Mass Beer Tasting

Friday, August 08, 2008

Sorry no beer review the past 2 weeks. This damn herd of business...primary elections...blah blah. Excuses are like assholes; everyone has one and they all stink.

At any rate, a few weeks ago I attended the Summer Beer Festival put on by the Michigan Brewers Guild. It is a fantabulous event and is among the best-run and most organized festivals I have ever attended. That's quite a feat, considering the huge potential for utter chaos that a festival with a cheap ticket price, an open invitation and loads of high-alcohol drinks can yield. The key seems to be tons and tons of bathrooms. Port-a-johns everywhere. A "relieved" people is a relaxed people.

47 breweries. 330 different Michigan beers. 60 different styles of beer. My stomach was full of carb-heavy foods. I was ready to go.

Before I go on, I will note that no, I didn't hit all 47 breweries. Remember that kid in east Lansing who died on his 21st birthday because he took 21 shots? I have a wife and kids to think about. So I will settle for "trashed" so long as it's not "dead." And several breweries I visited multiple times. I will give you a rundown of what I remember tasting. After a while and a certain level of inebriation, I couldn't taste much any more. And for three days afterwards I could barely even taste coffee.

Not from memory, but from notes scribbled on various and sundry items and crammed in my pockets (but with editorial comments added for the blog today):

Arcadia (Battle Creek, MI)
Hop Rocket Imperial IPA. Extremely well-done brew with a bog malt backbone. The hops weren't was a pleasant IPA with higher ABV than most.
Cereal Killer 08 Barleywine. Big huge malty flavors like tick syrup on top of a bed of aggressive hops. Should have let this age more; it was a bit young. But still, I have had much worse and this one had real potential.

Atwater Block (Detroit, MI)
Voodoovator Doppelbock. Nice chocolate and toasty notes. Alcohol spice. A simple, well-rounded doppelbock that would be a nice session beer in winter.
Vanilla Java Porter. I have this in bottles all the time; it's one of their gold standard beers. I wanted to try it on tap. Kegged, it really brought out more of the coffee/toasty notes and toned-down the vanilla a bit, making it even more drinkable and balanced than the bottled version.

Dragonmead (Warren, MI)
Earl Spit Stout. Meh. A stout. Nothing wrong with it. Fits the category pefectly. Just nothing that "popped."

Fort Street Brewery (Lincoln Park, MI)
Secret Stash Barrel Aged Stout. Gasp! A barrel-aged stout at a beer fest? No way! It was...exactly what I expected. I really like barrel-aged beers. I think they impart a nice flavor to the beers and a new level of complexity. But it is nothing new any more...every damn brewer does it, so unless it has something else special to it, I'll like it, but any more it's like drinking any other average beer.

Grand Rapids Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, MI)
Farmers Daughter Saison. I am on a huge saison kick right now. To me, it's a more-perfecter summer beer than a hefe. This was a really nice saison. Bordered on sweet rather than cirtus, with that nice yeasty funk barely in the background. Nicely balanced and very refreshing.

Right Brain Brewery (Traverse City, MI)
CEO Stout (Chocolate, Espresso, Oatmeal). It wants to be Founders Breakfast Stout when it grows up, but is a very good shot at the title of "king of the beers I like." The C, E and O were very present, the latter being the silky-smooth mouthfeel.

Sherwood Brewing Co. (Shelby Twp., MI)
Very Cherry Trippel. Big huge Belgian cherry trippel. I brew a Belgian cherry dubbel and it is a fave among my friends and tailgate compatriots. This tasted very similar but with a bigger alcohol burn to it. Heavier malt taste with a sour cherry bite, it was a great offering that IO went back to several times in hopes to figure out how to improve my own recipe to match this one.

Walldorff Brewpub (Hastings, MI)
Strawberry Rhubarb Cream Ale. Chicks will dig this beer.
Old Woody Imperial Stout. Now we're talkin'. Left wine-like legs in the tasting cup. Massive roasted and toasted flavors, a bit of "burnt" in it. Big hop attack of an earthy quality. Big alcohol burn. Loved it. Had seconds. And thirds.

