1

Seattle Brewpubs

A version of this article will be printed on MittenBrew.com. Please check out their most excellent site!

Some time ago, Michigan and Washington were playing against each other in some sports contest or another. Our local paper put out a list pitting Ann Arbor against Seattle to see which was cooler. I love Ann Arbor, I would take a bullet in the face to defend it, and I think it is the greatest city in Michigan…but it’s really no contest: Seattle is bigger, it has a huge technology core, it is on the Pacific Ocean, and it has mountains. It also has a thriving craft beer scene. As far as I know, the two cities have never gone head-to-head in beer but as luck would have it, I was out in Seattle last week and decided to do a little brewpub tour to see what they had to offer. There was so much else to do that Ken and I only got to five pubs, but I was still able to sample a little bit of the Jet City and compare some of its offerings to the Mitten. DSC00665 DSC00667 Pike Brewing Company – This was the brewpub that many people recommended to us. It reminded me of a bigger, more crowded Grizzly Peak or Arbor Brewing Company in that it definitely was set up like a restaurant and focused on good food. There were two samplers available: the “standard” beers and a special one made up almost exclusively of IPAs. Since neither Ken nor I are huge hop heads, we opted for the standard sampler. The standout for me was the Pike XXXXX Extra Stout. The beer was a lovely dark brown with a creamy head. It balanced notes of chocolate and espresso, with roasty malted goodness. I did not get any hop profile but Ken said it was too hoppy for him; its IBU was 65 and it was brewed with three kinds of hops, but perhaps I picked out the chocolate and coffee flavors enough that I didn’t mind the hoppiness? Either way, it was a nice and toasty 7% ABV stout that went well with the burger that I got. The stout reminded me of Arbor Brewing’s Espresso Love, but with a bit less coffee flavor. DSC00681 DSC00684 DSC00687 DSC00691 Outlander Brewery & Pub – This was the real “find” of our journey. We had just taken a magnificent tour of the Theo Chocolate Factory and decided to take a walk, because surely a 15 minute walk at 2 miles per hour would burn off those 2,000 calories we just inhaled. On our trek, Ken spotted the pub, which is located in an old house. This setting made it extremely comfortable to walk into; the older, mismatched furniture added to the charm, reminding me of the furniture at the Corner Brewery (n/k/a Arbor Brewing Company Microbrewery) that they had in the lounge, back in the day. And it was just as comfortable to walk into. The only bad news was that they were in the midst of brewing new beer and thus their selection was limited. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our sampler and I especially liked the Hefeweizen. It had a crisp taste, a hint of bananas and cloves with a nice, spicy finish. The best thing about the beer was how well balanced it was; I often eschew hefeweizens because they are too wheaty, but this one had a nice, clean taste. Looking at their website, it appears that they have brewed a number of very interesting beers and I can only hope to get back there one day to try some. Until then, I would compare the Hefeweizen to Arbor Brewing’s Bavarian Bliss. DSC00696 DSC00697 Elysian Brewing – I don’t feel that I can adequately rate the bar itself because we went into the wrong one. That is, there are several branches of the brewpub, and we picked the one that is more cocktail bar and less brewpub. In fact, it was no brewpub at all except that it offered Elysian beers on tap. The atmosphere was definitely upscale (think: Vellum or the Raven’s Club). This is not meant as an insult, but just to say that it wasn’t a brewpub. In fact, when I asked the bartender what hops my beer was made with, he replied that he hadn’t memorized his hop list for the day. Nevertheless the beer was excellent, especially the Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout. While I do love stouts, I usually don’t like milk stouts. Part of it is the thought of lactose in my beer…it just isn’t my thing. And part of it is that I can usually just taste the lactose sweetness to the expense of all else. Luckily, the espresso cut into the milky taste and left a beer that was creamy and dark, with a lovely coffee aroma and smooth finish. It was like the perfect cup of coffee, but with a 5.6% ABV. This beer was definitely on par with my favorite Michigan sweet stout, Saugatuck’s Neapolitan Stout. WP_20140704_001 WP_20140704_003 WP_20140704_004 WP_20140704_007 The Naked City Brewery has one of the best themes I’ve come across: old, noir movies. The names of the beers reflect this theme and the televisions were showing the Turner Classic Movie station! Again, we enjoyed our sampler and my standout surprised even me: the Brute Force IPA. Didn’t I just say that I’m not a huge hophead? This beer was just that good! They used Cascade and Simcoe hops to hop and dryhop the beer, but neither overpowered the biscuity, malty flavor. The citrus flavor from the hops was present up front, but it finished off to a nice, warm biscuit of 6% ABV goodness. In fact, if anyone had come back to serve us, we would have ordered more beers. I don’t drink a lot of IPAs so it was hard to think of one to compare it to, but I read some of my old blog entries and I would pair it with Griffin Claw’s Grind Line Pale Ale for a head-to-head comparison. WP_20140704_009 WP_20140704_010 Our last visit was a quick stop to the Fremont Brewery. Apparently, tens of thousands of people go to the Fremont neighborhood to watch fireworks on the Fourth of July—who knew? Many of them were at this brewpub, so it was hard to get a feel of the place and we definitely could not talk to the very overworked bartenders. We still managed to snag a sampler though, and my standout beer was Fremont Summer Ale. It was described as citrus in a glass and it was—light, crisp and at 5% ABV would be very easy to drink while doing yard work (if I did yard work). It was the perfect ending to a nice week away. For its citrus notes, I would compare it to Atwater’s Summertime Ale, although Atwater’s is more lemony while Fremont’s had more of a tangerine taste to it. The beers were solid, but service was hit or mess as referenced above. I did appreciate that Outlander clearly said it was 21+ only and the sign that Naked City had. Fremont, on the other hand, was very kid friendly and even had a section with toys. As most of my friends know, I believe that kids do not belong in bars (restaurants, like Pike, are fine) and the fact that saying this is controversial and leads to arguments will tell you just how pro-natalist of a society we are. I have had people unfriend me on social media for this view. That should concern anyone who believes that adults need adult time, just as kids need kid time. Cheers!

