Monday, September 28, 2015

Bell's 30th Anniversary Funvitational

On September 12th, 2015, 4,000 craft beer fans took to Homer Stryker Field in Kalamazoo, to celebrate Bell's Brewery 30th Anniversary of brewing beer in Michigan. The "Funvitational" brought over 100 beers from all around the country, giving us the rare treat to try offerings not distributed in our area, such as Creature Comforts and Cigar City. Bell's re-brewed a number of out-of-production recipes, like Batch 1000 through 5,000 as well as limited releases like Double Two Hearted, Spruce Two Hearted, Larry's Stupid Quadrupid IPA, Coffee Mustache, Sherry Bull in a China Shop, to name a few. And of course – the 30th Anniversary Imperial Stout.

We have been brewing in Kalamazoo for almost 30 years and we are extremely proud of where we got our start. This festival is a celebration of that heritage, our community and our fans.” - Bell's Vice President, Laura Bell

One of the highlights – an appearance by guerrilla brass band, The Detroit Party Marching Band.

As with any festival, you just can't taste them all, but here are our favorite stand outs:
  • Double Two Hearted, Bell's Brewery Double IPA, 11.5% ABV
  • Batch 1500Bell's Brewery  - American Barleywine recipe from 1994, rebrewed for the fest, 10% ABV
  • Crazy Brewer BeerBell's Brewery - American Strong Ale brewed with cinnamon, ginger, salt, dark brown and turbinado sugar, 9.2% ABV
  • Bourbon Barrel-Aged Expedition StoutBell's Brewery  
  • Liquid Lunch, Terrapin BeerPeanut Butter & Jelly Porter, 7.7% ABV
  • Tropicália, Creature Comforts India Pale Ale, 7% ABV
  • Athena, Creature Comforts Berliner Weiss, 4.5% ABV
  • Imperial CoCoNut Porter, Maui Brewing Porter, 10% ABV
  • Brombeere, Odell Brewing Blackberry Gose, 4.8% ABV
  • Barrel-aged Neopolitan Stout, Saugatuck Brewing Bourbon barrel-aged Milk Stout, 6.5% ABV
  • Wine Barrel-aged Burn the Witch, Tapistry Brewing Weizenbock aged in Chardonnay and Merlot barrels, 9% ABV
  • Paris, Brewery Vivant - Sour ale aged in red wine barrels with Brett, 5.5%
  • Autumn Maple, The Bruery Dark Ale brewed with yams and spices, 10% ABV
  • Zwickel, Urban Chestnut German Lager, 5%
  • Daymark, Rising Tide - Pale Ale, 5.5% ABV
  • Abraxas, Perennial - Imperial Stout, 10% ABV
  • Blå Spøgelse, Mikkeller/Three Floyds - Blueberry barrel-aged Lambic, 7.7% ABV
  • Mélange Á Trois, Nebraska Brewing - (Reserve Series) Belgian blonde ale aged in French oak chardonnay barrels, 10% ABV

The food was just on a whole other level of satiation. The grill area featured a number of beer infused meats. We tried the
Two Hearted Infused Hot Dog w/ Potato Salad and the infamous Bear Claw Burger (topped with mac & cheese, pulled pork and cole slaw in a Sweetwater donut bun). There was also a wood fired pizza oven serving 5 options, including a Porter Pork Belly Pizza and a Vegetarian Oberon Chili Pizza. There were a number of desserts, but we never made it that far.


Bell's Brewery, Inc. began in 1985 with a quest for better beer and a 15 gallon soup kettle. Since then, we've grown into a regional craft brewery that employs more than 333 people over a 20 state area, in addition to Puerto Rico and Washington DC. The dedication to brewing flavorful, unfiltered, quality craft beers that started in 1985 is still with us today. We currently brew over 20 beers for distribution as well as many other small batch beers that are served at our pub in Kalamazoo, the Eccentric Cafe. Our ongoing goal is to brew thoughtfully, creatively and artistically. We strive to bring an authentic and pleasant experience to all of our customers through our unique ales and beers. For more information, please visit

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Best of Belgian Fest 2015

By guest contributor MC Johnsen

On Sunday, September 13th, Goose Island Clybourn played host to 19 breweries and a crowd of beer-loving fest-goers at Belgian Fest 2015

