batch brewing

Detroit is the home of Batch Brewing, a culinary and fermentation loving brewery that is a gem for the east side city.

I had the pleasure of tasting a couple of their beers and wanted to share my tasting notes with you all.

Anton’s Animal’s II is a Berliner Weisse, which had me excited (yet skeptical) at first, because everyone and their mother is brewing some sort of sour beer and things can go wrong quickly when diving into this realm of suds. So? What did Batch have in store for me?

batch brewing

It was a very cloudy beer. It’s color reminded me of tan/yellowish grapefruit peel. Muted and pale yellow, the beer looked like the style I was expecting. The head left me rather quickly and morphed into a ring of bubbles on the outer edges of the glass.

Curious, I sniff the “Animal’s” and first get a brief whiff of a grassy aroma before the citrus element, which serves as a sort of aromatic backbone, sets in. Nectarine skin, brioche bread, and a floral note reminiscent of honeysuckle breezes past my nostrils as I sit and take my slow breaths and fill my face with beer scent. Delicious smelling I’d say.

Though I know this wasn’t brewed with coriander, the aromas of that particular spice dart out at times, adding another layer to the beer. Overripe, sweet lemon and under ripe grapefruit notes linger throughout.

I sip the beer and it’s so pleasant. The floral note rides up first, hand in hand with the bright acidity. That under ripe grapefruit and nectarine skin notes I mentioned? They appear in the flavor as well, just before bready notes take over and dominate the finish. This isn’t to say the beer tastes “strong”, but rather the malt notes take over in a way that wasn’t present in the aroma. I’m reminded of brioche bread once again and of eating crackers, which is attributed to the addition of wheat in the grain bill. These strong malt characteristics in particular make it a good food pairing beer.

As expected, this beer is very bright to start but thankfully reduces itself into a simply refreshing beer with background acidity that spritzes up the beer and leaves me feeling a little twinge of sour in my cheeks.

At the brewery, the lovely bartenders there will gladly serve their house-made Blueberry Anise Hyssop syrup into your “Animal’s” Berliner Weisse, should you desire it. I’d suggest trying it both with and without the syrup to compare, which means getting two beers.

Yes, I’m giving you drinking homework.

Ready for the big guns? Batch decided to make sure you needed a DD by producing the big and boozy Antwerp’s Placebo II — a Belgian Strong Dark clocking in at a whopping 15.4% ABV.

batch brewing

The beer is mostly clear and hickory in color with bright red highlights. Next to no head is left for me as it’s dissipated almost immediately. Did the alcohol break down the proteins for it?

Strong sweet plum, raisin, and an “almost burn your nose hair” kind of alcohol aroma wafts forth. I’m actually reminded of Twizzlers candy, so a licorice note is appropriate I’d say. Luxardo and black cherries also come to mind, as well as unripe blackberries.

It tastes like it smells in that the sweet raisin, licorice, and hot alcohol notes all came back for me. The alcoholic nature is startling, but not taking me away from wanting to drink it. You know, this beer reminds me of eating a sweet bread pudding! I love that stuff. Maraschino cherry and the luxardo cherry notes become more prominent as it warms up.

The mouth-feel is as expected. It’s a hot beer due to the alcohol, and it’s sweetness slides across my tongue. It feels big and bold, that’s for sure. In the end I’m left with an aftertaste of cherries, bread pudding, and a recurring “whiskey shivers” effect.

Batch Brewing, you’ve peaked my interest. Will I ingest more of their beer? You bet. Do I think you, dear reader, should as well? Absolutely. Get out to their taproom to taste through their selection and be sure to grab a glass of their “feel good” beer of the month as well, which donates $2 from every sale to a local nonprofit. I understand why they call it “feel good,” because this concept is really rad. For more details, check it out here.

