Great Lakes Brewing News April/May 2014 : Page 1
Q T E U S North Country Brewing Co. in Slippery Rock, PA., is housed in the rebuilt interior of a building dating back to the mid 1800s. Historically, it served as an inn, funeral home and furniture store. PHOTO COURTESY OF BUTLER COUNTY TOURISM AND CONVENTION BUREAU. By Keith Kost By Julia Burke ILLUSTRATIONS BY: HANS GRANHEIM A s craft beer festivals have become more popular than ever––some might say they’re a dime a dozen––beer geeks and brewers have recently aired concerns about their focus and benefit to the industry. Perhaps you’ve observed it yourself: you arrive at a beer festival excited to find the breweries you’ve heard about, but the lines are 45 minutes long. The attendees are all in various states of gross inebriation. The brewers, promised “great exposure,” have essentially donated beer––or perhaps paid to attend––a bacchanal where they can’t even guarantee people will know what they’re drinking, and as a result they have no incentive to bring their best products. And it’s all the same people, over and over, at every single event. As these types of beer festivals come under more scrutiny from passionate drinkers and brewers who hate to see their favorite products, well, watered down, it’s a good time to celebrate the festivals that are truly committed to qual-ity, innovation, and a definition of success that goes beyond money in the orga-nizer’s pocket. orth Country Brewing Company started in 1998 as s a dream of two beer lovers Jodi odi and Bob McCafferty. The couple purchased a storefront nt in the sleepy college town of Slippery Rock, Pa. and completely rebuilt the interior of a building that dated back to the mid 1800s. In its history, it served as an inn, funeral home, and furniture store. This building would become home ome to North Country’s brewpub. The coupled hired Sean McIntyre, a veteran in the craft brewing scene who was well known for r the tasty lagers he brewed at Valhalla. The brewpub was wildly popular from the out-set, and the number of seats doubled in 2009, when upstairs s seating was added. The only issue ue See North Country p. 7 Head brewer Sean McIntyre pouring bre br a pint of his Slimy Pebble Pils. PHOTO BY KEITH KOST. INSIDE Event Calendar .................3 Beer Beacon.................... 10 The Beer Queendom ....... 12 Homebrew: Maibock ....... 14 Beers To Us! ................... 20 NIPAC Crowns Winners .. 44 Map/Directory ............. 18-23 State by State News Ohio ............... 16 Michigan ........ 18 SE Michigan .. 19 SW Michigan . 21 Indiana .......... 28 Chicago ......... 30 Illinois ........... 31 Wisconsin ..... 32 N Wisconsin .. 33 Minnesota ...... 34 Ontario .......... 36 New York ....... 38 Pennsylvania . 45 See Quest p. 4
Quest For A Better Fest
As craft beer festivals have become more popular than ever––some might say they’re a dime a dozen––beer geeks and brewers have recently aired concerns about their focus and benefit to the industry. Perhaps you’ve observed it yourself: you arrive at a beer festival excited to find the breweries you’ve heard about, but the lines are 45 minutes long. The attendees are all in various states of gross inebriation. The brewers, promised “great exposure,” have essentially donated beer––or perhaps paid to attend––a bacchanal where they can’t even guarantee people will know what they’re drinking, and as a result they have no incentive to bring their best products. And it’s all the same people, over and over, at every single event.<br /> <br /> As these types of beer festivals come under more scrutiny from passionate drinkers and brewers who hate to see their favorite products, well, watered down, it’s a good time to celebrate the festivals that are truly committed to quality, innovation, and a definition of success that goes beyond money in the organizer’s pocket.<br /> <br /> “I want to see craft beer drinkers welcome new people just as we would welcome them into our home,” Sam Porter, founder of the Microbrew and Music festivals, explains with excitement.“We’re not trying to appeal to a specific tribe.” <br /> <br /> In his several years spent organizing conferences and festivals, Sam Porter learned a few things about building community. He saw a need for beer festivals to reach a wider audience, without eliminating the chance for that magic beer epiphany that’ll turn a person off Heineken for life.His answer: look to music festivals. Most of us have a story about seeing a previously unknown band live for the first time and falling in love with their music, creating a memory and connection that can last a lifetime. Why not apply that principle to beer, while tapping into an entirely new market?