The markedly casual fest was held in four connecting rooms of the Clybourn pub, creating a mini treasure hunt of beer upon which I was happy to embark. The lobby welcoming committee included crowd favorite Transient Artisan Ales, Middle Brow Brewing, and offerings from homebrewers from C.H.A.O.S. Brew Club. Up the steps and to the right awaited a handful of local taps (Revolution, Ten Ninety, Atlas, Moody Tongue, and Haymarket) plus DeSthil and Side Project Brewing’s booths. If you headed left off of the lobby, Goose Island Clybourn’s taps greeted you at the bottom of the stairway at the room’s end. Up the stairs from there were another handful of handles, including Goose Island Brewing Co.’s “ladies” – beers with female names and Belgian flair, that is – plus Perennial, Flossmoor Station, and others. 

In addition to the casual feel, this event was also uniquely small, affording everyone the opportunity to try each beer at the fest. The event’s uncrowded, relaxed atmosphere allowed attendees the chance to actually hold conversations with brewers or brewery reps without feeling like they were holding up the line behind them. In fact, lines only existed in front of the Transient Artisan Ales booth, where brewer Chris Betts uncapped special offerings every hour from bottles that he’d brought in addition to his kegged choices. After having personally attending quite a few fests with thousands of drinkers and lines galore, this was a refreshing change!

Brewers served up a lot of liquid creativity. I counted many uncommonly used herbs and ingredients (amaranth, matcha tea, elderberries, lavender, Indian plum sugar, and pink peppercorns, to name a few), and a variety of blending, barrel-aging and souring techniques. Purely traditional Belgian beers were few and far between; the American spirit of individuality was alive and flowing at this “Belgian” fest. 

Standouts included: 

Thicket, Side Project 
This deliciously juicy wine-barrel-aged Missouri Wild Ale with blackberries drank more like a wine than a beer with a sticky berry juiciness, and significantly tart finish. (6%)

Oktoberfunk, Transient Artisan Ales
This totally unique twist on a traditionally malty, sweet, and bready beverage drank as expected at first, but finished with a tart twist and a hint of sweet vinegar. Described as a Bier de Garde (means “Beer for Keeping”)

Saison du South Loop, South Loop Brewing 
This saison was brewed with lavender, and hopped with Nelson Sauvin. Herbal, crisp, clean, and earthy, the hops and lavender blended together in an enjoyably effervescent way. (5.9%)

Savant Beersel, Perennial Artisan Ales
This puckeringly tart Belgian Pale Ale was fermented with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis in Chambourcin Wine Barrels with Chambourcin Grapes for eight months. Cloudy red with a tannic raspberry taste to match. (8%)

Plum Blonde, Goose Island Clybourn
This plum-infused Belgian Blonde ale had a juicy, bright personality and a quenching finish. Aged in wine barrels with Brettanomyces Claussenii, this tart and tasty beverage had me back for seconds. (6%)

MC Johnsen is a professional graphic designer and illustrator based in Chicago, IL. She is also the artist and author behind beer blog Worth a Thousand Beers. In her spare time MC enjoys homebrewing, taking on DIY projects, CrossFit, and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix. Her favorite coffee beverage is an Americano, and she shares a home with her husband Matt and their dog Dallas in Lombard, IL. You can find her on Twitter @worth1000beers

Friday, September 11, 2015

Maßkrugs in Milwaukee

By Guest Contributor Eric Zeigler

As the first day of September clicks off on the calendar, I begin to get very excited for my favorite time of the year — Fall, and Oktoberfest! Let’s put it this way, being almost entirely of German descent and a lover of all things Teutonic, Oktoberfest to me is like St. Patty’s Day is to someone named Patrick O’Malley. I own lederhosen and I love drinking beer in them. After several years of attending various Midwest Oktoberfest destinations (and having celebrated the actual Wiesn in Munich), I humbly consider myself a good judge of the “authenticity” of the fests available.

Chicago has no shortage of street festivals, but when it comes to celebrating Oktoberfest, they make a half-hearted attempt. All in all, most people are drinking from a plastic “stein” and eating bratwursts from the local grocery. Granted, the Germanic populace isn’t as influential as the Irish and Italian communities in the city, but wearing green felt hunter’s hats and drinking Beck’s does not an Oktoberfest make. So, in an effort to expand your horizons and appeal to the European sense of adventure — you need to go to Wisconsin.

