Back in the day at Michigan Tech a bunch of us had the dream of someday owning a brewery. Well years later Jim’s friends decided that his home brewing skills needed to go big time. They actually decided to put their money in not just letting the beer talk. armed with the confidence of many beers and the financial faith of his friends, Jim started searching where and how to get into commercial brewing.
The Robert Thomas Brewing Company had just closed their doors. After taking possession of the business and equipment in late summer 2004, Schmohz was born. Final approval and licensing was cleared and Schmohz sold the first pint at happy hour on Friday December 17, 2004.
At opening Schmohz had four beers ready. Valley City Cream Ale, the first was named in honor of Grand Rapids long standing nickname. It seemed appropriate to denote the heritage with a classic turn of the century style. Cream Ales were very popular in the early 1900′s as brewers of European decent thought that adjunct beers were a sign of a cleaner style, than the all barley ales.
Second was Mad Tom’s Robust Porter. Saluting the gentle smoke and dark body of the classic working mans beer, Porter, Mad Tom’s was carefully crafted to match perfectly with our wonderful West Michigan Water. The name was derived from the English poem “Tom O’ Bedlam” character “Mad Tom as portrayed in King Lear.
Next up was Gypsy’s Kiss Bock. A classic German bock, named after the Deep Purple song.
Amber Tease was the final opening beer, a California common ale. California Common was coined in the brewing world after Anchor Steam laid claim to the term “Steam Beer” as exclusive to their products. Tongue in cheek, we named Amber Tease as a anagram of “A Steam Beer”.
Bonecrusher Stout began as a dream of a Michigan stout. Something that spoke well of our plow through the adversity to get the job done, but yet shine with style in the finish. So that meant Big Malt and a solid hop bite. Over the years Bonecrusher has been adopted by many of our Bike friends and some really hot nurses as well. The nurses like theirs in a float. In 2012 the beer engineer and his wing-man the Chef bought a soft serve machine. On certain fun evenings you might be able to get a taste of Bonecrusher ice cream.
India Pale Ale (IPA), everyone has to have one. It seems to be the first three letters that new craft beer drinkers learn. Much drinking went into the recipe as we tried both national and Michigan IPA’s. Boldly the cry went out to be loyal to the styles origins. It was born of English necessity. It was crafted with the malts and hops of the British homeland. It was settled, we will not make an American IPA, but a true English IPA! East Kent Golding hops exclusively in boil and finish. English yeast. English style malts. The dry earthy bite of the old noble hop nestled into a carefully crafted malt structure.
One spring the occasion arose to bring out a new spring beer. We decided that a light floral pale ale was the appropriate recipe to fill the gap in the flights of beer. The complicated thing was to name the beer. The ever so simple but elegant solution was to pay tribute to home brewing roots where it is common to use an Ale Pail for primary fermentation. The result was Pail Ale.
As we progressed over the years seasonal offerings came along as time permitted for development. One of the first was Oktoberfest. Paying tribute to the Schwerin German heritage, we used a Deutche spelling of October. Our first two years were done as a Wheat Lager, they did not sell well so the call was made to build a Dark American Wheat Ale with a touch of Chocolate Malted Barley. This version was a hit and is now the Seasonal you know as Oktoberfest.
Miracle off 28th Street was a heavy that we tried the first year, and didn’t turn out. After heavy analysis we discovered the issue and brought it out for the winter months. The name comes from the story of the speed at which Schmohz received the transfer of liquor license from Robert Thomas. Many times this can take years to work it’s way through the quagmire of governments, but a stroke of luck resulted in a very fast transfer.
As with many breweries as they progress home-brewers are an important part of the culture and creativity of the brewing process. Many innovations stemmed from the creations of members who were brave enough to bring in samples of something that they crafted at home. Several of those brewers will hold a long time special place in Schmohz history. Kevin “Milkman” Lynch is probably one of the first names that comes to mind when the stories of recipe development are discussed.
Kiss My Scottish Arse was one of many of our favorites that was born from the inspiring homebrews. When the first proto-type batch was done and carbonated we tasted it and decided that it embodied the arrogance of Scottish heritage and the smokiness typically found in fine single malt whisky. Thus a pairing of the bold and brazen name and a symbolical representation of the Scottish crest became it’s mark.
Many a late evening will find the senior brew staff enjoying pints with patrons, listening to the beer laden stories and lies that so often are the entertainment at Schmohz; A common request of the patrons was for a big “Super IPA”. “Double, no Triple the hops! And high gravity”, was to common call. So to experimentation we went. Milkman voiced the suggestion, “Why not add hops every five minutes?” It was a start, and after many refinements and the construction of sturdy malt base to ensure balance with this over triple hopped IPA, Hopknocker was born. An Imperial IPA, currently the highest IBU in the state, 136.