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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.   


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Moon River Brewing Company, Savannah GA

Savannah, GA is known as one of the most haunted cities in the US.  Well, I did not see any ghosts even on the “haunted” walking tour, but I did get a chance to visit the only brewpub in the city.  The place was called “Moon River Brewing Company.” 

Moon River is located just one street up from the Savannah River right in the middle of the historic district.  My group had already had dinner at Vic’s on the River (an excellent choice!) so we did not sample the food at the brewpub.  We first stopped by the restaurant portion of the place and were told that they had a more extensive beer selection at the outdoor patio next door. 
Moon River Brewing Company Outdoor Patio
 The outdoor patio was large and inviting.  Even though the day had been hot and muggy, the evening was very pleasant and conducive to sitting outdoors.  The service was spotty, so we eventually just went up to the bar and ordered.  The bartender was friendly and knowledgeable about the beer.  We decided to get a four ounce sample everything they had on tap. They did not allow tasters of their “Wild Georgia Belgique” so we got a full glass of that.

Several of the beers were standard fare and would likely appeal to the masses.  On the heavier end of their beer line was Swamp Fox IPA with a wonderful hoppy citrus flavor.  I also liked the Captain’s Porter, with its it toasty aftertaste.  The signature beer for the night, however, was the Wild Georgia Belgique.  The beer was described as a Belgian-American IPA, but it was really a Brett or Brux beer. The yeast used, brettanomyces bruxellensis, gave this beer the trademark sourness that is making this yeast a superstar among craft beer enthusiasts. It was a wonderful Georgia treat.

If you are lucky enough to spend some time among the friendly people of Savannah, GA, stop by Moon River Brewing some evening and enjoy some of the best beer Georgia has to offer.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bill's Beer Garden, Ann Arbor, MI

The Ann Arbor beer scene just keeps getting better.  Now you can get some of the best local craft beer on tap while sitting in a parking lot of a downtown business at Bill's Beer Garden.  I know what you are thinking--That does not sound so great.  Lemme set ya straight.

The parking lot is for Downtown Home and Garden and is surrounded by trees and birds.  Once the cars leave, tables and awnings are set up and there are decorative lights. Fire pits and heaters are used on colder nights.  A variety of food is available from food carts located at the other side of the Home and Garden store.  This "urban garden," as they describe it, is quite a nice place to take a break at after doing whatever you like to do in downtown Ann Arbor.  The best thing, however, is the local craft beer.  Besides offerings from the Michigan Craft Beer stalwarts (Founder's, Bell's, and New Holland), they also have selections from Wolverine State Brewing Company (Ann Arbor); Original Gravity (Saline); Dragonmead (Warren); Dark Horse (Marshall); and Odd Side (Grand Haven).  A good selection, but I wished they had a few rotating taps (perhaps one from Brewery Vivant?).  They also have wine and other beverages for those who don't want beer.

The entire place is low key.  You order beer from the beer window, you pay (or start a tab), they fill the glass, and you pick it up and find a place at one of the long tables.  Be prepared to sit with folks you don't know, because the tables are usually filled.  Not to worry, however, you do know that the person you're sitting next to is probably a Michigan Craft Beer lover. 


Monday, July 22, 2013

World of Beers, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Usually I’m not too impressed with chain-type bars, especially ones that purport to be all about beers.  It was with this sentiment in mind that I dragged myself into one of Ann Arbor’s newest beer-bars after an hour of Ann Arbor Art fair in 95 degree weather.  The bar was called World of Beers and is part of a 50 plus chain of bars.  Here's the URL:

My shirt was soaked with sweat and I was really thirsty.  The first thing I noticed was a collection of tap handles and the walls covered with brewery-related advertisements.  Behind the bar were two racks of wall coolers stocked with bottled beer.  My wife and I were met by a perky blonde waitress who sat us at a table and quickly brought us glasses of cold waters and a collection of menus.  One of the menus was for the 40 or so beers on tap, one was for the 500 plus beers in bottles, and a third was for local restaurants that would deliver food.

Our server was very knowledgeable about beer and offered to bring small tastes of any of the draft beers to help us decide.  Another waiter happened by and also talked with us about the beer selections.  I decided on a Brewery Vivant Zaison (my current favorite that I had never had on draft) and my wife decided on a hefeweisen.   

The bar has several television showing sports, so we enjoyed the British Open and finished our beers.  We then decided to have our next beers at the bar because the bar had chairs with backs and I wanted to get a closer look at the bottled beer.  The waiter behind the bar started chatting with us. I was delighted to discover that he was a treasure trove of knowledge about beer. It was fun talking about beers while also enjoying some of the best beers in the world.  Perhaps it was the excellent staff or perhaps it was the much-needed relief from the outdoor heat wave, but I did not get the “corporate” feeling from this establishment.  Well done.