Michigan’s Best Local Eats: Brewmaster brings crafted, award winning beers to Flint area

GENESEE COUNTY, MI — Award-winning Brewmaster Rockne Van Meter brought his 20 years of experience and love for traditional German beer lovers to Redwood Lodge, taking its tastes to the forefront of beer lover’s palettes.

Redwood Brewing Company, located at 5304 Gateway Circle in Mundy Township, won Michigan Brewery of the year in 2022 in the New York International Beer Competition while also piling up 11 awards in the 2022 World Expo of Beer Commercial Competition.

There are currently 3 home brewed beer on tap at Redwood, with several of them receiving gold, silver and bronze awards twice over.

Some of Van Meter’s top-winning beers include the Redwood Altbier, Redwood Oktoberfest, Redwood Kolsch and the Redwood Belgian Golden Strong.

Van Meter, a Grand Blanc resident, originally developed his love for the science and art of craft beer at home 20 years ago and is now formulating beer that even traditional German brewmasters are giving their stamp of approval.

In March 2020, Van Meter was laid off during the onset of the pandemic from a 15-year position as a brewmaster in Royal Oak where he focused on Belgian beer.

He wanted to return to his true love of German beer and found on Facebook that Redwood Lodge was looking for a brewmaster of their own.

Van Meter was originally exposed to craft beers when he was traveling all over the state, with his then girlfriend now wife Sabrina, to Rochester Mills, Royal Oak, Southfield and Copper Canyon to try craft beer.

He quickly developed a taste and passion for craft beer.

Van Meter’s professional career in brewing started in 2002 when he went to the Michigan Beer Festival.

At the time, Van Meter was working maintenance at the apartment complex he was living in.

He remembers one day being in the shower and absolutely dreading going to work when he had an epiphany and decided to make a change.

Van Meter called his boss, quit his maintenance position, handed in his key and within a week had to find a place to live and a new job.

“I wasn’t a fan wanted of my job, and I really to make beer,” he said.

That same day, Van Meter went to several local breweries and spoke with local brewmasters.

He would eventually meet Eric Brigman, head brewmaster at Big Buck Brewery in Gaylord.

“I talked to him and things seemed to go really well, but he didn’t offer me the job,” Van Meter said.

Needing a break, he decided to travel to Kentucky to camp outdoors and find some clarity.

“I just went camping, made fires and stared at the sky,” Van Meter said.

While he was camping, Van Meter said Brigman called him and noted, “I forgot to tell you, you got the job. When can you start?”

Van Meter officially started his brewing career one week later.

It gave him the opportunity to work in a brewery with tanks that were two stories tall, dozens of them with a great system.

“That (Big Buck Brewery) was the first system I got to brew on,” Van Meter said. “It was awesome.”

He would eventually venture into his longest held position, as a Belgian brewmaster, for the last 15 years.

Van Meter finds the most exciting aspect of brewing at Redwood Brewery Co. has been the chance to switch gears and develop german beers.

“Belgian (beer) is, for the most part, there’s not a whole lot of hop character unless it’s an IPA. For Belgian, you have to work the yeast, and there’s a lot of fruity components from the fermentation,” he said. “That’s where a lot of the nuances come from, you have to really know how to use yeast to get those nuances in Belgian beer. Those are great beer, they’re fantastic.

“But German beer to me, it’s more like science. They have written in the German Reinheitsgebot law of 1516 that you can only use four ingredients: water, hops, barley and yeast. You can’t add fruit. It’s a whole thing over there (in Germany). It is very precise, there’s a lot of rigidity and I like that,” said Van Meter.

One specific German beer that is a fan favorite that Van Meter was able to develop is the house Kolsch beer.

“It’s a light beer and probably our best selling one,” he said.

Van Meter was able to travel out of state to find a special yeast, sold only in one place in the world, to develop the traditional German craft beer with the essential ingredient.

Originating in the city of Cologne, Germany, the yeast is known for its bright, clear and straw color.

“I’ve always wanted to make beer like that so that if you’re here or there [Germany] they taste similar and remind you of home,” said Van Meter.

A fellow brewmaster who lives in Germany is often a resource and helpful critic of his work.

“He’s been doing it for 30 years. It’s so cool. He always teases me that I put too much wheat in everything because over there (in Germany) you don’t put wheat in certain beers,” said Van Meter. “But I like to add some tenderness in what I make. He teases me and calls me Van Wheater. He’s totally awesome, and hey, cool, German brewers are giving me a nickname.”

As Redwood Brewing Co. continues to draw in attention from craft beer connoisseurs, Van Meter is excited to meet the demands and continue taking chances that will continue to bring authentic German craft beers to the Flint area.

“If you really want to do it, follow your passions, do it, he said. “Cause what do you got to lose?”

Redwood Steakhouse and Brewery is open 11 am to 9 pm Monday through Thursday, 11 am to 10 pm Fridays, 4 pm to 10 pm Saturdays.

Beer menu items prices range from $2.50 to $7.00. Redwood also offers several varieties of beer to go.

To see more of their craft beer menu items, click here.

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