 votes were cast this year, Grand Rapids received over half of them (27,005). Two other Michigan beer-centric cities finished in the top five: Kalamazoo, home to Bell’s, was number two and Ann Arbor, with its bevy of craft beer bars, was number four.

So where did Chicago place? It didn’t, according to this Examiner article.

The following cities each had less than 300 votes: Bend, OR, Chicago, IL, Cleveland, OH, Durango, CO, Fort Collins, CO, Madison, WI, Milwaukee, WI, Missoula, MT, Philadelphia, PA, Raleigh, NC, San Diego, CA, St. Louis, MO.

Yeesh, for a city known for its ability to get out the vote we didn’t have a very good showing, did we?

As a consolation prize (sort of), Chicago did crack this Travel & Leisure list of America’s Best Beer Cities, coming in at number 15 – behind Providence, Rhode Island and Savannah, Georgia.

Our dismay for Chicago’s voter turnout aside, congrats to you – Grand Rapids. We’ll raise a pint of Founders All Day IPA in your honor this evening.

Drink Your Way Through The Alphabet And Learn Something Along The Way

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PRESS RELEASE

Chicago, IL – AlphaBeersm is the only event that teaches craft beer lovers about 26 beers – one for every letter of the alphabet. It’s a three-hour tour of hops and barley and lagers and ales, and everything is crafted by masters who are passionate about their beers.

The 10th AlphaBeer takes place on April 20 from 12p.m. to 3p.m. at John Barleycorn River North (149 W. Kinzie St.) in downtown Chicago. At this very special event breweries from the Great Lakes area, including Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, and of course, Chicagoland, are being highlighted.

Several special guests will be joining the event to talk about their beers, including representatives from 5 Rabbit, Brewery Vivant, Founders, Goose Island Brewing Company, and New Holland. Chef Cleetus Friedman of Fountainhead is also scheduled to talk about Loudmouth Soup, the beer he produced in collaboration with Greenbush. Other guests on the roster are Chicago Beer Geeks and the Chicago chapter of Barley’s Angels, a beer club for women.

Attendees won’t just be tasting the beers. Chef Jill Houk is returning as the emcee, or AlphaBeerMaster, for the fourth time. She’ll educate guests on the ABV, the IBU and what to eat with each brew. Notes on each beer are broadcast on multiple screens so everyone can learn their A-BEER-C’s.

“On tap” for the event are the following beers (subject to change based on availability):

  • A All Day IPA, Founders
  • B Breakfast Stout, Founders
  • C Curmudgeon, Founders
  • D Dynamo, Metropolitan
  • E Eugene Porter, Revolution
  • F Farmhand Ale, Brewery Vivant
  • G Goose Island, Pepe Nero
  • H Huitzi, 5 Rabbit
  • I Iron Works Alt, Metropolitan
  • J Jinx Proof, Three Floyds
  • K Kalamazoo Stout, Bell’s
  • L Loudmouth Soup, Greenbush & Cleetus Friedman
  • M Monkey King, New Holland
  • N New Grist, Lakefront
  • O Over Ale, Half Acre
  • P Paleooza, New Holland
  • Q Coming Soon
  • R Revolution, A Little Crazy
  • S Sky High Rye, Arcadia
  • T Tiny Dancer, Goose Island
  • U Unfiltered Wheat Beer, Boulevard
  • V Hammer, Bullet, Vice; Half Acre
  • W White Chapel Wit, Haymarket
  • X “X” Fidy, Oskar Blues
  • Y GFY Stout, Spiteful Brewing
  • Z Zaison, Brewery Vivant

Tickets are $45 to try 26 different craft beers. A limited number of tables of 6 are available for only $225. Tickets can be purchased at http://thelocaltourist.com/event/alphabeer-x

What: AlphaBeer X
When: April 20, 2013, 12p.m. to 3p.m.
Where: John Barleycorn River North, 149 W Kinzie St., Chicago, IL
Details: http://thelocaltourist.com/event/alphabeer-x

About AlphaBeer

AlphaBeer is hosted by Theresa Carter, founder and publisher of The Local Tourist, LLC. The first event was in 2009 and it was inspired Ms. Carter’s mother, who each week would drink a beer from a different letter of the alphabet with fellow commuters on their Friday night train ride. Since then AlphaBeer has appeared at multiple venues in Chicago and has featured over 200 different beers.