<br /> <br /> Microbrew and Music festivals, which began in 2009 in Michigan, are thus great music festivals that just happen to have a strong beer component. The beer and music tour features 300 craft beers, nationally known musical acts (O.A.R headlines the upcoming Lansing Festival), marching bands, and local food, all under a 4,000-capacity mobile tent. Want to know more about that great beer someone just handed you? Homebrewing demonstrations, beer tours, brewer sessions with small groups, and brewers’ dinners are enough to make a beer geek out of any interested attendee.Oh, and it’s all for a good cause: 100 percent of proceeds go to local food banks and Porter’s partnership with the Michigan nonprofit Xero Waste Events, which providing comprehensive recycling services and educating communities on sustainable event practice.<br /> <br /> “We have all the traditional elements of a beer festival, but brewers have five festivals a week to choose from,” Porter explains. “What we have to offer is hospital-Ity––treating them like artists. We are also helping them express their brand to new markets. We want to be their best friend.” <br /> <br /> Happy brewers mean better connections with their audience. The epitome of this is the “Hop and Brew Shack,” where beer is brewed every half hour for groups of up to 15 to watch and ask questions. “The brewers love it,” says Porter.“That casual environment is crucial; people may have spent 18 years drinking Bud Lite, but now they’ve made a connection.” After the magical moment of watching a passionate brewer talk about his product, it’s hard to avoid being bitten by the craft bug.<br /> <br /> Once they’re ready to level up, attendees can enjoy a “Rare Beer Tour” every half hour, with an introduction to harder-to-find beers they might not otherwise know to seek out. “The idea is to help people learn to walk into a festival and find this unique beers,” he explains.<br /> <br /> That’s key to Porter’s dream of bringing craft beer to new environments. He sums it up: “You’re going to your favorite show and you have an open bar of 300 craft brews.” He hopes to bring his idea to more communities around the country. Check out www.microbrewandmusic.com to follow this year’s events.<br /> <br /> Not Like the Others <br /> <br /> There are plenty of other examples of unique, enjoyable brewfest throughout the Great Lakes region. Go east and you will find north America’s best Belgian themed brewfest and music fest, Belgium Comes to Cooperstown, at Ommegang brewery in Cooperstown NY, complete with local, regional and imported Belgian beers and Belgian food as well as breweries of every sort, and nonstop music. Go west, and in Madison, Wisconsin you’ll find The Great Taste of The Midwest, with 600-700 beers to try, and all of them from the Midwest—a festival where brewers purposely bring the very best beers they’ve brewed all year just to show off. Musical groups play in various locations throughout the lakeside park grounds, creating a truly memorable, enjoyable experience.<br /> <br /> Also in Wisconsin, June 26-28, there is the Kohler Festival of Beer and Grilling. The entire weekend of festivities is based around combining craft beer and not only food, but specifically grilling. The start of the weekend features beer seminars and grilling demonstrations with beer.The Shorts and Chefs event features a brewery paired with a chef to create a dish inspired by the beer. Going along with the theme of the weekend, all of the food is prepared on a grill right in front of the crowd’s eyes. Cheers to Beers features dozens of craft breweries offering tastes of their brews. Throughout the weekend, live music and entertainment and tastings are abundant.<br /> <br /> While these fests are huge, there are a number of interesting smaller fests. Every year in the month of March, hundreds of knowledgeand beer-thirsty Western New Yorkers descend upon the stately Buffalo Museum of Science for Beerology. Now in its 6th year, the event is not just a beer festival; its aim is to imbue the imbibing attendees with beer knowledge and science.There are beer lectures throughout the night, ranging from topics like Cask-Conditioned Real Ale and Cellarmanship to The Science of a Hangover, planned and presented by the beer experts of Buffalo.