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Old Mill Brewpub among many growing breweries in Michigan

Over the weekend, I headed to Plainwell, Mich., to unload my kiln. Whenever I’m in that area, I like to stop in and check on things at Old Mill Brewpub and Grill.

Owner Scott Zylstra’s brewpub is one of many in Michigan that continues to grow. He started brewing with a half-barrel system and served his first beer in October 2013.

He then upgraded to a one barrel system, replaced that with a three barrel system, and just this past week changed out his three barrel fermenters for seven barrel jacketed fermenters.

This means he can just about double his production in the same space by mashing twice in his three barrel brewhouse, and putting a double batch into each of the seven barrel fermenters.  

There are 10 taps, and two of the draft choices were new since my last visit.

Last November, Scott was able to purchase the building from owner Dennis DeHann. As the story goes, Dennis wanted to fly as a boy, so he jumped off the chicken coop and earned the nickname Wilbur (as in Wilbur Wright).

In his honor, Scott named the Old Mill Brewpub truck Wilbur, and in turn named his new double IPA Wilbur (9.3 percent ABV). It is brewed with Simcoe and Columbus hops, and has a big malt backbone with notes of pine and citrus.

MILLie Vanillie (vanilla porter, 5.5 percent ABV), the other new beer for me on the menu, is so popular that Scott can hardly brew it fast enough. I did not take the opportunity to taste it on this visit, but if it’s anything like his Mackinac Island Double Fudge Porter, it is definitely worth enjoying.

Last fall, Scott traveled to Kelvin Cooperage (Louisville, Ky.) to pick up some barrels to age some of his beer. When he arrived, he found plenty of barrels to choose from and with help from the experts, he picked out four Heaven Hill bourbon barrels that had just been emptied the previous day.

Kelvin Cooperage makes both wine and spirit barrels. The wine barrels are made nice and sexy-smooth and toasted for 20 minutes with a gas flame, while the bourbon barrels are left rough and charred by tilting the barrel closer to the flame.

Scott’s imperial stout has been in the barrels for six months and should pick up nuances of oak and vanilla.His plans are to take some of this bourbon barrel aged imperial stout to the Michigan Summer Beer Festival, July 24-25 in Ypsilanti, Mich.

With four barrels, he should get a good amount, and hopefully he will be able to tap some at the pub as well.

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