Small Talk with Scott: Batch 100!

This past week, the single most important, triple-digit arbitrary number for our young brewery came and went – Our 100th batch!

 

To celebrate, we’re taking a moment to reflect on what brewing 100 different batches of beer means for Creston Brewery. (We’re also here to make a major announcement, but more on that later.)

 

Let’s go back to the start, back to Batch #1: Polar Bear.

 

Co-Owners, Scott Schultz and Vincent Lambert

Back in May of 2016, we needed to brew something light to get our house ale yeast growing and acclimated to its new forever-home at 1504 Plainfield. We also needed to brew something special to differentiate our brand-new brewery for that fateful Batch #1. In order to later brew business plan-tested, backyard-brewed beers like GRale, Clickety Clack, and Fox Deluxe, we needed something Creston-centric to appease any and all palates. We selected a recipe of all Michigan-grown citrusy hops, a multigrain malt base for a medium body, shot-for and nailed a 4.20% abv and named it Polar Bear, after the gone-but-not-forgotten Creston High School mascot.

 

From that very first Polar Bear, we have relied on and pushed the limits of that single house yeast strain in many different directions (as well as switched things up with a rotating seasonal yeast selection of hefes, lagers, and belgians). Brands like GRale, Fox Deluxe, Sweet Street, Braveheart 2, The Bloody Fifth, Bokonon, OPE, The Golden Glo, Harvest Ale, Lookout Hill, and many, many others can all be genetically traced back to that original Polar Bear. And Batch 100, wouldn’t you know it, is brewed with that same exact yeast that the original Batch #1 Polar Bear blessed upon Creston with its now billions upon billions of single-celled progyny.

 

So, what exactly did we brew to commemorate such an occasion at Batch 100? The Golden Glo, our Spring Seasonal, because, duh, it’s supposed to be Spring and we’ve got a production schedule to follow! Once the flowers finally decide to send up their shoots, a tart, light, hazy, and aromatic delight simply needs to coincide with the occasion.

 

What makes this batch of The Golden Glo so special beyond its same-yeast-as-always but new 3-digit brew code? Well, the answer is not that easy, friend! To properly explain, let’s go back to batch 98 from two weeks ago.

 

No, better yet, let’s go back to batch 44: Creston Lager.

Creston Lager was special because of its intent: brew something clean and amazing utilizing only Michigan-grown ingredients. In short, it worked. In fact, it worked really, really well. So we brewed batch 55 Creston Pilz with the same goal in mind, but a different recipe of ingredients. That worked out even better. Then we brewed batch 86 Copper IPL and dear LORD, the concept was fully proven. (That’s, like, my fav beer ever if you couldn’t tell).

 

By Batch 98, the concept became the passion that is now, at Batch 100, our guiding light: let’s just use all Michigan grown ingredients for the majority of every single brand and batch. Let’s get to know our suppliers and farmers as the friends and neighbors that they are. Let’s procure the best they have to offer and brew some damn fine, distinctive beer out of the products of their land. (And if you’re a Bokononist, it’s our land in the Michigander granfalloon.)

 

 

Batch 98, as luck would have it, was Polar Bear. For this special batch, we switched our malted 2 row barley supplier from a supplier I had never met, producing grain coming from fields unknown to me, grown and malted in parts of the world foreign to me, to the brand-new Emergent Malt out of Zeeland, MI – malting barley sown and grown by Hop Ridge Farms in Kent county and delivering fresh, local product free of all packaging, long distance-transportation, storage, and waste. (Our local friends Pilot Malthouse of Byron Center, MI will also be still getting the majority of our specialty grain business, along with our hops coming from West Michigan Hopyards, Hopyards of Kent, Big Mitten Hops, Michigan Hop Alliance, and others.)

 

That batch of Polar Bear with 100% Emergent base malt came out incredible. Batch 99 was Quimby; it also came out incredible with the switch to Michigan malt, alongside the specialty grains procured from Pilot Malthouse.

 

Both of these batches are still green, so they’re not quite on tap yet, but commemorating the surpassing of our 100th batch and all the beery goodness that awaits our Creston community, we think it prudent to announce:

 

FROM HERE ON OUT, ALL OF CRESTON BREWERY BEERS ARE MAJORITY MADE FROM MICHIGAN GROWN INGREDIENTS.

