TRAVERSE CITY — From the Empire Spear beer brewed with asparagus to the Ancho Chili Double Dutch Chocolate porter, Right Brain Brewery doesn’t shy away from much at the brewing kettle.

Founded in 2007, the craft brewery has made a name for itself brewing some of the most innovative and unique beers in the state. After one pint in the warehouse-district brewpub, it’s immediately apparent that they take the name “right brain” to heart.

Almost everything in this pub — from the furniture to the beer mugs — strays far away from the ordinary. The walls are covered with an eclectic collection of local art that includes paintings, photography and everything in between.

Taking a seat at the bar, on a couch, or even a refurbished dentist’s chair, you’ll be drawn in by the social atmosphere of Right Brain. Instead of a bar lined with TVs, you’ll find patrons playing board games, throwing darts or simply enjoying the company of their friends over a beer.

Right Brain boasts an impressive line-up of rotating beers, including Will Power Pale Ale, CEO Stout and Black-eye PA to name a few. The “beer board” is well-populated, so finding something to your liking is never an issue. That said, Right Brain usually has a few extreme beers on tap for the more adventurous drinker.

Personally, I’m under the belief that the bourbon barrel is the best thing to happen to beer since yeast. That said, Right Brain delivers one of my all-time favorite barrel aged stouts — Distill My Heart Bourbon Barrel Aged stout.

Aged in Woodford Reserve barrels, this beer pours jet black, with a thin veil of tan head. Notes of vanilla and bourbon on the nose continue through a balanced body of roasted malts and coffee. If you get the opportunity to try this one, you will not be disappointed.

But I digress. This is July in Traverse City, and my most recent visit to Right Brain was for their summer line-up of fruit beers, featuring — you guessed it — cherries.

  • Cherry Pie-Whole: Right Brain collaborated with the Grand Traverse Pie Company to create an ale brewed with whole cherry pies. This beer pours a clean golden-amber, with a thin layer of white head that dissipates quickly. A pleasant nose of sweet cherries continues through a body of toasted malt with a fluffy mouthfeel. The cherries take the front row to this beer, rounded out by a very well-balanced body. An experimental success that is definitely worth trying.
  • Strawberry Fields: Served with a strawberry in the glass, this is lighter ale that pours a hazy golden straw with a very subtle pink tone. Nose of sweet strawberries fades a bit to a warm body of bready malts and a smooth mouthfeel. Carbonation lends to a pleasant crisp finish that lingers with the sweet strawberries found in the nose.
  • Dead Kettle IPA: A hazy, light amber beer with a clean hoppy nose of grapefruit and citrus. A pleasant malt body takes a seat to the predominate citrusy hop flavor. Lighter mouthfeel with good carbonation, the hops continue and round out a nice clean, crisp finish.

Want more Right Brain? Check out our video interview from the 2011 Michigan Summer Beer Fest!

FLINT — It sits in a highly visible location, squatting obviously between the convergence of I-75 and US-23 near Flint. Every Michigander who has taken that route up north and back down always knows exactly what you mean when you mention the Redwood Lodge, but — and there’s always a but — “I’ve never managed to stop there.”

Dear rhetorical traveler, you should stop there. Not only will your beer-loving taste buds thank you, your food-loving ones will, too. (All right, taste buds are taste buds, but you get my drift.)

Founded in 1997, the Redwood Lodge Mesquite Grill & Brewpub began life as an upscale dining destination, but through the years and some ownership shakeups, its current incarnation now sits comfortably somewhere between upscale and casual. The “rustic” interior, accentuated with wall trophies and hardwood floors and rafters, is quite large and spacious, with high ceilings and tables and booths to accommodate parties of all sizes, no matter if the party is wearing suits or t-shirts. The bar is long and roomy, with a full complement of spirits and something in the neighborhood of 10 housemade beers (six standard and up to four seasonals) on tap at any given time, along with a “guest” tap or two.

