Brewery Spotlight: Right Brain Brewery
Traverse City is now home to a handful of microbreweries, and the beer scene in our upstate is starting to grow. One of the forerunners of the movement is Right Brain, led by Owner Russell Springsteen.
Right Brain grew out of two phases, the first being the usual homebrewing route, which grew into professional brewing positions.
"I stumbled into a job at Traverse Brewing Co.," Springsteen said. "I took Joe Short's job after he had moved on. I worked at Mackinac Brewing briefly, homebrewing like crazy."
The second phase began in 2006, when he opened up a hair salon that served patrons beers from the small brewery in the back.
"Brewed up a bunch of different beers I thought people would enjoy, and they did. People kept getting their hair done and had a beer."
Eventually, the salon brewery became too much to handle.
"I sold the salon to get the stress out of my life, and then I opened Right Brain, trying to grow some brands," Springsteen said.
The initial response to the proposed brewery was generally skeptical, however.
"People told me it wouldn't work and that it was in an offbeat location, that it was destined to fail."
The community was curious about Right Brain, though. When the doors opened, the place was filled.
"It went nuts," Springsteen said. "People were curious about this place ... Everyone that told me it wouldn't work had to come check it out."
The pub brews on a 7bbl system and features six standard brews: Low Power Pale Ale, HawkOwl Amber Ale, Shadow Watcher Stout, Dead Kettle IPA and a Black IPA.
While Right Brain doesn't offer seasonal brews, there is a limited series offered. The Winter Imperial Series features an imperial stout and an imperial brown, while the Summer Series includes Strawberry Fields (a Strawberry Wheat Ale) and Blue Magic (a Lavender Wheat Ale).
Right Brain also just started distribution and entered the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo markets the second week in January. Springsteen also has plans for the brewery this spring.
"In May we're purchasing a new location and expanding our brewery, so we'll have a 7bbl and a 20bbl working side by side," he said. "We rotate our taps and brew outside of the box. We break our own rules."
Pictured: Russ Springsteen, Right Brain Brewery owner.
BEER OF THE MONTH - Founders Brewing Company's Curmudgeon's Better Half
Curmudgeon's Better Half is the third beer released in Founders' Backstage Series — a series of limited-release 22-ounce bombers. The beer is an old ale brewed with molasses. Rather than being aged in oak barrels like Curmudgeon, Better Half is aged in Bourbon Barrels that have most recently been used to age Michigan maple syrup.
The result is a pristine amber brew with a soft tan head, wafting aromas of vanilla, bourbon, malt and alcohol. The flavor hits with a prominent splash of bourbon, which is then subdued by the complex malt sweetness of the body with undertones of dark fruit, vanilla and molasses/syrup. The body is thick with malt, but goes down smoothly. The beer is set to be released on Feb. 12. The last backstage release was gone in under a week, so grab a bottle of this rare taproom-only release if you can, it's a big one.
On Feb. 25, Billy's Lounge will host the Brewer Birthday Prefest Beer Bash, a birthday celebration for the head brewers of The Livery and New Holland. Special tappings, first-run brews and music preparing for Winter Beerfest are part of the bash.
The Seventh Annual Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beerfest is taking place at Fifth Third Ballpark on Feb. 26. The event sold out three days before Christmas, the fastest sellout in the history of the event.
The Second Annual Southern Michigan Winter Beer Festival will be taking place at the Jackson County Fairgrounds on Feb. 26. This festival is geared toward smaller national breweries.
Bardic Wells Meadery, Michigan's first licensed Meadery, will be opening their downtown Montague venue late this month.
Old Hat Brewing Co. has closed its doors in Lawton, after being open for 13 years.