BREWERY OF THE MONTH: Cascade Winery/Jaden James Brewery
Many breweries struggle with catering to the entire demographic of their customers. It's just a fact of life that some people don't like beer (WHAT!?), and it can become a very daunting task trying to make all of your customers happy.
Cascade Winery/Jaden James Brewery gives you and your party the unique opportunity to taste across multiple branches of fermented beverages, all produced right there in house. The business features wine, beer, cider and mead.
Owner Bob Bonga had spent years working for Amway in Grand Rapids, and felt the desire to pave his own way
|4665 Broadmoor, Grand Rapids
"I got tired of working for the man, and there's no job security in any job, except if you make your own," Bonga said. "[My wife and I] were thinking, 'What can we do?' What comes to the forefront is your hobbies, and that's what started it."
Bob and his wife had been making wine at home for years, and dedicated five years to learning how to produce commercially. On Feb. 14, 2003, Cascade Winery opened its doors as a 2,000 square-foot winery on 28th Street.
"We outgrew that place in five years," Bonga said.
They decided to move to Kentwood, on Broadmoor, and quickly grew to utilizing more than 10,000 square feet.
The establishment is primarily a winery, offering many standard and specialty wines for your tasting. But for those who are more beer oriented, the business offers multiple styles by the pint, and for tasting as well.
"Most of the people who come in are wine and cider drinkers," Bonga said. "A diverse crowd comes in, and we try to keep the room toned down so people can come enjoy [libations] without having to scream and yell over everyone else; have a quiet, peaceful drink and enjoy themselves."
Jeff Williams, the first brewer, split his time between Jaden James and Grand Rapids' HopCat (and is now Head Brewer at Pike 51 Brewing Company). Assistant Brewer Chris Diemer joined the team and took over when Jeff went full time at HopCat.
The beer offerings are standard styles, enjoyable and distinct. The taps rotate regularly, but a few standards include Cream Ale, German Amber Lager, Rye IPA and Russian Imperial Stout, among others.
Jaden James does limited distribution around West Michigan, but to get the full experience, you really have to go to the source. Hard cider options include raspberry, peach, Balaton Cherry or the standard. In-house Mead is also offered, including traditional and orange spice.
"We do small-batch brews, and I think you'll find us rather unique with our style and approach," Bonga said. "I go to some breweries and you taste one or two, and they all seem so uniform to each other, and I don't care for that. If I want to have a beer and a next beer, it should have something totally different to the taste."
BEER OF THE MONTH: Blackrocks Coconut Brown
Winter is the perfect time for Blackrocks Brewery to enter the lower peninsula and grace us with its Coconut Brown cans. The Marquette-based brewery started canning in fall 2013 and is distributing to various West Michigan locations, so ask for it at your local retailer.
The Coconut Brown Ale pours a dark brown with a beautiful beige head that smells of coconut, roast and hints of chocolate. The light-to-medium body presents a crisp, straightforward presentation of subdued dark malt flavors engrained with a wonderful coconut presence, which lends an almost milky smoothness to the sip.
Ashley's 4th Annual Belgian Beer Festival takes over Westland from Feb. 6 to Feb. 16. The festival features more than 80 Belgian brewers, more than 70 drafts and more than 200 bottles. Visit abbf.ashleys.com to get more info.
Traverse City hosts the Microbrew & Music Festival on Feb. 8. Enjoy live music, great food and plenty of beer to keep you and your friends busy for the whole day. Visit microbrewandmusic.com for more info.
There are countless beer events going on in honor of GR Beer Week, running Feb. 17-21. The celebration leads up to the MBG Winter Beer Festival at 5/3 Ballpark on Saturday, Feb. 22. To get the inside scoop, visit grbeerweek.blogspot.com.
I bring my Experience Beer! four-course beer dinner to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park on Feb. 18 and 25. Spend the evening with me while I teach you how beer is made and we explore the four ingredients of beer – water, malt, hops and yeast – while we enjoy pairings designed to exemplify each ingredient! For more info, visit meijergardens.org.