 

Photography: Steph Harding

Pairing beer with a Thanksgiving day meal can be tougher than one may expect. As I think back to previous experiences of bringing bottles of English Brown Ales, Hefeweizens, and even a three-liter “Jéroboam” Chimay Grand Reserve, I remember how unmanageable it was to pair the beer with all of the dishes that were actually on the table. With so much variety in flavors and textures and styles, how can you choose what will work with your selection and what won’t?

I’d like to help you navigate those beers this upcoming Thanksgiving. I tested out five completely unique Michigan brewery beers that I know will pair well with all the components of your meal during different stages of the day.

Number One: The “I’m-ready-to-party-and-my-palate-is-fresh-as-a-newborn-baby” phase.

All right, you’ve just walked in the door and are greeted by family and friends, which means one thing: you need a drink. It’s going to be a very long day of consumption, so how about we start off with something subtle with lower alcohol content? I’d suggest popping open a bottle of Odd Side Ales Fig Brewton.

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The Fig Brewton is their version of an English Pale Ale brewed with figs. At 4% ABV this aromatic-forward brew is your ticket to beginning your light buzz on an empty stomach, because why would you eat something before the party? This dark amber and cloudy concoction is full of sweet fig aromatics, notes of brown sugar, light toffee and an earthy/dry fall leaf character. The flavor is very, very subtle. It contains a faint hint at fig and the earthiness with a balancing hop bitterness.

It’s happened. You’ve finally sucked down your first beer of the day and are probably feeling a tingly happiness in your belly. Ready to eat? Good, because we have a great beer for the first round.

Normally at this point there are a few lighter snacky dishes. Dishes such as layered salads, roasted pumpkin seeds, deviled eggs, polish roses, roast squash, and plenty of other food options are offered to the guests. You begin telling stories, gossiping with cousins, updating everyone about your kids, sharing photos and creating that base of food in your belly that you will regret later once you’re in a food coma.

At this pivotal point in the day, we are opening up our palate to various flavors. Pungent onion, bright salads, salty spreads, and so many other flavors are being introduced to our willing bellies. Because we’re in the initial phase of sharing, it’s time to break out a 750mL bottle of Rockford Brewing Company’s Country Ale. It’s a 7.3% ABV Saison that is hazy and a beautiful orange/honey color. The aroma is complex and layered with notes of lemon, white pepper, grape nuts cereal and just a touch of overripe strawberry. It tastes quite similar, but the flavor is more subtle than the robust bouquet. I found that this beer is all about aromatics and mouthfeel.

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The Country Ale is quite bright with balancing acidity and a touch of alcohol warmth and some spice-forward heat and bitterness. It has a soft feel on the tongue with a dry finish. The beer is excellent as it warms up and will be exceptional with all of the brighter but varied flavors of the first round of Thanksgiving food. Use the spritzy carbonation, the pungent spices, and the bright acidity to scrape and lift off fatty foods and sweet flavors. The peppery notes will resonate with spices on the various dishes, while the lemon notes will resonate with vinaigrettes on salads and contrast with fattier foods like egg. Above all, the beer will rinse away any light to medium food flavor so you won’t feel quite as palate fatigued. I mean, come on. You aren’t allowed to get full right away!

The table has finally been set, the children have been wrangled, and your family and friends are now gathered around the table to tuck into the best meal of the year. There are so many dishes on the table that you’re drooling into! Turkey, honey baked ham, green bean casserole, mashed and sweet potatoes, the cranberry sauce, stuffing and gravy. For you vegetarians out there, perhaps there are delicious treats such as a mushroom and farro pie, pumpkin orzo with sage or perhaps a butternut squash, kale, and cheddar bread pudding. All in all, we have a literal feast in front of us that is just teeming with savory, salty and sweet flavors. Here comes the most important role for beer all day. We need beers to pair with everything that has been set before us.

My suggestion? Grab two completely different beers and pour them in separate glasses and drink them BOTH during the meal. This time around, I have chosen Pepper in the Rye from Brewery Vivant and the Leroy Brown from Big Lake Brewing.