0

Metzger’s Bier Dinner

So it’s been so long since I blogged that Word Press logged me out and I had to remember my password. But school is out and I am back at my usual beertitude and here we are!

Boyfriend Ken & I went to Metzger’s annual Bier Dinner this past Tuesday. I really love Metzger’s for many reasons–they have been around since the 1920s (I want to say 1924 but I’m not positive), third and fourth generation Metzgers work there, and they couldn’t have been nicer when I asked for pictures for my book (Downtown Ann Arbor, coming from Arcadia Publishers this fall!). My family is all dispersed and nobody had a business that carried on like this, so of course I imagine having a long-time family business to be some familial utopia. Which I’m sure it isn’t. But it does sound kind of nice. And speaking of nice (see what I did there? MASTERBLOGGER!), here is a look at each of the five courses:

Appetizer: Housemade sausage with bacon & caraway, pickled vegetables, choron sauce paired with Schneider Porter Weisse

The beer was a new one to me but holy lamb! Okay so first, remember how I mentioned the family business thing? (You should, since I just said it). Well, Schneider & Sohn started with Georg Schneider the First, who lived from 1817-1890. They are now on Georg the 7th. No shit. And even cooler, Mathilde Schneider ran the place with her husband died unexpectedly. The brewery literally LITERALLY saved wheat beer from extinction, which you can read about yourself on their website. It is true that wheat beer gives me a headache, but I wouldn’t want it to not exist.

The “porter” taste was > “wheat” taste, and I really enjoyed the beer. It had subtle chocolate notes in it and a smooth, creamy finish. It paired nicely with the sausage, which was also fantastic.

Soup: Cauliflower Puree with a drizzle of white truffle oil, paired with Reissdolf Kolsch

Kolsch had held a special place in my heart ever since we got my dad tipsy on some Kolsch down in Fort Myers. It really is a great gateway beer but, like gateway beers, can be done sloppily. Fortunately, this is true Kolsch, from the Koln region and so there were no worries about the beer not tasting perfect. It paired very nicely with the soup, which was amazing–and I don’t like cauliflower! At first, my tablemates and I thought that the Kolsch should go with the salad but I think we all changed our minds once we tasted the pairing.

Salad: Asparagus, roasted mushrooms, cured ham, shaved parm, greens, vinaigrette, paired with Weihenstephaner Kristal Weiss

The Weihenstephaner brewery is one that I would like to get to before I shed my mortal coil. It is the oldest, continuously operating brewery in the world. That is survived some world wars and God knows what else just blows my mind. And the beer is good, too! This was the unfiltered version of the Hefe, so they served it with lemon. At first, I eschewed the lemon (as I object to citrus in my beer), but Ron from Rave said it was okay and so I gave in. And he was right. Because he is Ron from Rave! This light, crisp and clear beer made a great pairing for the salad. The citrus complemented the sherry vinaigrette in a lovely way.

Entree: Fresh rainbow trout stuffed with tomatoes, onions, fennel and garlic, paired with Weihenstephaner Hefe.

Since I’m not a huge fan of the Hefe, I can’t say that I loved the beer. Boyfriend Ken did, though! He drank my share so it was all good. Let me say though that the fish was beyond description. Absolutely delicious. Phenomenal.

