A hoppy hoppy beerthday with great friends

Recently I celebrated my 35th birthday. My wife and I were surrounded by some fantastic friends and enjoyed amazing beers, and I wish more of both could have been there. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. In addition to enjoying great conversation in perfect whether, many people go to try several beers and/or styles that had not before. One of my favorite things is to introduce people to new beers and my birthday was nothing short of accomplishing that. It’s been three years in a row now, so I think this might officially be a tradition. I’m extremely grateful for the friends and loved ones in my life. Thanks to everyone who came.

And what better way to help illustrate the evening than with a few photographs. Cheers!

Click on any image to view a full sized slideshow.

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My Honeymoon…the beer details.

A little more than three months ago, my wife gave me the most amazing wedding ever…at Founders Brewing. Almost the entire wedding was beer themed, so as you might guess, the honeymoon included some great craft beers and stops as well. The pictures capture a lot of the fun so be sure to check them out and read the captions, but here’s a little more back ground:

Our first day was spent in San Francisco. We started the day early enough that it seemed like we had the entire city to ourselves. After walking around for a few hours, we found Jack’s Bar to be a great place to quench our thirst. It was the perfect place because we could continue to be outside and enjoy the beautiful weather while back home, everyone was getting tons of snow dumped on them.

The next day, we made our way up to Santa Rosa to meet and stay with Krista and Eric, friends we had never meet. This is how awesome the craft beer community is. Because of the impact of combining social media and craft beer, we had connected with them long before the honeymoon. They just happen to live less than ten minutes from Russian River Brewery (RR), which was a huge destination stop on our honeymoon. They were very generous in inviting us to stay the night and take us to our first ever visit to RR. We can’t say thank you enough. They were an incredibly fun, generous, kind and lovely couple. Perfect for two people to spend time with on their honeymoon. Thanks to them we also got to meet Tommy. If RR had a personality, it would be Tommy’s. After a wonderful evening at RR, we headed back to Krista and Eric’s and enjoyed the perfect combination of two things: great craft beer and great conversation. If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it all over again.

The third night was another night in Santa Rosa, but in a hotel generously paid for by a friends Marriott points. And what better place to meet up with him than Russian River Brewery. And we got Tommy as our server again. This provided for another great night of awesome beers and great company. It was fun getting to know Mike, a friend of Lynell’s from Grand Rapids who just happens to now live less than ten minutes from RR.

The next few nights were spent in Ripon, where Lynell has a great deal of family. It was great meeting many I had not yet met and great to see some of those I already had. They even threw us a great west coast reception. What a great family to be able to call my own now. Since this is the beer version of the honeymoon, I’ll mention that this is where I enjoyed one or two or several of the Pliny the Elder’s I bought when we stopped at Russian River Brewery for the third day in a row before leaving Santa Rosa.

On Sunday we made a three hour trip north to stay at Coram Ranch near Mt. Shasta. What a beautiful place. If you’re looking for a destination retreat for a group of people, this is a fantastic spot. No cable TV, no internet, no cellphone service…just us. We’d go back in a heart beat. It was here that I enjoyed a few more Pliny the Elders along with a few other gems I found along the the way.

In the end, we put almost 1,000 miles on our rental car. It was a perfect honeymoon. Yes, there was so much great craft beer, but that was just an added bonus to a fantastic Northern California trip with my new wife.

Cheers!

 

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A Founders Brewing toast to BeerCity USA

If you live in Grand Rapids, it’s hard not to know it was victorious in the recent BeerCity USA voting. Every city had the same opportunity when it came to social media and voting more than once when it came to using multiple devices. To me, there’s one thing that separated Grand Rapids from the rest of the field: city pride. Earlier this evening, that pride was shown with a citywide toast at 6:16PM (616 is the local area code). My wife and I were at Founders when this toast took place.

With about a minute to spare, Dave Engbers (one of the founders of Founders) took the stage to give a quick toast and thanks to everyone present or not, for their support and excitement for the great craft beer scene that has been consistently growing for many years. Given that Founder is our favorite place to meet for a beer for both personal and professional reasons, we were proud and happy to be there to raise our glasses with Dave, the fantastic staff and loyal patrons.

