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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Kaplan. Rustic Ales, Chelsea Michigan

The second offering from Rustic Ales has finally hit the stores near Chelsea Michigan.  This batch is called Kaplan and, according to the story on the label, is named after the Belgian Draft Horse that worked on Cecil K. Fecker’s farm.  (By the way, anything Belgian on draft is usually a great choice…).  The beer is described as an “Imperial Bronze Ale brewed with Morel Mushrooms and aged in Bourbon Barrels.”  I believe this is the first beer I have seen that had mushrooms as an ingredient and morels no less.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the elusive and coveted shroom, morels are highly sought after in the Great Lakes Region of the United States.  When they are in season, people spend days wandering the forests looking for this fungi and are very secretive about where they can be found.  There is even a morel festival in Northern Michigan each year to celebrate everything morel.  I hope Rustic Ales saved a few bottles for the festival.

The beer poured a nice bronze color as advertised and had a distinct bourbon barrel, alcoholic flavor.  I thought I could taste a hint of the morel in the aftertaste but this may have just been wishful thinking on my part. The others sharing the bottle with me, all thought they could taste some morel too. Nevertheless, Kaplan was a very nice beer.

I really like the labeling scheme used by Rustic Ales.  The labels wrap the entire bottle and are a great combination of artwork, information, and storytelling.  The story of the farm and farm creatures is entertaining and with this second beer from Rustic Ales, we are getting the next chapter in the story.  One nice touch is the hand-written bottling number on each bottle, including the inevitable typographic errors that occur when humans communicate in written form.  I bought two bottles of Kaplan, one is bottle number 1121 of 1151 and the other is bottle 1112 of 1150.  How many bottles were made?  
Clearly, Kaplan is being distributed in very limited quantities, so if you like trying new beer you better start searching for this beer right away.  Kinda like the search for morels which will be starting in the next few months here around the Great Lakes (and no I won't tell you where I found mine!).


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Grand Rapids Brewing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan

At the end of long day visiting breweries in Grand Rapids, I finally made it to the brewery named after the city.  The brewery is located right downtown a short distance from hotel and other breweries.  We arrived about 10:00 pm on Friday night and the place was packed.  I was surprised at the level of patronage at all of the Grand Rapids Breweries that I visited. 

We were told there would be a 30 minute wait and after leaving a cell number for them to call, we discovered an opening at the bar where two of our party of four could sit.  Eventually, some folks left and we had four seats.  After just a few minutes, we received the call that a table was ready.  Since we weren’t eating, we decided to stay at the bar.

They had a good selection of beers.  We tried several of them.  All were really good, but none stood up to the beers we had sampled at breweries earlier in the day. My two favorites were Philanthropist and the La Noir Vitesse (which I think means Black Speed).  The service was excellent, but the beer tenders were far too busy to chat much.  After the first pint, we decided to order a few appetizers.  The mac and cheese was really good as were the scotch eggs (what a concept!).


This brewpub lives up to its namesake Beer-City USA.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Founder’s Brewing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan

After enjoying Founder’s Brewing Company’s beer for more than a decade, I finally got the chance to visit their taproom.  The brewery facility was quite impressive.  The taproom was the biggest I had ever been in (well, it’s actually several rooms) and the place was packed with patrons.  There were hundreds of people enjoying the excellent craft beers that are made here. 

They do sell food, but I never got a chance to look at a menu, as our party has stand for a short while and then got a table where we could see into the brewing kettles and other equipment. There was a short wait to get beer at the bar, so we did that and brought them back to our table. The beer listing was mostly the standard Founder’s beers that one can find in stores, but they also had Infiltrator, Sweet Repute, Backwoods Bastard, and Frangelic Mountain Brown.  All were interesting craft beers.

In addition to the indoor tap room, there was an impressive overflow crowd out on the front patio, where people could stay warm by hanging out by the numerous heaters and fire pits.  It was only about 20 deg outside, but it was quite pleasant hanging around an open fire drinking an Infiltrator to keep warm.  The outside area was packed as you can see. 

Folks from Grand Rapids sure like their craft beer! 


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Brewery Vivant, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Ever since I tried Brewery Vivant’s Zaison, I have been hooked on this brewery’s selection of beers.  They are all interesting and tasty.  I finally had the opportunity to visit the brewery in Grand Rapids, Michigan with some friends. 

 The brewery is located in a former church and the wood-beam rafters and strained-glass windows still grace the dining area.  As the start of a day visiting breweries in this wonderful city of beers, we arrived at 5-minutes before it opened and joined the queue of believers to enter the chapel.  After some mix-up with seating, we finally were led to a table in the middle of the dining area.  The waiter was attentive and knowledgeable.  We ordered samplers of all their beers and the duck nachos. 

I have to say that the beer was excellent, as expected, but the duck nachos were outstanding.  I love to be surprised at a brewpub—usually the surprise comes from the beer.  We decided to have an early dinner and everyone loved what they ordered.  The food was gourmet all around and we’re now trying to get the recipe for the duck nachos.

The beer, of course, is what drew us to Brewery Vivant and it was all excellent.  Given my preference for high-gravity beer, I ordered the heavy ones that included a peppercorn rye and barrel aged Contemplation.  Those were my personal favorites for the day, but all of the beers were pleasing.  Alas, I did not choose to get a pint of anything as it was the start of a long day and I still needed to drive us to the hotel.

This is a brewery that any craft beer lover should visit.  And get the duck nachos, you will not regret it.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rustic Ales, Chelsea, MI

I had a nice surprise when I visited my local beer proprietor today.  I found yet another brewery has popped up in the greater Ann Arbor region of the state.  This brewery is called Rustic Ales and is pretty unique.  The website is:

The brewery seemed to just appear with little fanfare, with a very local offering of 816 bottles of Strutter Bitter Old Fecker.  The bottles are hand numbered and, according to the website details, the beer is pretty much handmade without the high-tech gadgetry that graces most modern breweries.  They claim they can made their beer without electricity.  I can’t even make that claim when I home brew! 

Strutter is an IPA made with spices one often finds in meads (juniper, rose hips, chamomile, and honey) and is aged in bourbon barrels.  The beers pours a cloudy pale yellow and has a distinct whiskey tinge that is what you would expect from the barrel aging.  The hops are balanced and the flavor is worth the effort to find another bottle.  As far as I can tell, Strutter is the brewery’s only beer so far.

The brewer learned his craft at Ann Arbor’s Grizzly Peak Brewery and they claim to only use Michigan grown ingredients.  While I applaud the local nod, it seems limiting to not use some of the excellent malts and hops grown outside of Michigan.  I wonder where the bourbon barrels came from.   

The label has some great artwork and is literally filled with information.  I had to use my trusty magnifying glass to see it all.  To me, this is a good thing.  I like a beer label that takes a while to consume. I particularly like the story of the rooster “Strutter” on Cecil’s farm.