Monday’s Mug: Hangin Frank

<div class=\"postavatar\">Monday's Mug: Hangin Frank</div>

When I first drank this beer last summer, I presumed it was an IPA.  To my surprise, Short’s Brewing Company calls it a strong pale ale.  It’s their beer and they can call it crap on a tin can if they want–I’ll still drink it.

The nose is citrusy hops and the hop taste carries you through to the finish.  The hops are simcoe which gives this beer kind of a grapefruity taste that blends nicely with its toasty grain taste. I will warn you that if you are not a fan of hops, you will likely not care for this beer.  I am a fan of hops; ergo, I love the stuff.  Personally, I like pairing it with charred beef of the steak variety.  Mmmm!

This beer was not without controversy though, and not for the hoppiness or the taste or anything else like that.  The label on the bottle shows a man hanging.  Some folks thought that his hand (the only skin visible) looked dark and thought this implied that it was a black man hanging and therefore implied lynching.  In fact, the story behind the name revolves around a man named Frank Fochtman who is rumored to have hung himself in the basement of the restaurant he owned, now called the City Park Grill (this beer was originally brewed for that place).  Of course, the rumor now is that Frank haunts the basement.  You see, his ghost is watching over the place, breaking some glass now and again  Personally, I long for the day when we live in a country where people do not react to the label but rather react to people who think that there are such a thing as ghosts. But that’s me.

At any rate, I hear that Short’s is going to relabel the beer next year.  Check out the label yourself…what do you think?

Monday’s Mug: Espresso Love

<div class=\"postavatar\">Monday's Mug: Espresso Love</div>

Earlier this month, my much loved Corner Brewery held its release party for Espresso Love.  I looked forward to that release for weeks because this is one of my favorite offerings from the Corner—a smooth, oatmeal stout brewed with coffee.  As a matter of fact, coffee is my favorite drink next to beer so it’s almost like I could just drink this beer all day and be really happy! (I’m just kidding! I have a job to go to and other stuff to do so I can’t).

This beer is perfect for this time of year.  By February, I’m ready for some heavier, fuller bodied beer.  And despite not being a huge fan of chocolate (except dark chocolate), this is the one time of year I will eat it.  Espresso Love is a rich beer with espresso flavor and just a touch of chocolate flavor.  The coffee that is used is from the Ugly Mug and I think that makes it much better than it would be if it were made with just some random crap off the street.  It is full bodied and creamy with no hop bitterness (IBUs—international bittering units—are usually around 30 or so).  The alcohol by volume hovers around 7% so drink it carefully and savor each swallow.

To me, this beer embodies Valentine’s Day—smooth, chocolately, warm.  Share some with your sweetie and enjoy!

Rat Pad Fest!

<div class=\"postavatar\">Rat Pad Fest!</div>

One of my favorite homebrewing events is the Rat Pad Fest at the Corner Brewery.  In a nutshell, various members of various homebrew groups use the Corner’s brewing system to brew their creations–anything from Hawaiian pizza beer to plum beer to chocolate chipolte beer.  Then, on one magical day, we all gather to drink these creations. And it is Good.

So this past Saturday, we gathered at the Corner and drank beer and it was Good.  Beers arrived from five different homebrewing groups: Brighton Brew Club, Ann Arbor Brewers Guild, Maize &amp; Brew, Sons of Liberty, and Motor City Mashers. Here are my personal favorites from each:

1) Sons of Liberty:  Far and away, my favorite beer was the Arr-PA.  First, it was fun to say! And next, it was a yummy dry hopped beer with chamomile.  Now I must confess that when I heard “chamomile” I thought, “Ew.” I am not now and have never been a fan of tea. I worried that it would taste like, well, tea.  But it didn’t!  It was hoppy with a nice, smooth finish.  I also liked their Black Hops, which was a black beer with lots of hops, as the name implies.  It wasn’t a heavy black beer, and was nice and crisp.

2) Motor City Mashers: I somehow didn’t make it to the mashers table until later, and I was sorry that I waited. I liked all of their offerings, but was really fond of their bourbon beer (I’m sorry that I neglected to get its full name). I was so, so sad to hear of the misplacing of the Jewish Rye beer but shit happens…hopefully, the beer will get made again for the next fest.

3) Maize &amp; Brew: The Stinger, baby! Far and away my favorite was their stinger beer, which was a trippel and really did sting my ass.  Especially since I had about four tastes of it.

4) Brighton Brew Club: Again, I enjoyed all of their offerings but man, that chocolate chipolte stout was killer.  Spicy and not too chocolatey…it was delicious and filling.

