Michigan Brewery Tour Review

January 15th, 2010 posted by lori

Louisville Beer Store Michigan Brew Tour Review

After 6 days, 1,164 miles, 14 breweries, 5 beer bars, 6 beer stores, and one heck of a snow storm we are happy to be enjoying brews at home.
It was quite the epic beer adventure…. We drank some excellent beers, we beer-shopped our little hearts out, we were mesmerized by all the breweries big and small, and we met some of the most interesting & inspiring people in the beer community!  We hope you find this review helpful in your future travels to these areas & hope to offer you a chance to go on a brewery tour with us in Michigan in the summer/fall. Cheers! and Thank you to all that made this trip a memorable one!!!!

Day # 1: Ann Arbor, MI

Jolly Pumpkin Cafe
We made it in time to have dinner at Jolly Pumpkin, which was absolutely amazing! We shared a Noel de Calabaza on tap and a bottle of Baudelaire EYO Saison, a beer we had never heard of before.  There were about 5-6 beers in the “Baudelaire” series, in which our server explained to us that this series was “one of the alter ego brews” by Ron Jeffries, JP brewer. After getting home and doing a bit of research, this is what I found on the exciting & beautiful Baudelaire beers:

“These are the first beers in a liquid narrative that Ron [Jeffries, Founder] and Adam Forman (label artist) have been working on. At this time the graphic novel that Adam is doing as a companion to the beers has been put on hold. As we had the beers done, we are going to sell them and if the project comes to fruition then we will produce these beers again.”

As of now these beers are not available anywhere but the JP taproom, but lets all cross our fingers that they do in fact make it to fruition in the eyes of Mr. Jeffries.  They are quite the treat!

The Beer Depot
We found some amazing vintage beers at this little store in Ann Arbor!  (The Hitachino 2005 Celebration Ale & 2005 Drie Fontaine Schaerbeekse Kriek both for amazing prices!)

Day # 2: Detroit & Warren, MI

Kuhnhenn Brewing Co.
“From our humble beginnings as a hardware store selling brewing supplies, to establishing ourselves as one of Michigans largest craft breweries, we’ve never lost sight of our true passion:Great beer! All of our beers are brewed, bottled and kegged right here in Warren, MI”

Family-owned and operated, this was a wonderfu place to visit. We were lucky enough to have an impromptu brewery tour by the Kuhnhenn dad, who gave us a little taste of some meade still fermenting in a Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrel.
The coolest thing about this place is that you could walk-in and brew your own beer on the spot w/ the assistance of the brewers. They have all the equipment & supplies available, and with 2 1/2 to 3 hours of pleasurable work and 12-14 days later, you’ll have your own batch of beer to drink there or take home.

Over 30 Dragonmead small-batch beers were available on tap (which changes weekly), featuring a diverse range of styles. We especially enjoyed their barleywines, and the bottle of Grand Cru our friend Bob gave us. Thanks Bob!

Merchants Fine Wine
Amazingly Large Selection… we spent over an hour shopping here. Feature find: Jolly Pumkin Biere de Mars (the only place we were able to find it)

Champagnes had obviously been hit hard over the holidays, but still had a great selection if you took the time to look around a little closer… and they had the best prices in Michigan!
Great glassware selection too!
Feature finds: Shorts PB&J, Shorts Liberator, Arbor Brewing Co. Velvet Hammer

Day # 3: New Holland & Grand Rapids, MI

New Holland Brewing Co.
Beautiful brewpub about an hour outside Grand Rapids.  The highlight of this stop was picking up a vintage Blue Sunday (Sour Brown Ale). Thank you to the nice waitress who took the time to search out the last bottle tucked away in the basement!

Founders Brewery
Devil Dancer and Backwoods Bastard on tap in addition to 6 beers made exclusively for the taproom (Black Biscuit, Chai Mate, Big Froot, Lil Froot, Newaygo County Cherry and Honey Wheat) made this stop one of the most exciting of the trip… the 16 piece Jazz Big Band Orchestra playing on stage (for free!) didn’t hurt.  Nice touch Founders!

Hop Cat
Hop Cat, an impressive beer bar, just blocks from Founders,  was almost like being home. They had an extensive craft beer list, specializing in Michigan beers, and offered samplers & 2.5 oz. tastes.  This was perhaps the most intriguing and exciting beer menu while on our trip…  We sampled these beers on tap: Jolly Pumpkin Bam Noire, Victory Harvest Pils, HopCat Honey Sage, HopCat Black Scratch Fever, Arcadia Cannonball Gold, Schmohz HopKnocker, Short’s Mystery Stout, Short’s PB&J Stout, Short’s Soft Parade and Short’s Uber Goober

Day # 4: Kalamazoo, Marshall, Benton Harbor, MI

Bell’s Brewery & Bell’s Eccentric Cafe
Wow! this was definitely the highlight of our trip! Thanks to Tish Dean, Beerhouse, we were able to get a private tour of Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, MI. Marty, a sales manager at Bells gave us the full-on beer dork tour with details about everything from brewing processes, equipment design, systems & operations and more.  We walked away from the experience with a newly enhanced appreciation for Bell’s.  At the cafe we were able to sample six beers that were only sold there: Red Nose Imperial Bitter, Apple Ale, Raspberry Ale, Wild One (a sour brown with wild yeast), Scotch Ale and Barleywine.  As an added treat we also ran into Annette May and Michael Bardallis (Michigan’s first Cicerone couple) and were able to have a nice little chat with them.

