Wednesday, July 27, 2016 | Subscribe

New brewery gains popularity

“I’ve been hooked ever since,” Rhodes said. “I can’t drink regular beer anymore.”

Rhodes is the general manager of Sleeping Bear Winery and the newly opened Bad Bear Brewery, which are housed in the same building off Interstate 94 near Concord, Mich.

John Burtka, father of a Hillsdale senior Johnny Burtka, owns both. Bad Bear opened last October. Barely five months old, it’s one of Michigan’s youngest micro­breweries, but it’s expanding quickly. It just signed on with a dis­tributor in Ann Arbor, so bottled beer should be in stores soon and kegs will be available for restaurants and bars within two months. Until then students in search of a new favorite micro­brewery must make the 45-minute trek to Concord, Mich.

But they should remember that falling in love with craft beer is “a double-edged sword,” as Rhodes said.

“I can’t drink Bud­weiser, I can’t drink Miller anymore, so I drink the craft beers,” he said. “But the downside of that is, I’ll come home with a six-pack and my wife throws a fit that I spent 20 bucks on a six-pack.”

Though Bad Bear’s line-up of brews isn’t available yet in six-pack form, beer afi­cionados can buy growlers –– which hold a little more than the equivalent of five beers –– at the brewery or bring their own to be filled.

Bad Bear’s brewers dis­tinguish their beers in several important ways: they don’t filter them, and they use a carbon dioxide/nitrogen mix to push their beer, instead of just carbon dioxide. This makes the bubbles finer, since the mol­ecules are smaller, which makes the beer feel and taste creamier. This dif­ference is espe­cially noticeable with Bad Bear’s stouts.

The brewery also uses hops from Empire, Mich. in all its beers. Until recently, most Michigan beers featured few if any ingre­dients from their home state. But for the first time this fall, the state’s farmers produced a sig­nificant harvest of hops, reported the Kalamazoo Gazette in December. A world hop shortage four years ago raised many farmers’ interest in growing the crop in-state.

On March 17, the brewery will release an Irish red ale in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. They’ll cel­ebrate all day with live music and a corned beef and cabbage special.