Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Two Decades Under the Influence: Grizzly Peak Brewing Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Written by  David Bardallis
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 grizzly 20year anniversary brew

It’s hard to believe now, as Michigan tops 200 operating breweries, but back in 1995, Grizzly Peak in Ann Arbor was among only a handful of brewing establishments in the state. To celebrate the 20th anniversary milestone, head brewer Duncan Williams was joined by a number of notable Grizzly Peak alumni June 25 to brew a special commemorative beer, XX Pale Ale.
“We used the same amount of grain and hops as we use for a normal 14-barrel batch of our house pale ale, but we’re brewing only seven barrels, effectively creating a concentrated version,” explained Williams. “It will be an extra strength pale ale, really malty and hoppy, coming out at around 7.5% ABV.”

Several former Grizzly brewers took time out from their busy day jobs to help with the brew. They included Sean Brennan of Original Gravity Brewing in Milan; Nathan Hukill, founder of Bitter Old Fecker Rustic Ales in Chelsea; Tim Schmidt, co-founder of Tecumseh Brewing Co. in Tecumseh; and Oliver Roberts, head brewer at Wolverine State Brewing, also in Ann Arbor. Ron Jeffries, founder of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter, and Stacey Roth, a brewer at Griffin Claw Brewing in Birmingham, were originally scheduled to attend but were unable to make it.

The Grizzly alumni reminisced about their time there and talked about their subsequent successes.

“Before I was just a homebrewer but after working here I knew for sure I wanted to pursue a career in brewing,” said Schmidt, who brewed at Grizzly from 2007 to 2008 before training at Chicago’s Siebel Institute. “It’s hard work but the payoff is greater, I feel.”

The brewpub’s influence also extends beyond Michigan’s borders. Other Grizzly alumni who have gone on to open breweries include Kevin Bloom (Manchester Brewing and Area 23 Nanobrewery, both in New Hampshire), Jeff Hancock (D.C. Brau in Washington, D.C.), and Will Lawson (Naples Beach Brewery in Naples, Florida).

“I can’t really say why we’ve served as a sort of launch pad for so many successful brewers,” said Williams. “We’ve been around a lot longer than many places, so that’s one reason. Another is probably we’re such a hands-on brewery that those who come here really get a taste of what it’s like to be a brewer and either fall in love with it or move on to something else.”

XX Pale Ale will be tapped in August in time for Grizzly’s anniversary street party, exact date TBD. A sneak preview will be available at the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival, July 24-25.

David Bardallis

David Bardallis

David writes regular columns for The Ann Arbor News and Great Lakes Brewing News, along with occasional features for Michigan Beer Guide and other publications. His book, Ann Arbor Beer: A Hoppy History of Tree Town Brewing, is available on Amazon.com and wherever fine paperbacks are sold. A lifelong Michigander, longtime craft beer drinker, and sometime homebrewer, he lives in Ann Arbor, where he maintains his blog at AnnArborBeer.com.