About The Local Tourist

TheLocalTourist.com, or TLT as it’s affectionately known, is Chicago’s one-stop-spot for things to do, events, restaurants, nightlife, news, reviews, photos and more. It’s a business directory, an events calendar, and a multi-contributor magazine filled with news from the TLTeam of city experts. Its mission is to help locals experience the fascination of a tourist, and tourists feel the comfort of the local.

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(Editor’s Note: We receive a ton of beer-related press releases, but we’ll only bring you the ones we think are relevant, fun, interesting, cool, newsworthy, or offer something we’d be interested in checking out ourselves. Rest assured we’re not just posting these to churn out content – take this as a tacit endorsement from the staff of GDB.)

GDB’s 2012 Chicago Craft Beer Awards

In 2011, Paul at Chitown on Tap posted his “Craft Beer in Review” as a way to, in his words, “give props to the amazing people in our local craft beer community who have made drinking the good suds so damn rewarding this year.” Paul has moved on from the writing about beer (temporarily, we understand) to actually making the stuff with Solemn Oath so we asked his blessing to pick up the mantle and award some of our own.

“Take it for a ride” was Paul’s response, so with his approval, we take his inspiration and present you these Chicago Craft Beer Awards as our way to continue the appreciation and acknowledgement of the craftsmen and women who have made 2012 hands down, the best year in Chicago beer ever. As always, for what we get right, thank them, for what we get wrong, blame us – and tell us who you think deserves respect and appreciation in ways we may have forgotten. It’s been a busy, busy year.

And now, with the inspiration of Paul’s awards from last year along with some of our own additions, we give you the following GDB-ys (working title):

Local (or once mostly local, or soon to be quite local) Brewery Making the Biggest Moves:

lagunitaslogoOkay, okay, so it’s not quite local yet, but they’ll soon be quite local enough. Despite Lagunitas starting its life in California, because Tony McGee is a natural-born Chicagoan we’re going to go ahead and award this one to him solely because the man is building the biggest damn brewery the city has ever seen. Consider this mind-blowing statistic we’ve had rolling around in our brains since the news broke: the new brewhouse will be bigger than pretty much all other Chicago breweries…combined.

Runner-up: Again, this skirts the issue because Goose is now technically owned by either St. Louisans or Belgians, depending on how you look at it, but in 2012 they became one of the handful of craft breweries available nationwide, and it’s hard to make a bigger move than that.

Also, was there anywhere in Chicago that Revolution’s beers didn’t end up? Those guys really stretched their legs and put some great beer in cans and bombers; we love having the option to take home a 6′er of Eugene or a bomber of Fistmas every time we swing by a grocery store or sip an Anti-hero at dozens of bars around town.

Best Festival:

ccbw2012While there were plenty of good-time beer festivals and events this year, Beer Under Glass was definitely our favorite. Sure, FOBAB is crazygonuts and things like the Hoptacular continue to grow and evolve, but it’s the combination of so many different breweries gathering together in the amazing surroundings of the Garfield Park Conservatory that tops our list.

So far as we can tell, only one festival had the Mash Tun Journal just steps away from Jarrett Payton hawking his (not bad, as it goes) wheat beer from Argus just further steps away from brand-new Chicago breweries pouring for the very first time. You can’t top that, in our books – at least, not til’ next year.

Our Favorite Craft Beer Bar: TIE Between Local Option and The Green Lady

The Green LadyIn the interest of full disclosure (and you probably already know this) it’s worth noting that The Green Lady was the site of our first CCBW event, and we worked with Melani Domingues quite closely on organizing it. She could have just agreed to throw anything on draft that we dragged up from the southland, but she didn’t do that – she insisted that everything meet her level of quality, and tasted all the beers with us to ensure that everything she was offering to her customers passed her personal quality check, which we think is thoroughly awesome.

Beyond that, we love that there exists a new(ish) option in the city to sit down and just drink a beer – there’s no kitchen, there’s no schtick, there’s no theme – it’s just a few dozen handles of some of the best beer in the city. In a time when we’re losing more and more corner taverns and neighborhood bars where you can just get a beer and a bag of chips and throw some darts, TGL is a nice melding of craft beer destination paired with the relaxed vibe of a well-loved local hang.

localoptionlogoThat said, Local Option’s melding of amazing beer, heavy metal dedication and appreciation of the occasional High Life or two (see: the assortment of neon) hits us smack-dab in the center of our beer-addled hearts. The ability to put together such a destination in the heart of a near-soulless part of Lincoln Park doubles our admiration. Any place with a liquor license and some fancy lights could have thrown together a list full of macrobrews and put on some Top 40 and be swimming in DePaul undergrad cash. Instead, they’re doing the exact opposite, likely with a friendly (yet taunting) middle finger waving high.

