Bogrolls & Barley Wines
Michigan Craft Brewers Summer Fest 2008
Prologue -- This was the one: the beer festival we’d been looking forward to for ages. The bright spot on the calendar when issues at work and dealing with
complete idiots were threatening to wear us down. We were ready – good and ready. And better yet, the Bogrolls team were taking the motorcycles for this
one. Lord Shigley and myself, the more adventurous members of the Fulloshite motorcycle “gang” were taking a 2-day motorcycle trip to Michigan to savour
the delights of handcrafted ales.
Prologue II -- Let it be known right now that Lord Shigley is the master of finding the prettiest and picturesque of routes for our motorcycle endeavors. His
talent for coming up with twisty, curvy roads through forests and fields, round hills and down valleys, skirting rivers and lakes should surely be the subject of a
motorcycle touring book. It truly added to the enjoyment of the journeys to Ann Arbor and back. And having smashing weather helped as well.
So, anyway, our hotel was in the Michigan college town of Ann Arbor with the festival taking place just 8 miles away in Ypsilanti. Having parked the bikes, we
took a taxi to the festival. Our driver was a hilarious bloke from Canada, with the “day job” title of Clinical Psychologist. He was in Ann Arbor to study for his
PhD, and drove a taxi on the weekends to escape the monotony of the text books.
I thought that was pretty special and it proved indicative of the festival to follow. This was an open-air festival, with a line a mile long to get in. It was the 11th
annual Summer Beer Festival from The Michigan Brewers Guild, and clearly they knew how to run a beer festival. Better yet, the Guild thoroughly supports
its member breweries so you get this huge feeling of unity coming from the Michigan brewers camp.
What’s more, only Michigan breweries were represented, with (obviously) all the beers being Michigan beers. And if that doesn’t sound appealing to the non-
believers amongst you, then how about no less than 51 Michigan breweries being represented with over 330 beers on offer to the punters, featuring 60
different brewing styles??!!
And….all the beers were served from barrels, with several being cask ales. Oh yes, this was serious stuff all right and it made the Columbus AleFest look like
a complete load of shite.
Food aplenty was supplied from three breweries, with tables and chairs (you could also bring in your own chairs) plus pub games and live music. And more
bogs than you could shake a stick at.
Lord "Harley" Shigley and Lord "Pierre" Roberts, showing clear sings of the diarrhoea that would plague him throughout the festival.
So, to the beers. For $30.00 you got twelve tasting tokens, but as it proved, most breweries weren’t too bothered about collecting them, so for the more
intrepid beer fan, you could pretty much drink as much as you liked. I’d never seen so many cigar smokers in one place before, and many of these young
smokers were female!
With so many beers available, it was hard to know where to start; the accompanying guide confused me even more with such a dazzling number to pick from.
It ended up being a case of simply wandering around and having a look to see what was going on in each tent. I made a point of avoiding the Founders
Brewery tent, purely because their beers are available in Ohio and also because there was a bloody great line waiting to taste their beers. Lord Shigley
discovered that Bell’s Brewery had withdrawn from the Michigan Brewers Guild, thus they were not represented at the Festival. This was truly Bell’s loss and
they were certainly not missed.
With no further delay then, and in descending order…
1) The Livery Brewery, Benton Harbour.
Maillot Jaune French Farmhouse Ale (5.5%)
The opening salvo of tastings and an interesting start. This one was presented as “barrel aged” and was both tangy and orangy in taste with a bitter
peaches finish. A bit on the carbonated side, but nonetheless quite refreshing. 8/10
2) North Peak Brewing Co, Traverse City.
Shirley’s Irish Stout (5.3%)
For the life of me, I have no idea why I picked a stout so early in the proceedings. Not a good choice, for Shirley’s Irish Stout while having that “roasty”
flavour, was waaaay too bitter and lacked any creaminess whatsoever which is a staple of an Irish Stout. There was also a rank finish of dark prunes.
3) CJ’S Brewing Co, Commerce Township.
VAT 33 IPA (7%)
An odd one this; the VAT 33 IPA was full bodied and rich without being overly hoppy at all, thus there was no hop bitterness normally associated with a 7%
abv IPA. It actually left no impression whatsoever, rather like drinking warm dishwater. 2/10
4) Big Buck Brewing Co, Gaylord.
Doc’s ESB (6.7%)
Here was a little beauty with a nice, noticeable balance of malt and hops (with the edge just leaning in favour of the hops). This ESB was dead smooth with
some edgy bitterness at the finale. Beautiful! Doc’s ESB is what Great Lakes Moondog ESB should taste like. Better yet, Great Lakes shouldn’t have
jacked up the original Moondog Ale in the first place – but that’s another story. 9/10
5) Sherwood Brewing Co, Shelby Township.
