Beer along the Fruit Belt: Transient Artisan Ales gets the yeast it needs

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Chris Betts, owner and brewer of Transient Artisan Ales, stands behind the counter Wednesday. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BRIDGMAN — Chris Betts originally began brewing under the name Transient Artisan Ales about three years ago in Illinois.

He would brew out of other facilities by renting space, using his own fermenters and producing his own beer.

“It was a little difficult because you would have to work around everyone else’s schedule,” he said. “For the first two years it was just me, while I was working part time at other breweries. For our purposes, it allowed us to start small.”

That small start allowed Betts to save up and buy the building at 4229 Lake Street in Bridgman in July 2015. Artisan soon opened its taproom in the first week of May 2016.

Betts started brewing in college his sophomore year with a few friends in his fraternity, before getting a few jobs at bars to learn the craft.

Like the wineries in the area, Betts was attracted to Southwest Michigan because of the area’s agriculture.

“This part of the state has an incredible fruit production,” Betts said. “It helps because we’re doing a lot of wild, spontaneous beer. I mean we make your standard IPAs and stouts, but we focus on the spontaneous beer.”

In order to make spontaneous beer, Betts puts beer out from the kettle where it is inoculated with wild yeast and bacteria. It’s then pumped back into wine barrels, where it ferments for up to three years.

It’s a type of beer that does best when there’s a good source of yeast in the area. Yeast performs well around good sources of fruit, which Southwest Michigan has an abundance of.

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Transient Artisan Ales, located here at 4229 Lake St., opened its taproom in Bridgman. Transient specializes in spontaneous beer that involves the use of wine barrels. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

Transient’s had a few things to celebrate about.

It is no longer a one-man operation. Since opening at the Bridgman location, Betts now has an assistant brewer and a taproom manager.

The Bridgman brewery also won two awards at the Festival of Wooden Barrel Aged Beer.

They received a bronze for their fruited sour beer with apricot called Foeder 2. Then came the gold medal for a collaboration beer Transient did with Hailstorm, an Illinois brewery. The gold winner was called Agnitio, a farmhouse ale style beer.

“We’ve done quite a few collaborations like that since we started,” Betts said. “Brewers can be quite friendly. You normally find people you want to work with whether to have somewhat of a break or to just switch something up. Normally, it’s just a way to have fun.”

Betts said he wants the brewery to stay somewhat small and level out their production at about 1,000 barrels per year.

Transient also recently switched to its winter hours, which are now 4-8 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday, noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Transient is closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Those interested in learning more about the brewery and the beers available for sale can visit the store, stop at www.transientartisanales.com or email Betts at transientartisanales@gmail.com.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 10, 2016)

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