Thursday, January 17, 2013

Beer Travels to Michigan

Where have time gone? It has been a while since I past had an entry. I think that I have too many things that I am doing all at once. Bear with me, please (anyone who reads this).
Over the past two weeks I made another pilgrimage. This one back home to Michigan. Of course it was for the holidays, but I see it as another chance to explore beer. I left my current residence in Cincinnati on 22 Dec. to make the 5 hour 30 minutes drive to the great mitten state. My folks live in the very small town of Edwardsburg, which borders Indiana, 20 minutes directly north of Elkhart, IN, and 30 minutes due East of Lake Michigan. The star on the map (hand) marks the position (it would be a little difficult to do upper peninsula with the other had and take the photo, so I had to omit it). Enough geography ...
It was a nice break from my everyday task of being a slave to the academic machine (aka, Graduate Student) and take some time to hang out with the family. Of course Christmas came and went without any drama, but I made out pretty well. I think that I made others happy with homebrew presents (now that my mum likes beer) and sweet gift to my dad from a local distillery called Journeyman's of Irish Whiskey. A totally organic distillery located in Three Oaks, MI made pretty damn good spirits. I got a few nice books, including 99 Bottles ofBeer (a beer journal set to take notes on), The Oxford Companion toBeer (edited by Garrett Oliver), The Beekeeping Handbook (by Vivian Head), a new mini iPad (which I am still getting use to, being a Linux person, but it makes a nice e-reader), and enough money to get supplies to make a new Igloo Cooler mashtun.
My first visit to a brewery when I was home was to Bare Hands Brewing Company (the webpage is a little out-dated), right over the state line in Granger, IN the day following Christmas. While there I had the Mail Order Bride Russian Imperial Stout, Holiday Strong Ale, and the Scottish Strong Ale. If you have the chance, you need to check this place out for the RIS! Malty caramel, dark chocolate, coffee, toffee, and a slight hint of dark fruits, delicious! I spent a hour or so talking with the head brewer/owner Chris Gerard. Really great person that has a lot of knowledge of beer and it is shown by what he creates on his one-barrel brewhouse.
The next day, spent a few hours packaging hops for sale at my mum's store, Nelson's Herbs. Later in the day I continued my beer adventure to Bell's Brewing Company. My brother, Vinny, and his Wife , Kendelle, accompanied me to the brewery. Like expected, it was packed. We were able to get a seat almost immediately at the bar, and waited for a table to open. There are no servers, so you must get all of your drinks at the bar. They have some great food also, also that needs to be ordered at the bar. I started with the Dagger Stout, a Russian Imperial Stout. Near the end of the beer we were able to rush over and grab a table that opened up. A delicious beer that was dominated with caramel and roasty malts, that finishes on the back of the palate with some dark fruits. I ordered a Barbeque Tempeh, which was pretty righteous. My second beer was the Ex Hop 2012-5. All of the Ex Hop (Experimental) are session beer that they try different single hops to create different flavour profiles. The 2012-5 (which I cannot find any information on currently, but here is their blog) had berries and earthy hop notes. Very interesting what is currently being done with hop breeding. After, we headed back to my brother's place for the night.
The next day I left for Grand Rapids. First was to my favourite coffee shop in America, Kava House, located in Eastown Grand Rapids, where I was able to spend the morning getting some work done, entering data. After a bit, I was able to grab lunch with my good friend Eric at Hopcat. Recently I seen that Hopcat was rated one of the best beer bars in the country. With my lunch of a Mushroom Black Bean Burrito wrap was paired with a Beer de Garde collaboration brew by New Belgium out of Fort Collins, CO and Brewery Vivant from Grand Rapids, MI. After lunch, more work was done until my friends, Jeff and Becky arrived from up north.
I was able to meet with Jeff at Pike 51 Brewery in Hudsonville, MI, where he is the head brewer. Once there I was able to do some 4-ounce tasters that I haven't had the chance to try before. First up was the Cherry Triple, very smooth going down with a tang of tart cherries. Next up was the Kush IPA, which I have had before. A very well IPA with a nice balance of hops and malt. Next was the Mojo Hand Black IPA (even though I hate that name ... you cannot be black and pale at the same time) that is smooth with an slight hint of chocolate and roast. Next is the Sabotage, a milk stout with a huge bite of coffee. Lastly the Sinister Kid Imperial Porter which had chocolate, coffee, and vanilla that was very balanced.
Later in the night we made our way to White Flame Brewing Company, just down the street on Hudsonville, MI. Jeff and I met up with another good friend of ours Matt and we sat and enjoyed a couple of beers. First up for me was the Super G, an American IPA, that had citrus on the nose and hops and malty grain on the palate. Next up was the Black Sheep IPA, which had prominent dark notes from the black grain and sufficiently bitter.
The next day started off slow, with working on more data in the morning. By 10, I couldn't sit still anymore and had to get out. After taking a short tour of my undergraduate, Grand Valley State University, and seeing their huge expansion, I made my way back towards Grand Rapids to make a quick stop by on of my favourite beer stores, Siciliano's Market. They always have an impressive selection. I pick up a mixed six-pack of local Michigan beer that I cannot get in Ohio and a bombers on Lagunitis Hop Stoopid. By the time I left, I was getting hungry. I stopped by a local fast-food mexican restaurant called Adobe In and Out. I really missed their burritos! I pick one up for Jeff and headed back to Pike 51 to bring him lunch.
For dinner Jeff and I met up with a beer buddy at Mitten Brewing Company. The idea that is put behind this place is amazing. It is in a old firehouse (Fire Station no. 9) on the NE side of Grand Rapids and serves, with great beer, they serve pizza that is very rad. The first beer to my palate was the Pale Wheat. Nice, light, and very (almost too) easy to drink. After finding a table I was able to get a menu and we were able to order a amazing pizza. Jeff let me try his eighty-four, an imperial IPA, a very damn good one. I wasn't in the moods for face full of hops, so I went with the Peanut Butter and Crackerjack Porter. An interesting idea, it was good, but with all of the other beers that I have had, it came off as okay, though I would drink another. 
After dinner over at Jeff and Becky's place, we decided to open up a few beers before going out.  We did a side-by-side-by-side tasting of Oskar Blues Ten-Fidy, Founder 2012 Kentucky Breakfast Stout, and a homebrew stout that was aged over French Oak Chips that were medium toasted soaked in a port wine. That evening, Jeff and I ended up back over at White Flame. We met up with one of our old friends and ended up playing three-way cribbage on the dart board. I miss my friends and I love my friends! That night I started with and stuck with the Cini-Vanilli Milk Stout. It was smooth, creamy, and easy going down. 
New years eve was the best yet. Instead of going out, spending a lot of money, and not remembering the night, I stayed in with my friends Jeff and Becky. We started the night sort of early (because I am old … er) with a Hennepin by Brewery Ommegang Farmhouse Saison. Nice spice notes to the nose and the front of the palate, that led to a dry finish with some fruity esters. Then Jeff fixed an amazing Root Vegetable Risotto!  Then we finished the night with a King Henry from Goose Island Brewery.  What a great night to end a year!

This was an epic trip to the great state of Michigan that I enjoyed a good amount of beer. I should have divide this up to separate entries, , but it has been a little over 2 months since my last entry. With the beer journal I should be able to put more up (but, I always have a lot of ambition).

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