Feb 26, 2012

Neighborhood Success

Roving Beer Czar Corespondent Uncle Gary continues his tour of Central Michigan breweries with a stop at Harmony Brewing in Grand Rapids! Recently opened (recently as in a few weeks ago recently) they were kind enough to spend a little time with my Uncle, so take a moment to read up on (and hopefully stop by) this brand new member of Michigan's impressive beer family.

Neighborhood Success

by Gary W. Morrison
My intended trip to visit three brew houses in the southern middle part of Michigan was sidetracked because of the opening of Harmony Brewing; the newest brewery to open in Grand Rapids.

Visiting just days after opening, I found a brewery immediately immersed in success.

Owners Barry, Heather and Jackson

Harmony Brewery is owned and operated by brothers Barry and Jackson Van Dyke and their sister Heather Van Dyke-Titus. They are also the owners of a successful property management company behind the development of two cafes and a bar in the Grand Rapids area.

“Now we’re here running our own brewery,” Barry said. “If you’re a beer fan, Michigan is the place to be; especially Grand Rapids.”

Barry and Jackson have been home brewing for about 10 years, Barry said. In that time they have developed their own distinct styles.

Jaskson, next to thier 5 gallon brew kettle
“Jackson and I take turns brewing,” Barry said. “We each brew three different styles on separate days.”

They have no plans for a bottling line; that enables them to constantly change styles, Barry said. It’s one of the joys since they do not distribute their beer they do not have to adhere to having the same beers on tap all of the time.

“We were looking for another business venture,” Heather said. “Because Barry and Jackson have been brewing for years, we thought a brewery would be a good fit.

“It was a light bulb that went off in our heads.”

Harmony opened with beers such as Black Squirrel (a smoky peated porter), Star Stuff (a Belgian dubbel), Golden Lion Tamarin (a mild pale), Brownson Pinchot (an American brown), and Crossroads (a rye pale ale).

On any given day, you’ll find the small neighborhood brewery busy with people drinking its beer and eating any one of its signature wood-oven pizzas. That combination has resulted in the Van Dykes experiencing the side effects of their success.

Server Fran Buss, serving up a glass

Within days they began running short of their beer, but rather than leave customers with just one or two beer choices they filled in the gap by substituting Michigan craft beers from other local breweries.

“It has taken us by surprise,” Jackson said. “We’re working practically every night just to keep up; it’s been that good.

“But we don’t want to leave our customers without a choice of good beer, so we fill in when we have to with other crafts.”

They attribute that success to being “neighborhood centric” enabling them to keep tabs on whatever their customers want. Besides their beer and pizza, they also serve wine, mixed drinks, and desserts.

Harmony is located in a neighborhood where walking to the brewery is an easy option for many of its customers. They plan to utilize an upper level dining area in the afternoon for neighborhood classes in everything from cheese making to philosophy.

“We will have a topic and a date when it will be discussed,” Barry said. “We want to see this become a gathering place for people in the neighborhood.”

"Big Beer" drinker Adam Schmitt

Drinking a Golden Lion, Adam Schmitt was enjoying his first visit to Harmony seven days after it opened its doors. A “big beer drinker,” Scmitt said that he was enjoying what he was tasting.

“This will not be the last time I come here,” he said. “It feels like a good place to visit with friends and hangout.”

That pleases the siblings. It tells them they got it right.

“We’ve been happy so far to see a full range of ages stopping at the brewery,” Barry said. “It is what we want: a comfortable place for people to come.”
Harmony Brewing Company is at 1551 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506, and can be reached at 616.233.0063, or like them on Facebook.
Gary is the older brother of my father, Don. He resides in Grand Rapids Michigan with his wife Linda. Gary is a writer (working on finishing a book) and Power lifter. If you are interested in WWII History, and/or Theater, please check out my Uncle's Website Morrison-TG and check out his info on his one man show "Hi, I'm Ernie Pyle", or even check out a show that may be near you!!!

Feb 12, 2012

It’s All About The Beer And Then Some

Please take a moment and check out Roving Beer Czar corespondent "Uncle Gary" for his excellent review of Siciliano’s Market in Grand Rapids Michigan. Take note all you Michigan beer folks, especially home brewers, sounds like this is a must stop for Central Michigan beer runs!! Enjoy, and again, my thanks to Uncle Gary for his contribution!

It’s All About The Beer And Then Some

by Gary W. Morrison

It’s only fitting that Siciliano's Market in Grand Rapids is considered the Charles Atlas of all things beer and beer supplies.

