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Tastemekers: Great Lakes Chip Company/ Bell‘s 25th anniversary

Rick Coates - September 13th, 2010
Great Lakes Chip Company
America’s number one snack food? The potato chip of course. According to potato chip folklore this crunchy snack and sandwich side was developed purely by accident. In the summer of 1853, Native American George Crum was employed as a chef at an elegant resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. A dinner guest was upset with the thickness of Crum’s french fries and sent them back.
Crum in turn was upset and decided to send out the thinnest fries he could make, the guest was ecstatic over the browned, paper-thin potatoes and word began to spread about Crum’s “potato chips.”
Michigan is one of the top producers of potatoes grown for potato chips and Traverse City entrepreneurs Chris and Ed Girrbach (of Pangea’s restaurant in Traverse City) decided to take advantage of the crop. Earlier this summer they launched the Great Lakes Potato Chip Company. Not only are they using local potatoes and seasonings, they are manufacturing and distributing their chips from a production company at the base of the Leelanau Peninsula.
The Great Lakes Potato Chip Company currently is offering three flavors, Original, Barbecue, and Sea Salt and Vinegar. These kettle-style chips are made in small batches and one thing that sets them apart from so many chips: skin on.
“Our skin-on style puts a little extra ‘zip’ in the chip, providing you a full-flavor snack adventure,” said Chris Girrbach. “Something those naked chips just can’t deliver. And although it’s nice that potato skins are known to contain nutrients and fiber, we leave ‘em on just because we love the way they taste.”
The Great Lakes Chips are spreading in popularity throughout Northern Michigan, and it is being sold at several retail locations. Also restaurants throughout the region are now offering the chips. For more information check out
-- Rick Coates

Bell’s 25th Anniversary Ale
This is Bottomsup third and final tribute to Larry Bell and Bell’s Brewery as they mark their 25th Anniversary. To celebrate, Bell’s hosted a big three-day bash at their Kalamazoo-based Eccentric Cafe Bell’s last weekend. They also released their 25th Anniversary Ale, which is available in bottles throughout Northern Michigan.
This tribute/celebratory ale is a dry-hopped strong ale made with barley grown at the Bell’s Brewery farm. This brew has some IPA characteristics to it with citrus notes in the nose. At 8.5% alcohol, this is definitely a strong ale but the 25th Anniversary Ale doe not have that strong alcohol burn that some brews in this category have, it is very smooth.
Now I am a big fan of pairing beer with food, but this is definitely a stand-alone ale. Not that it doesn’t pair with food, I just believe it should be enjoyed alone. Here is why: Larry Bell launched the craft brew industry here in Michigan and was, and remains, a major player in the industry not only here but throughout the country. Bell inspired so many to follow in his footsteps, brewers such as Joe Short from Short’s Brewery is one example.
Bell’s has a bright future. At the Traverse City Microbrew & Music Festival I spoke to Larry’s daughter who is now a part owner and the marketing director. At 25, Laura has that same passion her father had when he started Bell’s 25 years ago. Larry is not retired; at 52 he is in the prime of his life and remains enthusiastic about the future of the Bell’s Brewery. So cheers to Bell’s and here is to the next 25 years! -- Rick Coates

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