Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Interview with John Burtka & Ben Tackett from Bad Bear Brewing

Written by  Ryan Ranspach
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Interview with John Burtka & Ben Tackett from Bad Bear Brewing

We sat down with John Burtka, owner, and Ben Tackett, brewer, from the recently opened Bad Bear Brewing & Sleeping Bear Winery in Albion, MI.
Bad Bear's mission is to operate a small, family brewery to enjoy good friends and good food in a comfortable and relaxed environment. They are all about simplicity and doing the few things they do to the best of their ability. John and Ben stress that they operate with a one barrel brewing system which allows them the flexibility to try different things in small batches. As Ben explained, most of his beers are just expanded productions of his earlier home brews which, in their nature, are designed to be small batch beers. They range from lighter honey wheats all the way to dark stouts, and they take pride in having something for any beer palate, and all the ingredients used in their brewing originate from Michigan.

This carries over to their food menu as well, which is small but put together with tremendous care and creativity. John noted the love they have put into their Reuben that is made with the prized corned beef from the Grobbel family in Detroit. They braise the meat in their brown ale for 6-8 hours and serve it on a swirl rye with their homemade Russian dressing. They also serve pizzas from homemade dough with fresh ingredients and produce. They feature a BBQ, Hawaiian, Mediterranean, and spicy Italian pizza.

Some new stuff has gone down in the past few months at Bad Bear as well. They recently bottled their "Hopsicle", a very malty, hoppy beer that while coming in at over 100 IBU's still maintains a rich smoothness. They also bottled a Polish Breakfast Stout, which is an oatmeal stout base brewed with honey wine and then aged in very rare Michigan Oak barrels.

Finally, their name. The "Bad Bear" is named after the famed "Wojtek", the beer drinking, square smoking mascot of the Polish Army during World War II. He not only drank & smoked with the other soldiers, but he also carried shells during the battle of Monte Cassino in Italy and even lived beside the Polish troops in their tents and barracks. After the war, he retired to Scotland and lived out his days as a celebrity at the Edinburgh Zoo. 

John and Ben loved the story of the bear and wanted to incorporate into their project. This is just like everything else they do--it is from their vision and is what they love and care about. Bad Bear is really onto something here; go check them out as soon as you have the time.