Dessert: Housemade vanilla ice cream in Schneider & Sohn’s Aventinus Eisbock

It’s our friend Schneider again! And this time, he brewed a very strong beer. It tasted of plums and clove, with a slight warming sensation as I drank it. The ice cream made it creamy and heavenly but I think I preferred it by itself because I really liked the plummy taste with the nice warm finish. I might have gotten thirds on the ice cream and then ate it by itself. I might also have gotten thirds on the beer and drank it by itself. I might also have gone home and fallen asleep on the couch at 9:30 at night.

We will definitely go to this again next year! I don’t know if this is how beer dinners are in Bavaria (where my family is from originally, by the way), but it worked perfectly for us. Prost!

 

3

I’m Kind of an Idiot Sometimes (or, Kombucha is Really Good)

Some words freak me out. The ones off the topic of my head are smoothie, massage, yoga, methinks and yogurt. (If you see a lot of words with G, you are correct. I can only presume that in a past life I was walking down Sesame Street and was killed with a giant G, much as Mary Capwell was killed by a giant C in Santa Barbara). At some point in my life, I thought that kombucha was yogurt. I don’t know why but I thought it was. Then when I saw it in bottles, I just presumed that it was some sort of odd liquidy yogurt and so it freaked me out and I avoided it. Because the word yogurt (and the actual thing) freaks me out. And because I am an idiot.

BUT THEN I actually tried some and realized, oh hey, this isn’t bad. And this past Friday, we went with our friends to the Unity Vibration tasting room and YES, KOMBUCHA IS REALLY GOOD! And it’s not yogurt. Or massages. Or smoothies. And I’m getting freaked out just typing those words.

I had the Triple-Goddess Bourbon Peach beer. One of the things that I liked about it was that you had to drink it slowly. I’m not sure what it was about the beverage that forced me to do that but I had to sip instead of swallow and that made it even more enjoyable. The peach flavor was just the right amount and had a nice sweetness that was very pleasing. Ken had the Triple Goddess Raspberry which was a bit more tart and subtle…I could imagine that it would go nicely with this flourless chocolate cake that I make.

The tasting space was cool and it was fun to hang out there. My friend Angie chatted about local beer and brewing and I got to chat about “gateway” beers and how we got my dad tipsy on Kolsch beers down in Florida. Kombucha might make a nice “gateway” for our ERMEGHAD I ONLY DRINK WINE!!1!11! friends. I mean, with the fruit goodness and sipability and all.

If you get a chance, check it out! Meantime, methinks (shudder) I am going to avoid doing some yoga (ick) tonight!!!

 

0

International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day: Unite Pale Ales Unites Women Brewers of the World

Women were always the brewers. Beer was a foodstuff and, like all foodstuffs, it was made by women. This changed as beer moved from the home into the commercial realm in the Middle Ages; it changed rapidly during the Industrial Revolution when breweries became big and employed men as their brewers.

But beer is an equal opportunity thing and is enjoyed (and brewed) by both genders these days. To celebrate that fact—and to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8—female brewers all over the world got together to brew.

Here in Michigan, women brewed at Arbor Brewing Company (ABC) and at Short’s Brewing Company. I was lucky enough to get to visit the brewers at ABC and learn about how they got involved in this event.

Angie Williams, former Cellar Master and Assistant Brewer at the Corner Brewery, heard about the event from the Pink Boots Society. (Pink Boots is an organization “created to empower women beer professionals to advance their careers in the Beer Industry through education.”) When Angie realized that no one in the southeast Michigan area was participating, she decided to jump into it. (The women at Short’s Brewing Company were already involved).

Image

Angie got in touch with Stacey Roth, brewer at Griffin Claw Brewing Company. Around the same time, the head brewer of ABC, Mike Moroney, approached Angie and Stacey to ask if they had heard about this event and if they would consider doing it at ABC. According to Stacey, not only did owners Rene and Matt Greff support the idea, they were extremely enthusiastic about it. Angie adds, “Given the long history Arbor has with female ownership and employing female brewers and women in other top management positions, it was a natural fit for this event.” The beer brewing was on!

The beer is called Unite Pale Ale and is a pale session beer made with a late addition of Cascade hops. While the basic recipe is the same world-wide, each brewery can put its own spin on the beer. The women at ABC used additional hops to increase the IBU somewhat; as well, a Belgian yeast was used. The estimated release date is sometime in mid-April.

