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Friday, September 30, 2011

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery: Pangaea

Now here's an interesting brew: Pangaea.  The folks at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery decided to make a beer with ingredients from the seven continents.  According to their website, here is what they used from where: crystallized ginger from Australia; water from Antarctica (not sure what else they could have used from here); basmati rice from Asia (unfortunate); muscavado sugar from Africa; South American quinoa; European yeast; and North American maize.  Not the grains I would have picked,  but it's a fun concept and the name of the beer is clever.  The beer is interesting, but not what I would call excellent.  I hear they are working on similar collaboration with Google.  Hard to imagine what this might be.



Monday, September 19, 2011

Shmaltz Brewing Company

As a collector of beer bottles, I like it when brewers do a little extra for their labels.  Some labels are artful, others are clever, a few are intellectually engaging, and some use humor.  The label is an important part of marketing the beer.  I recently came across a set of beers brewed by the Shmatlz Brewing Company that are marketed with a Coney Island theme.  The labels featured a guy hammering a nail into his nose, a circus freak, a lady showing cleavage and gleefully swallowing a sword, and a buxom lady with streaked hair lovely holding an albino python whose head is very close to her mouth.  Sex sells, right?  The labels extol the oral sensibilities of the beer, etc.

The labels expand a theme and got me, at least, to give them a try.  As expected they were all mediocre beers, except for the albino python.  This beer was supposed to be a wit-style, which should have high carbonation.  This beer, however, exploded with carbonation.  When I poured it into a glass as carefully as I could, 9/10 of the glass was foam.  Nothing says amateur brewing more than a super over-carbonated beer.  I waited, but the foam just kept building.  I decided to brave the foam and take a sip.  The beer foamed in my mouth.  Now maybe there is some other sexual reference there that I'm not getting, but once you are past the label the beer better deliver something.  Eventually, I did something I rarely do, I poured the foaming mess down the drain.

Lesson learned?  Probably not...



Sunday, September 18, 2011

Original Gravity Brewing Company

One of the best things about Milan (pronounced "My-Lynn"), Michigan is the Original Gravity Brewing Company.  The brewery takes its name from the first measurement a brewer takes of his or her wort--the boiled malt, hops, and other stuff that has yet to be fermented.  Gravity is measured with a hydrometer that floats in the wort and the reading is based on how much the hydrometer sinks.  The first measurement is called the Original Gravity. After the wort has fermented, another reading is taken, the Final Gravity.  The difference between the two measures allows the brewer to estimate how much of the sugars have fermented and, thereby, estimate the alcohol level by volume.  In their excitement to pitch the wort (add yeast), many home brewers forget to measure the original gravity (OK, maybe just me...).

The taproom was large with the brewing equipment sharing the same space.  The interior feeling was very much like sharing a beer with the brewer in his own workshop.  There were seven beers on tap.  We tried a sampler of them all.  General impression: Really Good Beer!  The IPAs and the amber were heavy on the hops, which I like.  The standout beer, however, was the "440 Pepper Smoker."  Just as the name implies, the beer is made with jalapenos and smoke.  Not normally my thing, but these flavors were well balanced.  The beer maid mentioned that the brewer was thinking about upping the pepper in the beer.  I think this would be a mistake.

 They also served a selection of deli sandwiches on sourdough or multi-grain. We ordered a turkey Reuben and a smoked turkey and guacamole.  The brewer (I think) made them in the back room and served us himself.   Both sandwiches were excellent and too big to finish.   Looking around the place, my impression was that this was a local, family establishment where people went to relax and catch up with the local happenings.

Located only about 20 minutes from Ann Arbor, the Original Gravity Brewing Company is just another reason why Ann Arbor is a Michigan beer lover's mecca.



Monday, September 12, 2011

Avery Brewing Company

I visited a new beer store over the weekend in Ann Arbor, MI.  I was very surprised to find that they had refrigerated bottles of "Ale to the Chief" from Avery Brewing Company in Boulder, CO.  This beer was brewed to commemorate the USA presidential election in 2009.  It was a one-time production and a beer I never thought I would get a chance to try.  Alas, I purchased five 650 ml bottles.  At 8.75% ABV, I figured that it would age just fine and having found it cold would improve these chances.

I opened one of the bottles when I got home.  What a treat!  Flora, hoppy, and everything I like in an Imperial IPA.   The other four took their place in my beer aging cellar, alongside the likes of a few bottles of 1987 Thomas Hardy Ale, a couple of 1988 Samiclaus Ales, two 1989 Ninkasi's from Anchor Brewing Company, and several other assorted future treats.  Out-of-sight, out-of-mind.  Out-of-sight, out-of-mind...