Oh, and their don’t-call-it-gypsy line of Local Option craft beers that they’ve created solidify our adoration.

Food Industry Professional Doing the Most for Craft Beer:

cityprovisionslogoFor the second year running, Cleetus Friedman wins this one going away. This year saw more and more restaurants and bars creating their own collaboration beers, and those can be traced back in a straight line to the beers that started appearing on draft at City Provisions over the last two years. Without Cleetus’ efforts to work with Midwestern breweries and come up with some really creative efforts, it’s hard to say if bars and restaurants like Hopleaf, Bad Apple, and Girl & the Goat (and many more) would have been inspired to produce the collaborations that have graced Chicago over the past 12 months.

Moreover, the beers he and the brewers make are good. You may remember that last year, I named the Sarsaparilla Stout collaboration my favorite beer of the year; watching the tweets fly out about the forthcoming 100 Grand stout has me already anticipating what could be the 2013 early winner. Beers like Testudo with Two Brothers and Anaphylaxis with Solemn Oath helped solidify what we knew already – when Cleetus arrives for a brew day, good stuff results.

And we haven’t even talked about the farm dinners featuring local brewers and distillers. We could go on, but shouldn’t you just be drinking his beers right now?

Runner Up: I like Kevin Hickey’s efforts to craft special beers for the Four Seasons; their first effort of Allium Roseus with Goose was one of the more interesting beers I had this year. After that he could have partnered with pretty much any other brewery he wanted, but he chose to work with a brand-new startup that’s one of our favorites, Begyle, to try something new for their Beta beer.

Andrew adored the peppercorn saison that Haymarket put together for Stephanie Izard as well, which earns them a nod here also.

Best Out-of-town Arrival to the Chicago Market:

oskarblueslogo2013′s early lead has already been taken by Deschutes, but this year no beer had a bigger intro than Oskar Blues. Over the first week or two of its release, special events took place nightly, unique beers were seemingly everywhere, and brews like Old Chub immediately took a place on beer menus across the city. It was an intro unseen since the likes of Stone came to Chicago, and we remember how crazy that was, right?

Runner Up: We’re pretty happy to have Brewery Vivant in Chicago finally, although it makes the trip to the Meijer outside Grand Rapids a little less special. We’ll take the tradeoff, though, simply for having Triomphe being much easier to get.

Best Chicago Beer Site:

gbhYou might think of Michael Kiser’s work at Good Beer Hunting as primarily a photo-centric site, but look a little deeper and you’ll find more words on his site than most people put into text-only pages. His writeups of his travels through Sweden and the unbelievably awesome-looking Wandawega retreat as well as his recent post taking Untappd to task shows that even though his images are great, the words behind it stand up just as much. If we ever choose to look back on what drinking in Chicago looked like in 2012, we’ll go to GBH as the primary source.

Runner Up: Jessica at Girls Like Beer Too has been doing some really good work and isn’t afraid to call us on our shit from time to time, which is invaluable.

Distant runner-up: Us. We’re hacks, but we are at least enthusiastic hacks.

Best Homebrew Shop: Brew Camp

brewcamplogoIt’s more than just grains, ingredients and know-how that makes Brew Camp our fave homebrew shop.

Showing us how to work with the city after a disappointing closure rocked their world was admirable; putting together a kit for brewers to make the White House’s Honey Ale was marketing brilliance. And since they offered an all-grain option, their recipe was likely better than the President’s, so take that, Mr. Obama.

(But seriously, can we have some of that beer, Mr. President?)

Jerk Move of the Year:

That jerk who ripped off the Hopleaf comes to mind. Otherwise, it’s been a pretty good year for beers.

Best Distributor: Temporarily on hold based on the recent sale of last year’s winner Windy City, as well as the addition of a craft beer team at Wirtz and the big news regarding Dogfish Head and New Holland’s departure from Glunz to the Chicago area MillerCoors cluster of nine distributors.

We’ll revisit in a year to see how things shake out.

Most Promising in 2013: Since last year’s winner, New Chicago Brewing, has basically dropped out of sight, we won’t saddle someone with this designation. If you’re opening, you’re promising. We look forward to great things from all of you.

Best People Who Don’t Fit Other Categories But Are Worth Noting:

A lot of other people made 2012 a great year to be beer-focused, but we wanted to note at least two:

Nik and the Chicago Beer Geeks team really stepped it up this year when it came to the events they’ve put together. Their beer bus outings and football events are great ways to help bring craft beer energy to audiences that might not otherwise encounter enthusiasts like the CBG’ers. We look forward to seeing what else they come up with in 2013.

