I’ve been here several evenings, and each time I was greeted with friendly conversation from Justin Buiter and Gim Lee, the owners, a packed bar, and fine beer. Railtown Brewing Company may be a little out of the way for the beer slingers and sippers of the booming Grand Rapids, Michigan beer scene, but for those of you looking to remember what a small craft beer movement looks and feels like, sit yourself down at Railtown Brewing Company and enjoy your way through some solid examples of the delicious cerveza.
Bike Ride Blonde
Golden and trimmed with a web of lacing, the Bike Ride Blonde isn’t just a solid “gateway” beer for the new craft drinker. This brew is a pleasant entry for anyone looking to refresh themselves with a well balanced blonde that can lend itself well to plenty of food-pairing options.
The beer has the faintest hint of fruit aroma in the nose from the contribution of a top fermenting yeast, as well as a soothing malt quality that lends notes of cracker to both the nose and flavor. I might as well get picky here and note that the nose has an aroma of a cracker that got toasted a bit more thoroughly than the others.
The hops offer next to nothing in the aroma but pick back up oh-so-subtly in the flavor and create an immaculate balancing effect for the body and finish. Those fruity esters? They’ve popped back in again for one last hurrah in the finish. Remember, though, that these esters are very subtle. I wouldn’t ever describe this as being a fruit-forward beer. This brew is right on style.
Citra Warrior Imperial IPA
This brew is rust in color with a yellow-tinted, bone-white head. I love attention to detail, and the bartender made sure to pour my sampler in a snifter so I can assess everything that much better. This act gives me warm fuzzies every time.
The aroma smells as if someone is ripping open dozens of citra hops and smooshing them on my nose. I get a hint of grape-nut like malt, but honestly it’s just those hops that really do the talking.
Mouthfeel for IPAs usually becomes a tough topic for me because of my frustration with grisly bitterness. This DIPA is surprisingly smooth, flavorful, and gives a nice wallop of hop bitterness while never approaching abrasive. The soft and creamy character of the beer makes it feel like clouds on my tongue. The finish offers flavors of orange rind citrus, grape nuts, and a bold sort of resin note.
This is a dynamite brew that keeps intensity and flavor intact.
Good Mooed Milk Stout
I’m greeted by a dark brown brew with a tan head and an initial flavor of coffee. Is this brewed with coffee? No, but that roasted malt is rearing its head and creating a big stroke of roastiness amidst the hint of sweet lactose sugar. To be honest, I expected more sweetness and creaminess from that sugar. Not that I’m disappointed, but it would be harder for me to discern this as being a milk stout if it was in a blind flight.
The flavors include bitter dark chocolate notes mixed with that hint of lactose sugar along with big bold notes of burnt bread crust and a whole lotta coffee. Tastes like my dark roast coffee that edges towards a baker’s chocolate-like quality.
Finishing this brew I find notes of roasty bitterness in the finish, as expected, and an increasing need for food. This beer is just begging for a meal to pair it with. There are pizza joints nearby as sources of nourishment, and I’d reckon that a pie loaded with meats like sausage would be just prime with this brew.
Cloudy and a muddy burnt-amber color, this big and bold beer offers generous aromas of fig, caramel, overripe strawberry, prune, a touch of earthiness, and a reminder of Sugar Daddy candy.
The mouthfeel consists of a creamy beer and morphs itself into one of balancing acidity. It works its way into a dry finish that leaves a hint of alcohol warmth and a background kind of bitterness that grows subtly over time before the next sip.
I love barleywines. They are some of my absolute favorite styles and the fact that Railtown went the “traditional” malt-forward route with their beer is so wonderful. The brew is well balanced but still lets you know that it packs a punch. It’s bold without being cloying and I am certainly interested in drinking this handy guy alone or with food. Actually, I sure as hell hope they continue making it into the winter because I imagine myself sipping this as I get flush in the face during some holiday parties.
Railtown has hit a sweet spot for me, and I’m glad I get to share my experience there with all of you. Besides, now I can acquire more drinking companions for the next time I visit.