Both Angie and Stacey agree that this event is extremely important for women. Events like this, Angie says, “help raise awareness of how many of us do this for a living across the globe…it shows (women) in a role other than as models for beer commercials.” Stacey says that it’s not only about showing women that they can be brewers but also “empowering women about what they can do in life” on a world-wide scale. (The global nature of this event cannot be understated. There will be women brewing in Japan, Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand and in the United States. Some of the proceeds from the sale of the beers will be donated to various charities, including the Pink Boots Society which has a special program to help brewers who are burn victims.)

Image

Angie and Stacey are Poodies!

Both women have noticed a shift in the industry since they began brewing professionally. Stacey has been in the industry for about ten years and notes that in years past, the syrupy raspberry beers were the ones that were targeted to women; now, women are asking for double and triple IPAs and imperial stouts. The industry has realized that women are a market and we don’t want the “stereotypical pink swag bags and fruit beers.”

Additionally, women who enjoy craft beer but are not necessarily in the industry are organizing themselves into groups. Two such groups are the PussyCat Beer Guild in Grand Rapids and the Detroit Draft Divas in southeast Michigan. Angie joined the latter group several years ago and has enjoyed the camaraderie ever since. “It’s a wonderful, knowledgeable and supportive group of women at all levels of beer knowledge who either want to learn more about craft beer or just want to hang out with other women who love craft beer,” she says.

Image

The Cute! It burns!!!

Collaboration and teaching have long been cornerstones of the brewing industry and this event is no different. Angie and Stacey worked with Mike Moroney who learned from former Arbor brewer Bill Gerds who learned from Bill Wamby (now at Rochester Mills). This tradition is carried on with events like International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day; it carries on every time a woman (or man) tries a craft beer for the first time and realizes that they have found what they may not have known they were looking for. This unites us all—women and men, Americans and Israelis, Japanese and Canadians—in the pursuit of good, craft beer. May that spirit never perish from this good earth.

 

 

0

Well look at that!

Last we knew, I was complaining about how to make it through January and here we are smack dab in the middle of February! A ton of snow days helped the month pass (one of the many, many things teachers need to stop doing is flooding Facebook/Twitter with SNOW DAY posts and I regret even mentioning it here and I do so only to mention that when I have days off, I get lazier than usual and that is one of the reasons for no blog posts since then. Is it weird that I get actually lazier when I have nothing to do? Perhaps. Has always been that way though!) and a ton of fun events with friends also helped.

But the biggest help of all was going to Florida this past week! My dad and stepmom live down there part of the year and I have the undeniable privilege of going to visit. I still have to scrimp, save, whip out the charge card but at least there is no hotel fee!

I am also very privileged to live in The Great Beer State. Florida’s beer scene is, well, it makes beer go like this:

But to their credit, they are really really trying. New brewpubs are opening up and I applaud them. We hit three outstanding brewpubs: Peg’s Cantina/Cycle Brewing, Dunedin Brewing Company and Fort Myers Brewing Company. Sadly, our story starts with another:

I will not name the “brewpub” except to call it Brewery X. Ken & I looked it up online and it *clearly* said that it was a brewpub with its own beers (along with other beers on tap and alcohol). We drove an hour out of our way (25 miles, but in Florida, that equals an hour or more of driving) to get there only to find…they weren’t serving their beer. They were open as a brewpub, but in order to get “their” beer, I would have had to have bought a $15 shirt and received a “free” pint of beer (note: they were not using true pint glasses so it would have been more like 12 or so ounces). I declined and asked about the “guest beers” on tap. We had to go through three bartenders before we could get some information (our main bartender was a nice guy, but he looked like he was 12). I did end up with something from Cigar City (initially served Ken’s beer instead but we quickly realized the mistake) and it was good but still. If you are going to purport to be a brewpub, *be a fucking brewpub*. Or at least put a disclaimer that the license was being held up and you couldn’t serve your own stuff. People love stuff like that because then they can bitch about the goddamned gubmint and we’d all have a great talk over the guest beer.

I got over it and went on to have a great vacation and I looked like this:

the rest of the time. More about the other three brewpubs in a few…I will “tease” by saying that the chocolate porter at Fort Myers Brewing gave Atwater’s Decadent Delight a run for its money. No kidding. I never thought I would find anything even close and lo and behold, there it was! And also, I got my dad drinking microbrew beers!!!

 

0

How to Get Through January (hint: Saugatuck’s Neapolitan Stout helps!)

I hate the month of January. I’m sure most people in the northern environs don’t love it but I seriously hate it. Some bad things have happened in January and I will mention two before moving onto beer stuff.