 

It’s not just a concept, an ethos, or even what we intended to do in the first place.

 

It’s just the best way that we can think of to make the best damn beer you’ve ever had in your life. And you simply cannot get it anywhere else. That’s what Creston Brewery terroir means to us: Community. Growers, suppliers, brewers, workers, and drinkers alike.

 

 

 

 

We hope you can get with that….

 

Cheers towards batch 1000!

 

Small Talk with Scott: Can We Pilz? Yes, We Can!

Today was quite the day, folks.

First, I woke up at home in East Hills with an actual full night’s sleep, a rarity. Then I realized my Detroit Bad Boys shirt, my newly found good-luck shirt, was clean. So I put it on and a sense of happiness rushed over me. Then I was hungry. I didn’t realize it was Fat Tuesday, so a stop at a packed-out Nantucket Bakery for a granola bar and some bronuts took me by surprise when I saw everyone coming out with boxes of paczkis. Somehow, I still didn’t realize it was Fat Tuesday, so I had my first bronut of the day for some much needed sustenance.

The Chosen Cans

 

Next, I’m in search of coffee for some much needed clarity. I pulled into the parking lot of the brewery, with Ingraberg Farm’s familiar box truck dropping off their Tuesday delivery, but blocking the way for a truck with a giant trailer – Michigan Mobile Canning, our all-in-one canning supplier for the day, was early. I hadn’t had my coffee yet, so I said my ‘hi’s and ‘wait a minute’s, and then snuck in to brew up a pot of Ferris coffee. Coffee in hand, I met with Josh and Andrew from Michigan Mobile Canning and we got everything loaded into the brewhouse.

While they set up, Vince, Randall, and I had some bronuts and more coffee and chilled, talking generally about how awesome this all was. Randall informed me that it was Fat Tuesday and everything was making a lot more sense 2 cups of coffee into the day.

We also couldn’t stop ogling the can. “It’s just so cute.” “So dope.” “So perfect,” we kept saying about James of Planted Media’s design, printed by Mossberg & Company in South Bend, Indiana.

Co-Owner Vince Lambert

 

Then we got started. Everything went amazingly well. Josh and Andrew ran a fun, clean, and professional operation depalletizing, labeling, sanitizing, purging, and filling the cans while Vince, Randall, and I snapped on carriers, put 4-packs in cases, made dumb jokes, and stacked cases on pallets.

Co-workers Kam, Gabe, and Devin stopped in along the way to say hi and noted how awesome it all was. We agreed. Then Jarrod stopped in to take photos, first of himself, then of all the canning action. We laughed. Then we finished – 109 cases total packaged. It wasn’t even noon yet, but it was time for a beer.

 

 

And dear lord what a good beer that was: our first canned beer, Creston Pilz, brewed with 100% Michigan ingredients.

 

The aroma was all bread, fresh cut hay, and floral notes from the heavy use of Zuper Saazer hops from Hop Head Farms in Hickory Corners, MI. The body was chewy but light, with a lasting toasty, cracker-like breadiness from the pilsner malt from Pilot Malthouse in Byron Center, MI. The finish was fresh and crisp from our house lager yeast with just a snap of bitterness from Nugget hops from Michigan Hop Alliance in Omena, MI, ending clean as can be from the pure Michigan water it was brewed with and just beckoning you for another sip. Creston Pilz in cans. Perfect for any occasion, paired with any food, and now, uber-portable in freshly packed 16 oz cans.

Freshly Filled Creston Pilz Cans

 

So, why did we choose Creston Pilz as our first canned offering? Well, it just represents what we try do so well: have a lot of fun at work and focus on building our community. One way to do that is with working with our friends through various local suppliers and we brew unmistakably clean, flavorful, delicious, and approachable beer from the natural products and resources from our great state.

 

 

 

 

 

Stop in to the taproom and take a 4 pack home with you today, or look for Creston Pilz and other Creston Brewery cans at your favorite stores and establishments coming along as we grow.

 

 

Thank you for the support Grand Rapids, we love you. Cheers!