Daytripper Tripel (7.5%)
Back to the Belgians for this ripper of a Tripel. The Daytripper Tripel was a revelation: unlike its Benelux cousins, this was not too sweet, which really
appealed to me. It was smooth, citrusy, orangy, with a little tangyness and a good dosing of cloves for good measure. The finish was peppery with
everything in the right place 10/10
6) Atwater Block Brewery, Detroit.
Dirty Blonde American Wheat Ale (4.5%)
The rather camp bloke who served this commented that he used to be a “dirty blond”, much to the amusement of the punters waiting in line. Brewed with
unmalted wheat with coriander and orange peel added, this was a bloody refreshing wheat ale for a hot summer’s afternoon. Without being too heavy on the
citrus flavours, the orange zest just burst through, titillating the tastebuds. Absolutely delicious! 12/10
7) The Livery Brewery, Benton Harbour.
Agent 99 Belgian Quadruple Ale (11.9%)
No, not content with a single or double or even trippel ale, The Livery Brewery came up with a Quadruple Ale at a whopping 11.9%. English brewers please
take note: our American cousins are top dog at beer innovation.
The Agent 99 started off with a distinctive syrupy bitter raspberry overture, before an abundance of citrus flavours took over, with a pleasant citrusy finish.
With such a heavy body, this was a sipping beer, otherwise it would hit you smack in the mug. 9/10
8) Rochester Mills Beer Co, Rochester.
Batch 1000 Barleywine (11.5%)
Hmmm, this was starting to look like a winter beer tasting with all these high-gravity beers -- But, I can never turn down a Barleywine! This absolute
MONSTER was as intense as shite. It was rich, dark, dense with overwhelming flavours of dried cherries and blackcurrants. This heavy, syrupy ale would be
perfect sipping in front of a roaring fire with snow falling outside. Not quite the best choice for a hot summer afternoon, but a first-class classic of its type
9) Bastone Brewery, Royal Oak.
Witface Belgian White (5%)
Back to the summer ales for my next choice. Bastone Brewery proudly proclaimed that the Witface Belgian White was aged in 100% new French oak barrels,
and was brewed with a Belgian yeast strain. Lovely. Apart from that, there were the usual refreshing flavours of oranges and lemons, with coriander and
ginger thrown in for good measure. All in all, a pleasant Belgian White, if not earth shattering. Celis White has nothing to worry about. 7/10
10) Leelanau Brewing Co, Petoskey.
Petoskey Pale Ale (abv unknown)
This was an odd deal all round. The bloke representing Leelanau told me this bizarre story about the Petoskey Pale Ale being aged with fossilized stones
taken from the Lake Michigan riverbed. He even showed me photos of these stones and I believe I was supposed to have had a Zen moment. Sadly, that
moment escaped me and I was left with an absolutely vile beer which tasted of iron and rancid herrings. The riverbed clearly had its effect! Literally
undrinkable, and a classic example of arts for arts sake. Altogether now: GHASTLY!!! -5/10
11) Grizzly Peak Brewing Co, Ann Arbor.
Dry-hopped Willamette Pale Ale (5.2%)
After the previous disaster, I headed straight for the Grizzly Peak tent. Lady Roberts and myself had stopped by their brewpub whilst on a Michigan trip in
June. We only had time for one brewery, so we chose Arbor Brewing Co which was just up the road. However, I made a mental note of Grizzly Peak, so I was
looking forward to tasting one of their offerings.
Their Willamette Pale Ale is dry-hopped with Cascade hops, thus you had both Willamette and Cascade hops together producing a classic, smooth and
sophisticated Pale Ale. The addition of Cascade hops at the end of the brewing cycle did not produce an overly citrusy effect: indeed, this Pale Ale was
beautifully balanced, like a fine English session beer. Without any doubt the star of the show. 15/10
12) Big Rock Chop & Brewhouse, Birmingham.
Kellar Pils (abv unknown)
I thought a Pilsner would be a fine way to end an afternoon of tasting and the Kellar Pils didn’t let me down. Rich, a little hoppy with an underlying bitterness,
this was a superior example of the classic pilsner . Imagine Stella Artois with a pair of bollocks and you have Kellar Pils. 9/10
And that was it for our first visit to the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival. Over 5,100 people attended on Saturday and a friendlier crowd of
people you couldn’t meet anywhere. Young Shigley enquired about the Winter Beer Festival held in February of this year: held outside in 20-degree
temperatures and snow, they still had over 3,000 people attend.
This is serious brewing with serious beer fans. You won’t be surprised to hear that Lord Shigley and myself already have both festivals noted in our
Daytimers for 2009. We can’t bloody wait. Cheers!
Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends….
Outside the tent featuring ales from New Holland Brewing Co.
|Blimey, Squire – where did this lot show up from??
|The most excellent Grizzly Peak Brewing Co from Ann Arbor.
Bonjour, me old china plate...anyone got a spare toilet roll?
|An impressive array of Royal bogs, my home away from home!
Lord Shigley and the bikes prior to the journey back to Ohio.