During the third week of January 1998, I started my first “real” law job. It turned out to be one of most horrific experiences of my life and quite a shock to the naive 25 year old who had always succeeded at everything. It was also the first hint that I might have some issues (later identified as disabilities) that would prevent me from working the extended hours required by this firm. That first week was spent reading a thick book about bankruptcy law. Seriously. From 8-6 for four straight days, I was to sit in an office and read this book so I could learn all about the subject. I don’t remember much about what I read and I can’t tell you how I made it through (this was before computers/internet connections/smart phones). I do know that I got to go to court with some paralegals that Friday and that was fast living, kids! I also remembered leaving on Friday and immediately counting down the hours until I had to be back on Monday morning. I spent most of that weekend counting down with increasing dread. (Needless to say, I did not last long on that job and it began my seven years of job hopping throughout the legal field).

January of 2000 was also abysmal and also such because of the legal field. I was stuck in yet another dead end job with a crappy salary and crappy working environment. I remember how the days and weeks were so long that I felt like it should be April by the time January 31 rolled around. For some reason, the movie The Wedding Singer was on TV a lot and I wanted to get sucked into that world and live with those folks…in a happier time where I had never considered law school.

My Januarys have improved, I’m happy to say. I now have a job that I like in a field that can accommodate for my disabilities. And not to sound trite, but I have CRAFT BEER!

And yes, sometimes I get through the cold dark nasty days by looking forward to the release of spring beers. But for now, I am happily up to my neck in stouts, most notably Saugatuck’s Neapolitan Stout. I find that not many beers translate well to the bottle…I really prefer the fresh tap, especially when I have the beer on tap the first time I ever try it (such was the case with this beer). This one is delicious in bottles, I am happy to say! You get the stout, you get the strawberry flavor (not too sweet or cloying but enough that you get the taste), you get the hint of vanilla. You get an awesome freaking beer! And you get the memory of real ice cream being eaten on hot, summer days….

More January beers to come!

1

Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas Beer Tasting!

My friend Derek told me that it was the best beer at the tasting. I believed him, of course, but I still wanted to be the judge of that. It turns out that he was exactly right. It really was the best beer at the tasting.

The tasting I’m referring to is my personal favorite tasting of the year—the Arbor Brewing Company’s Holiday Ale tasting. You might know that ABC puts on a helluva tasting every month—fruit beers, IPAs, fall beers, Belgians—but this is the holy grail of ales for me.

The tap room and game room are decked out in their holiday finest. Christmas lights twinkle everywhere. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I think that everyone and everything look more beautiful when bathed in the glow of holiday lights.

As always, the buffet is delicious—cheese covered pierogies, chicken wings, hot pretzels, cold cheese. These are the perfect foods to wash down the beer. And the beer ranges from winter ales to winter whites to stouts to hot meads and back again.

Oh, as to the best beer? It was the Bruery’s 6 Geese a Laying, of course! I read that the Bruery is doing a different “12 Days of Christmas” beer each year. If the others are anything like this, I must seek them out. This dark winter ale is rich and malty. The highlights for me were the citrus and fruit tastes. I honestly can’t say that I’ve ever had gooseberries but I will try to find them the next time they are in season. There wasn’t a heavy, syrupy taste—just a nice blend of berry and cherry with hints of citrus in the finish.

My other top favorites were (in no particular order):

Samichlaus – I think I always put this in my top five but there’s a reason for that:  it’s good beer! The beer is brewed once a year and aged for 10 months. This results in a creamy, warm and strong ale that goes down smooth with only a slight alcohol burn.

Arbor Brewing’s FIGJAM – I haven’t been terribly fond of some of the quadruples that I have had in the past so I sometimes avoid them. I am so glad that I did not let prior experience deter me from this absolutely delicious beer! The beer is like the best dark bread fruit bread (yes Virginia there is such a thing!) made into beer—with notes of dates, raising, figs in the nose and taste, somewhat heavy mouthfeel to be expected) and crisp finish it is easy to forget that this beer is almost 12% a.b.v. Sip it slowly and enjoy it.

Arbor Brewing’s Wenceslas Winter Fuel – Another favorite also came from Arbor Brewing. This beer also had a dark bread aroma and taste but was balanced with notes of chocolate. Nice, toasty taste and a dry finish. At only 6% a.b.v. you can enjoy this well into those cold winter nights!

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale – This Belgian has the most delicious mulling spice taste to it! Like some of my other favorites, it had the dark fruit/dark bread taste but it had that extra note of spice that made it memorable. Warm on the palate, slight alcohol burn yet not too harsh.

And so ends another holiday ale tasting. Just 11 months and 3 weeks until I have another of my hap-hap-happiest beer tastings since Bing and Danny tapdanced up Fourth Avenue. Merry Christmas!