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Wednesday, June 18,2014

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Author profiles all of Michigan’s 139 breweries and brewpubs

by Bill Castanier

Travel writer Kevin Revolinski calls himself a “born-again drinker with a writing habit.” Over the last several years, he’s developed a practical knowledge of Great Lakes area craft beer and brewpubs, and he describes the Mitten State’s burgeoning beer industry in his new book, “Michigan’s Best Beer Guide.” The new book is the follow-up to his “Wisconsin’s Best Beer Guide,” and was published by Thunder Bay Press in Holt.

The Wisconsin native provides profiles for all 139 breweries and brewpubs in Michigan. In the book, he tracks trends, such as brewers using locally grown grains and hops to help the local economy and ecology. The “Best Beer Guide” also lists other restaurants and events attractive to visitors within “stumbling distance ” to the brewpubs listed.

Revolinski took some time to answer questions last week when he was in town for an appearance at Schuler Books & Music in Okemos.

How does Michigan compare to Wisconsin in the number of brewpubs?

“Not that long ago Wisconsin had 62 pubs and Michigan 55. Now it’s like Wisconsin 75 and Michigan 140.” (Author’s note: Take that, Cheese State.)

What was the first craft brewer in Michigan?

“The first craft brewery in Michigan was Real Ale of Chelsea, which opened in 1982 and closed a year later. Bell’s Brewery (in Kalamazoo) would open in 1985 but would remain for the long haul. It now grows some of its own ingredients and hosts hops parties where beer drinkers help with the harvest. These are becoming the rage among brewers.” Travel writer Kevin Revolinski wrote “Michigan’s Best Beer Guide.” He spoke last week at Schuler Books & Music in Okemos.

What are some of Michigan’s more unusual brewpubs?

“Traffic Jam and Snug, (which became) Michigan’s first brewpub in 1992, uses dairy equipment to brew both beer and make cheese. And then there’s the Right Brain Brewery and hair salon in Traverse City.”

What are some trends in craft beer that you’ve seen?

“Wineries are starting to brew beer. They’re (also) aging beer in barrels, replicating the six months it took to ship beer to India, (the process behind) India Pale Ale. To keep (beer) from spoiling, they just kept adding hops, thus the hoppiness. (There has also been) more women brewers.”

How do people get interested in owning a brewpub?

“It snowballs from home brew clubs. Some call it a hobby gone terribly wrong. The last few years, (I’ve also seen a rise in) brewpubs helping other brewpubs get started.”

Why do craft beers have such strange names and what are some of your favorite monikers?

“Marketing and promotion. Everyone loves a great beer pun. (I like) Bloody Beer and Carrot Cake (Shorts Brewing Co.) and Mad Hatter (New Holland Brewing). One of the more unusual but grim names is the Widow Maker Black Ale (Keweenaw Brewing Co.) Many of the beer names are inside jokes or tied to local history.”

What makes craft beer attractive to drinkers?

“Variety, seasonal varieties and you can savor the beer rather than guzzle it, which leads to another trend called session beer (4 percent alcohol by volume, compared to the typical 5 percent or more.) That way you can have a few and not put on a lampshade.”

What do you drink?

“Stouts, IPAs and sour ales and any thing that is unusual. Beard’s Brewery in Petoskey uses tree sap in place of water as an ingredient for its Tree Blood Maple Stout. It adds to the flavor profile.”

Is craft beer brewing another one of those fads that will disappear like the head on a beer or will it continue on?

“I hope so and expect so. The craft beer movement is tapped into the local food movement and people are fed up with not knowing what’s in their food. Beer works into that arena.”

Are you planning a sequel?

“Absolutely. The shelf life of a travel guide is two to three years.”

For more information visit themadtraveleronline.com.

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