We truly live in the golden era for craft beer.
With more than 4,100 craft breweries around the country — north of 200 of them in Michigan alone — it can be difficult for even the most ardent beer aficionados to keep them all straight.
If you’re a craft brewery owner, the challenge becomes even more difficult: How can I differentiate my beers from the many other options consumers have?
These days, it appears many brewers take the one-upmanship approach. The thinking seems to be:
“If the brewery down the block is putting out a 100-IBU double IPA with agave nectar, then I’m going to brew a 666-IBU tredecuple IPA with unicorn tears and special unobtainium infusion.”
And it’s not just brewers trying to out-hop each other with the boldest IPAs. The newest sword fights boil down to whose stouts are aged in older bourbon barrels, for how long, under what conditions and whether or not the barrels themselves can trace their lineage back to THE Elijah Craig.
Just f***ing stop, people.
It’s beer. You’re supposed to drink it, not worship it like some long-forgotten idol or trade it like some sort of Beercoin cryptocurrency like the nerds who “hunt whalez” and post about it on special Facebook groups.
That’s why it’s refreshing to see a craft brewery doing something different by being authentic.
|Cedar Springs Brewing Co.
95 N. Main St., Cedar Springs
In the case of Cedar Springs Brewing Co., 95 N. Main St., Cedar Springs, founder Dave Ringler apprenticed at German breweries in the 1990s after graduating from Kalamazoo College and has leveraged that training to bring a true taste of Bavaria to West Michigan.
His approach with the Küsterer line of beers is to stay true to traditional German styles of pilsner, weissbier, bock and dunkel — American styles are branded under the Cedar Springs Brewing Co. name — and introduce the old world standbys to a generation of drinkers who’ve never really been exposed to them unless they’ve traveled to Germany.
Part of that also includes education about what a true German beer should taste like. (Pro tip: They’re not supposed to come with an orange wedge, or be served in a boot-shaped glass.)
“Weissbier is so misunderstood,” said Ringler, the so-called “Director of Happiness” at CSBC. “People think weissbier is for summer and that it’s highly carbonated, and that’s bullshit. They’re fresh, soft and drinkable and they should feel silky on the tongue.
“These are all classic styles for a reason: They’re nuanced and flavorful, but they’re also drinkable. They’re somewhat complex, but you can also sit and drink them and not think about it,” added Ringler.
As a destination brewery people need to drive to, CSBC’s offerings are also approachable, with most clocking in at less than 6 percent ABV. There’s no pints here, only half-liters.
When Revue visited the brewery, we sampled the Küsterer Heller Weissbier, Bohemian Pilsner, the Cedar Springs 1871 CPA (a pale ale made with all Michigan ingredients) and Yinzers Roundabout IPA (a one-off collaborative brew with Pittsburgh’s Roundabout Brewery). All were crisp, accessible and enjoyable.
Once the brewery is able to catch up to demand from the grand opening, Ringler said he hopes to be able to offer 16 different beers on tap. The plan is to start distributing kegs as soon as possible and eventually move into canning in the first half of the year.
The brewery offers its own European-style dry ciders, Vino131 wines and homemade Old Cedar Creek Sodas. It also has a small distillers license and plans to made vodka and other clear liquors on-site, Ringler said.
CSBC matches its German beers with a Bavarian menu, including pretzels, jägerschnitzel, leberkäse, spätzle and a rotisserie half chicken. Additionally, the kitchen makes an American menu, complete with salads, wraps, sandwiches and burgers — including the aptly named “Monstrosity Burger,” which includes a sloppy joe, brisket, pulled pork, bacon, three types of cheese, two whole chicken wings, fried egg, crispy onions and tomato, and is served with a half-pound of fries.
With roll-up doors on two sides, the open beer hall features a mix of tables and communal bench seating, as well as a members-only table and the Küsterer room, which is adorned with panels from the now-demolished Schnitzelbank restaurant in Grand Rapids.
The facility, which is located along the White Pine Trail, also features an outdoor beer garden.
While Ringler acknowledges that not everyone will take to the traditional German beers, he’s hopeful that he can turn on a whole new group of people to the style that first inspired him to get into craft beer back in the 1990s. Just as importantly, he also wants to be a part of the gateway to people visiting and learning more about the Cedar Springs community.
“Once we looked at Cedar Springs, there was no place else I’d rather go,” he said. “We get to be on the ground-floor of an industry that’s growing and healthy, and we’re only 15 minutes away from Grand Rapids. ...We work with local farms — we’re local and sustainable. When people come here, we want them to see we’re the center of the community.”