For the casual beer drinker, the story behind the ice-cold suds they just ordered at their local watering hole doesn’t weigh too heavily on the mind. For microbrew connoisseurs, however, it’s all about ingenuity and innovative tastes. To that end, self-proclaimed local beer geek Paul Star co-founded Lansing Beer Week to encourage that passion and to advance the artistry of brewing. The first annual seven-day celebration kicks off this Sunday at bars and various locations across the city featuring a bar crawl, a bar-themed bike ride, tap takeover bar events, beer and food pairings, a beer tasting boat cruise, and a brewery bus tour — all highlighting Michigan made beers and supportive local businesses.
“Being a beer enthusiast is a lifestyle,” Star said. “It’s appreciation for good food and a good beer — they go hand in hand. Most people think wine pairs better with food but that’s actually wrong. Brewing is essentially cooking. As much as a chef is an artist, a brewer is an artist. People appreciate the flavors. Personally, I just can’t drink Bud Light. After a while you’re just like, ‘Wow, this does not taste good at all.’”
Star, 29, is known in the brew community for his “I’m a Beer Hound” website. He organized the event with fellow beer lover Steve Johnson, 39, who hosts the Motor City Brew Tours in the Detroit area. The idea for the weeklong celebration began to take shape after Star and Johnson met at the U.P. Fall Beer Festival last year and decided to team up to create a multifaceted event that brings people out to different beer-friendly spots.
Lansing Beer Week will have plenty of samples from a long list of breweries at many of the planned events, but Johnson said attendees don’t have to be a beer snob.
“Sampling is what craft beer fans love to do,” Johnson said. “The average beer drinker often sticks to one beer; the average craft beer drinker is always trying new things. What I’m trying to do with all the events I run is bridge that gap. I’m a big fan of craft beer, but I want Lansing Beer Week to be approachable so people who are just kind of sticking their toe in the water can feel comfortable and sample new things.”
While Lansing may not compare to the booming number of breweries in the west and southeast regions of the state, Johnson said the escalating success of Michigan microbrews is a collective effort from all parts of the Mitten.
“A lot of it revolves around metro Detroit and Grand Rapids, but you’re having small little pockets pop up as well,” Johnson said. “Areas like Lansing are starting to take an interest in it. For example, BAD Brewery recently opened in Mason and ran through all of their beer. It shows that there’s people and smaller communities that support it. It’s kind of like, ‘If you build it, they will come.’”
As for Star and his “I’m a Beer Hound” site, it has grown steadily since its July 2010 launch. The site has multiple writers and features articles, previews, reviews, recipes, and a comprehensive event calendar. Last week the “I am a Beer Hound” TV series premiered on WHTV, MY18. The site’s Facebook page has over 10,000 followers.
“I started ‘ImABeerHound’ because I wanted information about craft beer and I found there wasn’t a lot of sites out there,” Star said. “So I figured I’d create a site and maybe sometime down the road it could be a source of income. That was my goal for it. It’s been growing ever since.”
While Michigan Brewing Co. in Webberville closed its doors back in April, the brew industry isn’t drying up in Mid-Michigan. Eagle Monk, a new Lansing brewery, is opening at 4906 W. Mt. Hope Hwy. this week. And high-profile microbrew companies from across the map are tapping into the Lansing market, with New Belgium Brewery in Colorado set to introduce its Fat Tire beer in the capital city.
“Lansing has some pretty good beer bars, like Crunchy’s, Soup Spoon, and the Waterfront Bar,” Star said. “But Lansing is really lacking in the whole brewery feel. I’m excited about Eagle Monk opening up; I think they’re going to do a lot of good things. I think Lansing, in a few years, could have four or five breweries. There is a lot of room to grow here. I hope it does.”
1st Annual Lansing Beer Week
Various locations around town
• Aug 19: Reno’s East-2-West Bike Ride starting @ Reno’s Sport Bars (10 a.m.)
• Aug 20: Retail MI Beer Sampling Day: Big Ten, East Lansing Food Co-op, Vine & Brew
• Aug 21: Tap Takeover Bar Event Day @ Crunchy’s, Beggar’s Banquet (7 p.m.)
• Aug 22: Beer & Food Pairing @ REO Town Pub (6 p.m. – 8 p.m.)
• Aug 23: Craft Beer Bar Crawl @ Lansing’s Stadium District (6 p.m. – 10 p.m.)
• Aug 24: Beer Tasting Boat Cruise @ Michigan Princess Riverboat (6 p.m. to 10 p.m.)
• Aug 25: Brewery Bus Tour @ Barn Tavern, Eagle Monk Brewery, BAD Brewery (11 a.m. – 4 p.m.)