OK…I was raising a camera lens at the time and here’s a few photos as a result. But! I raised my glass a few times before and after to make up for it. Cheers!

Click on any picture to then flip through the full size version.

 

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From the Blue Bridge to Founders Brewing

Last week, my wife and I joined a group of other photographers for a photowalk from the Blue Bridge to Founders Brewing. The idea came from The Rapidian, who wanted to get the diverse perspectives of our city through several different creative eyes. We spent a little more than an hour on the walk and it was fascinating to watch what caught each photographs eye, the angles they went for, their creativity and the observations they made. While on our honeymoon, we took our cameras everywhere we went and talked about walking around Grand Rapids someday as if we were on vacation. Thanks to this photowalk, we finally did that. Here’s a gallery of the photos I took, but I’m looking forward to seeing everyone elses, especially since we ended at Founders Brewing where I talked a little about photographing beer. Those are the pictures I’m looking forward to the most. Where else would you end when your walking around BeerCity USA? Cheers!

 

 

 

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A Splash of Water

On a recent weekend away with my wife that included Three Floyds Dark Lord Day, two engagement photo sessions and a trip to Navy Pier, it was a stop in the Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier that I had the most fun photographing. Constantly flowing from one spot to another, there are several streams of water arching over the walk ways. Here’s some high speed burst mode fun we had. It should probably be known that the reason we went to Navy Pier in the first place was because my wife heard that it had be “distressed” for filming of the upcoming movie Divergent. Her excitement was turned to 11 when she found that out.

 

 

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The Beer Truck is getting married! Love beer? You’ll love the location!

As many of you have seen, my fiance, Lynell, blogged some of the details of our wedding, but not all of them. There are a few details she left just for me to share. Coincidentally or maybe, just maybe it was planned that the details left for me to share are all beer related and special in their own unique ways. Here they are:

The bachelor/bachelorette party: Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival  February 23rd, 2013 – This was originally the date we chose for our wedding once we concluded there’d be no conflicts with a few important and special people. One of which has yet to be born. While driving home one weekend after shooting a wedding up north, I suddenly had an odd feeling and asked Lynell to look up the date of the Winter Beer Festival…its February 23rd. After thinking about the great time we had last year, the friends we shared it with and the friends who might have to work at the next one, we both casually agreed that “Sunday works.” Problem solved! And so the wedding was moved to the 24th  and were immediately discussing the fun we’d all have if we considered the beer festival to be our bachelor/bachelorette party. Luckily, we were on it soon enough to get tickets before they sold out in just thirteen hours. If you’re going to be there, please feel free to let me know.

The ceremony venue: Founders Brewing Company – Yes! We are getting married at Founders. To us it is far more than just “getting married in a brewery.” Founders is the first choice and most common place we go to work out of the office, meet clients and get together with friends and family. It’s also led to many new friendships that we cherish deeply, some with other patrons and many with the people that work there.

As for the beer, I think it’s no secret that I’m a fan…a HUGE fan! But I’m also a fan of the culture and the craft beer industry, which has provided me many opportunities to do much more than be just a patron and consumer. This past July, Founders closed for two days for an Employee Appreciation Party and one of my best friends and I got to go as facilitators and serve them. It was great to do so for once. They deserve it for all they do! I also brought the camera along. When not attending to the needs of the event, I tried to capture as much of the fun as possible and did the same thing for the recent 15th Anniversary Party.

Being a photographer that thirsts to grow, I didn’t photograph either event with the expectation of being paid. I simply wanted to take pictures that were either revolved around something I’m extremely passionate about: Founders and the craft beer industry. This will be the first wedding to take place there because it’s not their normal practice. We asked and this was their way of saying thank you and show their appreciation for everything I’ve done for them and it’s that generosity of spirit and the great beer that fits perfectly with why we wanted to get married there in the first place.