Pepper in the Rye is a Rye Ale brewed with green peppercorns that comes in at 6.3% ABV. It’s a pretty amber brew that comes in a one-pint can. The aroma gives notes of strong orange peel, a light touch of lemon, some light barnyard funk, a big dose of those green peppercorns that actually make me feel heat in my nostrils, a bit of spicy rye, and bread crust or biscuit notes.

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The beer tastes pretty much the same as it smells. Bright spice notes of the green peppercorn are present, especially as it warms up. I detect cracker-like notes from the malt, and the earthy hops hang out way underneath the more robust characteristics. The Pepper in the Rye is a tart and brisk brew with spice forward bitterness to balance it all out. Alcohol warmth is present and smacks my tongue around just a little. Tartness ensues into the finish to create an overlapping effect to the other mouthfeel-oriented sensations.

It’s well balanced yet quite complex. The Pepper in the Rye is going to use its alcohol warmth, its tart character and its spice-forward bitterness to cut fat and sweet flavors just like what we experienced with the Country Ale. The tartness will balance out yet accentuate saltiness. Try pairing this beer specifically with your stuffing, vegetable casserole dishes like green bean casserole, and ANY of those vegetarian dishes I mentioned. Pumpkin orzo with sage paired with Pepper in the Rye? Forget about it!

We need some malt to sooth salt and resonate with savory meat flavors and sweeter dishes such as sweet potato casserole. Let’s keep it easy-going, malty and delicious with the Leroy Brown from Big Lake Brewing.

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The Leroy Brown is an almost clear and medium to light brown brew with pretty ruby highlights. It’s aromatics lend notes of chocolate, nutella, nuts, and soft breadiness. The flavor gives me notes of toasted biscuit, nuts, and milk chocolate, all on a layer of delicious bread notes. Mouthfeel with this beer is one of the best parts. Quite smooth, approachable, and simple. I feel that many Brown Ales these days tend to roam into porter category or have higher alcohol levels than I’d like, but this one hits the mark. Pair this lovely number with your turkey, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, glazed carrots, gravy, or your mushroom and farro pie.

It’s that time. Your belly aches from too much food and so you’re sitting far away from everyone so you can groan and fart in peace. Perhaps you’ve taken a nap at this point and aren’t sure if you want to go home to finish passing out or keep up your buzz and drink more beer.

For those of you who are willing to rally and end your day with a bit of dessert, look no further than pairing your pumpkin pie with Griffin Claw Brewing Company’s Three Scrooges Winter Ale brewed with orange peel, honey, and spices.

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The Three Scrooges comes in at a manageable 6.5% ABV. It’s a hazy and dark amber beer with strong spice and orange peel aromatics. Get notes of sweet bread, caramel, nutella, cinnamon and raisin? Me too.

It seems to be a trend with the chosen beers, but the flavor is not as punchy as the aroma. It’s subtle but still quite pleasant. I pick out flavors of toast, milk chocolate, light marshmallow, orange peel, and a honey/toffee character.

The Winter Ale is smooth as hell with a tight and dry finish and a touch of alcohol warming. Pumpkin pie, for me, is too often paired with more pumpkin or sweet allspice forward beers. I’d wager that this traditional dessert will pair quite well with the Three Scrooges Winter Ale because of its subtle sweetness and little pop of bitterness and acidity from the orange peel. It’s subtle enough to highlight your pumpkin pie without sweetening the ensemble up too much that you can’t finish the last bite. Layered and lovely, I think these two will get along just fine.

So there you have it. A Thanksgiving meal and a few beers to help you along your journey of palate happiness. Should you feel the need, as I expect you will, to cap off the evening with one last beer, please grab yourself a snifter and pull out your big and bold brews. English Barleywines, Wee Heavys, Imperial Stouts and a variety of beers brewed with fruit truly shine in these moments.

57 Brewpub and Bistro is a family restaurant kind of establishment that may not be right in the beer mecca of Grand Rapids, but provides yet another fun excursion for the nearby city dweller or curious local to come in and see that craft beer is perfect for any town.   