Vince, Scott, Randall and Creston Pilz

Small Talk with Scott: The Big Diff between Ales and Lagers

Yeast is, fundamentally, the most magical part of the beer-making process. Once wort (unfermented beer) is made in the brewhouse out of raw materials – malt, hops, and water – we’re left with a thick, flat, bitter, and sweet liquid that, if left in that state, no one would ever want to drink. Frankly, it’s gross.

But that’s where the magic of yeast comes in!

The four essential beer ingredients: hops, malt, water and yeast.

Yeast takes those sweet sugars and, through fermentation, metabolizes them into energy to produce more yeast and releases CO2 and ethyl alcohol as waste. The CO2 is vented off into the atmosphere, but that wonderful alcohol byproduct left in the fermented beer may be what started human civilization as we know it.

Now, there are two primary types of brewing yeast: Ale and Lager, and the differences seem simple at first: Ale ferments at higher temperatures (60°-80°F) and is characterised by fruity to funky flavors and aromas from its esters; while Lager ferments at lower temperatures (35°-55°F) and is characterized by clean, crisp, and almost non-existent yeast flavors and aromas.

Lagers are much more of a process than their ale counterparts. Once the wort and the yeast is pitched, fermentation begins shortly thereafter. In our brewery, Ales take off with a roar and ferment a batch within 7-10 days, often spewing krausen out the tank in the process. It’s a dramatic, fruity-smelling, and foamy party for the yeast until they exhaust themselves and their resources and eventually fall to the bottom of the tank. If you think of it as a massive orgy of single cell organisms partying by cloning themselves until they can’t anymore, you’re really not that far off. 2 weeks after fermentation is over, the beer is clear, carbonated, and in your glass ready to be drank.

Yea, I said, “Orgy…”

Brewer’s Assistant Randall Kidd hard at work.

For lagers, fermentation takes off with a whimper and concludes two to three weeks later with an even slower, much stinkier whimper. During that time, the smells emanating from the CO2 venting from the tank can be fairly described as ‘gross’ and ‘farty’ to ‘sulphurous’ and ‘intensely terrible’. For a brewer, it tests not only your patience, but your entire confidence in whether you actually know what you are doing or not. The beer fermenting away in the tank goes through different phases that produce off-flavors like the slick, buttered popcorn flavor of diacetyl and the sulphurous grossness of DMS that you normally avoid at all costs as a brewer. You taste them as you check on the tank daily and almost freak out, but then you say to yourself, “Brewers have been using this yeast for 500 years to fantastic results. Stay calm.”

Once the lager yeast finishes its primary fermentation, it then needs an additional 4-6 weeks of conditioning known as lagering. During this time, much of the yeast is still in suspension in the beer as it begins cleaning up those off-flavors that it created in the first place. Slowly but surely the diacetyl goes away. Then the DMS goes away. Then other, more subtle bad stuff from the yeast’s unique esters and phenols that you didn’t even notice at first goes away. The further time goes on, the beer begins to be clearer and cleaner as your confidence as being a legitimate brewer grows by the day.

Then, some 2 months after entering the brewhouse as raw ingredients, it’s clear, carbonated, and ready for you to take a sip out of your glass. And the results are remarkable: beer that is clean and crisp, with as little to no flavor from the yeast imaginable. With styles like Marzens (which Creston Lager can be characterized as a hopped-up version of) and Pilsners (that Creston Pilz is a totally Michigan-ian take on the classic style), you taste the fermented results of your raw materials and almost nothing else. The hops come through as clean, bitter, and aromatic as the day you made the wort, while the malt takes on fascinatingly bready, toasty, grassy, and subtle flavors that were buried in their malted sweetness 

previously. And oh, that great Lake Michigan water that we use makes everything taste just so smooth, that you just can’t help but put it in bold, and underlined italics to emphasize its importance to the whole shebang.

 

 

 

 

So here’s a cheers to those early lager brewers that didn’t give up on their stinky ‘mistakes’, because they changed the beer game forever!

 

Long live lager! (and ales too!)

 

#CrestonBuzz Vol.7 What Does the Fox Say: About Fox DeLuxe

By now a lot of you have heard of our house IPA, Fox Deluxe. Most of you have enjoyed many a pint in our beautiful taproom. But like most of our beers, the name of it has a lot of cultural and historical significance to the Creston neighborhood and the craft beer mecca that was and still is Grand Rapids, MI. Fox DeLuxe is no exception. This bright, citrusy IPA’s namesake comes from a Midwestern family of brothers known as The Fox Brothers, who made their path into the craft beer scene through some of the most trying times for brewers and beer drinkers alike in the mid 1900s.

