My second part of Ann Arbor adventures highlights some of the veteran breweries and haunts. Aside from Wolverine State Brewing, most of the breweries I visited in Ann Arbor have been on the newer side of things. Now, it was time to hit some of the more established breweries that David Bardallis suggested to me earlier in the summer. Speaking of this local legend, my time in Ann Arbor concludes with some tremendously enjoyable time spent with David and his girlfriend, Amy.
Grizzly Peak Brewing
As I walk around a bustling Ann Arbor, I am energized by the vibrancy of this place. I love it here. Between cool coffee shops, restaurants, and breweries, I would never get bored in this town if I lived here. I make my way down Washington St. to Grizzly Peak Brewing Company and get ready to quench my thirst. This place definitely has a pub feel with lots of dark wood inside and bright, sunny patio seating outside on the sidewalk. Looking at their beer lineup, I see a lot of good stuff.
I order a taster flight of 7 different options and start sipping. Sticking with the trend of my Michigan experience, there are more hits than misses. In fact, the only beer that I am not a huge fan of here is the Tmave’ Pivo. My hopes for a clean and crisp lager are dashed when all I can smell is freshly cut pumpkin. I know that aroma is not supposed to be present in the beer and I cannot even finish the sample. Everything else that I have is all good.
The Sheerwater English IPA is a solid, balanced offering. Bready malt flavor in the beer pair well with the earthiness from the hops. This is a great example of why I love English IPAs. The Steelhead Red gets better as it warms. At first, I didn’t get a lot of malty aromas, but as it warms, the roast and caramel aromas show themselves to be present and accounted for. My favorite of the bunch is the Bear Paw Porter. Roasty malt aromas permeate my nose while the rich and satisfying caramel notes glide over my tongue like a bunch of Wolverine frat boys on a slip and slide. The Bear Paw Porter is exceptional and memorable. I am so glad I saved the best for last in my taster flight.
All in all, a decent stop. I definitely think that I would come back for another visit, although for a brewery that has been opened since the mid-nineties, having an obvious off-flavor in a lager is disappointing. Now, I am going to head down the street to the sister-brewery, Blue Tractor and check out some food and, you guessed it, more beer!
Blue Tractor Brewing
Several locals recommend Blue Tractor for having great beer and food, so it has to be on my list of things to do. Just a few blocks down the road from Grizzly Peak, it is an easy jaunt for me to be stop number 2 for the day. Luckily there are plenty of spots at the bar as it is in the middle of the day and I grab a seat and start perusing the menu.
They have a couple IPAs, a cream ale, a kölsch, and a porter and I settle on the lot of them to try. I also order up a grilled chicken sandwich with fries to help keep me going for the rest of the day. The tasters arrive and the food is not far behind. After getting into a few of the beers, it is safe to say that I am lucky that the Lucky IPA is just a 5 oz. portion. The Lucky IPA is billed as a NEIPA, but it misses the juicy flesh of the fruit aromatics and flavors that are hallmarks of the style. It is also way too assertively bitter to qualify as a NEIPA.
Now, onto the good. The Bearded Pig is a nice cream ale. I like that there is a hint of sweetness to it. This is a beer I could drink all day long. The Bumper Crop IPA is a more traditional IPA. I like the bitter finish. It also has a titillating floral aroma that keeps me coming back for more sips. The Lazy Sunday Summer Ale is refreshing and goes really well with the food. The Pitmaster’s Porter has decent aromas and flavors of roasted malt which is satisfying.
All in all, I have to say that the food eclipses the beer at Blue Tractor. After my positive beer experience at Grizzly Peak Brewing, Blue Tractor’s beers leave me wanting more.
Jolly Pumpkin Cafè and Brewpub
With some time to kill before I meet up with David and Amy, I decide to get a little funky. I head down the road and around the corner to the Jolly Pumpkin Café and Brewpub. Jolly Pumpkin used to have distribution in MN, but those days are long gone. I am happy to get my Jollys in Ann Arbor. With an array of pumpkin tap handles, I choose a few options and begin my trip to palate nirvana.
The Clementina Saison is a tart and refreshing beer that encompasses everything I ever want in a mixed culture beer. The citrus bite is perfect and refreshing and is helping erase the Lucky IPA from my memory banks. Next up is Luciérnaga, The Firefly. The is a Belgian Pale Ale and it has a pleasing modicum of tartness thanks to the Brett. Good tang and brightness make this beer a win-win! Last, but certainly not least is the Phuket: It’s Not That Far From Laos. This is what happens when some of my favorite Thai food ingredients find their way into a saison. The brightness from the lime is epic. With my funky fix taken care of, I am ready to head down to the Arbor Brewing Company and meet up with some blogger friends!
Arbor Brewing Company
My new blogger friend, David, and his girlfriend, Amy, are back from their Beatles music festival in Chicago and graciously agree to meet me at Arbor Brewing Company. If you are looking for the perfect drinking buddies, David and Amy fit the bill to perfection. They are laid back, fun, and really like finding the best drinks and food that a place has to offer. David is a fixture, not only in the Ann Arbor beer community, but the entirety of Michigan. However, his encyclopedic knowledge of what is awesome go well beyond just beer. David knows cocktails, pizza, burgers, wings, and where to find the elusive quality Mexican food in Ann Arbor.
We meet and head into Arbor Brewing Company. I am glad that David and Amy are happy to be there because the bartender is definitely not. . . Despite her inability to smile, the bartender can pour beer so we each get some beverages. I go for a taster flight and David and Amy opt for pints. The tasters arrive and we drink and chat. Since David keeps waxing poetic about the Sacred Cow IPA, I have to try it. The Sacred Cow IPA is a balanced IPA and falls into what I consider to be a more traditional IPA. It has a decent malt backbone which holds up the citrus hops in the beer. This is an easy drinking IPA, for sure. The Olde Number 22 German Alt is also fantastic. Malty goodness emanates from the Olde 22 German Alt in the form of rich caramel and toasted bread notes. I think if more altbiers tasted like this one, every brewery would have to make one. The Michael Faricy’s Irish Stout is also a tasty treat with a solid punch of roasted malt and bittersweet chocolate notes.
I always love it when the beers can match the level of the company. Since David is excited to show a few more places to go, we tab out and head for one of his favorite drinking spots, Ashley’s. Ashley’s is a beer geek haven. Their tap list is magnificent and the vibe is laid back and fun. We order beers and food and continue the fun conversation. I am delighted that David is willing to share all that he knows about places to go in Michigan.
After Ashley’s, David suggests the Old German, which is downstairs from Grizzly Peak Brewing. Since every one of David’s ideas of where to go has been good, I am all in on one last stop for the night. We walk over and head into the side entrance and head down the stairs. We pretty much have the place to ourselves. They also have a Keller bier on tap and that just brings the beer geek level up to an 11. This spot is a hidden gem and it didn’t show up on any of my searches. This bar is cool and the beer is excellent; a perfect way to cap off a great day.
After the Old German, I feel like I have truly hit all the necessary beer spots in Ann Arbor. Between David and Amy’s company, the cool feel that Ann Arbor has, and all the fantastic beer I have enjoyed, I know I will definitely have to make a return trip back some day. I especially want to thank David and Amy for spending time with me. When you travel for beer, you do meet people on the way. However, hanging out with them meant more to me than just the casual friend you make sitting at the bar. Their hospitality and companionship made my time in Ann Arbor unforgettable. My only hope is that someday I can return the favor when they visit MN! If you want to check out David’s vast knowledge of Michigan beer knowledge, check out his website!
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