<br /> <br /> In addition to these formal presentations, local homebrew clubs, beer interest groups and vendors have interactive displays to peruse. The Niagara Association of Homebrewers together with local homebrew shop Niagara Traditions have a continuous multi-stage all-grain brewing demo throughout the night, complete with a perpetual cyclic pouring of beer into a never-full pint glass. The Buffalo Beer Goddesses, a group of women craft beer enthusiasts, brewers and advocates, use taste strips to help passersby understand more about their taste buds.<br /> <br /> A 200-ticket VIP room sells out quickly every year and allows early festival access, special beers from some of the area’s best breweries, and a special cooking with beer competition among the Buffalo-area's top chefs. General admission Includes food samples but for the truly hungry, a rodeo of WNY food trucks will be on-site. With music spun by local Djs and special museum exhibits on beery topics, Beerology may be the best time you can have drinking with dinosaurs.<br /> <br /> More to Choose From <br /> <br /> Every January, the Arbor Brewing Microbrewery in Ypsilanti celebrates owners Matt and Rene Greff’s roots in the homebrewing community with Rat Fest, a unique event that invites homebrewing clubs throughout Southeast Michigan to showcase their efforts. Each club takes a turn brewing several beers on Arbor’s “Rat Pad,” a 10-gallon pilot system, and then comes in to serve the results during the three-hour-long affair. Rat Fest has grown larger in every year of its six-year history and now attracts hundreds of beer lovers to sample from a wide variety of more than three dozen creative brews straight out of the area’s vibrant homebrewing scene. Festgoers vote for their favorite individual beers, overall group of beers, and club presentation and decorative theme.Hopeful participants are already making plans to be included in next year’s Rat Fest. Learn more at arborbrewing.com/stuff/rat-pad. <br /> <br /> The annual Michigan Cask Ale Festival at Ashley’s Beer & Grill in Westland showcases a third kind of beer beyond conventional draft and bottle: cask ale, also known as real ale. The first Saturday in May, Ashley’s owners Jeff and Roy More bring together more than two dozen of these ales, which are served unpasteurized and unfiltered from casks containing live, active yeast. This process results in a gentle, natural carbonation and complex, delicate flavors that don’t exist in filtered keg beer. Participating breweries include many throughout Michigan and the country, and even a few from overseas. More information can be found at micaskale.ashleys.com. <br /> <br /> The Michigan Brewers Guild just hosted their 9th annual Winter Beer festival at the 5th/3rd. Ballpark in Grand Rapids, Michigan this past ay February. The sold out festival had 87 Michigan breweries in attendance proudly pouring hundreds of different beers, 12 bonfire pits, 3 Grand Rapids based bands, and a wide selection of food provided by the ballpark. Over 7000 people drank, danced, and munched huge smoked turkey legs, despite the bone chilling cold, windy, and icy conditions. This event has proven to be one of the most popular festivals for fans of craft beer from all over the midwest, and just goes to show that there is no such thing as bad weather, just a poor choice of clothing!<br /> <br /> In Minneapolis, Minnesota, fall brings Where The Wild Beers Are, a celebration of funky beers, and a truly atypical beer festival as it is a collaborative effort, where all attendees are invited not only to try commercial wild and sour beers, but also to participate by bringing sour beers to share.<br /> <br /> Summer also brings the Festival of Wood and Barrel Ages Beers in Chicago, Illinois. Last year’s program listed 86 breweries and 214 total entries, all of them specially brewed and aged.This fest provides one of the most unique tasting experiences in the craft beer world.<br /> <br /> Ohio has more than its share of great beer festivals, like the Big Tap In, Cleveland Ale Fest and Brewzilla, but a favorite is The Winter Warmer fest, held near the end of winter in downtown Cleveland at Windows on the River, which features all Ohio breweries, and mostly draft and cask. The IX Center hosts the International Beer Fest and Fabulous Food Show, an interesting combination of food, beer and wine.<br /> <br /> And that’s only the beginning. Beer festivals are happening all year long, and there are more every year, so plan to attend one near you—or plan a road trip or vacation that includes a fest— but pay special attention to the unique festivals happening throughout the region. These are the festivals for the true beer lover.
North Country Brewing Co.