Lorna Juett stepped into a role we previously filled as beer writer for Chicagoist, and immediately started fireworks with her spot-on piece about Chick Beer.

barleys-angelslogo.From there saw the creation of Barley’s Angels, showcasing that it’s not just dudes with beards who drink beer and talk about it (the URL of this site not withstanding) and organizing events to further that effort and garnering tons of press in the process. It’s always nice to see that a few hundred words on a website still have the power to motivate some change – it just takes someone behind those words to put in effort, which can be tough.

It’s been a busy year, but we look forward to watching what these and everyone else in the craft beer community around Chicago can produce. The more things we do and the more people we encounter and more we discuss the little beer world in which we live, the more we realize what everyone has been telling us from the beginning: it’s filled with good, helpful, nice folks that enjoy making people happy with beer.

And for that, we celebrate all of you. Cheers, slainte, skol to you all.

Welcome To Chicago, Brewery Vivant

We’ve been waiting on this news for a while.

Brewery Vivant officially arrives in Chicago today, November 12 (chalk up another good “get” for Windy City Distribution), and now you’ll all be able to find out exactly what those of us who have been sampling their Grand Rapids based wares for a little over a year now already knew – these guys know what they’re doing.

The first beers they’ll be offering are their three year-round staples, as well as collaboration beer. You’ll no doubt stumble across all of these soon, but if you need to immediately seek out a couple examples of Brewery Vivant beer, go get these:

Triomph: The first BV beer we had (green can), and still a favorite. Balance is the most notable thing about this beer, equal parts creamy Belgian and sharp hoppy ale. Not too complex but it doesn’t need to be, because it nails the two things it does quite well.

Farmhand: It took drinking nearly the full 4-pack (red can) to figure this one out, and it was well worth it. The first time tried this French farmhouse style beer, we thought there might be something wrong with it, to be honest – weirdly funky and rich with those hay/horseblanket scents people love to talk about.

After making our way through a good 32oz., we started to get it – this beer is a unique, delicious and kinda weird offering that is absolutely reminiscent (or at least what we like to think would be reminiscent) of what a spontaneously-fermenting barrel of homemade beer that sat in a barn for months awaiting the bucket and dipper to be served from. In a good way. If this doesn’t make sense, drink two and see if you can’t start envisioning a tiny farm in rural France.

The Abbey (purple can) is solid, and while the Escoffier collaboration with New Belgium sounds awesome – if its one thing New Belgium knows well it’s sours, and any collaboration with them that includes any kind of tartness has plenty of promise – we haven’t personally sampled that (yet) and therefore we can’t immediately recommend it…but we hope to amend that soon.

Welcome, Brewery Vivant. Happy to have you here.

Grand Rapids Breweries Collaborate On Pumpkin Beer

Eleven breweries in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area are all offering up their take on one of our fall favorites starting this week; a pumpkin beer.

But this isn’t just any pumpkin beer – it’s a Grand Pumpkin – part of a collaboration series celebrating the city’s “Beer City USA” title, which it shares with Asheville, North Carolina.

The first collaboration beer saw the brewers try their hand at a pale ale.

This time, according to MLive, brewers will have more flexibility in crafting their Grand Pumpkin than they did their Beer City Pale Ale, which was a shared recipe.

“It’s kind of everyone looking at one ingredient like you would with an ‘Iron Chef’ competition,” said [Wob] Wanhatalo, who, until this month was brewing at The Hideout Brewing Co.

“What can I do with the beer that best represents that ingredient, but also trying to be different from everyone else?” he said.

“The brewing culture is very collaborative in West Michigan,” said Barry VanDyke, co-owner of Harmony Brewing Co. “We enjoy each other’s company and we enjoy testing our skills against one another in a fun way. We’re hopeful that beer lovers will test out a few different versions and let us know what they think of them.”

The breweries taking part include:

  • The Hideout Brewing Company – Grand Rapids
  • The Mitten Brewing Company – Grand Rapids
  • Harmony Brewing Company – Grand Rapids
  • White Flame Brewing Company – Hudsonville
  • Jaden James Brewing Company at Cascade Winery – Kentwood
  • Pike 51 Brewing Company – Hudsonville
  • The Michigan Beer Cellar – Sparta
  • The B.O.B.’s Brewery – Grand Rapids
  • HopCat – Grand Rapids
  • Brewery Vivant – Grand Rapids
  • Schmohz Brewing – Grand Rapids