11 “Beer City USA” Breweries Collaborate on The Grand Pumpkin, Hitting Taps in Grand Rapids

Written by Garret Ellison for mlive.com

Harmony brewer Jackson VanDyke shows the Grand Pumpkin Saturday, October 20, 2012 at Harmony Brewing in Grand Rapids. Sally Finneran | MLive
GRAND RAPIDS, MI — It’s that time of year, when the color starts changing in the leaves and the beer.

In an effort to keep the mojo going from this year’s shared Beer City USA title, the brewers of greater Grand Rapids have cooked up a second collaboration beer that’s hitting tap handles around the area Tuesday, Oct. 23.

Eleven breweries this fall will serve their take on The Grand Pumpkin, a follow-up to this summer’s Beer City Pale Ale project, when 10 local breweries each made their version of a shared recipe ale as homage to Grand Rapids’ ‘Beer City’ title.

This time around, the rules were looser, allowing each brewer to be creative integrating pumpkin into the beer recipe, said Wob Wanhatalo, head brewer at the new Mitten Brewing Co. opening Oct. 25.

“It’s kind of everyone looking at one ingredient like you would with an ‘Iron Chef’ competition,” said Wanhatalo, who, until this month was brewing at The Hideout Brewing Co.

“What can I do with the beer that best represents that ingredient, but also trying to be different from everyone else?” he said.

The idea came from a Grand Rapids Society of Brewers meeting in August, where the group brainstormed ways to keep the energy in Grand Rapids beer heading into the next round of Beer City USA voting. Grand Rapids and Asheville, N.C. shared the 2012 title after voters in a nonscientific online poll started by homebrew pioneer Charlie Papazian bestowed the crown on the two cities in the spring.

Related: “Beer City’ title bodes well for Grand Rapids beer industry

“The brewing culture is very collaborative in West Michigan,” said Barry VanDyke, co-owner of Harmony Brewing Co. “We enjoy each other’s company and we enjoy testing our skills against one another in a fun way. We’re hopeful that beer lovers will test out a few different versions and let us know what they think of them.”

The breweries that collaborated on the project include:

• The Hideout Brewing Co., 3113 Plaza Drive NE, Grand Rapids.
• The Mitten Brewing Co., 527 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids.
• Harmony Brewing Co., 1551 Lake Drive SE, Grand Rapids.
• White Flame Brewing Co., 5234 36th Ave., Hudsonville.
• Jaden James Brewing Co. at Cascade Winery, 4665 Broadmoor Ave. SE, Kentwood.
• Pike 51 Brewing Co., 3768 Chicago Drive, Hudsonville.
• The Michigan Beer Cellar, 500 East Division St., Sparta.
• The B.O.B.’s Brewery, 20 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids.
• HopCat, 25 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids.
• Brewery Vivant, 925 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids.
• Schmohz Brewing, 2600 Patterson Ave. SE, Grand Rapids.

BeerCity_01.JPG Cheers! Members of the Grand Rapids Society of Brewers. From left: Barry VanDyke of Harmony, Jeff Williams of Pike 51, Chris Diemer of Jaden James, Bill White of White Flame, Wob Wanhatalo of Hideout, Jacob Brenner of HopCat, Chas Thompson of Schmohz and Jackson VanDyke of Harmony. MLive file photo | Sally Finneran

Wanhatalo said it’s extra special to see that larger, production-scale breweries such as Vivant and Schmohz are able to fit a smaller batch beer like The Grand Pumpkin into their brewing schedule, which is more regimented due to distribution obligations.

“It really goes to show that everyone is together on this,” he said.

The brewers will do a bar crawl on the HopCat bus Oct. 30 to celebrate the beer’s release.

“We’ll all be in costume,” said Wanhatalo. “And somebody may be going as me.”

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