As lovers of beer (and cheese)…actually, hang on. If you don’t like cheese we may need to sit down and have a heart to heart. Anyway, as lovers of beer we owe a lot to microorganisms. Yeast is a pleasant little single-celled fellow who metabolizes sugars, creating alcohol, and whose respiration produces carbonation. But, what happens when other microorganisms find their way into our brew? Does it help or hurt? Lactobacillus isn’t a type of yeast, but rather bacteria that metabolizes sugar into lactic acid. When our beer has been wrongfully infected with this fellow, it has an uncharacteristic sour flavor--think of the sour pucker yogurt has. What can be a sign of infection in some styles, is characteristic in others, like the Belgian Lambic, American Wild, and the German Berliner Weisse. Brewers intentionally introduce lactobacillus to these brews to produce just the right amount of pucker. So, cheers to you little creatures! Or, maybe not if our IPA tastes like yogurt…
Today we're releasing Beer Right Meow, an American IPA developed over several years by HopCat - Grand Rapids brewmaster Ernie Richards at our small, in-house brewery. Until today it was never available for sale outside of HopCat - Grand Rapids.
Michigan law does not allow bars like HopCat, which are classified as brewpubs, to distribute their beers like those that are classified as microbreweries, which is why you typically don't see their beers in stores or at other bars. It's a trade off. At HopCat GR, being a brewpub allows us to also serve liquor and wine, unlike most full-fledged breweries (unless they also make their own liquor and wine). We're fine with that. We've always been about showcasing other brewers' beers while having a just few taps in Grand Rapids reserved for Ernie's house brews. We have been and always will be a beer bar first.
So how did we make this work? The process is kind of complicated, but in order to get Beer Right Meow available in cans and bottles in stores and on tap at other bars we needed to sign an agreement with a fully licensed brewery. We essentially needed to license the HopCat name and the recipe to this brewery, which would be allowed by law to brew, package and sell Beer Right Meow to a distributor. In other words, we needed someone we could trust.
When we started down this path our first thought was Brew Detroit. They have incredible brewing facility in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood, experience with contract brewing, and they worked with other craft brewers we respect, including Atwater and Motor City Brewing. We also got to know CEO Jerry Kocak and head brewer Ken Belau, who proved we could trust them with the HopCat name and Ernie's great recipe.
There were some hiccups along the way. For example, sourcing just the right hops blend (we use Summit, Chinook, Equinox and Amarillo during the brewing process) in today's tight hops market was tough, time consuming and expensive. Ernie also made sure to visit during the process to ensure he could answer any questions Ken and his team might have had.
But, through perseverance, trust, tasting and a whole lot of work, we are glad to have Beer Right Meow in stores and on tap at all Michigan HopCat locations (along with being on tap in Brew Detroit's tap room). It's an IPA with a lip-smacking bunch of hops, balanced with a pleasantly fruity, somewhat floral nose and what Ernie calls "a touch of chronic funk." I think it's a truly great example of what happens when west meets east, when Beer City works with the Motor City. I'm proud of our partners at Brew Detroit and their distributor for Beer Right Meow, Imperial Beverage, of Kalamazoo. (For now, Brew Detroit is only making the beer available for distribution in Michigan.)
I'm also proud of our creative team of Kyle Degroff, Elliot Chaltry and Alex Paolella, which designed great packaging and other promotional materials for Beer Right Meow (including the video seen above), tap handles, can and bottle label designs, cartons, and a few cool swag items.
This is the first of what we hope will be a handful of HopCat-designed beers available outside of our Grand Rapids brewpub. Rest assured, though, these beers will continue be a small part of HopCat's overall goal of bringing you great beer. We are as committed to supporting craft brewers as we have ever been. In fact, when HopCat - Louisville opens on July 30, we'll have more than 1,000 taps at 12 HopCat locations dedicated to craft beer, cider and mead.
Let me know what you think of Beer Right Meow when you get a chance to taste it at firstname.lastname@example.org or, submit your reviews to Beer Advocate, Untappd or your favorite beer review site. Cheers!