Saturday, September 10, 2011

Dragonmead Microbrewery

I've always liked the medieval theme (castles, swords, wenches, and the like), and I have long enjoyed bottled beers from the Dragonmead Microbrewery (in particular, Final Absolution Trippel and Armageddon Grand Cru). So, visiting the brewery in Warren, MI was a distinct pleasure.  Here's their website:

I've been to the brewery a couple of times and have yet to be disappointed.  The brewery is located on a service road next to the busy Interstate 696.  You have to know that it is there, because you will never just happen across it.  This adds to the mystic, m'thinks. 

The interior is dark, hardwood decorated with flags, banners, coats of arms, suits of armor, and other medieval accouterments.  The numerous award they have won are also part of the decor.

They also have some fun stained glass windows and mosaic work around the tap handles.  The brewery website tells you about the artwork and the names the artist.

The selection of beer is simply amazing. How can they have so many beers on tap?  I counted 46 beers on the menu.  They were out of just three of them according to a chalk board.  Fortunately, they have hefty samplers (6 oz I think).  To order them, they give you a card to fill out, and that card serves as the identification for the samplers.  Between my entire party, we still did not get to try them all.

They also have "snacks" or so we thought.  We order the cheese and crackers.  The waitress rattled off the many types of cheese--we choose white cheddar.  When it arrived, it was a large hunk of cheese and unlimited crackers.  Pretzels and hot mustard was also brought. It was more than enough for sharing among a party of four.  A wonderful way to sample for few dozen beers!

I look forward to my next visit.



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kuhnhenn Brewery and Winery

It seems like more and more breweries are expanding their operations to include wine, mead, and spirits.  An excellent example of this is the Kuhnehenn Brewery and Winery, located in Monroe, MI.

We visited the taproom on a very hot, September day.  To our surprise, there was a home brewing store (Brew Shop) on the other side of the parking lot.  We decided to check out the store before the taproom.  The  Brew Shop was well stocked with supplies and brewing literature.  The store was also the meeting point for a local home-brewing club, as was evidenced by the numerous containers with fermentation locks and six packs of unlabeled bottles.  What caught my eye, though, was the bourbon barrel that was being used for home-brewing.  Cool.  The owner said he found it on the Internet for only $60. Hmm....just might see if I can find one for myself.

After the Brew Shop, we headed over to the Kuhnhenn taproom.  The place was nicer than I thought, judging from the outside.  The decor was hardwood, brick, and tap handles.  The medals that the brewery has won were hanging from the ceiling. The atmosphere was "sports bar," perhaps because Michigan was playing its first game of the 2011 season.  The wait staff were knowledgeable and attentive.

The selection of beer was impressive. There were about 12 bees on tap to choose from.  You could get a preselected sampler set of 5 for $9 or choose your own 5 for $12.  Among all in our party, I think we tried them all. Overall impression: Excellent craft beer! 

I choose to get a pint of White Devil instead of the sample pack.  My zymurgy-sense was telling me that I would want more than a taste of this Belgian Wit served in a chalice-style glass.  It turned out to be a good decision.  Here's how the brewery website described it:

"Our Imperial White Ale is a cloudy straw color, and has a zesty citrus nose and a medium sweet aroma. It is refreshingly crisp with a bit of a wheat flavor. With medium hop bitterness, this is a delightful brew for any season."

The drink menu also included 6 pages of mead and wine.  Wow.  We tried several of the meads.  I'm not much of an expert on mead, but the Michigan Tart Cherry mead was quite nice.  We brought a bottle home although it was pricey ($10 for a 6 ounce bottle).

All-in-all, a good visit...



Sunday, September 4, 2011

Black Lotus Brewery

I visited the Black Lotus  Brewery in Clawson, Michigan recently.  I had heard great things about the brewpub, so I was interested in checking it out.

It is located on a urban intersection near Madison Heights.  The place really did have potential.  There's a golf simulator connected to the taproom and the brewpub had sandwiches, burgers, salads, and pub-style appetizers.  And, of course, local craft beer.  Even better, they had a burger and beer special, six bucks for the combo.

Smiles at the Black Lotus Brewery and Restaurant
We all ordered our burgers and pints.  The pub was small, but fairly busy for an early Saturday afternoon.  There were several families there, with the little ones enjoying burgers and Mom and Dad having a pint.  Our beers finally arrived.  I usually order one of the heaviest beers on the menu, so I had an oatmeal stout.  It was pretty good, although not as heavy-bodied as I would have expected for this style of stout.  Others at my table had an apricot wheat (nice flavor),  an ESB (not nearly bitter enough for the style), a Hefeweizen (underwhelming), and a Pilsner (almost no color, watery, and an off taste that made me think it needed to lager for awhile.) All-in-all a disappointment on the craft beer side.  My companions told me that in past visits the beer had been much better, so I'll have to come back sometime.

We had time to finish our pints and order more  before our burgers finally arrived.  The service was slow, but functional and the burgers hit the spot.  I'd like to try the place when the golf simulator was open.  Beer, burgers, and golf...sounds like fun to me.