Thomas Payne, the head brewer at 57 Brewpub and Bistro, seems to have locked down the establishment with his American Ale and German Lager-forward brewing program and array of well balanced beers. Understanding the importance of balance, in my book, is crucial to running a beer program in a town that is adjusting itself to the wide world of craft beer.

 

Yellow Jacket Honey Ale

7.3% ABV

31 IBU

Pale and Munich malts combined with local Honey, Cascade Hops from Hopyards of Kent and German Tettnang Hops round out this Hometown Favorite.

I’ve got a light amber colored beer that is clear as day in front of me. I pull it up to my nose to sniff and get strong sweet malt/sweet bread notes. A touch of honey and leafy hops waft up to me as well.

I finally pull it to my lips. After sipping a few times, I notice that I just keep being reminded of chewing on base malt grains, which in this case are pale and pilot malt. The finish has a light tannic quality that latches itself next to the very mild hop bitterness that evens out the whole ensemble.

Mind you, I wouldn’t call this beer “sweet”, but it’s just a simple malt-loving brew with a touch of bready-like sweetness and a reminder of the little bit of honey that was left behind because it’s not a fully fermentable sugar.

Balanced and simple. It’s hard to go wrong with an approach like that.

 

Morrison ESB

5.5% ABV

26 IBU

Malt & hops equally balanced. Copper colored and flavors of toffee & toast with a clean hop finish.

The Morrison is mostly clear but has just a touch of haziness. It’s a gorgeous amber color with burnt orange highlights and an off-white head that just circles around the edges of the glass.

Immediately, I get an earthy hop-forward aroma and flavor. The malt swoops in after and gives me aromatics and flavors of toast and a bit of honey on a biscuit. My flavor assessment leads me to believe that the water was “burtonized” for the style as well.

The finish is a touch tannic and has a balancing bitterness that eventually leaves you with nothing but a prickle from those hops.

Once again, this beer exudes a simple and balancing quality that is sometimes all too hard to find  in this beer world of extremes.

 

Eclipse Schwarzbier

5.2% ABV

17 IBU

Mild malt flavor with light roasted & bitter chocolate undertones w/ a nice dry finish. 100% Cascade hops from Hopyards of Kent. Exceptionally clean due to extended cold conditioning without the burnt coffee flavor typically associated with Black Beers.

As expected, this schwarzbier is opaque and black in color. A light brown colored head is swirling about on top.

My initial assessment tells me that I’ve found a briefly savory character that bursts into a pop of smoke notes before the beer finally settles into its traditional burnt toast flavors and roasty bitterness that lingers into the finish.

A pleasant, light musty-like character creeps around the flavors of burnt toast and oh-so-subtle baking chocolate flavor.

This is a solid example of the traditional German lager. Black with burnt notes and a roasty bitterness. A great beer to have on a menu, especially with the food options that they offer. Use this brew to make your meat-based dishes shine by attaching roastiness to savory meat. The weekend rib special they feature would be a great start.

 

57 Chevy MIPA

6.5% ABV

65 IBU

This Beauty just got back from the shop after a hop overhaul. Greenville MIPA generously hopped with Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, and dry hopped with Amarillo.

A very hazy, light amber and orange colored beer sits in front of me. It almost looks like a wheat beer because of the cloudiness. The head didn’t linger but what was leftover was white in color.

Strong green tea as well as pine and cannabis notes make up the aroma. I sip and find numerous flavors of orange peel, green tea, pine, cannabis, and a lingering note of lemon. It’s a dry-hopped brew, and you can taste it.

This beer, I must admit, has a bit of a difficult time with strong tannic sensations. Especially with all that hop bitterness. My preference is to have more of a crisp bitterness in my beers, and after the consistent balancing effect of the other brews, I was expecting that to be the case. However, the aromatics and flavor is quite punchy and displays a great use of Michigan grown hops.

57 Brewpub and Bistro creates an easy-going atmosphere for the locals and provides them with the nourishment of locally made beer. Thomas Payne is delivering a sensible beer program that also leaves plenty of pairing options for the pub’s large meal selection.