5) Ann Arbor Brewers’ Guild.  Okay, I’m biased here, as I am a member of this lovely group! And I helped on the pffeffernusse beer (several dozen pffeffernusse cookies were put into the mash), so I gotta give props to that beer.  It tastes like…a cookie! The cookies (which I had never heard of prior to the brewing) featured spices like anise, cloves and nutmeg. You get a nice subtle taste of those spices, but nothing overpowering.  I also loved the Hawaiian pizza beer! I was a touch skeptical, but it was terrific…smoky with tastes of oregano.

I heard that they want to do this event up even bigger next time and I say, bring it.  In this case, too much is never enough!

Erie Bread Company and Spent Grain Bread

<div class=\"postavatar\">Erie Bread Company and Spent Grain Bread</div>

Erie Bread Company in Monroe, MI will be selling bread baked using spent grain this Tuesday, December 28,  from the local homebrew club, Muskrat Mashers. The grain came from Craig Laginess, an avid beer lover and our club treasurer. He brewed a wheat and rye so the bread will include four pounds of each grain.

It is fantastic to have a local bakery that is so willing to work with a local group like us. The fact that they are so good at what they do is an added plus. Thank you for choosing Monroe to be your home.

I can’t wait to try the bread and Craig’s beer. You can drop off a bottle when it’s done.

This Week at Original Gravity

This post is all about shamelessly plugging my local brewery. Here is what is happening this week at Original Gravity Brewing Company in Milan.

Original Gravity Brewing Co. Small Batch Release tomorrow night 12/21 @ 6pm.
Chocolate Vanilla Mint Stout!! Delicious stout spiced with fresh mint and vanilla beans…served on nitro!!!

12.23.10
Beer and Movie Night – “Christmas Vacation” @ 8:30pm. No cover.
Also wear you favorite ugly holiday sweater for a chance to win a $50 OG gift card!

Wolverine State Brewing Company–Two Paws Up

<div class=\"postavatar\">Wolverine State Brewing Company--Two Paws Up</div>

By nature, I’m a skeptic.  I do have religious faith, but I tend to question a lot.  (“Really? A burning bush?? REALLY?”).  I also tend to be skeptical of things when I have a not-so-great first experience.  Case in point–the first time I ever had Wolverine beer.  I was at some tasting or another and had a swig.  Then I had another. I simply couldn’t believe that I was drinking something called “craft beer”; it tasted like…well, something from a macrobrewery.  So, when I heard that Wolverine was about to open a brewpub in my fair town of Ann Arbor, I was, well, skeptical.

There are two things that changed my mind: my friend and Wolverine marketing/sales guru The Beer Wench and, of course, the beers.  I hope you’ll excuse some blatant flattery but BW is a helluva saleswoman.  She makes what she has sound so exciting and she herself is so cool, that you want to be like her and try her stuff.  You want to like it so you’ll be cool like her.  Jeez, thank goodness she’s in beer sales and not some seedier line of work :)  But all of the saleswomanship in the world wouldn’t convince me if I didn’t like the beer.

I got my first real taste of Wolverine beers at a special private party that they had the weekend before they opened.  I was extremely impressed with both the place and the taste.  My personal favorite was an India Pale Lager called Gulo Gulo (I have since been informed, by a friend much smarter than me, that these words are the loosely translated genus and species classifications of the wolverine.  Cool!).  It had a very strong hop profile, yet retained the lager crispness.  My next favorite was the IPA.  Again, it was hoppy but had a completely different profile than the Gulo.  These hops were citrusy, giving it a lovely nose.  I also liked the emOATable, which was oatey without tasting like Grandma’s oatmeal.  The brown and bock were good, as well.  The biggest surprise for me was the wheat.  Normally, I find wheat beers to be too much…I can’t put my finger on “too much” what, but it’s either too much clove, too much banana or just too much wheat.  The Wench’s West Side Wheat, however, was lighter and clear.  Like its sister beer the Gulo Gulo, it also had a nice crisp taste to it.  I plan to make this my first pint at my next visit.

The bar itself is a real cool place to hang out.  It’s big, but not intimidating or cold.  It has a nice “L” shaped bar and comfortable stools. There are tables and a couch if that’s your thing.  There are TVs over the bar, which makes me think this would be a good place to catch a Sunday NFL game or three.  Although I like TVs in bars, I understand that some folks think they are obnoxious.  I did not find these TVs to be too distracting…that is, you can still have a conversation with them on.  If TV isn’t your bag, there are dart boards hanging on the wall with the awesome big map of Michigan.  And when you gotta go, the bathrooms are about as big as my kitchen.  In fact, I’m not even sure I need my house anymore…I can just move in there (just kidding).

