GRAND RAPIDS — It’s the time of year for the second annual Brewers Grove event. I’ve had the chance to try four of the 24 tree beers at the Brewers Grove kickoff party, held Friday at Harmony Brewing Company.
All of these beers, in addition to the 20 others available, will be on tap at participating breweries through Sept. 12. All of the beers have some sort of interpretation around the idea of trees, with each brewery using its own creativeness to work this idea into a beer.
Harmony Brewing Sumac Attack, 5.5% ABV
A cloudy brew sits before me that looks just like apple cider. Hints of ruby red highlights appear among the dark amber liquid. It has a creamy mouthfeel, but with an excellent acidic tang throughout. This finishes bright and slightly tart.
I detect subtle notes of lemon zest, clove, and a vegetal character in the flavor. Banana notes that are in the background and latch onto that creamy mouthfeel, enhancing each other. The malt character is overpowered by the acidic tang, but does still come through as subtle bread notes.
In the nose this beer comes to me as pear and apple with just a little dab of bread forward malt.
White Flame Nut Job, 5.5% ABV
A pitch black beer with a tan head. Upon tasting, I detect a thin body and overall mouthfeel. It feels perhaps thinner than one would expect from such a robust looking brew. In the nose I smell burnt grain/toast and this carries into the flavor as well. I’m also detecting a slight nuttiness — perhaps walnuts — right before the finish.
Despite the foreboding appearance, this beer is extremely sessionable, though pretty one-dimensional. A more diversified grain bill might have given this beer a bit more complexity. Giving it a slight creamy character and playing more on the nuttiness of it would be to their advantage. Despite the fact that it is playing on one note, that feature would make it a pretty good pairing with french vanilla ice cream. It would add that roasted quality but wouldn’t overpower the somewhat delicate nature of the vanilla and would instead allow it to shine through.
Brewery Vivant Devastation: Bourbon Barrel Aged Belgian Style DIPA, 9.3% ABV
A very slight haziness in the beer and white head sit on top of the burnished gold to light amber colored liquid. The flavor includes exceptionally strong notes of bourbon with a bit of vanilla. The light spice character is reminiscent of clove. In the aroma I detect mango and very ripe peach, along with strong vanilla and a punch of Bourbon.
The brew drinks quite hot and has medium-high carbonation levels. The sweet and boozy character sticks to the roof of the mouth. In the finish I get that strike of hot booziness as well as a hint of dark cherry while the vanilla lingers.
Gravel Bottom Cedarino: Cedar Pale Ale, 7.1% ABV
The beer has dropped very bright and is a perfect light amber/honey brown color. There are subtle notes of sweet cedar, honey and bread on the nose and an almost rye grain-like spicy character that moves all the way into the finish.
I have confirmed with the brewer that there is in fact no rye in the grain bill, but the way the America hop varieties and the Spanish cedar interact it causes a spicy and biting character (similar to rye) for my tongue.
Both the hops and the cedar are working well together to create new flavors. I applaud the close attention the brewer paid to this interaction because it’s not easy to do. The mouthfeel is also smooth and silky all the way until the medium dryness in the finish. Besides the cedar, I detect resin, pine-forward American hops and granola in the flavor, but it’s more cedar-like and hop forward in the nose. Overall this is well balanced and is just begging to be paired with food.