Dark Horse Brewery
Dark Horse is one of our favorite breweries and unfortunately we can’t get it in Kentucky.  You can drive across the bridge to get it or do what we did and visit the brewery in Marshall, MI.  The Dark Horse Brewery is more like a compound.  There is a gift shop, liquor store, brewpub, outdoor courtyard with a stage and their brewing facility.  The brewpub is like no other.  The ceiling and walls are loaded with handmade ceramic mugs, all of which make up the best “mug club” in the country.  One of the brewers, Bryan Wiggs, was kind enough to give us a tour of the brewery.  Wiggs was excellent at explaining their brewing process.  He also ran off the rest of the Oatmeal Stout so that we could try some “Smells Like Weed IPA” (pictured above)… and yes, it lives up to it’s name.

The Livery
The Livery was our last stop of the day.  It’s located in Benton Harbor right by the lake.  We almost didn’t stop here because the snow had become much worse by that point, but we decided to anyways.  This brewery makes some solid beers.  They also had a great selection of cask ales as well.  Rich O’s in New Albany has a collaboration on tap right now that they did with The Livery that is a very nice Belgian Style IPA.  Stop by and try one while it’s still there!

Arcadia Brewery
Arcadia was a last minute stop for us.  Bryan Wiggs from Dark Horse used to brew here and told us to stop by and have a Hop Rocket.  We did and it was excellent!  We also had a Sky High Rye which was tasty too.  It was a short, but good stop.

Day #5 & 6: Chicago

Three Floyds Brewery
Three Floyds was amazing!!  Our third time visiting the brewery, but again thanks to Tish Dean we met Lincoln Anderson (Three Floyds Minister of Propaganda) and this time was truly special.  Lincoln gave us the complete brewery tour and afterwards had a delicious lunch with us in their pub.  It was great to talk with him and we’re very excited about having him in the store tonight for the 3Floyds/Dogfish Head Hoppy Hour.  Tyler drove to Buffalo Trace on Tuesday to pick up two Van Winkle 23 year old bourbon barrels to give to Three Floyds.  We’re not sure what they’ll be putting in them just yet.  It could be something new and different or it might even be the Darklord Russian Imperial Stout…  We shall see!  Beers we had at the pub include: Ham on Rye, Arctic Panzer Wolf, Stay in School, Grosser Kurfurst and Victory Abbey 6.

The Maproom
At The Maproom, if you’re not a local, you may get shot a dirty look by one of the burley bartenders when ordering, but don’t worry, the sassy service is will be quickly disregarded once you get a beer.  All the beers at this reputable Chicago beer bar are more than good, they are excellent. We include this stop on every trip to Chicago, you should too!

Pipework’s Brewing Company
We contacted Pipeworks hoping to find out more about their beer and brewery (in construction), because Tyler had brought home a bottle of Pipedream IPA from the Kulminator in Antwerp, Belgium.  This collaborative beer between Struise, Alvinne and Pipeworks has peeked our curiousity ever since.  To our luck and surprise we were able to hang out with Pipeworks brewers Garrit Lewis & Beejay Oslon and even taste a few of their (amazing & unique) beers.  About Pipeworks:

“Pipeworks is a labor of love from three beer-enthusiasts and homebrewers. Devon Cunningham from California, Beejay Oslon from Chicago, and Gerrit Lewis from Colorado have joined together in the windy city to bring our collective vision of craft brewing to the public. Devon and Beejay have traveled to Belgium to live and work while honing their brewing skills under the watchful eye of Urbain Coutteau of the De Struise Brouwers. While there, they have been able to collaborate with Struise and Alvinne to bring our first offerings to the public, even before we have moved into our own brewery. We will be working hard towards opening our production brewery, and we will be glad to keep you informed of our progress. We have one goal, to produce high quality, bottle conditioned beers for the discerning beer connoisseur. The road will be long, but walked with passion. We hope that you will join us on our journey and share in the fruits of our labor.”

The Publican

The Publican is a beer dork/foodies paradise! Where else can you have a Schnitzel & draft Oak Smoke Schlenkerla and end the night with Belgian Waffle and draft Cantillon Kriek?  Be prepared to make new friends at this place when sitting down at the communal tables, or call ahead and reserve a booth if you’d prefer more privacy. Note: If you like Flemish Sour Ales or Oysters, they have a long list of them.

The Hopleaf

Hopleaf was for dessert since we had dinner at the Publican.  We’ve eaten at Hopleaf before and the food is amazing!  Also amazing is their beer list.  We had the St. Louis Gueze Fond Tradition on tap! delicious!

Goose Island Clybourn Pub & Brewery
Goose Island was another unplanned stop, but it was early in the afternoon and Hopleaf had not started serving food yet.  We were starving and beer had to play a part in that so we went to the Goose Island Pub.  We have been to the pub many times before.  No matter how many new beer bars we hear about in Chicago, we always end up stopping by Goose Island.  We sat at the bar and the service, beer and food we all great!  Beers we tasted: Sahti, Sophie, Noire, Bourbon County Stout & Two Brothers/Urthel Moaten

Binny’s (formerly Sam’s)
Sam’s was always a stop on any trip to Chicago.  They were recently bought out by Binny’s (the Liquor Barn of Chicago… but way better than any Liquor Farm:)  We met Adam Vavrick who is their beer consultant and he was very helpful.  He let us go in the back and pick through his personal stash…  Thanks so much, Adam! Feature Finds: Port Brewing Company Imperial Pilsner, Lost Abbey Red Barn, New Belgium La Folie

West Lake View Liquors
If you like good beer, you have to check this place out.  Quite possibly the best selection either of us have ever seen.
Feature Finds: Alvinne Podge Magnum, De Ranke HOP FlowerPower

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