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Tastemakers: 2010 James Beard Foundation/ Mt. Pleasant Brewing Company Coal Stokers Blackberry Ale

Rick Coates - March 1st, 2010
2010 James Beard Foundation Awards
It has been called the “Oscars of the food world,” The James Beard Foundation Awards annually honors the best chefs, restaurants, food writers and authors. The old adage “It’s merely an honor to be nominated” does truly hold true in this case. Three chefs from Northern Michigan have received such an honor, Chef Myles Anton (in photo), from Trattoria Stella in Traverse City, Chef Randy Chamberlain from Blu in Glen Arbor and Guillaume Hazaël-Massieux from La Bécasse in Maple City.
In the category of Best Chef, 21,000 chefs are narrowed down to 200 semi-finalists (20 from each of the 10 regions of the category). The three Northern Michigan chefs are in the Great Lakes region that includes Chicago and other metropolitan markets. Only five chefs from Michigan made the semifinalist list, the three from Northern Michigan and Brian Polcyn from Forest Grill in Birmingham and Alex Young of Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor.
Chefs Myles, Chamberlain and Guillaume were selected according to the James Beard Foundation because “all three have shown excellence in the celebration, preservation and nurturing of America’s culinary heritage and diversity.” The awards were established in 1990 and all winners receive a certificate and a bronze medallion with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia on it.
The semi-finalist will be narrowed to five finalists on March 22 with the overall winners announced May 3 of this year. We will be tracking our three chefs and will keep you posted. This is the second major honor chefs from our region have received this year. Chef Ted Cizma from the Grand Traverse Resort was a finalist for Chef of the Year honors in America by Chef Magazine. For additional information on the James Beard Foundation go to and again a big congratulations to theses great chefs.
--Rick Coates

Mt. Pleasant Brewing Co. Coal Stokers Blackberry Ale
The recent TC Winter Microbrew and Music Festival afforded festivalgoers the opportunity to sample many different styles of beer. With over 40 breweries and 200 brewskis no one was able to sample them all. So there were no “favorites of the fest,” per se, but some brews were talk of the tents such as the Coal Stokers Blackberry Ale from the Mt. Pleasant Brewing Co.
Fruit beers are challenging from multiple fronts; they are often labeled “girlie” beers and some beer purists like to dismiss them. But beer with fruit in it has been around for 9,000 years.
Most craftbrewers today offer at least one fruit beer that is enjoyed by both genders. Coal Stokers Blackberry Ale is an American style wheat with blackberries and a touch of the Steam Engine Stout, another tasty beer from Mt. Pleasant. Often fruit/wheat style beers are best enjoyed in the summer months as thirst quencher, the Coal Stokers Blackerry Ale works well in the summer and also as winter warmer, hence its popularity at the Microbrew Fest.
The dark rust color gives the impression of heavy, hearty style ale, but actually, the beer is lighter and is characteristic of your typical wheat beer. The brewmaster has successfully balanced the fruit flavors with the malts and hops; oftentimes fruit beers end up tasting more like cherry flavored Vick’s cough medicine but not this one. The blackberries do not overpower this beer at all, and while this beer has hints of sweetness, it is not one of those one-and-done brews.
Pair with wild game dishes, such as duck confit with a cherry or blackberry glaze. This beer also pairs well with oriental and spicy dishes. Ask for Coal Stokers Blackberry Ale at your favorite eateries and beer shops. It is available in the bottle and on tap. --Rick Coates

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