Prohibition almost ruined everything, didn’t it?

External view of Fox DeLuxe Brewing Company

After huge success in Chicago, Peter Fox Brewing Company sought to grow their brand and increase their production to satisfy the demand of thirsty workers. Buying up other breweries, like Kiley Brewing Company, in their original hometown of Marion, Indiana, Peter Fox Brewing Company was soon becoming a beer juggernaut of the Midwest in the 1940s. Because of this success, Peter Fox continued buying up properties that his beloved his Fox DeLuxe beer, among others, could be brewed, packaged and sold. Among those places was the former Hoffman Brothers Brewery on Monroe Street, and another well-equipped brewery space that became known as Fox DeLuxe Brewing from 1941-1951.

Most of the Fox DeLuxe materials can still be found and purchased online. The Fox DeLuxe 32-IT quart cone canned by the Continental Can Company goes for nearly $2,000.00 online…whew! Sounds steep, but look at this beaut:

Original Fox DeLuxe Beer Can

It has been documented that during its 11 year reign, Fox DeLuxe Brewing Company helped boost the Peter Fox coalition to combined total barrelage of one million! With beers like Alpine Pilsner and Patrick Henry Extra Smooth Premium, the Fox Brewing stronghold was ranked thirteenth of 25 leading breweries in the nation, beating none other than Miller Brewing Company, in 1944. Fox DeLuxe Brewing Company closed it’s doors in 1951, but it’s place in craft beer history remains as one of the most successful.

It seems as though things have come full circle for Peter Fox’s beer legacy through the help of Creston Brewery. We love the rich and interesting history of craft beer and love to incorporate that in each and every pint you have. And in the words, of Peter Fox, “Don’t say Fox…Say Fox DEEELuxe!”

#CrestonBuzz Vol.6 Living in America: About Breweries in America Circa Long Time Ago

Have you ever wondered exactly when breweries started becoming a ‘thing’?

We have!

And during our quest for the truth, we found out that breweries were kind of a big deal way before Beer City, USA came into the picture…Thirteen Colonies kind of way back. The very first brewery in America was Block & Christiansen, established in 1612 on the southern tip of Manhattan Island. In 1637, the remaining 12 colonies saw their first breweries starting to open, beginning with Massachusetts.

Fast forward a couple centuries…

 

Headline from Ohio Newspaper, The American Issue 1919.

By 1810, America had 132 operating breweries for a population of 7 million people. Now that doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but in those times, drinking was associated with criminals and less savory characters. By 1829, the American Temperance Society already had 100,000 members, but within 4 more years they had a membership of over a million people supporting total abstinence. Many Americans were very adamant about outlawing beer and booze altogether, proclaiming to stay absolutely bone dry. Super boring right? Beginning in 1840 and for the next 80 years, two opposite and competing trends were evident in America. More breweries were popping up annually, especially in large metropolitan areas. While on the other end, more and more states began to enact individual prohibition laws.

 

Disarray and general unrest in Germany in 1848 started an enormous migration to America. Among the immigrants were very experienced German brewers, naturally. Lucky for American brewers and drinkers alike, they gladly bestowed some of their beer knowledge. Not coincidentally, of the seven breweries operating in the early days of Grand Rapids, all were vested by German immigrants producing traditional German lagers. This migration of skilled brewers continued to boost the craft beer economy as well as the nation’s frugality.

 

In 1861, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service was created and soon saw the value in placing taxes on beer production. A tax on every last barrel of beer helped finance the Civil War and other military needs. Because of the emergence of more and more breweries, the economy was wealthy enough to perpetuate the growth of the craft beer industry and the military. An all-time record number of 4,131 breweries were operating in the United States in 1873, producing nine million barrels of beer. (2017 is on pace to break that long-standing record of beer slingin’). It wasn’t until 1876, that Louis Pasteur, French chemist and microbiologist, studied beer and finally explained yeast and all of it’s lovely, fresh-to-funky strains to the beer world.

Taxes and prohibition laws by individual states, improved distribution methods and mergers/closures of breweries resulted in a massive decline to 1500 breweries in the U.S. in 1910.

