Craft beer tasting in Michigan is akin to wine exploration in Napa Valley. I realize the comparison is not apples to apples, rather grapes to hops. As it goes with wine or beer there are endless opportunities to say things like, At first sip, taste and smell the malty roasted blend with notes of caramel and coffee, finishing with a light, effervescent note of spice. And, travel most places in the U.S., mention Grand Rapids, Founders or Bells Brewing and you’ve got an instant bar pal. With thousands of cases of Oberon, Two-Hearted and All Day IPA being shipped to thirsty consumers, Michigan brewing rep continues to grow. If you drink craft in Michigan, consider yourself a beer snob.
The craft beer scene is fun and so is tasting and writing about it. The only part I’ll skip is IPA’s and sours, otherwise it’s an continuing cornucopia of new flavors. And, with over 200 breweries in Michigan, a flight is not far from our tastebuds. I am drawn to the creativity of the industry and as a bonus my tasting habit supports the buy local (brewed local) concept.
Cheers to the local brewmaster: Lead us not into hoppy bitterness, but deliver us into smooth flavors of lagers, ales, sessions, porters and stouts. (Holmes & Watson) Josh and I continue to travel the great beer state, tasting as we go. Recently, Josh totaled up our stats and announced we’d been to 55 breweries of 205. We thought we were making such great progress until we snagged a copy of the 2017 Michigan craft beer map that boasted the new total at 239. Crap, we’re at a mere 23% of goal. Taking the news in stride, we recommitted to the chase of the great beer adventure. Only 184 more to go!
Big Lake Brewing, Holland
We’d had several BLB beers, most notably the Leroy Brown and the Citra Session at several beer festivals like the Crystal Mountain Beer & Brat Fest or Burning Foot Beer Festival in Muskegon. We gave the beer a thumbs up but the strip mall location north of Holland lacked ambiance and character. It was kind of like sipping a beer in a repurposed Denny’s Restaurant, leaving us feeling slightly out of place.
Redline Brewing, Burton
We made a trip to the east side for maintenance on Grandpa Watson’s house in Davison. After hours of manual labor, leaf hauling, bush trimming and foundation sealing we took our parched selves to Redline for refreshments and salty popcorn. A brewery’s stock always goes up with me when they offer free salty snacks. We happened to time our visit with the release of a local’s favorite: The Taco Crusher, brewed with fresh cilantro, peppercorns then fermented with tequila soaked jalapeños. Our take: light yet complex but not too spicy. Mexican food is a must for the pairing.
Tenacity Brewing, Flint
The water is fine and the beer is even better. Continuing the east-side visit and more manual labor the next day, a sore back did not prevent us from a stop at downtown Flint’s Tenacity Brewing in a restored fire barn. A coffee shop, urban vibe pervaded the pub with modern décor and a living room with Victorian furniture. We sunk in to the chairs and shared a flight. The smoked porter was the standout, followed closely by the Atwood Amber.
Lansing Brewing Company
We completed our eastside brewery tour after Coach Josh’s soccer game in Dexter. The soccer field was conveniently four miles away from the Potowatomi single-track loop at Pinckney State Rec. Area. After 15 miles on bikes, we earned our beer calories and chose to stop in the state capitol. The Lansing Brewing Co. coaster boasts a 100-year brewing history. The Amber Cream Ale was the flagship and it went down well with a flight alongside sandwiches and fries at the bar. It’s a busy and big place, catering to Lugnut fans after a baseball game.
Cellar Brewing, Sparta
Randomly, I met the owners at an Irish Festivals Conference in Indy. They proudly brew beer for the people of Sparta (a hearty sort just north of GR) and for the Sparta Celtic Festival in August. Josh and I stopped at their newly opened downtown location and restaurant. I got my usual flight, unable to make a single pint decision. We tried the Michigan sunshine (wit bier), Lucky Enough Amber and the Irish Stout of course.
Hideout Brewing, Grand Rapids
Just like the google review I read, great beer in a lacking location. Hideout is aptly named, tucked in a small, gloomy space but the Peanut Butter Chocolate Porter will make you forget the surroundings (try the imperial version for a boozy treat). And, the Amber Dark Crystal was malty yet smooth. Hats off to the female brewer who concocts their tasty batches.
Happy tasting in the Mitten……