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A course in Michigan beers, wines

Published 7:06pm Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bentwood Tavern at the Marina Grand Resort in New Buffalo is showcasing Michigan-made beers in its “Beer & Wine in the Mitten” series. Photo by Jennifer Piotter

By JENNIFER PIOTTER

Blue Star Highway

Back for another year is the Bentwood Tavern Saturday Seminar Series, this time serving up “Beer & Wine in the Mitten” — tidbits and tastes from Michigan breweries and wineries — which runs through the end of April.

Bentwood Tavern, located at the Marina Grand Resort in New Buffalo, may be well-known for its highly-regarded chef, Jenny Drilon, but Cody Allee wants to help bring local libations to the forefront.

Allee, the assistant director of food and beverage at the restaurant, started the Saturday Seminar Series last year.

“In the beginning, the different series were more geared toward serving hotel guests outside of the summer months — giving them something to do with so many area shops and restaurants closed.”

But locals have flocked to the weekly series from winter to spring, including a set of seminars called “Sake Made Simple,” led by Allee in February and March. Prior to that, the Bentwood Tavern also hosted six weeks of mixology classes where participants discussed and crafted luscious cocktails.

During the April 2 seminar, Allee highlighted Michigan beers from New Holland Brewery in Holland and wines from Lemon Creek Winery in Baroda and Old Shore Vineyards in Buchanan.

Along with roughly 40 other attendees, we tasted four different beers from New Holland Brewery, ranging from the fresh, wet-hopped Hopivore ale to the establishment’s popular oatmeal stout, The Poet.

The brewery’s doppelbock, the Charkoota Rye, drew strong reactions. The smoky beer was called “an homage to all things pig,” and you could definitely taste the inspiration. Tasters remarked that the flavor and smoky aroma reminded them of chocolate-covered bacon, another contentious combination.

Oenophiles (wine lovers or connoisseurs) were sufficiently satisfied with the event as well. From Lemon Creek Winery, we sampled a vibrant ’08 Chardonnay, a dry and subtly spiced ’09 Gewurztraminer and a full-bodied ’07 Shiraz.

From Old Shore Vineyards, the light-bodied ’09 Tree Line Pinot Noir pleased the crowd with its cherry, caramel and black pepper notes.

To prepare for this series of events and to help with his management of the wine and beer list at Bentwood Tavern, Allee visits as many wineries as possible in the beginning of the year, deciding which to highlight.

“I think the local wines have gotten better over the past few years,” said Allee. His research on local brews is a little more fluid through the entire year, being that he’s a self-professed beer lover.

Bentwood Tavern’s final Saturday Seminar Series of the season runs through April 30, giving you the opportunity to discover Michigan’s place in the American winemaking and craft beer industry. The events run from 4 to 5 p.m. on April 16, April 23 and April 30. Admission of $6 for each event includes a variety of tastings, housemade pub chips and a wealth of knowledge to quench your thirst.

On April 16, Allee and Bentwood Tavern will showcase Grand Rapids’ popular Founders Brewing Co. and Buchanan’s Tabor Hill Winery. The following Saturday, April 23, features Dragonmead Microbrewery from Warren, Michigan and Domaine Berrien Winery in Berrien Springs. On April 30, sample beers from Ann Arbor’s Jolly Pumpkin Brewery and wine from Baroda’s Hickory Creek Winery.

Bentwood Tavern at the Marina Grand Resort is located at 600 West Water St., New Buffalo, (877) 945-8600.

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