Just as Charles Atlas (who real name was Siciliano) changed his body from scrawny to robust; market owner Steve Siciliano changed a dusty party store from failure to success.

“When I bought this place in 1993, it was going out of business,” Siciliano said. “It was nothing like it is now.”

Beer Advocate give’s Siciliano’s Market a rating of 100; it’s designation for world class status.

Steve said he struggled a few years trying different things before he started carrying micro beers such as Michigan produced Bells. Business improved, but he said it improved even better when he began also selling beer individually instead of just in six packs or cases.

“About that time people became interested in making their own beer so I started carrying beer supplies,” he said. “I carry all types of craft beer, beers from all over the country and world, about 30 different beer making kits as well as have one of the largest supplies of beer components available anywhere.

“I have stuff for the dabbler as well as the advance brewer,” he said. “I even have some breweries coming in for supplies.”

Ren Hanselman
Warehouse manager Ren Hanselman knows full well the amount of beer supplies the store carries. They are getting beer components in everyday; it’s nonstop, he said.

“We have many different kinds of grains as well as malts from Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, as well as the United States,” he said. “We have everything anyone could ever want for making beer.”

Lets make some beer!
But it is the beer that first brings people into Siciliano’s. When you walk into the store the first thing you see are the seemingly endless shelves of beer. It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust to the vast selection. You may at first be looking for your favorite beer, but after facing so many different brews you start saying to your self: I’ve got to try that and that and that….”

If you’re an adventurist, you just grab blindly, buy what you can get your hands around, and contemplate the pleasure of trying something new as you leave the store.

Kati Spayde
Beer buyer Kati Spayde said her father taught her how to home brew. That instituted in her a strong appreciation of beer and that makes her job a lot of.

She really doesn’t know how many different beers the market carries. After a quick count she stopped when she reached 800.

“We really have more than that,” Kati said. “It would probably take a few years for someone to try them all.”

Once you’re in the store you start to realize that is much more to it than beer. You will notice the selection of cigars at the counter and the walk-in humidor next to it, a large selection of wine and liquor, cider, mead, and saki.

You’ll also discover wine making kits and supplies, kits for making your own cheese, bread making kits, green coffee beans, and 20 varieties of lose tea in bulk.

When Steve bought the business, the building also housed a pizzeria. After that business moved out, Steve expanded his business because he needed the space for beer kits and supplies. They now have over 4,000 square feet retail space.

“My staff is very knowledgeable,” Steve says. “Whatever we carry we have a knowledge curve.”

Steve Siciliano,
the world needs more people like him in it!
And keeping ahead of the curve is a constant job for Steve. He still hasn’t seen it all when it comes to what is next in home brewing, but does see people developing an interest in what they find is offered in many brew pubs and microbreweries.

“Sour beers are getting hot and barrel aged beers are two trends I see people getting into,” he said. “We always need to talk to people and we are always learning.”

Bottoms Up my friends, until next time!
Beer Czar

Feb 2, 2012

Arizona Beer Week at Whole Foods!

Arizona Beer week is fast approaching us (Feb 18th-25th!). Put on by the Arizona Brewers Guild, this is a week long series of events meant to celebrate beer in the state of Arizona! ( get more info at  Arizona Beer Week ). One of the places I choose to celebrate Beer here in Arizona is at The Watering Hole at the Whole Foods Market in Chandler. James Swann is the Beer Guru there, and has set up a great series of events for that week!

Bells Beers!!!

Starting Monday with featured beers from Bridgeport and Epic Brewing, and pending confirmation, but still very exciting, Bell's Brewing Company from Michigan!

Oregon Beers
followed by.......

Tuesday 21st: Oregon

Great Divide
Full Sail

Wednesday 22nd: Colorado & More
Beer Blending w/ Crispin, Left Hand & Breckenridge 3-5pm
Maui Brewing 4-6pm
New Belgium - Sour Tasting 5-7pm
Oskar Blues
Left Hand
Boulder Brewing
Red Stone Meadery

Thursday 23rd:
Ballast Point 4-6pm
Firestone Walker 7-9:30pm

Local Arizona Breweries 6-9pm:
San Tan
Four Peaks
Sun Up
Sleepy Dog
Old World
Phoenix Ale
Barley Bros/College Street
Grand Canyon
Prescott Brewing

My favorite Cali brewery!
Friday 24th: California
Ballast Point
Green Flash
Bison Organic
Eel River Organic

James Swann
I don't care who you are, that is an impressive list of brewers!!! Check out Jame's blog ( HERE ) for times and further info!!

Hope to see you there!!!

Bottoms up my friends!