"All of the ingredients come from the earth"
The beginning of chestnut beer in Michigan was reported in an excellent article entitled Strange Brew by Gabrielle Russon, a student-reporter for the State News (the student-supported newspaper of Michigan State University) in 2006. For the full story with photos click 🌰🍺
This article chronicled the development of Michigan's first chestnut ale by Michigan's own brewing legend Ron Jeffries founder of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter. Jeffries told Russon, "It's all about good flavor," and at that time, one of Jeffries' new specialty beers, "Fuego del Otoño" (Spanish for "autumn fire"), contained Michigan-grown chestnuts. "It's different from what we normally do," Jeffries said. "It all seemed to kind of fit together." Jeffries described the chestnut beer as having almost a subtle cashew nut taste. "What it contributes is a unique lightness," Jeffries said. "Maybe a hint of nutty flavor."
The idea for Jeffries' chestnut beer came from Europe. In Italy, a country renowned for producing some of the world's best wines, the robust flavor of the amber-colored chestnut beer caught the attention of Michigan State University plant pathology Professor Dennis Fulbright. Fulbright tasted Pietra, a chestnut-based beer at fall festivals around Italy. Pietra is brewed on the French island of Corsica in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. The strong chestnut beer stayed on Fulbright's mind. When he returned to Michigan, where he is now the Vice President for Product Development for Treeborn, he wrote to all of the existing microbreweries at the time (all 50, now there are more than 300) letting them know about the European use of chestnuts in the European brewing industry. Ron Jeffries was one of the first brewers to respond and Jolly Pumpkin has continuously brewed Fuego del Otoño since 2005. It has an overall Untappd rating of 3.74 out of 5 and a Beer Advocate rating of 4.04 where it is deemed exceptional.