|Michigan Craft Brewers Summer Festival 2011
As Sir Cliff Richard would sing “We’re all going on a summer holiday…” and so it came to pass that July 2011 saw Lady Roberts and myself making our now
annual pilgrimage up to the wild and wonderful state of Michigan, home of some of the most progressive brewers in the country.
The brief was simple: Friday afternoon we would visit the Craft Brewers Summer Festival, stay at a delightful Bed & Breakfast overnight and then spend
Saturday at the Ann Arbor Arts Festival, one of the biggest arts festivals in the country.
As we made the drive up, a couple of things began to niggle at my Royal mind – the first was it was 102-degrees, which could make things a little tricky for
an outside beer festival; the second was that they were recovering from several days of SEVERE rain, which combined with the heat would turn the festival
park into a pile of soggy mud accompanied with constant mosquito attacks coming off the river running along the side of the park.
During a roadside Starbuck’s latte break enroute, I made the decision to let the beer festival go this year. Lady Roberts looked at me with astonishment –
BUT, I had a cunning back-up plan; Lady Roberts could get a head start on the Arts Festival, while I hold court at the most excellent “Ashley’s” in Ann
Arbor. Ashley’s is the only Michigan whisky bar recommended in Macallan’s “Best Whisky Bars in the World”, PLUS, it has 70 (yes, seventy) beers on tap.
My beer festival would take place in a comfortable, air-conditioned pub. Y’all know what’s coming next….here, children, is where we begin….
1) Michigan Brewing Co.
High Seas IPA – on cask (7%)
This brewery is about R-E-S-P-E-C-T, the brewery who finally gave Pierre Celis no bullshit in producing his stunning Celis White (still, the finest Belgian Wit
on this planet). Thus, I had high hopes for their High Seas IPA. Well, this didn’t exactly go to plan. “Bizarre” would be a good start. Sad to say, this was a
totally confusing disaster. The aroma was of moldy grapefruit, while the flavours delivered cooking fat, oranges that had been left to rot in the sun,
combined with watery Corn Flakes. A finish of soap suds left me foaming at the mouth. Hideous! -10/10
2) Founder’s Brewing Co, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Old Curmudgeon Ale (9.3%)
Now, this was sweet, - Ashley’s had four high-gravity Founder’s ales on tap, none of which I’d tried before. The Old Curmudgeon was described as an “Old”
ale, thus it was sweet, slightly tart, exceedingly rich, with a strong malty, oaky (in that Scottish fashion) backbone, tinged with a touch of leather, which
provided some face-inducing grimacing. Perfect for that cold winter night in the damp Scottish Highlands, while searching in the dark for Larry the lost
sheep. Not bad in the dead of Summer in Michigan either. 8/10
3) Founder’s Brewing Co, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
With five malts, there was no surprise where this one was going – Nemesis was a mahogany smooth Barley Wine with actually a nice balance of hops. That
said, it was still very roasty with sweet malt taking center stage, culminating with a disturbing finish of furniture polish. Worrying. 6/10
4) Founder’s Brewing Co, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Backwards Bastard Ale (9.2%)
Aged in bourbon barrels, this delightfully named ale was dominated by a strong dry bourbon flavour (without being too overbearing), with an oaky
abundance of cherries, cinnamon and beetroot. More oak and bourbon finished off this fascinating ale. 10/10 Months later, I found a 4-pack of Backwoods
Bastard in Columbus and the flavours were even more mature. Delicious stuff!
5) Founder’s Brewing Co, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Devil Dancer (12%)
No messing with this one – Devil Dancer was dry-hopped with 10 different hops, giving an IBU of 112, yet it still had room for those (in)famous Founder’s
malt flavours, which combined with a grapefruit bitterness which was clearly OTT, gave a supremely rich finish of Port Wine on speed. Crazy! 9/10
At this stage, I was feeling somewhat worse for wear, so I put down a few gallons of water while waiting for Lady Roberts. The reviews would resume on Day
2, at Grizzly Peak Brewing Co in Ann Arbor.
6) Grizzly Peak Brewing Co, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Pale Ale (5.3%).
Following a fine day of perusing Ann Arbor Arts Festival, we decided to take refuge at Grizzly Peak before making the journey home. I’ve always been fond
of their beers at the Summer Craft Brewers Festival, so this was a welcome visit.
Their Pale Ale was in that classic interpretation of the American Pale Ale, with 100% Cascade Hops, giving bright, citrusy, piney flavours. Both fruity and
hoppy, this was a delight. 10/10
7) Grizzly Peak Brewing Co, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Chamomile Red - on cask(4.6%)
Down on the farm for the Chamomile Red, with copious herbal flavours of Chamomile, Rosemary and Sage – rather a lot of Sage. With a finish of crushed
Lavender, this resembled a ghastly mixture of Boots talcum powder, watered down with alcohol. This was no-where in the same class as the brilliant, but
criminally under-rated Grassroots Ale from Great Lakes Brewing Co. 1/10
8) Grizzly Peak Brewing Co, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Victor’s Gold (4.6%)
This was back on track – a delicious, peppery, golden ale with the Michigan malt character and spritzy, fresh hops providing a crisp, dry finish. Perfect for
that hot summer’s day in the Spanish Algarve, while searching for Christiano, the lost goat. 10/10
9) Grizzly Peak Brewing Co, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
County Cork Irish Stout (5.1%)
We at The Manor have a fascination with Irish stouts. Whenever we try one, the question always is how much better than that rubbish Guinness is it? In
the case of County Cork Irish Stout, the answer is TONS better! CCIS was very roasty – almost to the point of bitter – with creamy malt and dry chestnuts.
This was a delight and with a creamy, nutty finish, it can hold its head up proud. An easy 10/10
10) Grizzly Peak Brewing Co, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
El Hefe (5%)
Now, this was the way to finish off a summer beer festival – with a fine interpretation of a German Hefeweizen. First, the aroma – MASSIVE cloves in the
nose. This was followed with a taste-bud explosion of bananas, cloves, bubblegum and Daisies – and even with this lot, the El Hefe was still not too sweet.
The finish produced more cloves and Dandelions for a thoroughly refreshing summer beer. Perfect for that hot summer’s day in the Sahara, while looking
for Fred, the lost camel. 12/10
And so, our 2-day excursion to Michigan came to a close. You never know what the summer can bring weather-wise, but I, for one, am looking forward to
the 2012 Michigan Craft Brewers Summer Festival!
|The excellent Raja Rani restaurant. THE spot in Ann Arbor for a curry and a pint of dodgy Kingfisher lager.