Anyone who has gotten swept up in the homebrew/craft beer/brewery tour/Beer City wave knows that the brewing industry is about as collaborative as it gets. Head brewers achieved a piece of celebrity as Grand Rapids was awarded the title of Beer City 2013: a boon to local business and area hotels as beer tourists began descending in thirsty hordes for days at a time. Their only complaint is that they need more time to hit all the breweries…which is a good problem for West Michigan to have. I sat down with local brewer Wob Wanhatalo, a zealous advocate for our Grand Rapids beer scene, to hear about the newest direction these brew collaborations are taking.
The tree beer project conjoins Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, the Grand Rapids Urban Forest Project and the power of good beer in an environmental effort the brewing community is excited to kick off. Seventeen area breweries and tap rooms, including Harmony, Crankers, Perrin, The People’s Cider Co., Hopcat and of course Wob’s home base, The Mitten Brewing Co.
Tap dates for the tree beer range from today (8/4) until August 14, and some breweries are hosting big release parties to get people informed about the cause. For every pint of tree beer sold, a portion of sales will be awarded to the Urban Forest Project. The fundraising goal is $12,500, which translates into roughly 13,000 pints that need to be consumed. With this contribution, brewers hope to contribute 100 trees to the Grand Rapids area parks- the gift that keeps on growing. When asked the simple question ‘why?’, Wob states that “The reason we’re doing this is to thank the thousands who voted for us for Beer City. What better way than to improve the local environment?”
The beers themselves are just a tasty side bonus for the whole process- tree beer was interpreted by all 17 collaborators differently. For Wob, it meant two and a half gallons of Michigan Maple Syrup and Chinook hops, known for their pine aroma and bite. Others used oak or cherry to pay homage to the assignment. After all the beer has been drunk, the real work begins. The planting day Wob is most excited about will be October 17th, as 30 out of 100 trees take root in Riverside Park as a part of our first Brewers Grove. Wob, alongside Barry VanDyke of Harmony and Steve Faber of Friends of GR Parks, hope that this environmental collaboration will be the first of many. Although every brewer would love you to pick their pint, these collaborations engender experimental genius rather than bloodthirsty competition. Wob pointed out that “As an industry that shares everything, hides nothing, it’s important to work so well together. That’s why we’re Beer City USA. That’s why beer culture is booming.” And after the first ever Tree Beer hits the taps, we can only assume it will be “blooming” also.
Let us know where you’ve tried the Tree Beers and which are your favorites!
Lyndsay Israel-Feature Writer