The reception beer: Osgood Brewing Company – I know it may seem like a conflict to the venue and my own personal love of Founders, but such a conflict could only happen under such circumstances. Ron and Mindy Denning, the owners of Osgood Brewing planned to open in the spring/summer of 2013, are very close friends of ours. As a gift, Ron is making and supplying the beer for our wedding. Given his generosity, passion and love for craft beer, I know we’d be serving his beer at the wedding either way. Given the timing, it’s more of a coincidence that it will be Osgood beer represented instead of his homebrew. And he’s not just making a beer or two to serve the masses. He’s providing what will be his entire line up of beer that includes one crafted just for the occasion. Osgood beer won’t be the only thing to wash down the amazing food from Amore Trattoria Italiana. We’ll have wine, a small variety of non-alcoholic drinks and probably some misc./special/rare beer from other great breweries.

Cheers!

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Dan and Lynell at the 2012 Founders Brewing KBS release party.

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Founders Brewing Company – 15th Anniversary Bolt Cutter Tasting

Since the spring of 2009, I have built friendships with two men in California, Richard and Steven, thanks to the fantastic craft beers Founders produces.  Because Founders is not yet distributed in that state, we connected through trade forums on Beer Advocate. It was Richard I connected with first and then got to meet in person when he came to Grand Rapids in 2011 for Founders Annual Black Party. After about 40 years of being wine reviewer and writer, he got bored with it and switched to beer. Since then he has established a very respectful reputation in the world of beer. So much in fact that it’s a rare thing I can hook him up with something he doesn’t already have.

Steven on the other hand is a lot like myself in that we both are mostly limited to drinking the beers we can readily get in our respective areas. Luckily, we both still want beers only the other one can get. Since we first connected in early 2011, our friendship has gone well beyond the world of beer. I’d go so far as to say he’s the best friend I’ve never met.

Regardless of how well I know each of them compared to the other, one thing will always remain the same: Founders beer brought us together.

In the world of social media, Richard doesn’t really have any interest, but Steven on the other hand is incredibly well embedded. What does this all have to do with the title of this article? Founders has a great deal of appreciation for these two and their love for Founders beer. Steven even sent me three bottles of Founders first collaboration beer, LinchPin, which was brewed at and with Green Flash Brewing in CA. Not available in Michigan, Steven wanted to show his appreciation for Founders and their beer and asked that I share all three with Founders employees. And as a thank you for their support in return, Founders gave me three bottles of Bolt Cutter (not only their 15th Anniversary beer, but also the 5th of the Backstage Series) so I could send one bottle to each of them and enjoy one myself.

Overall this is a very special opportunity for me. I’m incredibly grateful for my friendships with Richard and Steven and the fact that Founders not only made it happen, they also showed their appreciation in the coolest way I could imagine. Already there has been a lot of media related articles, videos and photographs from major sources that we’d all expect to see prior to an actual release. As for me, I was given this opportunity as an everyday consumer who loves and appreciates craft beer at an obsessed, super happy fun level. And yes, I even put on a Founders t-shirt while I wrote this article and enjoyed this fantastic beer.

Oh yeah…the beer itself. Please forgive me for getting personal, but it would be hard not to do given that fact that this story is why I’m drinking this beer more than a month before its release date. Bolt Cutter is a barley wine ale with some aged in bourbon barrels, bourbon barrels that aged Michigan maple syrup, and some not barrel aged at all.  Then all three were blended together and bottled which allowed for additional conditioning before the release date. At 15% abv. the first sip was a little hot. Knowing that I tasted it a little early, I let it sit in the glass for about an hour before enjoying the rest. The time elapsed allowed the beer to mellow out a lot which made it much smoother. It had fantastic flavors of malt, vanilla, subtle maple sweetness and bourbon that blended together with great harmony. Given the style of beer, I can’t wait to get a few more bottles to taste how it continues to develop over the next few years.

Lastly and most importantly to those of you who want a bottle or two of this beer, this is Founders’ first ticketed beer release. Starting November 11th, there are six days that the beer will be sold to those with tickets and the last I checked, only Sunday the 11th was sold out so get your tickets here. One ticket guarantees you the opportunity to purchase two bottles of Bolt Cutter. To cap it all off, Founders will be officially celebrating their 15th Anniversary on November 17th. I hope to see you there.

Congratulations to Founders Brewing Company and everything they’ve accomplished in their 15 years. So far, it seems they keep getting better with age.

Cheers!

Founders Brewing Co. 15th Anniversary & 5th Backstage Series Beer: Bolt Cutter Barley Wine Ale
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Help Shoot a Wedding…Find Great Beer!

