Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Winter Beer Tour 2007

Originally uploaded by robg2251.
Well, we did it. It only took me three days to finally sit down and reflect on the big weekend trip, but here I am, and here's the story:

The main reason for this trip, was to ride along and visit the big town of Grand Rapids with JC (John C), our new Web Developer at work. Since I volunteered to drive, I turned it into a beer tour. I beer mapped our way to GR, and picked out a couple breweries on the way. Our final, and main destination: Founders Brewing.

We left Monroe by about 6 p.m. on Friday night and headed straight for Marshall, Michigan, home of: Dark Horse Brewing Co. It took us a while to find it, and I off-roaded a bit to get to their parking lot, but I found it. A tip to anyone going - it sits behind a carry-out. And I swear there is no sign on the road, but it was dark, and Aaron (the third member of the carivan and map-navigator) was breathing heavy on the windows, so we couldn't see jack.

Dark Horse was really cool. I enjoyed a Smoked Stout. Aaron had the IPA and I don't remember what John had, but they all were really good. We goofed around there for a bit, and headed out. We met a local big guy there, that said he only drinks Dark Horse's powerful beers. if they don't have a powerful beer, he drinks water. Now that, is a dedicated beer drinker.

Next up - Bells. After getting screwed on a cab ride by the one and only Chief Thomas cab company in Kalamazoo ($20 for a few mile drive), we piled into Bells for some good beers. I started off with an Old Ale (video). We had a wide selection there, I was really impressed with how Hop Slam tasted out of the glass, it seemed way stronger then out of the bottle, but who knows. All of the beers were good. We watched the band some, and watched an older guy dance around. We left Bells, and ran around Kzoo a bit. We stopped at a bar downtown (video) and then ended up at the Brewery across the street from Bells (video). The beer wasn't the best, but it did the trick.
We figured out our cab ride to Bells was a scam, when the guy that took us back to the hotel charged us $10!!

The next day, we all were a bit groggy, but after some TV and coffee, we were back on the road again. We headed straight for our hotel in GR. After sucking down Starbucks and buying a sixer of mixed beers at a GREAT deli-wine-carryout-store downtown (name slips my mind at the moment), we headed back to the hotel. We sampled some good bru's that I bought - a Great Lakes Brewing Commodore Perry IPA, a GLBC Holy Moses, Breckenridge Brewing (Denver, CO) IPA and I believe the 4th was a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.
We bundled up and walked (what seemed like 10 miles, really only 1 maybe) to The Cambridge House, which sits right next to Founders. We kicked back in these cozy chairs and knocked back some beers. I think I was drinking a Bells Brown for a bit, and switched to regular Sierra Nevada later. The beer selection could have been better, but it beat anything in my hometown, so I wasn't complaining too much. We had an amazing cheese plate for an appetizer.

After, we headed to Founders. I was a little disappointed that their IPA wasn't on tap, but they did have a good selection of their high-octaine beers. Kentucky Bourbon Stout, Blushing Monk and Devil Dancer Triple IPA. Their regular brews were their Black Rye, Red Rye and Pale Ale. I started with a Black Rye, and moved onto a Red Rye - which I was really impressed with. I chatted with the bartender about it, and he referred to it as a Red-Rye-PA (Red IPA), because of its heavy hops flavor. Very good, surprising because I normally don't try reds. Somehow I drank a Kentucky Bourbon Stout, and I think that sealed the deal for the evening (video).

We ended up the evening at Sazerac Lounge. Everything was a bit foggy by then, but I do remember the amazing beer list. Somehow I passed over the Arrogant Bastard ale, and ordered something else, but some kind soul (JC) made sure my night didn't end without a Stone brew in my hand. Thanks dude.

Back at the hotel, a small party ensued in our hotel room. JC has some awesome pals from GR, and we had a really good time. One of the highlights of the evening was the hot cheesy pizza that arrived at our hotel room sometime late in the evening.

The next morning, we stopped at the Red Geranium Cafe. Very good grub, and the coffee woke us up. The weather was bad the previous night, so the roads weren't so pretty. We headed south east toward Lansing.

We made it to Michigan Brewing Company in Webberville, MI shortly before Noon. It was really hard to find the place. Its a drive back around an industrial parkway, and the brew pub is in an older building that has "insurance sales office" written all over it. After we found the main entrance (no signs), we walked in and through the Things Beer store to get to the brew pub.
All i can say is - WEIRD. I've been going to MBC for the past 5 years and to tell you the truth I was really bummed with their new digs. The old place had a real brewer feel to it - you could look through the windows and see the big steel vats of beer, and as you walked through the pub you'd crunch on peanut shells - and everything just smelled like beer in there, very cozy and full of nice people. The new place is just odd. You have to walk through what looks like a church lobby or something to get into the bar area - the pinkish purple paint wasn't doing it for me. The bar area still has a bit of the old MBC feel to it, but it was just "cold" in there, literally.. they were installing a corn burner and had poked a giant hole in the wall. We ended up having to sit in the "church lobby" section at a round table with a poinsetta on it. I ate my peanuts and threw the shells in a basket provided. Oh it was a sad day. On a lighter note, JC spilled half of his IPA which made us laugh (video).
The beer though, is still good. I had an IPA and sampled some of the Winter Warmer - which I ended up filling my growler with. Great stuff.

That was that. Thanks to the Beer Advocate Great Lakes crew for helping us out on this trip, and to JC's awesome pals in GR - (Josh - sorry I poured water in your pants, but man, JC had you pinned, and it was just a perfect opportunity.. haha).

That's all for now folks. Click here, or the photo above to see a slide show of the tour.