It’s no surprise well over half of the 52 breweries at Saturday’s Detroit Fall Beer Fest offered at least one fall-specific brew.
While some breweries stuck to typical nutmeg and cinnamon spices, others showcased a bit more creativity at the event, hosted at Detroit’s Eastern Market.
Jolly Pumpkin, out of Dexter, led the way with its pumpkin beer — La Parcela (6% ABV). Its first and only pumpkin beer, this sour ale was orange in color with a slight fruit smell and no head. I was expecting a bit more sour flavor, though its mild taste led way for the pumpkin spices — with some hints of citrus flavors. Overall this was a very good brew, and equally mixed the fall flavors we’ve all become used to with a bit of sourness that only Jolly Pumpkin can be known for.
Wolverine State Brewing Co. also performed strong, with its Oktoberfest (6.5% ABV). A modern twist on the classic we’ve all known to come and love, the Ann Arbor brewery featured a beer with much more spice flavor than most fall beers. I could definitely taste various spices with minor hops and a bit of a sour fruit smell. The brew had minimal head, and was surrounded by a dark orange color. Wolverine also showcased its Curcurbita Smiles Pumpkin Lager at the event.
Right Brain Brewery took a different approach, focusing on pumpkin pie rather than generic fall spices in its Punkin’ Pie Whole (5.5% ABV). A collaboration between Right Brain and the Grand Traverse Pie Company, I could definitely taste nutmeg in this brew — it smelled and tasted very much like pumpkin pie. The light orange brew featured a minor amount of hops and medium head.
Motor City Brewing Works also brought an Oktoberfest (5.2% ABV) to the festival. A brewery that’s becoming more and more known for its hard ciders, this brew was probably the most malty and hoppy fall beer I tried. The amber colored beer featured a well-balanced array of fall spices, and also had a minor fall scent.
But probably one of the brews I was most excited for was New Holland Brewing Company’s Barrel Aged Ichabod. Usually a well-balanced brew with lots of flavor at 5.2% ABV, the barrel aged version toned down on the spices and flavor, and almost seemed too watery. It was still very good, but the balance wasn’t there as I have become so accustomed to. The amber beer poured with little to no head. It was served very, very cold, which might have taken away from the overall enjoyment of it and ability to pull in all the flavors.
While the pumpkin brews weren’t the only beers showcased at the festival, they certainly played a big part. I also enjoyed a Bourbon Barrel Aged Plead the 5th (14% ABV), from Dark Horse Brewing Co., featuring a heavy bourbon flavor and slight oaky smell. The brew was very creamy, with both chocolate and leather-like flavors present. Very strong, it was more of a “sipping” beer, though it was probably one of the best I tried.
Likewise, Short’s Brewing Company also delivered The Bourbon Wizard (11% ABV), with similar overtones. The bourbon wasn’t quite as prevalent, and there were also minor hints of vanilla in the brew. Like most of the brews from Short’s, the brew didn’t disappoint.
The next Michigan Brewers Guild beer festival will take place Feb. 25 in Grand Rapids at Fifth-Third Ballpark. Tickets go on sale Dec. 1.