Lady Sailors Marching for an End to Prohibition

By 1912, nine states were dry due to prohibition. Four years later, the number of dry states rose to 23. When national prohibition went into effect in 1920, breweries increased production of “near-beer”, which is essentially beer with an extremely low ABV, to 300 million gallons. Neither near-beer nor prohibition were very well accepted during this time. Eventually lawlessness, crime, corruption, and entitled crankiness led to the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. #Winning.

Within a year of the prohibition repeal, 756 brewers were back in operation. At the height of World War II, fifteen percent of the production at American breweries had to be allocated for military use. For several years after the war, brewery closures and many mergers again reduced the number of active breweries in the United States. Eleven years later, the number of U.S. breweries dropped to 230, but only 140 of those were being independently run. In 1978, there were only 89 breweries operating in

Historic GRBC Bottling Depot.

America and controlling most of the beer market, nearly all of them were mega commercial brewers that we know all too well: Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Adolph Coors, Stroh’s, and G. Heilman.

Among those 89 breweries, was New Albion Brewing Company in Sonoma, CA which opened it’s doors and hearts in 1977. New Albion produced its own ale and became the first modern micro/craft brewery, thus dawning a new age of breweries in America. The trend that would soon sweep the nation started very slowly, however. The first brew pubs didn’t begin selling their own beer and food until 1982 in Yakima, WA. In 1983, only 80 breweries existed in America, and the top six mega-brewers controlled 92% of all U.S. beer production. It doesn’t seem like very long ago when folks couldn’t walk into their local pub and get snacks paired with their favorite sudsy beverage. Because it wasn’t. The craft beer industry has made and continues to make remarkable strides in culture, appeal, and education.

 

The residual effects of a long winded fight to preserve an American’s right to wholeheartedly enjoy their beer still ripple throughout the country, with more and more breweries opening every year.

 

So, what’s next for the American beer market? Time will only tell, but something tells me prohibition and near-beer won’t be making a comeback any time soon.

 

Thanks to http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/101/history_american_beer/ for their incredibly comprehensive history of American beer, only small parts of which could be included above.

(c) Copyright, Creston Brewery, 2016

Small Talk with Scott: Beer Style Guidelines featuring Synthesizer

Picture this:

 

The year is 1538. You’re a beer-conscious, yet weary soldier travelling in what is today rural Belgium. In the distance, you smell the familiar scent of beer being brewed at a local monastery and decide to head that way for some much needed respite.

You’re greeted by monks that welcome you with a glass of their freshly-brewed beer from a large oak cask. It’s dark in color, has a towering frothy head, and looks to be the perfect meal in a glass. All of the illustrious ingredients come from the monastery’s grounds, the grains malted and roasted to perfection onsite. Only recently were the hops hand-harvested.

The imagined monks featured in this story…

 

While you glance at the glorious brew, one smiling monk saunters over, “Great crop this year!” You thank them and ask the smiling monk, “What do you call this divine beverage?”

 

“Ale. Our traditional monastic offering to God who, despite these dark times, gives us the glory of ale,” a monk replies.

 

“No, like, what style of ale is it?” you question.

 

The monks look puzzled as you sit there, refusing to take a sip until they answer your simple question. Another monk proudly states, “This has been brewed according to the recipe passed down generation after generation, with a single one of us knowing the recipe at a time.”

You’ve had every style of beer ever known. You’re beginning to get a little impatient with these beer novices. Inquiring further, you ask again, “Is it a Dubbel? Abbey Ale? Quadrupel? Brown? Stout? Barley wine? What are the IBUs?”  

“Sir, I do apologize but we don’t know what any of that means. This is our monastery’s Traditional Ale,” the still smiling monk replies after conferring with his colleagues. Incredibly frustrated, you get up to leave. “A brewer should know their styles” is the advice you part with.

 

The full beer sits alone on the table as you begrudgingly exit the monastery, still thirsty.  

 

******

 

Old Belgian Beer Casks

Sure, I’ll bite. Our latest seasonal beer, Synthesizer, could be called a Belgian American Double India Pale Ale. It’s 8.21% alcohol by volume, has 76 International Bitterness Units, is brewed with Pacific NW Simcoe and Mosaic hops, and fermented with our seasonal Belgian yeast.