North Country Brewing Co. In Slippery Rock, PA., is housed in the rebuilt interior of a building dating back to the mid 1800s. Historically, it served as an inn, funeral home and furniture store.<br /> <br /> North Country Brewing Company started in 1998 as a dream of two beer lovers Jodi and Bob McCafferty. The couple purchased a storefront in the sleepy college town of Slippery Rock, Pa. And completely rebuilt the interior of a building that dated back to the mid 1800s. In its history, it served as an inn, funeral home, and furniture store.This building would become home North Country’s brewpub. The coupled hired Sean McIntyre, a veteran in the craft brewing scene who was well known for the tasty lagers he brewed at Valhalla. The brewpub was wildly popular from the outset, and the number of seats doubled in 2009, when upstairs seating was added. The only issue With success was that Sean had a hard time keeping up with the demand for beer on his 7 bbl brewhouse, so a plan was made to build a new, bigger production brewery.<br /> <br /> North Country Canning Company <br /> <br /> In 2012, the McCaffertys secured a commercial space for their production brewery and purchased a 30 bbl. Brewhouse.The production brewery is called the North Country Canning Company, and it’s located under a mile from the brewpub in a sizeable commercial building. The brewhouse was formerly used by Hub City in Stanley, Iowa, and the setup now includes eleven 60 bbl. Fermentors, one 45 bbl. Fermentor, two 60 bbl. Brite tanks and one 1 45 bbl. Brite tank. Initially, they planned to bottle beers, but they changed course and opted for a canning line instead. The first beers were brewed in late Fall 2013, and hit distributors shortly thereafter. Sean now mans the operations at the production brewhouse with help from his assistant Josh Gauger. Josh has been with North Country for five years and worked his way up from bar backing and bussing to brewing. The Canning Company is staffed by six people and includes one non-human member: Brownie, the brewhouse dog. The spent grain from the brewery is delivered weekly to the McCafferty’s farm, where it is used to feed their cattle.<br /> <br /> The Beers <br /> <br /> At the brewpub, North Country usually has 12 or more beers on tap, and currently, they are canning four of their most popular beers at Canning Company: Station 33 Firehouse Red, Paleo IPA, Buck Snort Stout, and Slimy Pebble Pils. The Firehouse Red is the biggest seller, maybe due in small part that 5% of its sales are donated to the local fire station. Its grain bill includes Pils, Munich, melanoidin, and two types of black malts, and it’s flavored with English Fuggle hops. The IPA is pale in color, has a firm bitterness, and features Centennial, Amarillo, and Cascade hops. Buck Snort is a hearty west coast stout that is close to 7% ABV. Slimy Pebble is based on Sean’s recipe from his days at Valhalla brewing, and it is a showcase for the delicate aroma and flavor of Saaz hops. A majority of the beer brewed at the Canning Company is canned, but a small amount goes out to draft accounts. They distribute cans in all of Western Pa. And Central Pa., and just recently released a sample case that includes all four regular offerings.<br /> <br /> At the canning company, they’ve brewed a batch of their Jack Frost Winter Warmer as a keg-only release, and they may do more one offs if they can keep up with demand for their regulars. For Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, they are teaming up with Voodoo Brewery and are planning to do a chai tea saison made with Eldorado hops. At the brewpub, they continue to brew creative and adventurous beers like Dnglbry, a raspberry and blueberry strong ale infused with raspberry tea.<br /> <br /> Getting There <br /> <br /> Slippery Rock is a about an hour drive from Pittsburgh and Erie, and is just slightly under two hours away from Cleveland.The brewpub is two blocks away from the center of Slippery Rock University’s campus at 141 S Main St. There are plenty of outdoor activities in the area: Moraine State Park and McConnell’s Mill are only 10 to 15 minutes away. They offer activities like hiking, kayaking, sailing, biking, and in the winter months, sledding and cross-country skiing. If you’re more into shopping, the Prime Outlets at Grove City are only a few miles up the road, and it’s common to see Canadians visiting the brewpub after a day of shopping.<br /> <br /> What’s Next?<br /> <br /> North Country plans to brew 5,000-7,000 bbl. At the Canning Company and another 1,650 bbl. At the brewpub this year. They’d also like to distribute to northwest Ohio in the near future, and get into western New York shortly after that.Look for tours of the Canning Company to be offered soon. If you think running a brewpub, a production brewery, and a farm is not enough, the McCaffertys have purchased the Harmony Inn in Harmony, Pa. And plan to reopen it in March. The couple bartended at this historic, and reportedly haunted, location while they were constructing North Country’s brewpub. The Inn will serve a wide selection of regional craft beers and will have a nano brewery on premises that people can use to brew their own beers.