Arbor Brewing Co. (Ann Arbor, MI)
Uskratsch Mai Bock. Such a nice Mai Bock. Malts in great balance with a spicy hop tinge. It's like springtime in a bottle!

Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. (Warren, MI)
A few shillings too many wee heavy. Huge sweet malt with a bit of toasted bread. Bitterness not so much from hops but from toasted malts. Great wee heavy. Went back for repeats.
Ninkasi Ancient Ale. This was one of two beers they had there bittered with something other than hops. I picked this one because it reminded me of "ninja." For the life of me, I can't remember what they bittered it with, and a trip to their web site was fruitless; the whole site is broken links. It is, however, named after the Sumerian Goddess of Brewing Beer. Whatever it was, it was extremely sweet and ginger-y and I liked it a Hell of a lot.

The Livery (Benton Harbor, MI)
Maillot Jaune French Farmhouse Ale (saison). Perfect saison. Game over. Had this like 5 times.
Trippelweizenbock. A wheat bock mixed with a trippel. Big alcohol, wheat spiciness, round malts, agressive trippel sweetness...I came back to this one 3 or 4 times. Almost like gingerbread cookies.

New Holland Brewing Co. (Holland, MI)
Golden Cap Saison. More spicy and citrusy than the Grand rapids one listed above, which made it great in its own right, different from the Grand Rapids one. That's the magic of this style; slight variations give each beer its own character and subtlety but it's still consistently refreshing.
Dragon's Milk Oak Aged Ale. A personal favorite I purchase all the time. Sometimes, you go with what you know 'cause you crave it.

Founders (Grand Rapids, MI)
Kentucky Breakfast Stout. My favorite stout of all time aged in bourbon barrels. To. Die. For. Coffee, chocolate, toasted malt, with a shot of bourbon in it.
Backwoods Bastard. Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale (sweet, malty, syrupy) aged in bourbon barrels. Makes me like this style of beer even better.

Dark Horse (Marshall, MI)
Plead the 5th Imperial Stout. Huge coffee aroma and flavor atop a bed of both spicy and earthy hops. Huge body, low carbonation. Barely any sweetness, this is all toasted and burnt-roated goodness.
Perkulator Coffee Doppelbock. Shoulda been a stout. Oh well. Lost the doppelbock under all the coffee roastiness.

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales (Dexter, MI)
Luciernaga Saison. Jolly Pumpkin ages all of their beers in French Oak Barrels. It imparts a sour note that really really works for some beers and is dismal for others. It...kinda worked for the saison, but it had just enough of a sour note to make it puckeringly-tart and funky. A bit much.

So that's what I remember having and what notes I could find in my pockets. I am sure I had some others, but with repeat trips to some of the beers I really liked, I wanted to make sure I could make it back to the bus. This was a great festival, and I'm looking forward to the winter beer fest on February 28, 2009 in Grand Rapids!


Mike 10:37 AM  

About the only one of these I've had in NY is Acadia. I really like Cereal Killer, but I hear what you say about wishing it was aged a bit more.

Bob 12:10 PM  

You forgot about the Crème Brulee Java Stout, tapped at exactly 7 pm. Wasn't it also made by Kuhnhenn of Warren? You may not remmeber, but you liked it a lot. I was afraid of it, but it ended up being one of my favorites for the evening.

There was also that IPA? that we poured on the ground it was so bad. Cannot remeber who made it - probably for the best.

I was not a big fan of the Saisons, but that is a personal taste. I take your word for it if it was perfect for the type.

All in all, it was a great evening. I will go again, but on a more full stomach.

Smitty 12:29 PM  

Ah! The Creme Brulee Java Stout! Delicious indeed.

Sopor 2:09 PM  

I got a chance to try a few of these gems at the Master Brewer's Association Summer Social Annual Picnic in Grand Ledge a few weeks ago. Think mini-beer-fest with free food and everybody drinking together. It was a blast!

Too bad I missed this though...

Mr Furious 11:51 AM  

Don't tell me that shit was in Ann Arbor right after I left...

Mr Furious 11:52 AM  

Tim at Balloon Juice (or someone) just reviewed a créme brulee brew...

Anonymous,  4:38 PM  

What!? No pictures?


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