 

However, it’s brewed with oats, rye, and wheat in the mash, boiled long with late addition hops, then it’s dry hopped twice, all leading to a natural haziness common to en vogue New England Style India Pale Ales. So, you could call it a New England Style Belgian American Multigrain Double India Pale Ale and you’d be a bit closer to defining the beer in the glass.

 

So, a particularly good question from someone who just ordered this lovely brew would be: “Well, what is an India Pale Ale then?”

“Oh, I kind of glossed over that part, didn’t I?” I’d say. “Well, you see, during colonial times, the British used to send casks of beer brewed in Great Britain to their troops in India. To survive the long journey by boat, the brewers would use more malt and hops in the brew to preserve the beer, thus creating the India Pale Ale style.” I go on more about the specific characteristics of British hops, malts, and yeast before I’m cut off.

“Wait, I’m confused. What’s a Pale Ale then?”

“Damn. I guess I kinda glossed over that part too, huh? A Pale Ale is a traditional British beer style that’s made from pale malts, English hops, and is lower in alcohol and bitterness than its India Pale Ale counterpart.” I go on about the historical similarities of the style, the famous brands that fit these style guidelines, and launch into the history of India pale ales vs. pale ales vs. milds and bitters before I’m cut off.

“So why doesn’t it say British India Pale Ale in the style? Also, what makes it double? And American, for that matter?”

Pandora’s box has been opened. Modern American styles have completely decimated our understanding of traditional styles – so how do I explain this concisely?

We’re not even close to the end of this discussion and the glass of beer that I poured has now lost its head. It’s warmed up a good 15 degrees, losing many of its fresh hop flavors and its carbonation. It’s a totally different beer now than what was fresh poured. This, sadly, is not my intent as a brewer.

And, finally, we arrive at my point: beer styles do not matter. I would argue that historically they have never mattered. They have always been in flux. Styles have always been snapshots in time, informed by the past and looking to the future – and that’s only referring to when beer became categorized into styles in the past few centuries. The moment a new trend comes along in brewing, so too do new styles that branch off into new trends, to new styles, to new trends, to new styles ad infantum. Our concept of beer is ever-evolving and it’s the brewer’s task to be pushing boundaries to find characteristics not yet found in other beers – and thus potentially the entire history of beer.

To categorize a beer brewed today while encompassing the past styles that influenced it gets us into a history lesson that, while interesting, doesn’t actually encompass the flavor, ingredients, and intent of the Brewer who made it today. For instance, the modern American IPA is laughably unsimilar to the original IPA, and is easily the most diverse beer in appearance, flavor, and aroma across the world’s brewers who make it. Yet we carry on the 3 letter moniker despite its irrelevance in defining the beer in the glass.

To keep it PG, I just say phooey to all that nonsense. Hence our beer menu – I want you to define our beers by tasting them, no matter your beer knowledge.

So, sure, you can call our newest brew a New England Style Belgian American Multigrain Double India Style British Pale Ale and you’d be close to defining it, if you care to know what all those words mean.

 

 

Or…,

 

just call it Synthesizer.

 

Lastly, and most importantly: I really hope you enjoy it. That’s why I brewed it!

 

Cheers!

 

Remember, remember…: About the Historic Fifth Ward

#CrestonBuzz Vol. 5

Before there was even a Creston Brewery, and way, way back before there was even a Creston neighborhood or business association, the environs surrounding Plainfield Avenue and Quimby Street was simply known as “The North End.” It was populated by several wealthy community leaders that resided in large, beautiful houses at the crest of the hill.  The majority of the residents were African Americans, New Englanders and fairly recent immigrants from Ireland, Canada and France — they were highly known as the strong, working stock backbone of the furniture industry along with the local retailers that provided basic supplies and services for them. As a political entity in the growing city of Grand Rapids, the area was also known as “The Fifth Ward,” one of nine voting districts in a not-too-badly gerrymandered community in the late 1890s.

1880-90-wurzburg_lr

Grand Rapids circa 1880-90

Now here’s where it gets interesting…

Read more

Setting the Bar: About the Beautiful Bar in Creston Brewery

#CrestonBuzz Vol. 4

 *The following is a brief, but fascinating story, based on solid historical facts, some research-based conjecture and a couple of highly unlikely coincidences.

