|Michigan Craft Brewers Summer Festival 2012
You know, it's all coming back - life is a series of repeating circles. Beer makers centuries ago stopped using the African pepper Grains of Paradise as other
herbs (and hops) became more trendy. Now, Grains of Paradise is becoming the new darling of 21st century brewers. Cider, once treated as purely a
medieval drink - or mass produced shite by massive cider makers - is running rampant as a craft produced drink. There are small independent cider (or
cyder, for purists) companies all over the place in the western hemisphere.
And then there's mead. A honey based drink, with the earliest archaeological evidence for the production of mead going back to around 2000 BC. It's also
very popular at renaissance festivals. I say this, because mead was in plentiful supply at The 2012 Michigan Craft Brewers Summer Festival and with our
Royal lineage at Roberts Manor going back several centuries, it seemed prudent that we should taste some meads. This will explain why the beer reviews
are on the small side.
So, as we say in this part of the western hemisphere...children, let us begin...
1) Bell's Brewery, Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Hopsolution Double IPA (8.2%)
Being members of the Michigan Craft Brewers Guild allowed us to get in one hour early and ahead of the biggest line of people we've ever seen. From the
gate of the festival, it went all the way up a hill, round a huge curve and into Depot Town, a Ypsilanti suburb. With all the peasants behind us, we made for
the Bell's tent and their 1.00pm pouring - the Hopsolution.
Double IPAs = tons of grapefruit flavours, intense bitterness in the finish and some spicy pepper (Grains of Paradise?) and Hopsolution met the criteria
admirably. Underpinned with some malt character, the piney, resiny and citrusy flavours shone like the beacons lit for Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee. A
heavy duty start to be sure, but this beer would be gone inside five minutes once the plebs crashed through the gates. 9/10
2) Copper Canyon Brewery, Southfield, Michigan.
Figgy Pud'n Baltic Porter (7.3%)
Here's the first four words I wrote in my notepad: Clin / Billsy / Allspice / Chon. I can assure you, I wasn't toasted after just one beer, but with the exception
of "Allspice", I have no idea what I was trying to say. However, then I wrote "Read crushed coal, roasted bitter molasses and liquid charcoal with healthy
lashings of soot leading to a finish of firepit ashes". So, clearly a bitter, smoky, chimney-style concoction, which probably damaged my taste buds for many
years to come. 0/10
3) Corner Brewery, Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Tiel Tree Pale Ale with lime peel and coriander (4.5%)
Well, we are close to the earthy, organic and artisinal town of Ann Arbor, so why not a beer of earthy ingredients? As it turned out, Tiel Tree was very earthy
and organic, beginning with a highly effervescent body featuring soft lime flavours, spices, coriander, some citrusy fruit, with a finish of harvest grain and
organic Twinnings Lemon & Rosemary tea. This herbal and refreshing beer is probably a favourite of the Dali Lama. 8/10
4) Odd Side Ales, Grand Haven, Michigan.
Citra Pale Ale (5.74%)
Citra is one of my favourite hops - it adds fresh, bright citrusy flavours to a beer and this Citra Pale Ale was a little beauty. From the tropical fruit nose, to the
citrus, piney, grapefruit and lime flavours, this is all you could want from an IPA. Why they call it a Pale Ale is beyond me, but let me tell you kids, with a bitter
grapefruit finish with hints of pineapple, this was IPA all the waaaaayyy. A world-class stunner! 14/10
5) Big Buck Brewery, Gaylord, Michigan.
Citron Infusion Wheat Ale (abv unknown)
Oh dearie me, here was another odd one. So, the premise is, you take a Belgian Wit with its orange and lemon flavours and infuse whatever's growing at the
bottom of the garden - in this case, raspberries and blueberries, plus some pineapple from Whole Foods Market with a slice of sugary sweet Granny's Lemon
Creme Pie, giving the drinker a guaranteed cavity visit to the dentist.
Basically, a load of sweet shite. Ghastly! 1/10
6) Greenbush Brewing Co, Sawyer, Michigan.
Cask Dystopia Imperial Stout - aged with raspberries - (9.5%)
Right then, so Greenbush Brewing Co...looking at the list of their beers, this lot are keen on pushing the envelope out. Definitely not a brewery for fans of
Miller Shite. But, I digress - the cask version of Dystopia was smooth, mellow with a combination of tart raspberries and dark chocolate with a touch of
underlying creaminess and roasted malts.
