|Michigan Craft Brewers Summer Festival 2010
It's known all over the world, indeed it's even mentioned in The Vatican that this festival is the highlight of The Roberts Manor beer year. Better still, not only
was this our third year in a row, but the first ever beer festival for Lady Roberts and my, didn't we pick a corker for her inaugural festival!
We began with temperatures in the late 90's. Give that some humidity and we're talking well over 100-degrees F. I was wondering if this was perhaps not the
best weather to have Lady Roberts endure. But as the opening bell approached, the oncoming grey clouds suggested that perhaps a wee drop of cooling
rain might be in the air - little did we know....
1) Right Brain Brewery, Traverse City.
The Reserection Stout (abv unknown)
Don't ask me why I started with a stout, especially in this heat. After this opener - and to maintain Lady Roberts's interest in the festival - I let her pick the
remaining beers I tasted. I gave her an outline of what I like and then let her ladyship weave her beer-picking magic.
Anyway, The Reserection Stout - As expected, a roasted coffee nose with an initial taste of rich, dark plums which lead into bright cherries mixed with pepper.
Sweet malt made an appearance later on before more pepper in the finish. Quite smooth and tasty. 8/10
2) Hideout Brewing Co, Grand Rapids.
Hooray For Hemp Amber Ale (5.6%)
Alright then, the first suggestion from Lady Roberts. This was actually really tasty - smooth and spicy with lots of orange flavours accompanied by earthy hops
and a pandora's box of fresh garden herbs. What a cask ale this would make - a good pint to relax by the firepit with. 10/10
3) Liberty Street Brewing Co, Plymouth.
Clementine Lemon Thyme Ale (4.4%)
Well, we're certainly trying some beers we wouldn't ordinarily see at The Manor. However, the Clementine Lemon Thyme Ale was extremely odd. The aroma
was of The Manor herb garden and it didn't deviate in the flavour which was a mix of citrusy lemon and a LOT of herbally thyme . It was very creamy too with
an overpowering thyme finish. Some might say it was f****d up. 2/10
4) Old Boys' Brewhouse, Spring Lake.
Olli's Oatmeal Stout (5.8%)
Biscuity flavours dominated this creamy stout combined with a smooth maltiness. Quite bitter at the end. I'm a bit of Oatmeal Stout bloke and I quite enjoyed
this little number. 8/10 Overhead, the skies were becoming quite dark with a few raindrops in the air.
5) Short's Brewing Co, Bellaire/Elk Rapids.
Black Liquorice Lager (8%)
Oh yes, I was looking forward to this one. I LOVE liquorice, I LOVE aniseed, I LOVE ouzo (takes me back to those Royal holidays on the Greek Islands) - but I
digress. This was a load of shite! It was black alright and there was no mistaking the liquorice nose, but flavour-wise, I picked up vast amounts of molasses
topped with black tar. Ghastly! 0/10 Overhead, the skies were very dark and it was beginning to rain quite hard.
6) Short's Brewing Co, Bellaire/Elk Rapids.
Huma-Lupa-Licious IPA (7%)
Always ready to give a brewery a second chance, I followed the advice of Lady Roberts and went for my first IPA. The Huma-whatever redeemed this brewery
- this IPA had lots of citrusy hops, just a little bit of caramel (without being annoying) and some grassyness before a strong bitter hoppy finish. Very good
indeed. 8/10 Overhead, the skies were black, it was now a monsoon and the tornado alert siren went off. Lady Roberts took cover in another tent and the
walkie-talkies we brought with us weren't worth tuppence in this deluge.
7) Walldorff Brewpub, Hastings.
Strawberry Rhubarb Cream Ale (5%)
I took cover in tent #4 which housed amongst others, the Walldorff Brewpub. It's funny how adversity always brings the best out of people. There we were, all
packed like sardines and we're all joking and laughing - great camaraderie - and better still, the Walldorff Brewpub was not taking tokens during the Michigan
monsoon. It was free beer for all!
CAMRA's Jeff Evans once said that the US is the most innovative brewing country in the world and certainly, that's why we get Walldorff's Strawberry Rhubarb
Cream Ale. I can't see Greene King or Wadworth's brewing a beer like this. However, having said that, this little number was actually quite delicious. It wasn't
overly creamy but it was fresh, clean, with the taste of sweet strawberries balancing out the tart rhubarb. What really made this beer work was that it was quite
effervescent which really worked with the flavours. Quite Belgian-like if you will. 9/10 Overhead, the monsoon continued. What on earth would Lady Roberts
think of the beer festivals I drag her to?!
8) Walldorff Brewpub, Hastings.
Hopnoxxxious IPA (9.5%)
Another free beer, my good fellow! And at 9.5% abv, this will definitely take the damp out of a monsoon. Amarillo, Chinook and Ahtanum hops made up this
quite mild example of a strong IPA. It had some nice citrusy flavours and my Royalness picked up piney hops as well - however, this made for a quite sweet
IPA without the hop bitterness normally associated with this kind of ABV strength. It was really missing a pair of bollocks. Disappointing. 4/10 Overhead, the
rains were beginning to end, enabling us to leave the tents and enter a world of soggy, wet mud.
9) Founders Brewing Co, Grand Rapids.