Creston Brewery is located just north of the original 1850s boundary of the then young village of Grand Rapids in Kent County, Michigan. On what was first an old plank road and then later a streetcar thoroughfare, is now set at the crest of a hill rising gradually from the downtown. It is that crest which led to the naming of the Creston neighborhood in 1906 via a public preference contest. On that old thoroughfare, now named Plainfield Avenue, is Creston Brewery.  The brewery’s three story building occupies the prominent corner of Plainfield Ave. and Quimby St.

 

ichabod-libby-portrait

Ichabod Libby Quimby

Quimby Street is named for Ichabod Libby Quimby, who migrated to Grand Rapids from New Hampshire. Ichabod was an early lumberman in the young city of Grand Rapids, his home and businesses located just north of the city. Perched on the Grand River was his beloved sawmill, from which he grabbed his logs as they floated south after having been cut down in the vast forests north and east of the Grand Rapids area.

Read more

#CrestonBuzz Vol.3 Time After Time: When Beer City USA Was Furniture City USA

Just for funsies, let’s say you are sitting at Creston Brewery having a great new brew and you glance out at the street…. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, outside the door, it has gone back in time to late spring in the year 1897. It’s late afternoon, and it must be quitting time at the nearby factories because a steady stream of men is filing in the door, desperate for that post-work pint. Being the confused, social butterfly that you are, you introduce yourself and start asking the gentlemen, “Where do you work?” Besides noticing a lot of different accents — German, Irish, Polish, French— you soon discover that many of the guys walked over and others took the Taylor Street Streetcar Line, hopping off just a few blocks away. Some took the Scribner Streetcar Line from the west of the river, across the Leonard Street Bridge. Most live in the neighborhoods around what we now know as the Creston area, but they simply knew it as home or, “The north end.”

As you meet more new people and observe the ebb and flow of the crowd, you realize the scene you were magically transported to is exactly like something you read in Albert Baxter’s 1891 History of the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan:

“With neighborly greetings and animated discussion of all topics – news, work, politics, morals and religion – some five minutes are spent, while they sip a glass of beer (for the German seldom pours it down in the Yankee fashion), taking also a small piece of rye bread and cheese, and then they move on to home and family.”

384698There are so many new faces that you have to make a mental list of all the places they work, and soon learn that all are employed in the furniture industry. Every one of them have jobs in shops or factories north of Bridge Street and all within a couple blocks of the Grand River. One fellow you meet is especially talkative, and he turns out to work in payroll at the Kent Furniture Company, just a few blocks away on North Front Street. You learn that today is the last payday of the month, and that he had just completed this month’s processing of over $7,000 for Kent’s 200 employees. That averages $35 a month or $8.75 a week per worker. Which in that time was considered doing very well for yourself.

Well, no wonder these guys could afford a beer or two . . .

As time went by, men were arriving from Bridge Street, which was just a tad bit further away. You sorted your list starting with first to arrive/closest to Creston Brewery and here’s is what you found…

Your new friends worked for several different employers involved in some way with furniture on the north end of Grand Rapids, including:

  • Grand Rapids Chair Company, east of the Grand River, near Sweet St.
  • Kent Furniture
  • Waddell Manufacturing Company
  • Grand Rapids School Furniture Company
  • Grand Rapids Veneer Works
  • Grand Rapids Mattress Company

In 1897, Grand Rapids was Furniture City, USA indeed. A little more research shows fink's_men_at_barthat more than 20 furniture related companies were located south of Bridge Street down to Burton St. and all of them were within just a few blocks of the Grand River. Over fifty different furniture businesses, large and small, up and down the river. That’s a whole lot of factories and magically all these gents have come to one local watering hole.

You glance around the table at your newly acquainted blue collar friends and reach again for that frosty beverage. In the blink of an eye, you are suddenly back (or ahead?) in 2016, where you’re still in Creston Brewery, as though no time has passed. Your beer is still cool, your food still warm. Except now you know exactly what lead to this satisfying moment.

So eat up, drink up and never forget where you came from.

22_Seeger003d

Thanks to Furniture City History, Grand Rapids Historical Commission, Grand Rapids Furniture Industry Map in 1897.

 

#CrestonBuzz Vol.2 The Great Creston Inception: About Creston and How We Got Here!