Above all, Payne is showcasing the simple, yet wonderful ingredients that make up this beverage that we love in quite an approachable manner. For that, I cheers you.

57 Brewpub and Bistro is a family restaurant kind of establishment that may not be right in the beer mecca of Grand Rapids, but provides yet another fun excursion for the nearby city dweller or curious local to come in and see that craft beer is perfect for any town.   
Thomas Payne, the head brewer at 57 Brewpub and Bistro, seems to have locked down the establishment with his American Ale and German Lager-forward brewing program and array of well balanced beers. Understanding the importance of balance, in my book, is crucial to running a beer program in a town that is adjusting itself to the wide world of craft beer.
 
Yellow Jacket Honey Ale
7.3% ABV
31 IBU
Pale and Munich malts combined with local Honey, Cascade Hops from Hopyards of Kent and German Tettnang Hops round out this Hometown Favorite.
I’ve got a light amber colored beer that is clear as day in front of me. I pull it up to my nose to sniff and get strong sweet malt/sweet bread notes. A touch of honey and leafy hops waft up to me as well.
I finally pull it to my lips. After sipping a few times, I notice that I just keep being reminded of chewing on base malt grains, which in this case are pale and pilot malt. The finish has a light tannic quality that latches itself next to the very mild hop bitterness that evens out the whole ensemble.
Mind you, I wouldn’t call this beer “sweet”, but it’s just a simple malt-loving brew with a touch of bready-like sweetness and a reminder of the little bit of honey that was left behind because it’s not a fully fermentable sugar.
Balanced and simple. It’s hard to go wrong with an approach like that.
 
Morrison ESB
5.5% ABV
26 IBU
Malt & hops equally balanced. Copper colored and flavors of toffee & toast with a clean hop finish.
The Morrison is mostly clear but has just a touch of haziness. It’s a gorgeous amber color with burnt orange highlights and an off-white head that just circles around the edges of the glass.
Immediately, I get an earthy hop-forward aroma and flavor. The malt swoops in after and gives me aromatics and flavors of toast and a bit of honey on a biscuit. My flavor assessment leads me to believe that the water was “burtonized” for the style as well.
The finish is a touch tannic and has a balancing bitterness that eventually leaves you with nothing but a prickle from those hops.
Once again, this beer exudes a simple and balancing quality that is sometimes all too hard to find  in this beer world of extremes.
 
Eclipse Schwarzbier
5.2% ABV
17 IBU
Mild malt flavor with light roasted & bitter chocolate undertones w/ a nice dry finish. 100% Cascade hops from Hopyards of Kent. Exceptionally clean due to extended cold conditioning without the burnt coffee flavor typically associated with Black Beers.
As expected, this schwarzbier is opaque and black in color. A light brown colored head is swirling about on top.
My initial assessment tells me that I’ve found a briefly savory character that bursts into a pop of smoke notes before the beer finally settles into its traditional burnt toast flavors and roasty bitterness that lingers into the finish.
A pleasant, light musty-like character creeps around the flavors of burnt toast and oh-so-subtle baking chocolate flavor.
This is a solid example of the traditional German lager. Black with burnt notes and a roasty bitterness. A great beer to have on a menu, especially with the food options that they offer. Use this brew to make your meat-based dishes shine by attaching roastiness to savory meat. The weekend rib special they feature would be a great start.
 