So do yourself a favor and don’t wait to get out to this brewpub.  It is located on Stadium, behind a bank and bicycle shop.  And since my skeptical thoughts have been debunked, I’m now rethinking a lot of things that I previously questioned. Hmmm…maybe he really did see a burning bush after all….

Fire at Darkhorse Brewing Company

Channel 8 – Wood TV: MARSHALL, Mich. (WOOD) – Fire officials are ruling a blaze as suspicious that occurred at a Calhoun County building containing two businesses.

The Marshall assistant fire chief told 24 Hour News 8 the fire burned really fast and it seems fuel could have been added to it.

It was just after 1 a.m. Friday when firefighters were called to the 500 block of S. Kalamazoo Avenue. The building houses Dark Horse Brewing Company and Dark Starz Deluxe Tattoo and Piercing.

The fire started in a storage area between the two businesses, fire officials said.

It took about an hour to extinguish the flames. Article here.
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Check out the comments below the article, the brewery or tap room were not affected. Thank god! :)

Short’s to do $1.4 million expansion

<div class=\"postavatar\">Short's to do $1.4 million expansion</div>

It looks like the folks at Short’s Brewing Co. are at it again, starting another massive expansion that will involve both the production facility in Elk Rapids as well as the brewpub in Bellaire. The quick and dirty details:

  • Potential production capacity will go up to 22,000 barrels annually
  • Four 100-barrel fermenters
  • Six 60-barrel fermenters
  • A flash pasteurizer
  • Automated kegging line
  • Updates to the bottling line
  • Lab upgrades including yeast harvesting equipment
  • Pub will expand bathrooms, deli, stage, and audio equipment

It’s great to see a company like Short’s have such great success.  If you’ve ever met Joe, he’s a very approachable nice guy that seems like any other homebrewer with much, much nicer toys to play with.  Check out the full article here.

Short’s Beer Dinner at Sidetracks

<div class=\"postavatar\">Short's Beer Dinner at Sidetracks</div>

Last night, Jeff & I went to a burger and Short’s beer tasting at Sidetracks in Ypsilanti.  We love their food and would go any time, but the lure of Short’s was just too much to resist.  Sidetracks (actually, the event was at Frenchie’s) was awesome–they did a super job of pairing beer and food that complimented each other.  Without further ado, here is what we sampled last night:

The appetizer was acorn squash baked with apple cider paired with Autumn Ale.  This beer was an ESB with a delicious malty mouthfeel and bitter aftertaste. It went perfectly with the squash. I normally do not care for squash but when I took a bite and then swished beer in my mouth, I found it quite enjoyable.

Next, we a mac’n’cheese “burger”, which was Sidetracks’ mac’n’cheese (mmmmm) with ground up beef in it (#kosherfail).  This was paired with Short’s Bloody Beer that I have heard a ton about but never tried.  It was good, but not at all what I expected. I think I expected it to taste more like Mike O’Brien’s chips’n’salsa beer.  This beer had a nose that was all tomatoes, but not a huge tomato-y taste.  I could pick out a hint of the dill, peppercorn and horseradish that was also used in the recipe.

The third course was Short’s Black Cherry Porter with a black cherry & goat cheese burger.  I do not like goat cheese (email me privately to hear my rather off-color description of what it tastes like) so I had to scrape it off.  This made it a #notkosherfail! Unfortunately, the black cherries were also in the cheese so I missed out on that.  What I didn’t miss out on though was the beer! Do not be scared off of this beer, thinking it’s a “fruit” beer because it doesn’t taste like what you might be thinking of.  It is made with pureed black cherries and does have a nice cherry aftertaste.  The overwhelming taste, however, is that of a robust and delicious porter.

Next, we had Abnormal Genius and a peanut butter and bacon burger.  Naturally, I had to pick the bacon out (#kosherwin!) but the remaining food was still lovely.  Peanut butter and meat, who’d have thunk it?  Again, the beer was a perfect match.  Made with honey and sunflower seeds, brewed in 2006 and named after Joe Short himself, this beer is incredible. It smelled like a mead, tasted like a beer.  There was a nice hit of honey up front that quickly mellowed into a nutty flavor.

Lastly, we had a baked pear with ginger creme paired with Ginger in the Rye.  This beer was my favorite of the night, much to my surprise. I am not a huge fan of ginger (unless it’s Vernors) and so I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did.  Brewed in 2007, this beer has Hefe yeast and (of course) plenty of rye and ginger.  It was on the lighter side, without the heavy ginger flavor that I don’t care for.

By the way, I did bring my camera but I was starving and thirsty and everything got eaten and drank up too quickly for pictures. But you all are smart and can use your imagination.  Or heck, take a drive up to Short’s and try some of these beers for yourself!