I am now officially halfway through my Michigan beercation. This craft beer journey has already gifted me a ton of memories and friendships. The Ann Arbor section of the adventure will be a great one because I got recommendations from one of Ann Arbor’s foremost beer authorities, David Bardallis. I messaged David months before my trip in the hopes that he would help guide me to the best beer Ann Arbor has to offer. His recommendations ensured I did not waste any time on bad beer.
My Brewhaus Media Beer Friend
But first, I have to get to Ann Arbor. I check out of my Airbnb in Kalamazoo and head to Latitude 42 to meet a new friend, Aaron Steinmann. I met Aaron at the Craft Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference in Milwaukee. We bonded over fantastic beers at the Sugar Maple and a hilarious Uber ride back to the hotel with Fritz Klug. Aaron is a friendly and beer-savvy gent who recently started his own thing called Brewhaus Media. Before starting out on his own, he worked for Bell’s Brewery doing a lot of social media and marketing.
I saw him briefly when I was interviewing Chris O’Neill at One Well Brewing. However, I wanted to have a proper pint with him and talk beer. We agreed to meet at Latitude 42, which is on the south end of Kalamazoo. I have to say that the beers at Latitude 42 are great, but the ambiance feels like the brewery version of a TGI Fridays. Luckily, I have great company to trump the mass-produced feel of the environment.
Aaron knows a lot about marketing and social media. He understands that some breweries are missing the boat when it comes to effectively marketing their brand. That is where Brewhaus Media comes in. Aaron helps breweries get the word out about anything and everything beer-related. He is a knowledgeable beer mind and glad to hear that I hit all the spots in town he recommended. You can check out their Facebook page for yourself here.
More important than his beer knowledge and social media prowess is the fact that Aaron is a tremendously cool dude. For Aaron to make time to meet for a beer and talk to me about the Kalamazoo beer scene is a true sign of his selfless nature. We are cut from the same cloth in that we both love to laugh and have a good time. As we reminisce about the Craft Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference, our sides hurt from laughing. His good nature comes across crystal clear and I am sad that I have to get going. We say our goodbyes and I hit the road for Ann Arbor.
Thirsty Like The Wolverine
We all know that some styles of beer take a higher level of skill to brew than others. For a brewery to focus solely on lagers is ambitious and bold. To brew good lagers takes an adroit attention to detail, the patience of a Tibetan Monk, and an Indiana Jones-like understanding of beer history. Wolverine State Brewing Company does all these things at a high level of competence.
Five years ago, my palate didn’t appreciate the nuance of a good lager like it does today. At this point in my life, I am not looking for the highest and craziest ABV beers all the time. The crisp and refreshing nature of a good lager is now what I seek out in the summertime. Wolverine State Brewing has a lager for every palate, so this has to be on your list if you visit Ann Arbor.
I order up a Wolverine Premium Lager to go with my turkey sandwich. The crowd is an interesting mix of couples on dates and a few softball teams. The taproom manager sees me jotting things down and offers me some samples of other things that they have. He is knowledgeable and is happy to answer any questions. The Premium Lager is crisp and has a great hop bite to balance out the malt. The taproom manager insists that I try the Raucher, a GABF 2016 gold medal-winner beer. I am ecstatic to try a beer of such high quality. Raucher is smoked delicately and has an intriguing malt complexity. The next beer I go for is the Barista, a cold brew coffee lager. This beer has all the rich and robust nature of a warm and comforting cup of joe without the acidity. Last, but certainly not least, I go for the Faustian Baltic Porter. A heavy hitter with a wonderful amalgamation of molasses, black licorice, and chocolate. The Faustian has great body and looks like a hearty pour of Quaker State.
Overall, Wolverine State Brewing impresses me immensely. Solid beers and a staff that really knows how to treat their patrons and visiting beer bloggers!
Witch’s Hat Brewing
The old adage that the early bird gets the worm is a mantra that I attempt to live by when I am on the beer trail. Many fellow Michigan beer aficionados told me to come to Witch’s Hat Brewing and I have never been one to ignore the advice of a seasoned craft beer drinker. Witch’s Hat is actually about 20 minutes outside of Ann Arbor in South Lyon. the drive takes me through lots of picturesque farmland and pastures.