Devil Dancer Triple IPA (12%)
7.00pm saw the cask tapping of Founders Devil Dancer IPA and like Oliver Twist, I eagerly stood in line, cup in hand. Now, we all know that Founders ROCK -
their Centennial IPA is magnificent to the power of 10. The blurb for the Triple IPA said "More IBU’s than any brewery has documented (200 IBU's), more than
you would believe and dry-hopped for twenty-six days straight with a combination of 10 hop varieties".
Well then - you might ask - how would one describe this monumental tapping? Right off the bat, it's all about the hops from start to finish - caramel malt added
a sweet balance, but otherwise it was earthy with pine notes, some grapefuit, hops and more hops. This is one I'd like to try again from a bottle because
despite the millions of IBU's, the ABV of 12% left it somewhat lacking. Something this mighty deserves a more mighty ABV. Think of Dogfish Head's 120-
minute IPA (also a Triple IPA) - what completes that beer is having an ABV of 21%. It needs to be that strong to compliment the massive IBU's. Devil Dancer
was therefore somewhat disappointing. 6/10 However, the sight of people head-diving into massive puddles of mud was highly entertaining! 15/10 for the
10) Michigan Brewing Co, Webberville.
Barley Wine (14%)
Michigan Brewing Co is responsible for relaunching the career of Belgian beer-maestro Pierre Celis. After being shafted by Interbrew (now Anhauser-Busch
InBev), Pierre Celis brought his beers to Austin, Texas, where he was again shafted by SAB Miller. Michigan Brewing Co came to the rescue and amongst
others, they offer the world-classic Celis White. Thus, we at The Manor feel compelled to always support them at beer festivals.
Their Barley Wine was much sweeter than your average barley wines - it had a beautiful dark red body with tastes of brown sugar, caramel and berries
underscored by an underbelly of malt. It's syrupyness made it perfect for the dinner table on Christmas Day. 9/10
11) Arbor Brewing Co, Ann Arbor.
Faricy-Fest Irish Stout (4.5%)
The first of four from Arbor Brewing Co presented an "Oirish" stout and this was a bit of a ripper. Hints of chocolate and roasted malts in the nose gave way to
rich, creamy tastes of smoky peat, chocolate, more roasted malt with an espresso finish. Very, very commendable. 9/10
12) Arbor Brewing Co, Ann Arbor.
Huxell Best Bitter (3.9%)
Ooooh yes, a lovely smooth one, this. In the English fashion, this was bready with a woody oakiness without being too bitter. The hops were fresh tasting and
understated with slight toffee notes. Beautifully balanced. A touch of Blighty in Michigan! 9/10
13) Arbor Brewing Co, Ann Arbor.
Bliss Bavarian Hefeweizen (5.6%)
It began with an off-putting colour of a dingy, cloudy gravy - horse urine could be another description. There were some bubblegum and fizzy bananas in the
flavours, with a hefty amount of cloves. Caramel made a late appearance. All in all, not a bad German-style Hefe although it did seem a bit tired to me - or was
that me being a bit tired?! 7/10
14) Arbor Brewing Co, Ann Arbor.
Sacred Cow IPA (6%) - on cask.
Yummy, an IPA to finish for the day. Sacred Cow is a classic - dark orange in colour with a rich, frothy head. Being cask, the flavours were not over-bearing:
some pleasant grapefruit, quite citrusy with a mild hoppy presence. Some light malt finished off this understated IPA. Beautiful! 9/10
And as the night sky approached, myself and Lady Roberts called it a day. Not exactly the perfect environment to initiate Lady Roberts to beer festivals, but
we can't say it wasn't eventful! We stayed overnight in Ann Arbor before heading off to the massive Ann Arbor Arts Festival the next day. While there, we
visited Ashley's Pub for just a couple more beers....
15) Dragonmead Microbrewery, Warren.
Final Absolution Belgian Trippel (10%)
Ashely's is actually known for being one of the best Whisky bars in the world, but with 70 beers on tap, including 20 from Michigan breweries, I mean it just had
to be beer.
Anyway, I didn't get the opportunity to get to the Dragonmead stand at the festival, so I made up for lost time at Ashley's. The Final Absolution is made with a
Belgian yeast strain with Belgian Candi Sugar and Saaz hops, which gave us in the taste some cloves, bananas and a fair bit of spices with a sour finish. It
was appropriately effervescent as well. A fine lunchtime bevvy! 8/10
16) Dragonmead Microbrewery, Warren.
Crown Jewels IPA (7%)
This was odd. Made with caramel malt, the Crown Jewels IPA was quite hoppy with some bitter grapefruit and a bizarre injection of honey, which did absolutely
nothing for me. Throw in some sickly caramel and what you had, was some something pretty nasty. There are some outstanding IPA's made in Michigan -
this, unfortunately, wasn't one of them. 3/10
And that brought our Michigan beer experiance for summer 2010 to a close. We still had another four hours of Ann Arbor Arts Festival to get through, but I did
notice with a keen eye, that the 2011 Michigan Craft Brewers Winter Festival is being held on my Royal Birthday weekend. Plans are being made!
|Lady Roberts looking forward to her pint of Canadian Breakfast Stout...NOT!