Dan VanderKooi

Dan VanderKooi

Dan VK has been following the Michigan Craft Beer scene since before Oberon has been available in 6-packs. Besides making the rounds at all the local craft breweries and beer bars, Dan also supports the local music scene, reads crime fiction, and enjoys playing volleyball with his wife and friends.

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With Vander Mill’s Spring Lake location reaching full capacity in 2015, a new location for expanded production was sought and found at 505 Ball Ave NE off from Michigan Avenue in Grand Rapids. The new facility and tasting room includes four 350 barrel fermenters allowing for annual production to increase by 5 times the Spring Lake location’s current capacity. With plenty of room for additional expansion, this new location will allow Vander Mill to continue compete not just as a regional hard cider producer but also as one of the top hard cider producers in the nation. In addition to the increased capacity, the new location also doubles as a full kitchen and taproom successfully bringing the cozy, welcoming atmosphere of the Spring Lake location to the Grand Rapids Beer City.

spring fest 2016

Beer City Springfest is back for it’s third year this Saturday May 7th at the Hudsonville fairgrounds from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Returning breweries this year include favorites such as Pike 51, Fetch, and Mitten Brewing Co. as well as hard cider from People Cider Co. and Farmhaus Cider Co. This year’s Springfest is also set to put the focus on many new breweries that have opened in the past year or so.


Big Hart Brewing Co. opened in February of 2016 and is the first brewery to be located in the City of Hart and in Oceana County. The address is 4086 W. Polk Rd. and is easily accessible off from US-31 within a half hour drive both north of Fetch Brewing Co. in Whitehall and south of Jamesport Brewing Co. in Ludington. Big Hart Brewing Co.’s founders are Dave and Leslie Hansen who are also the owners of Hart’s successful Hansen Foods grocery store. Head Brewer Teo Watson-Ahlbrandt has prior experience with Original Gravity, Dark Horse, and Arbor Brewing Co.


April 20th, also known as “420”, is a day that has been long associated with the celebration of plants of a certain variety that happen to bear a striking resemblance in both taste and smell to hops. So in recent years, several local breweries have decided to shift the focus on this special day to the hoppiest of beer styles; the India Pale Ale or IPA. India Pale Ales historically were hopped heavily as a preservative to keep beer fresh enough to survive long and brutal ocean voyages but now the hoppiest of IPAs have found home on U.S.A.’s West Coast. Many West Michigan breweries have also embraced this love for hops and have chosen to recognize it on this special day.

founders black party 2016

The brewery will be tapping dark beers including their flagships, specialties, and experimental releases. Fans can expect to see barrel age releases, nitro taps, and firkins of their favorite Founders porters, stouts, and black IPAs. This year Founders held a special ”Bring Me to Black Party” contest selecting ten winners to attend the event for the weekend including private tastings, brewery tours, and a meetup with the Founders team.


Last year Saugatuck Brewing Company got a jumpstart on their 10-year anniversary with the introduction of the Inaugural Barrel Aged Bootleg Bash. The event featured the bottle releases of 8 different barrel aged beers including the highly sought-after Barrel Aged Neapolitan Stout.

pigeon hill 2nd preanniversary article 

Pigeon HIll Brewing Company in Muskegon will soon be celebrating their 2-year anniversary and the brewery has plenty of accomplishments from the past year to celebrate. Pigeon Hill has recently began additional production in an off site facility with a new 20 barrel system to supplement the existing smaller pub brewery. This will allow the brewery to ramp up production on mainstays like their Shifting Sands IPA and Walter Blondale to meet their state-wide distribution demands. Pigeon Hill also plans to add a new canning line later this year to also boost distribution of their mainstay brands.


Sanctuary Spirits was opened in Grand Ledge in March of 2014 by Karl Glarner and Tolin Annis as a small batch distillery and winery. Sanctuary Spirits originally opened as an expansion of The Red Salamander home beer & wine making supply store which shares space in their building which was converted from a historic church.  Last year, Sanctuary Spirits welcomed head brewer Erik Swanson into the fold, offering small batch craft beer in a newly renovated tasting room featuring furnishings handcrafted from retired whiskey barrels provided by Bourbon and Barrel.


The 11th annual Winter Beer Festival was held Friday and Saturday, February 26th and 27th at Comstock Park’s Fifth Third Ball Park, just north of Grand Rapids. This year marked the second year of an expanded two day festival with the addition of a Friday afternoon session as the popular Saturday session continues to sell out very quickly each year. While last year’s event proved brutally cold with single digit temperatures and issues with freezing beer lines, this year’s festival featured much milder weather with temperatures reaching the mid 40’s.


Founders held their third annual Firkin Freezeout this year on February 6, 2016. For the event, Founders tapped over 40 different firkins outside in their beer garden. Similar to last year’s event, tickets were available inside the brewery for $2 and were good for a 5 oz. sample pour with full pints available for 2 tickets. Deli features for the event included beef stroganoff and sloppy joes, as well as s’mores brownies for dessert. Also back by popular demand this year was the live ice sculpture.
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