Michigan’s Best Local Eats: Brewmaster offers craft and award-winning beers in the Flint area
GENESEE COUNTY, MI — Award-winning brewmaster Rockne Van Meter has brought his 20 years of experience and his love for traditional German beers to Redwood Lodge, bringing his tastes to the forefront of beer lovers’ palettes.
Redwood Brewing Company, located at 5304 Gateway Circle in Mundy Township, won Michigan Brewery of the Year in 2022 at the New York International Beer Competition while winning 11 awards at the 2022 World Expo of Beer Commercial Competition.
There are currently 3 house brews brewed in Redwood, several of which have received gold, silver and bronze awards twice.
Some of Van Meter’s most awarded beers include Redwood Altbier, Redwood Oktoberfest, Redwood Kolsch and Redwood Belgian Golden Strong.
Van Meter, a resident of Le Grand Blanc, originally developed his love for the science and art of craft beer at home 20 years ago and now brews a beer that even traditional German brewmasters give their approval.
In March 2020, Van Meter was laid off at the start of the pandemic from a 15-year position as a master brewer at Royal Oak where he mainly focused on Belgian beers.
He wanted to return to his true love of German beers and discovered on Facebook that Redwood Lodge was looking for its own master brewer.
Van Meter was first exposed to craft beers when he traveled statewide, with then-girlfriend-turned-wife Sabrina, to Rochester Mills, Royal Oak, Southfield and Copper Canyon to try craft beers. .
He quickly developed a taste and a passion for craft beers.
Van Meter’s professional brewing career began in 2002 when he visited the Michigan Beer Festival.
At the time, Van Meter worked maintaining the apartment complex in which he lived.
He remembers one day he was in the shower and absolutely dreading going to work when he had an epiphany and decided to change.
Van Meter called his boss, left his maintenance job, returned his key, and within a week had to find housing and a new job.
“I wasn’t a fan of my work and really wanted to make beer,” he said.
On the same day, Van Meter visited several local breweries and spoke with local brewmasters.
He will eventually meet Eric Brigman, head brewer at the Big Buck Brewery in Gaylord.
“I spoke to him and things seemed to be going very 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, making fires and watching the sky,” Van Meter said.
While camping, Van Meter said Brigman called him and noted, “I forgot to tell you that you got the job. When can you start?”
Van Meter officially started his brewing career a week later.
This gave him the opportunity to work in a brewery with two story tanks, dozens of them with an excellent system.
“This (Big Buck Brewery) was the first system I was able to brew on,” Van Meter said. “It was awesome.”
He would eventually venture into his most senior position, as a Belgian master brewer, over the past 15 years.
Van Meter finds the most exciting aspect of brewing at Redwood Brewery Co. has been the opportunity to shift gears and develop German beers.
“Belgian (beer) is, for the most part, there’s not a lot of hop character unless it’s an IPA. For the Belgian, you have to work the yeast, and there are a lot of fruity components from the fermentation,” he said. “That’s where a lot of nuances come from, you really have to know how to use yeast to get those nuances in Belgian beers. These are good beers, they are fantastic.
“But for me, German beer is more like science. They wrote in the German Reinheitsgebot law of 1516 that you can only use four ingredients: water, hops, barley and yeast. You cannot add fruit. It’s a whole thing there (in Germany). It’s very precise, there’s a lot of stiffness and I like that,” Van Meter said.
A specific German beer that is a fan favorite that Van Meter was able to develop is the Kolsch house beer.
“It’s a light beer and probably our best selling beer,” he said.
Van Meter was able to travel out of state to find a special yeast, only sold at one location in the world, to develop the traditional German craft beer with the essential ingredient.
Hailing from the city of Cologne, Germany, the yeast is known for its bright, clear, straw-colored color.
“I’ve always wanted to make beer like this so that whether you’re here or there [Germany] they taste similar and remind you of home,” Van Meter said.
A fellow brewer who lives in Germany is often a helpful resource and critic of his work.
“He’s been doing it for 30 years. This is so cool. He always teases me that I put too much wheat in everything because there (in Germany) they don’t put wheat in some beers,” Van Meter said. “But I like to add a little sweetness to what I do. He teases me and calls me Van Wheater. He’s totally awesome, and hey, cool, German brewers give me a nickname.
As Redwood Brewing Co. continues to attract the attention of craft beer connoisseurs, Van Meter is excited to meet the demands and continue to take the risks 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. “Because what do you have to lose?”
Redwood Steakhouse and Brewery is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.
Prices for beer dishes 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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