Mid-tastes brought forth red cherries, with a malty, charcoal-like finish. I think I liked it! You never know what you're going to get in a Greenbush beer, but
this one actually worked very well. 8/10
7) B.O.B.'s Brewery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Tangerine Trees Fruit Wheat Ale
We're still working out what "B.O.B.'s" actually stands for, but anyway, the Tangerines Trees began with a fresh, citrus fruity aroma , while on the palate we
were presented with tropical fruit, spring flowers (think freshly picked daisies) and massive dollops of Robertson's Orange Marmalade, with a surprising bitter
Again, an interesting set of botanical flavours from a Michigan brewer and definitely not for your average Miller Shite fan. 7/10
8) Kuhnhenn Brewing Co, Warren, Michigan.
Mandarin Wit (5%)
And now folks, for the first time in this review, the commercial blurb on the Mandarin Wit: "A Belgian style wit infused with mandarin oranges rather than
traditional dried Curaçao peel". And true to form, this was a lovely take on a Belgian Wit, with rich, intense orange Satsuma flavours with soft wheat and a
touch of spiciness. The orange intensity followed through to the finish.
If you don't like oranges, then I'd give the Mandarin Wit a rather wide berth, otherwise this was a remarkable orange flavoured beer. Not for your average
Miller Shite fan. 9/10
9) Kuhnhenn Brewing Co, Warren, Michigan.
General Tau Ginseng Ale (7%)
Apparently, this was a Weizenbock infused with ginseng, and one can't argue with that, as from where I was standing, this was herbal-like in that Sage,
Rosemary and Thyme fashion before slightly sweet dark fruits and caramel made themselves known with extracts of Ginseng Tea, honey and hot peppers
completing the mix. Not forgetting, of course, an orangy, spicy note at the finish.
Definitely not for your average Miller Shite fan, but definitely interesting. 8/10
10) Kuhnhenn Brewing Co, Warren, Michigan.
Asian Pear-suasion (5%)
Obviously, we were still in that Wit frame of mind, thus, the Pear-suasion was a Wit made with Michigan raw wheat, coriander and Asian pears. Everything
about this looked delicious, although it didn't live up to it's good looks. There was a dry, slightly tart pear flavour that grew in sweetness which was backed
by earthy grains, courtesy of the raw wheat. The coriander was well hidden as I couldn't pick it up. With a mildly citrus-like straw finish, the Asian
Pear-suasion was largely forgettable. Back to the drawing board methinks, for Kuhnhenn on this one. 3/10
This brewery actually also produces a Belgian Golden strong ale version of this beer, fermented with Asian Pears, which comes in at 8.75% abv.
11) Kuhnhenn Brewing Co, Warren, Michigan.
The Meads: Yes, as I Royally mentioned above, there was mead aplenty at this year's Craft Brewers Festival and as I was already tasting Kuhnhenn beers,
my somewhat unconventional logic determined this would be a good opportunity to try their meads as well.
Being somewhat of a mead virgin, I'm not going to offer any reviews of what we tasted - I will, however say that these meads carry an intense flavour profile,
similar to tasting Canadian ice wine. So on that note, here's what we tried with Kuhnhenn's own tasting descritptions...
Shaolin Strawberry Lychee Traminer
This sparkling mead is loaded with strawberries and lychees (Asian fruit) flavour. The Traminer wine lends a subtle spiciness.
Great Wall of Ginger Citrus Metheglin
This sparkling mead is made with Michigan wildflower honey, ginger, juice and zest of oranges, limes, lemons and minneolas.
Fist of Fury Five Spice Metheglin
This still mead is made with Michigan wildflower honey and Chinese five spice. Perfumey and spicy with a long finish.
12) Short's Brewing Co, Bellaire, Michigan.
The Village Reserve (4.5%)
And on that final note, we had The Village Reserve, an ESB hopped with Perle and Centennial hops. This one started off with light, sweet caramel malt
before the citrus peel and grassy hops took control. Mid-flavours gave strong hay and lemon peel flavours before a citrusy, bitter finish, which clearly came
as a result of all that aggressive hopping at the end. This was a well balanced effort and a delicious finale (and not for your average Miller Shite fan). 9/10
With 62 brewing companies and over 500 beers for the 2012 festival, there was always a challenge for choice with the number of tokens available (mind you,
you could always buy more tokens) inside a five-hour time limit, but regardless of all that, this remains our favourite Royal festival. See you next year!
|"Quick, let's get the Hopsolution in before the rest of those peasants find their way inside!"
|Add your own description for this one!
|The bloke on the left said he recognised Lady Roberts and myself from our visit to Sagatuck Brewery earlier that Spring!
|Standing room only!
|Well, we used to have a Royal cat called Lily!
|Oh yes, we were all having a whale of a time!