57 Chevy MIPA
6.5% ABV
65 IBU
This Beauty just got back from the shop after a hop overhaul. Greenville MIPA generously hopped with Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, and dry hopped with Amarillo.
A very hazy, light amber and orange colored beer sits in front of me. It almost looks like a wheat beer because of the cloudiness. The head didn’t linger but what was leftover was white in color.
Strong green tea as well as pine and cannabis notes make up the aroma. I sip and find numerous flavors of orange peel, green tea, pine, cannabis, and a lingering note of lemon. It’s a dry-hopped brew, and you can taste it.
This beer, I must admit, has a bit of a difficult time with strong tannic sensations. Especially with all that hop bitterness. My preference is to have more of a crisp bitterness in my beers, and after the consistent balancing effect of the other brews, I was expecting that to be the case. However, the aromatics and flavor is quite punchy and displays a great use of Michigan grown hops.
57 Brewpub and Bistro creates an easy-going atmosphere for the locals and provides them with the nourishment of locally made beer. Thomas Payne is delivering a sensible beer program that also leaves plenty of pairing options for the pub’s large meal selection.
Above all, Payne is showcasing the simple, yet wonderful ingredients that make up this beverage that we love in quite an approachable manner. For that, I cheers you.

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

5.9% ABV

20 IBU’s

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

9.6% ABV

108 IBU’s

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

4.5% ABV

27 IBU’s

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.

 

WarleyBine

10% ABV

62.2 IBU’s

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.

Hudsonville Pike 51 Brewing Co. is a small brewery also connected to the Hudsonville Winery in, you guessed it, Hudsonville, Michigan.

It may not have enormous brewing capacity like Bell’s or Founders, but Pike 51 is absolutely worthy of being on everyone’s radar for their killer brews. In particular, I’ve discovered a love for their small but growing souring program.

“Sour” beers are sometimes mouth-puckeringly sour or have more of a balanced tartness to them. This component provides depth in beers that is so vastly different from all other styles. They are the ultimate pairing tool and are even some of the best “gateway” beers for consumers who are looking to explore the insane medium that is craft beer for the first time. Sour beers are also hard as hell to wrangle and create, even if you are being extremely careful in the brewhouse. The yeast used to create these brews are finicky and love to infect batches of beer where they are not welcome.

So far it seems that Pike 51 has taken this challenge in stride, and two out of the three beers below are in fact from their souring program. Though the product changes frequently, be sure to stop over and see what new tart delight they have up next.

 

Brett Pale

Belgian Pale Ale

5.1% ABV

31 IBU

$5.50/12oz, $15/growler fill

Malts: Pilsner, Munich, Wheat, Pale Crystal, Honey Malt, and Dark Crystal

Hops: Zeus, MI Chinook, Mosaic

I have an opaque beer in a snifter pushed up at my face. It’s an orange/amber color with a small but quite resistant cream colored head.

A whiff of vinegar hits my nose along with a bit of lemon-like tartness. As I sniff further, I pick up on notes from the hops that I interpret as being a bit grass-like and herbal. Even a bit of tropical fruit like mango skin and papaya comes forward.

As I sip I get a slap of brisk acidity but the brew ends with a slightly dry and tannic quality as well.

The flavor is balanced with light notes of lemon, bread crust and a touch of vinegar again. Delicate and rewarding. The pale ale is exceptionally balanced and refreshing. I think of all the customers or friends I’ve encountered who haven’t gotten on the pale ale or IPA bandwagon. This is the brew for them. It lends enough hop character to show them what those suckers can do, but the refreshing acidity breaks up the bitterness and creates an easier step for those imbibers to take.

 

Crimson Chin

Sour Red w/ MI Cherry

7.7% ABV

29 IBU’s

$6.50 per 12oz, No growler fills

Malts: Pale, Vienna, Wheat, Dark Crystal, Pale Crystal, Flaked Oats

Hops; Zythos, Amarillo, Centennial

Yet another opaque beer is in front of me, though this time it’s a nice cranberry color with a super resistant tan-colored head.

Very strong raspberry and cherry notes hit me before the beer comes even close to my nose. There are notes of balsamic vinegar among this initial aroma, but besides that I can’t really pick up much else. Those traits are overwhelming.

Drinking the beer, I find that the balsamic vinegar notes are a bit savory, and the flavors overall just become more layered. It takes me awhile to pick it apart. After my search, I conclude that notes of dark cherry and raspberry are still present, but grassy-flavored hops appear in the finish, right after a pleasant appearance of shortbread-like malt flavor.