With 42% of the state of Wisconsin of Germanic descent, they take Oktoberfest very seriously. And Milwaukee is the city you want to visit, with two festivals standing head and shoulders above the rest.

The first stop should be "Oktoberfest Milwaukee" (9/11-10/3) at Old Heidelberg Park in Glendale, Wisconsin. This suburb of Milwaukee hosts the oldest and most authentic Oktoberfest outside of Munich itself. Wearing the traditional lederhosen and dirdls at this festival is like someone putting on jeans and a T-shirt to go to a regular bar. Everything from the Oktoberfest beer (Spaten, Hofbrau, Paulaner and Franziskaner) to the food (Spanferkl, Rollbraten and Bienenstich (Bee Sting Cake)), to the polka music and traditional Schuhplatter folk dancing puts a smile on your face and a general feeling of Gemütlichkeit (geniality and friendliness). Meanwhile, you can try your hand at various smaller carnival-like games or enjoy a large Bavarian pretzel or bag of hot, roasted candied nuts. It is truly an epic experience.

You may also want to try downtown Milwaukee’s "MKE Oktoberfest" celebration (10/1-4). Situated in the beautiful Pere Marquette Park across from the Hofbrau-franchised Old German Beer Hall (one of the sponsors), this equally exuberant festival is initiated by none other than the Mayor of Milwaukee, tapping the first wooden keg to get things rolling. This harkens back to the same tradition in Germany of the Mayor of Munich tapping the first keg. At any festival in Wisconsin patrons are even encouraged to bring their own Maßkrug steins to be filled with the glorious beers produced by Hofbrau. Later, if one is so emboldened, you can try your hand at Maßkrugstemmen (beer stein holding). See how long you can hold a 1-liter glass stein full of beer (about 6 pounds) straight in front of you. Think you can beat the world record of 19 minutes? You’ll be lucky to get to one. At any point, you can retreat from the tent’s festivities by walking around the gorgeous park scenery right on the river.

I may be slightly biased, but will hazard to guess if you take my advice and venture to Milwaukee for Oktoberfest and try one of these Fests, you will not be disappointed. They truly are an experience straight out of Munich.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Guide to Glassware Series: The Stein

In continuation with our "Guide to Glassware" guest blog series with Lakeshore Beverage, we focus this month on the icon stein. Click on the link to read the full article, which highlight's the steins 5 century history, as well as the sensorial benefits of its various designs.

The full beer glass guide infographic:

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Design Deconstruction: Deschutes Brewery's Rebranding

Over the past few months Deschutes Brewery has been subtly hinting at new label graphics on social media. They're finally excited to announce that NEW packaging is hitting the shelves as we speak! All of the brewery’s bottles, cartons, and tap handles will be sporting the new, updated look which was designed to better reflect the quality of the beer inside, as well as increase shelf presence and display impact. The presence of the Deschutes Brewery branding is also more prominent to help pull together a family of brands that has evolved over the past 27 years.

The design change was spurred in part to help improve brand awareness and better stand out in an increasingly crowded category. Each brand has its own unique color palette and custom typeface, with the Deschutes logo (and neck label on bottles) in black for the mainline and seasonal brands, and red for the Bond Street Series. The classic illustrations associated with each brand have been retained and refined in the new design to further highlight each beer’s individuality.

“As the craft beer segment continues to grow, and we continue to expand, it’s critical that we stand out on the shelf and reinforce our brand. We’ve incorporated many key elements in the new design that should help us achieve this goal. We are excited to hear what our fans think about the new look!” - Jeff Billingsley, Director of Marketing

The round holding shape and reversed type creates more impact from a distance and is easily adaptable for multiple applications. The mountain illustration was updated to emphasize the hand drawn qualities.

Watercolor-style illustrations were maintained with some warmth added to the color palette and break out of the oval shape to cover more label area. Beer names are easier to read on a straight baseline and have beer specific personality. Consistent placement of the Deschutes branding creates visual blocking and product awareness at shelf level.

In an effort to increase brand awareness around the country, Deschutes created an "outdoor pub of epic proportions." Their custom 400 sq.ft. portable "Street Pub" is on a 7 city tour over 7 months, with 100% of proceeds from pint sales go directly to each city's Boys and Girls Club. 

In addition to the new logo and graphics, they have also launched a beautiful new website, so get on over there and check it out!