Oracle Brewing hosts fall beer release featuring collaboration from two Midland homebrewers

"I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."

While brewing has been a passion of Michael Vagnini and David Thomas’ for some time, the quote above from Henry David Thoreau's Walden inspired them to expand their brewing capabilities with a few new beers in partnership with Oracle Brewing Company.

Vagnini and Thomas met Cody Smith, the head brewer at Oracle Brewing, through home brew events in 2013, hitting it off and trading tips and favorite beers. Now, these friends decided to put their mutual love of brewing to good use and collaborate as a trio of beer lovers. Utilizing Oracle’s brewing setup they have launched the Common Hours Project to share their passion for good beer with more people.

As the first release of the Common Hours Project, two beers will make their debut in at the taproom’s Fall Awakening celebration on Saturday, November 9 in Saginaw.

Cody Smith, Michael Vagnini and David Thomas of the Common Hours Project.

Vagnini and Thomas experienced some early and significant homebrew fame, and have gone on to tackle new brewing challenges. Now, through teaming up with Oracle and Smith in this effort, they have been able to experience the process of brewing on a three-barrel system (the equivalent of about 93 gallons) with their latest creations.

The trio’s brews for the Common Hours Project will join several of Oracle’s most sought-after beers in a celebratory fall lineup, which include a few new beers and some old, cellar-held favorites, like Of Ginger, Lime & Oak, a sour ale that has aged in oak barrels from Two James Distillery and Heaven Hill Distillery.

Vagnini talks about the group’s inspiration from Thoreau's Walden that inspired the process.

“The Common Hours project seeks to celebrate the richness and the simplicity of shared experience and time,” says Vagnini. “It's also a confluence of brewing ideas and philosophical musings the three of us have shared, in our attempt to elevate the depth, quality and meaning of what may seem like common beer styles.”

As the first release of the Common Hours Project, two beers will make their debut in at the taproom’s Fall Awakening celebration on Saturday, November 9 in Saginaw.

“Awakening Hour is the introductory beer in our series of Common Hours projects, and it seeks to evoke the rousing, meditative depth of the dawning day,” says Vagnini.

It’s a beer they’ve been perfecting for quite a while and they brewed two larger test batches earlier this year in preparation for the upcoming event, with an eye on maintaining quality at a larger scale.

Another Thoreau quote inspired the idea behind the beer.

"The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour. Then there is least somnolence in us; and for an hour, at least, some part of us awakes which slumbers all the rest of the day and night. . . . To be awake is to be alive."

“Projects like these are the reason I got into brewing in the first place – for the collaboration, community, and time spent among friends,” says Smith.  “Awakening Hour has been almost four years in the making, and in addition to being a great beer, it has also become an idea, a point around which we gather."

You’ll find Cody, David and Michael’s creations along with other beers from Oracle on tap this weekend at Oracle’s Fall Awakening event. Awakening Hour is an imperial porter conditioned on coffee and freshly cracked cinnamon and Halfway to Dawn is a pale ale with layers of citrus from some their favorite hop varieties.

The team already has some future iterations in mind for the Common Hours Project, including possibly introducing rye whiskey barrels in a future release.

For more information on the free event, check out Oracle Brewing on Facebook and be sure to watch what these talented beer lovers brew up next.

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Read more articles by Courtney Soule.

Courtney is a longtime Midland resident and enjoys telling the story of the community's evolution. She ran Catalyst Midland as the publication's managing editor from October 2017 through September 2020. Her favorite topics are interesting people, change makers, outdoor recreation and design. Aside from Catalyst, her published work can be found various places including Elephant Journal, Thought Catalog and a number of other websites, papers, menus and the occasional one-liner.