Bright and acidic in the finish. Overall it has well balanced flavor characteristics and is a refreshing brew.

 

 

Sensual Bean

Imperial Milk Stout aged in Oak Barrels

Aged in Buffalo Trace Barrels and brewed with Costa Rica coffee, Tahiti vanilla, and raw organic cocoa

10.2% ABV

35 IBUs

This was a bottled selection, so it’s not something on tap at the moment, but I hear it may have a comeback.

This is another opaque brew, but this time it’s dark brown, almost black in color with a light brown head. It looks creamy, actually.

My nose picks up notes of dark chocolate and/or bakers chocolate, subtle vanilla and a nice punch of alcohol warmth coming from that Buffalo Trace in the nose.

The body is so smooth and creamy! Very, very smooth! It reminds me of the extra creamy quality in hot chocolate after you let a bunch of marshmallows melt in there.

Flavor notes come through as a balance of milk chocolate, a touch of cream, and a bit of coffee. All of these flavors meld into a more delicate finish than I was expecting. It’s actually pleasant though, to have an imperial stout such as this that is not “blow-your-hair-back” strong and robust all the way to the end. It’s giving me a conversational tone instead of yelling at me. On a more specific note, I get the feeling of roasty bitterness and a moderate sweetness.,

Because of the balanced and more subtle character in the finish, I actually thought of pairing this beer with a savory or smokey meat dish instead of dessert. It has more versatility which makes it quite a bit more fun.

 

Leelanau Pale Ale

6% ABV  •  “An ongoing exploration of local hops from the Leelanau Peninsula. Currently hopped with Empire Orchards Vojvodina hops.”

Oooh! Utilizing the local hops, eh? Glad to see that trend popping up. Granted, Michigan won’t provide all of our hop needs, but it’s quite some fun to assess the local flair when possible.

This is a clear and dark amber beer with a resistant tan head. I detect some subtle banana and bubblegum notes with a touch of pepper, the obvious byproducts of a Belgian-inspired brewery.

From there I pick up on notes of honey that latch onto a light nuttiness. The hops remind me of the German noble varieties in that they are a touch spice forward. The malt lends bread crust and granola flavors.

The brew then moves into a fluffy mouthfeel just before the hop bitterness swiftly cuts in to coat my tongue and hold on. All throughout are full notes of bread crust-like malt, spice-like hops and brisk hop bitterness.

It’s lovely to suck down beer while eating food, but for this particular case I am happy to drink the beverage on its own. I find it’s a wonderful way to pull apart those particular Michigan hop notes and observe what this environment has to offer our prized little cones.

Fun Guv’nr Black IPA

7.3% ABV

It’s an opaque black brew with a light brown head. Dipping my nose down into my glass, I get whiffs of pine, green leaves, burnt toast and ash.

Continuing further and I take a swallow. My mouth is now awash with strong ash and burnt toast notes that linger far into the finish. Personally, I am a huge smoke and char flavor fan, so these traits make me quite happy. The green leaf-like hop flavor trails behind and is not nearly as abrasive as my char notes. I also sense a touch of citrus as well from our lovely hops. I should mention, too, that the burnt toast quality is not the only thing that takes over. I am also sensing a sweet bread flavor underneath it all.

As I finish it and my mouth is left with lingering char flavor, I feel the hop bitterness sneaking in to work with the roasty bitterness while I daydream about eating corn chowder and smoked brisket.

While sitting here drinking and looking over the Stormcloud menu, I am left with some perhaps unusual questions for this kind of article, but I implore you all to weigh in on them.

Stormcloud has been ever so clever with naming their brews (B., Sirius! Ha! I am patting myself on the back for remembering cloud types from elementary school), and finding a common theme that ties into the brewery name. I mean, come on! The Farthest Shore? Updraft? Silver Lining Saison? It may sound trivial, but I know that creating unifying themes can truly help solidify an identity, which Stormcloud appears to have figured out. Let’s take what they’ve done and now question the power of words in the beverage industry. I’m always excited when a brewery gives me pause, and Stormcloud certainly has.