I get to Witch’s Hat Brewing Company shortly after they open. There are maybe 10 other people there and 6 of those are a group of ladies who must have jetted over to the brewery straight from yoga because the spandex and mat quotient in the brewery is high. The bright tank-top and yoga pants-clad group is a stark juxtaposition to the aesthetics of the place. The taproom space itself is darker than most, which makes getting photos a bit of a challenge. However, it allows for a coziness that too much lighting might prevent. There is a massive fireplace hearth which draws your focus. The ample seating at the bar make it so plenty of thirsty patrons can come and enjoy a pint or two.
The young lady who is helping has the patience of a saint as I peruse the menu. They have more than just a few good options of what to drink and I am trying to make my choices strategically so that I can get the most out of my visit. They have a great mix of beers, ranging from light to heavy in ABV. The variety of dark and malty beers on tap makes my decision of what to drink a no-brainer. I go for several of the darker options after being inspired by the mood lighting in the taproom.
The Sweet Lou Milk Stout is a fantastically creamy and smooth sipper. I like the balance in the beer. The amount of lactose is perfect and there is enough roast in there to give it a solid character. The next dark pour I enjoy is the DMXport Stout. This baby is all about the roasted and dry malt flavors that are paramount in this style. The Night Fury Imperial Stout is the real winner in my books. Decadent and boozy, this abyssal terror clocks in at 10.2% ABV. There is little burn from the booziness and it drinks smooth. Witch’s Hat impresses me immensely and I recommend it to all. The best part is I wasn’t turned into a newt.
Third Monk Brewing Company
If this brewery is not the embodiment of the phrase that good things come in small packages, I don’t know what is. I luck into being in the taproom with only one other customer from Texas, Stan, and the brewery owner, Jeff Robinson. Third Monk Brewing is a nano-brewery that brews one barrel at a time. Jeff is an incredibly affable guy who loves talking beer. He is also a champion for the ending of archaic beer laws that hinder growler sales in MI.
I am anxious to try all six of the beers that Third Monk has on tap. Jeff pours me a taster tray and I begin sipping away. As he continues to spin the yarn of the ridiculousness of Michigan’s growler laws, I find myself in craft beer paradise. My palate ventures between the saison, English Bitter, and the stout. The quality is high and I am loving the conversation. The Lyon’s Pride Bitter is a fantastic beer and homage to a style that I wish people would wake up and love as much as I do. A fantastic biscuit malt flavor emanates from this pour of British perfection. This beer has a high level of drinkability and would be my go-to if I were a regular here. The Bellingham Saison is a refreshing beer with a nice tartness. The yeast character is stellar. The best in show for me is easily the Liquid Jesus Stout. I do not worship a god with any regularity, but Liquid Jesus is definitely something I would go on a pilgrimage for. My goodness, this beer is as smooth as the day is long. Amazing body and malt have me speaking in tongues and believing in miracles. The Liquid Jesus might be one of my favorite beers of the trip thus far, and that is saying something.
Getting to chat with Jeff is definitely the icing on the cake and a perfect accompaniment to the tasty brews. Jeff’s passion for brewing is mighty and his love of Michigan craft beer is true. He definitely loves what he does and has a colossal amount of respect for the breweries in Michigan like Bell’s and Founder’s, which paved the way for him to do what he does.
There is an assumption that for a brewery to be taken seriously they must brew an IPA. Homes Brewing Company buys into that idea because they feature several amazing versions of the popular style. Homes is hip, cool, and the complete opposite of me in junior high. The colors in Homes are bright to match the hoppy flavors of their beers. Even though the vibe screams contemporary and young, there is a wide mix of ages represented in the place. I grab a seat at the bar and begin to people watch.
The offerings are mostly hop-forward, with a few malty exceptions. I order a taster tray and the beer absolutely glows in the mini tulip tasting glasses. My olfactories are being seduced by a boquet of coffee, roasted malt, juicy hops, and mustache wax; I have died and gone to heaven. I came in expecting to fall in love with their American IPA, Same Same Different. Same Same Different showcases a bunch of sexy hops with in a manner pleasing to both my nose and my palate. I unexpectedly fell for the King Cold Brew, a cream ale with coffee from a local place called Coffee Works. The King Cold Brew has an aroma that transports you to your favorite designer coffee shop without the pretentiousness. The Bang Down oatmeal stout is flavorful to the taste and substantial in body.
The beers, people watching, and music are all fantastic. However, my eyes, like the plot twists to Marty McFly in Back to The Future are getting heavy and I have to head for home. There is more tasting to be done tomorrow and I cannot wait to meet up with a David Bardallis, who will forget more about the Ann Arbor beer scene than most people will ever know.
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