Lansing Beer Week: Where beer gets paired with chocolate and more!

If there’s one thing Homer Simpson and I have in common, it’s the sentiment, “Mmm…beer.”

And while my love for beer may be as deep as Homer’s, as a longtime devotee of Michigan microbrews, I’m pretty confident my taste is a bit more refined than the bald-headed, five o’clock-shadowed cartoon. So while I was excited to be spending a Wednesday evening gathered with other beer enthusiasts on the patio of the REO Town Pub [] for the Lansing Beer Week’s beer and chocolate tasting, I wasn’t expecting to be surprised. I love beer; I love chocolate. What’s to learn?

Apparently, a lot. The moment we were asked by the event organizers to open our mini box of Fabiano’s Chocolates, select the strawberry cream candy, and taste it with Shorts Soft Parade, my mind was blown. Though familiar with Bellaire-based Shorts, I’d never tried the fruit-infused rye beer, much less strategically paired my beer with a food of complementary flavors.

All ten chatty Lansing Beer Week attendees at my table fell silent along with me, and remained uncharacteristically subdued as each of five rounds of beer samples and their respective chocolates came to the table. There was audible delight when our Jolly Pumpkin Madrugada Obscura arrived with chocolate cookies, and by the time our Atwater Brewery Decadent Dark Chocolate Ale appeared, I was pretty much in tears.

“I look at beer as a journey,” Lansing Beer Week co-founder Paul Starr told us during the intimate REO Town event, and we believed him.

Lansing Loves Beer

Taps 25. The Michigan Brewing Company Pub. The Avenue. The Waterfront. With its recent rush of popular new drinking holes, Lansing has spoken, and Lansing loves beer. Not just any beer, mind you, but Michigan beer.

That’s something that Starr, founder of the all-things-beer webstie I’m a Beer Hound and his Lansing Beer Week partner Steve Johnson of Motor City Tour Company, were keenly aware of when dreaming up the first annual Lansing Beer Week, which debuted in August.

“The biggest goal was to say, ‘Hey, there is something cool going on in Lansing that is craft-beer related, and then to get people out and introduce them to the great craft beers that are out there.”

If the Wednesday night Beer and Chocolate Tasting didn’t accomplish that fully enough, it was only of one of seven consecutive events that made up the first year of the new annual event. The week kicked of with beer tour bike ride from Reno’s East to Reno’s West featuring Shorts Brewing Company and included a beer crawl, a downtown beer craw and more.

“I think it went really well,” says Starr. “To have the turnout we did without an ad budget was really good. The events were really cool, and we learned what events we want to do next year and where we want to improve on.”

The penultimate night of the inaugural Lansing Beer Week was the Michigan Beer Tasting Boat Cruise on the Grand River aboard the Michigan Princess Riverboat. About 45 Lansing-area beer lovers gathered on the top story of the riverboat for a leisurely cruise that included beer samples and appetizers. It was an appropriate end for a week that aimed to start conversations around Michigan beer.

Gathered around ship deck tables, patrons relaxed, chatted and sampled a selection of more than two dozen available Michigan microbrews, including Uncle John’s [] hard ciders, Traverse City’s North Peak Brewing Company and Dark Horse beers from Marshall.

Looking Ahead – To More Beer

Starr anticipates the riverboat may not return to the event next year, in favor for an event with a beer festival atmosphere may have a less mobile location.

“One idea is having a small craft beer festival in maybe REO town or something like that,” Starr says, “or doing a Lansing brewery history bike ride. Another idea we had was kayaking down the Grand River to lead into the beer crawl. But we haven’t made any decisions yet.”

In addition to swapping out some event and working to grow others, Starr and Johnson also plan to adjust the date of the week-long event to coincide with another big week for beer in Lansing: when the Michigan Brewers Guild visits the Capitol in late June.

“It’s when they do their talks with the congress and giving their opinion on the laws,” Starr says. “They’re already there, so it makes sense to partner with some of the brewers who are here. And it will be good, even for the [legislators] to come out and see it in in action in Lansing.”

More details will inevitably emerge in 2013, but one thing is for certain: Lansing Beer Week is here to say. Kind of like, we beer enthusiasts are pleased to predict, the new love of local brews in Lansing.

All Photos Copyright Jena McShane
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