By now, you know us as Creston Brewery, but in the spirit of transparency, our official name is Golden Age Brewing Company, LLC. We use this label as an homage to the craft beer being brewed right now, which we believe is the best beer that has ever been! What selecting and registering that name really signified is that we were very focused, committed, and absolutely all-in for the goal of opening a brewery. Many years ago, we knew this was a dream that we had to bring to life. In 2014, we developed a comprehensive business plan that our business consultants and bankers called “really outstanding.” This was all quite some time before we even knew where our brewery might be located.  We looked at many potential sites; some with the help of realtors and more when folks tipped us off to rumors. Some of the places we looked at were pretty promising. Others too expensive to convert into a brewhaus. And a couple were too small to encase our big dreams.

Then, through the happiest of coincidences, we got a wild suggestion from a family member… to take a look at a building that all of us already knew a little something about. For some, it was because they lived in the area at one point, for others, it was that gorgeous building they used to drive by almost every day on their way downtown to work. That beautifully historic building was the former DeKorne’s Furniture Showroom on the corner of Quimby and Plainfield.

It had been purchased, gently under-used and carefully preserved by Jerry Pitcher, owner of Optical Supply Inc. Jerry and his son Ben had been waiting, very patiently, for the right idea and the right people to come along in order to do something special with the remarkable space they restored. After we inquired, we then toured the building and needless to say, we were immediately enamored. After looking more closely at the surrounding area, we met with extremely helpful and encouraging people and happily discovered several other focused, committed and absolutely all-in development plans for the neighborhood. What’s even more serendipitous is we caught wind that the city of Grand Rapids was eager to help the Creston area grow again.

We were finally on our way…

In our research, we came to know the fascinating history of Creston itself; before, during and after the Golden Age of Furniture. That history has been told in various ways, but our favorite is repeated below:

Prior to its annexation in 1891, this area was farmland, cultivated by Dutch immigrants.

Creston became a working class streetcar suburb of Grand Rapids. The advent of a train depot at the corner of Plainfield and Leonard— where the Choo Choo Grill is located— and a streetcar line running North on Plainfield and connecting to the bustling hub of downtown commerce, known as Grab Corners, attracted various hotels and small retail businesses to the area. The neighborhood became populated by Irish who started the St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, and French who worked as lumbermen or railway workers. In 1906, local residents formed the first neighborhood organization in the city and held a name contest which resulted in the name “Creston” after the hills near Spencer Street and Plainfield Ave. The Creston Citizens’ Association organized neighbors and communicated with city hall for various improvements such as parks, street lights, increased police protection, and attraction of retail business. These developments fueled more expansion on north Plainfield, allowing for the establishment of a second [Cheshire Village] and later a third [North Park] business district along the avenue. Today the Creston neighborhood boundaries stretch north as far as 4 Mile Road after annexing two other neighborhoods in the 1990’s. Creston is now the largest neighborhood in the city of Grand Rapids with over 26,000 people, 430 businesses, 24 churches and 14 schools.***

Now that’s some good history!

In a very short time, we knew we had found the right place for us. We chose Creston Brewery as our public name because we were so proud of our new location. Now that we had a vision, a location and a new site-specific name, we finally had a complete story to tell city planners. Our idea of a big friendly brewery, restaurant and music event venue in Grand Rapids’ largest and most diverse neighborhood received a good hearing from public officials and a very warm welcome from Creston neighbors.

(c) Copyright, Creston Brewery, 2016

Creston Brewery

Our soon to be elegant front entrance.

This is a beautiful view!

This is a beautiful view!

To control the space age elevator it helps to have a degree in spaceship engineering.

To control the space age elevator it helps to have a degree in spaceship engineering.

Committed to providing you with fantastic beer, amazing food and an atmosphere equivalent to a perfectly timed hug.

Hours

Mon. – Thurs. 12PM – 11PM

Fri. 12PM – 12AM

Sat. 11 AM – 12AM

Sun. 10AM – 10PM

Committed to providing you with fantastic beer, amazing food and an atmosphere equivalent to a perfectly timed hug.

Hours

Mon. – Thurs. 12PM – 11PM

Fri. 12PM – 12AM

Sat. 11 AM – 12AM

Sun. 10AM – 10PM