|Michigan Craft Brewers Summer Festival 2009 – The Road to Ypsilanti
Driving up to Michigan with the threat of severe thunderstorms in the forecast, I couldn’t help but think of the Bob Hope & Bing Crosby “Road” films – I mean,
that’s what we do for Bogrolls, we go on journeys – sometimes out of state – to experience the world of craft brewing and half the time our adventures
resemble a Road film with all its comedic situations.
Thus, the Road to Ypsilanti. It doesn’t quite have the same feel as Road to Bali or Road to Morocco, but then Bob Hope & Bing Crosby didn’t get to taste
craft brews at the end of their journeys!
The 2008 Michigan Fest was the highlight of our year; a simply brilliant time. And with again over 300 beers available for 2009 (almost all from barrels) I was
salivating by the time I reached Ypsilanti. The dark crowds overhead did not deter another huge crowd of over 5,000 people – they were ready, I was ready,
1) The Livery Brewing Co, Benton Harbor.
Old Cedar English Strong Ale – cask (7%)
I couldn’t turn down a cask ale to begin with – you’d expect nothing less from a CAMRA member – still, the Old Cedar Strong Ale was a disappointing start. It
was really an IPA (hopped with a blend of East Kent Goldings and Styrian Goldings hops) with some peppery notes and a slightly bitter finish. It left no real
2) Grizzly Peak Brewing Co, Ann Arbor.
Sheerwater English IPA – cask (6.2%)
Grizzly Peak Brewing Co was a star for me last year with their refreshing, tasty beers. Their Sheerwater English IPA continued the theme. With some
delicious tones of grapefruit, this was elegantly smooth, fruity, hoppy, with a nice bitter finish. Beautiful! 8/10
3) Grizzly Peak Brewing Co, Ann Arbor.
American Pale Ale (5.2%)
Okay, I was playing safe here with Grizzly Peak, but when you’re on to a good thing, let’s reap the enjoyment! Their Pale Ale was a classic: refreshing, fruity,
no bitterness with some distinct orange marmalade in the flavours. Simply gorgeous. 10/10
4) Saugatuck Brewing Co, Saugatuck.
Barry’s Best Bitter (ABV unknown)
This is probably not the “Best” Barry can offer, but this bitter was quite tasty with its malty beginnings, followed by biscuity and caramel mid-flavours, followed
by a hop finish. 7/10
5) Hopcat Brewing Co, Grand Rapids.
Friar’s Gold Belgian Mild (7%)
Forcing myself to veer away from pale ales and IPAs, I headed into the Hopcat tent. The Belgian Mild was a total delight. Starting with a lovely fresh fruity
aroma, this almost syrupy ale brought forth dazzling flavours of sage and cloves with a sprightly, rich tangerine finish. You could literally taste the strong
alcohol finish! 9/10
6) New Holland Brewing Co, Holland.
Mad Hatter Oak Aged IPA (7.2%)
I’ve always felt strong ties to the New Holland Brewing Co, ever since they sent down some door prizes for one of The Manor’s Ale & Darts Festivals. We’ve
visited their brewpub three times and Lady Roberts and I had a grand time at their 2006 Autumn Fest.
They’ve turned out several versions of their brilliant Mad Hat IPA and the Oak Aged followed the syrupy, rich hoppy pattern. Being oak-aged, there were
additional flavours of vanilla and caramel, rounding off with a hop bitterness. Very well done. 8/10
7) Walldorff’s Brewpub, Hastings.
Chai Spiced Hefeweizen (8%)
In for a penny, in for a pound, and let’s face it, this is what a beer festival is all about – tasting classic beers styles alongside the weird and wonderful.
Speaking of the weird and wonderful brings me to the Chai Spiced Hefe. With an eye catching (or should it be nasal catching) aroma of bright aniseed, this
smooth ale really did present chai flavours with yet more aniseed and a lovely nutmeg finish. I love aniseed, so this somewhat bizarre ale really did work for
8) Schmohz Brewing Co, Grand Rapids.
Bonecrusher Stout (6.4%)
Stouts can be hit or miss for me, but with the title of Bonecrusher, how could I refuse a tasting? Bad decision really, because Bonecrusher Stout had issues.
With 5 different malts used, I was going to have issues. It was thin with a mixture of roasted malt, caramel and mollases and I got the impression that
someone had dumped a ashtray of cigarette butts (“dog-ends” in the UK) into the mix. Thoroughly nasty. 1/10
9) Grand Rapids Brewing Co, Grand Rapids.
Metaphysical Monk Belgian Triple (ABV unknown).
Ten out of ten for name alone, this honey-like flavorsome ale exploded with fruit, beginning with pineapples, lemons and finishing with oranges. A fruity and
slightly strange delight. 9/10.
10) Dark Horse Brewing Co, Marshall.
Fore Smoked Stout (8%)
In a word, GHASTLY! The Fore Smoked Stout was roasted, bitter, with a bucketload of treacle and coffee in the flavours. A nightmare. 1/10
11) Royal Oak Brewery, Royal Oak.
Royal Pride Dry-hopped IPA (6.5%)
Yes, this “Royal” offering was a little short on pedigree, but it was refreshing enough with some good hop flavours and citrus notes before leading into a bitter
12) Rochester Mills Organic Beer Co, Rochester.
Cherry Cream Ale (ABV unknown)
There’s something about the term “organic” that always worries me and with the Cherry Cream Ale, my fears were confirmed. With an aroma of cigarettes,
this was clearly not a bright start. Initial tastes were of moldy raspberries with a mild taste of black cherries in the finish, otherwise it left no other impression.
A complete disaster. 0/10
13) Keweenaw Brewing Co, Warren.
Pickaxe Blonde (5.5%)
No barrels here folks – instead, we were treated to the sight of two blokes from Keweenaw Brewing Co furiously opening cans of their Pickaxe Blonde. They
told us that serving beer by the can is just as fresh as bottles or cask. Their unbridled enthusiasm suggested to me that there was no point in arguing with
them, so I happily took my tasting from a can. The verdict? Well, it was oddly fruity with strong flavours of mangoes and oranges with yet more mangoes
appearing later on. Really, it was a healthy fruit drink with 5.5% of alcohol tipped in it, bearing no resemblance at all to a “blonde” ale. These boys need to
dump their cans of Pickaxe Blonde off at the nearest Whole Foods Market. 1/10
And on that healthy note, it was time to bid farewell to the 2009 Michigan Craft Brewers Festival. It was another fantastic trip and happily, the storm clouds
passed over us and away. We’re looking forward to the 2010 Michigan Craft Brewers Winter Festival in February. We’ve had plans for the past two years,
but each time I’ve gone down with the plague – perhaps I need to chug down a few cans of healthy Pickaxe Blonde over winter!
|It was high-tech here folks - the Michigan Beer Scene Podcast was in full swing.