Please, tell us your thoughts in the comment section! We’d love to strike up a conversation using the questions below as a starting point.

  • Have the names of beers helped you determine whether or not you will purchase the beer?
  • Can you remember a distinct time when you bought a beer because of the name?
  • How about a time when you didn’t choose a beer because of the name?
  • Is it strong advertising or the quality of the product that holds the real selling power?
  • Are humorous or interesting names more appealing than names that help categorize or define what you’re about to taste?
  • Most importantly, do the names of beers really matter and why?

New Cheerry-O

5.4% ABV  •  18 IBU •  “Light, clean, and crisp brewed with real MI cherries”
Before me sits a clear brew that is burnt orange to reddish amber in color with a full and resistant light pink head. Quite pretty in fact!
A whiff of tart cherries hits me initially, but the overall scent is that of cherry scones because of the mild malt character. It almost has a rye grain like spiciness to it, though I don’t believe rye was used in any portion of the grain bill.
The flavor follows the nose lending a bread forward tasting beer, with again that tart but very much balanced cherry character. As was described by the brewer, this beverage is a pleasant balance of basic light bodied malt forward beer with a defining but not cloying tart cherry essence.
I think the New Cheerry-O would be exceptional for many occasions. It can work as a mild palate cleanser, as a session beer to throw back with friends or even as a light bodied dessert for the summer.

Munich Helles Lager

4.7% ABV  •  24 IBU  •  “Clean, crisp summer session brew”
Indeed this is a clean and crisp summer session brew. The beer has no frills and no excuses to be less than expected because it is a lager.
So, what do we know about lagers? They don’t like to hide anything. Lagers are brewed to display the four core ingredients of a beer in all its glory, and they can be oh so delightful in their simple nature. Therefore, we must be generous when drinking them because while they may not be as robust as some of our ales, they should be appreciated for their simplicity. Let’s keep in mind, too, that because of this simplicity, they will also enhance off flavors if any are present.
That being said, this particular beer has a distinct but not necessarily abrasive musty note in both the flavor and aroma. My guess is that this was not intentional and that it has been subjected to the normal stresses of oxidation, but is also deemed as being an “off-flavor” in beer. Oxidation happens with every beer and is a natural part of the aging process. Should you ever notice this, just let your friendly server or bartender know just so they can be aware of the state of their product. It shouldn’t deter you from ever drinking that beer again, but just understand what is happening. Knowledge is key.
Now, I’ll move on from there. The Helles is clear and burnished gold in color with a pillowy white head. In the aroma it displays subtle notes of dried hay and a hint of bread dough. Earthy hops, in this case of the German noble hop variety, linger in the background. As the beer warms up I pick up on an aroma of cracker as well.
Flavor-wise this beer has very similar notes to the aroma but with more sweet hay and this time with bread crust notes and a touch more spice forward hops. The finish is crisp and has only a twinge of hop bitterness to create an overall balance.
This is a friendly and delicate beer to enhance and cut through fried foods, white fish and delicate pasta dishes.

Big In Japan Session IPA

4.7% ABV  •  70 IBU  •  “Citrus notes and aromatics with a clean, crisp hoppy finish”
What a refreshing beer! The crystal clear and light amber beverage that sits in front of me has a pungent nose of sweet orange, tangerine and grapefruit skin with a touch of flowers. Sucking it down, I taste all of these same notes and enjoy a light acidity as well that only ramps up the refreshing nature.
The mouthfeel is silky and smooth. It just glides across my tongue but it also has a crack of balancing bitterness from the hops that lends a prickly feeling. The beer finishes with a juicy punch and then with a lingering dryness.
This is a balanced and beautiful beverage that is begging for some tacos, a cold cucumber soup or a fruit tart for dessert. I’m also thankful that it’s a session brew because, man, it gets drained from my glass pretty quick.


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