As many of you know, my girlfriend is a full-time professional photographer and over the past few months I’ve taken an extreme liking…love actually, to the world of photography. Last weekend, I joined lizzie photo for three weddings in three days with the second and third in Petoskey.

On our way home, we choose Cadillac for a little moseying. On our way out of town we made a quick “maybe we’ll get lucky/let’s see what they have” stop at Willow Mercantile after seeing a few Michigan craft brewery signs in the windows. The pictures do it some justice, but I was extremely impressed with the selection of craft beers they had. And the middle was dedicated to just the Michigan brews.

As for the “maybe we’ll get lucky” part, that happened when asking about a few specialty beers and if they had got them in the past. The result: Wednesday night’s fantastic fermented enjoyment of the Jolly Pumpkin & Maui Brewing Co. collaboration: Sobrehumano Polena’ole. Not only was the owner, Brian, very friendly and helpful, he checked the back room to see if the recent beer shipment contained anything special that might pique my interest. He did good. He did damn good!

If you happen to be in the Cadillac area, Willow Mercantile is a must for a great selection of craft brews.

Cheers!

 

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Michigan Beer Love + Hawaii Beer Love = Sombrehumano Palena’ole Love

Sombrehumano Palena’ole is the recent collaboration between Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales and Maui Brewing Co. Each brewery brought their own unique talents and ingredients to the crafting of this fantastic American Wild Ale. From Michigan: cherries. From Hawaii: liliko’i (passion fruit). Even though both breweries released this beer, they each had their own variation. You can read the specific details here. And the number 4391 on the label represents the number of miles separating the two states.

As for the bottle seen here, it was enjoyed but not right away. It was served colder than it probably should have been, but given the temperatures lately, it made it very refreshing. Thanks to the all powerful Zeus, we were able to let the beer sit and warm up a little. Who is Zeus you ask? He’s the the handsome little guy below (not the one in the beer) that we’re currently dogsitting in hopes (and secretly not hoping because he’s awesome and would love to keep him!) of locating the owners. Friends of ours found him yesterday wandering through their neighborhood. He has a chip which revealed his name, but the phone number was disconnected.

For the time being, we’ll have our fun with him. And his role tonight to help make that beer taste even better…he needed a walk which allowed the beer to warm up a little. And it made a huge difference.

Cheers!

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From Labatt Blue to Duck Duck Gooze

On one incredibly hot July day in 1999, my best friend and I moved into an apartment together and started two years of many great memories. Upon sweaty completion of said move, we cracked open some cold beers. In the coming months, it would be discovered that we had a mutual love for Labatt Blue. That love would later turn into a wall. There’s no need to describe the “Labatt Wall”. The picture says it all.

Before I ever drank beer, I often heard people say that beer is an “acquired taste”. For me and many others, I’d have to agree. 13 years and 1,440 empty bottles of Labatt Blue later, I’m still drinking beer, but it’s extremely unusual to see me with a Labatt. And in regards to “acquired taste”, I not only still agree, but I’d have to say it goes much deeper than that. Some of my favorite beer styles now are ones that I tasted at some point many years ago and had no desire to take another sip.

To go to the extreme opposite side of the spectrum and highlight a style of beer I love today, Wild Ale, I have included a picture of a beer that most people would probably form an ugly face as the result of tasting…if they were even willing to after smelling it: Duck Duck Gooze from The Lost Abbey brewery. This had been made only once in 2009 and it takes three years to make. It was generously given to me by a man who came into town for the Founders Black Party. Wild Ales are made with “wild” yeast or bacteria and when added to beer, they can be very hard to manage. When it comes to Duck Duck Gooze, many oak barrels are used to age the beer. Over the three years it takes to make, regular testing is done to discover any oak barrels that had a negative reaction to the aging beer so that that barrel’s beer is not added to the final mix of all the barrels that aged the beer successfully.

The end result is a beer that that hits parts of my taste buds I never existed with earthy, funky, tart and crisp flavors. Something that defines what it means to be called craft beer. The days of quantity and crazy college apartment beer walls may be over, but the days of enjoying quality craft beers is something I will continue to do for many years to come. 

Cheers!

 

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