One thing you’ll notice right away are the numerous banners that hang over the bar, trumpeting awards won in competitions by Redwood’s beers. In 2008, Redwood beers took so many medals at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver that the brewpub also received the “Small Brewery of the Year” award and then-head brewer Bill Wamby was named “Small Brewer of the Year.”

Current head brewer Konrad Connor, an assistant under Wamby, continues to maintain the quality of the beers that put Redwood on the map. Those beers included, at the time of my visit (mid-July), the six regular beers — Redwood Light, Kolsch, Munich Helles, Pale Ale, American IPA and Cream Stout — along with three seasonals: American Lager, Citrus? We Don’t Need No Stinking Citrus Hefeweizen, and English Summer Ale. A fourth seasonal, Northern English Brown Ale, had just run out, and the guest tap was Lindeman’s Framboise.

I had time only for a few beers, but I’ll say if you enjoy kolsch and helles, Redwoods are great examples of each style, relatively light and refreshing with good hoppiness at 4.8% and 5.6% ABV and 22 and 30 IBUs (a measure of a beer’s bitterness) respectively. I never miss a chance to have the helles in particular whenever I drop in for a pint or two; it’s really delicious. The English “Summer Ale” was actually a tasty English bitter, renamed because people who don’t know that English bitters aren’t particularly bitter (18 IBUs for this one) avoided ordering it. (Assistant brewer Dan Case says once they began calling it “Summer Ale,” sales picked up dramatically.) The cream stout was a GABF gold medalist and it’s quite good, but on this visit I eschewed it for its crisper and lighter tapmates.

Redwood’s menu, which by now is probably completely different following an impending revamp, can be a wee bit pricey, reflecting the upscale heritage of the restaurant. But in my limited experience, Redwood’s food remains quite a bit better than what one often encounters at brewpubs. I was assured one of my favorite items, the smoked chicken wings appetizer, would likely remain untouched by the menu revamp. Woo-hoo!

But if you’re reading this, you’re doubtless more interested in beer than food anyway. And if you live close enough to get to Redwood regularly, you’ll definitely want to check out their mug club as well as the Beer Appreciation Society events that take place the second Monday of each month. The cost for the latter is $16 and includes appetizers and samples of a featured beer style that brewer Connor will discuss. (The Society is on summer hiatus, however, with the next event scheduled for Sept. 12.)

The adjoining bar, dubbed the Sequoia Lounge, is less formal than the main dining area and, though it’s billed as a wine and martini place, it also has the same beers as the main bar. Live music and TVs lend a much more cozy “pub” feel to the space, and happy hour from 3-7 p.m. Monday through Friday certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

So the next time you’re traveling that long highway, why not take a break for a bite and a pint at Redwood? It’s definitely worth the short side trip down the exit ramp.

The Redwood Lodge, 5304 Gateway Center Dr., Flint, (810) 233-8000. Hours (restaurant): Mon. – Thurs., 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Fri., 11 a.m. to Midnight; Sat., Noon to Midnight; Sun. Noon to 1 p.m. Hours (Sequoia Lounge): Mon. – Thurs, 11 a.m. to Midnight, Fri., 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Sat., 3 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Sun., 3-10 p.m.

GRAND RAPIDS — There is likely a reason they call it BOB’s House of Brews. Emphasis on “house.”
Tucked away in the basement of a four-story building in downtown Grand Rapids, the brewpub is much like stepping into a modernized basement. It’s complete with a sizable — but small — bar, modern furniture, sophisticated decor and artwork to match.
BOB’s ‘house’ is intentionally dark with some natural light peaking through from a sky light atop the building (the room only gets darker as the day goes on into the night).
“It’s a nice place to hangout,” general manager Alan Riehl said. “It has a relaxed, forward feel that is attractive to all types of crowds.”
BOB shares his basement with another restaurant/bar, Monkey Bar, which serves up Asian small plates with items like duck, pork tenderloin and seafood. Patrons can grab a seat at a high-top table, booth or the bar, all having comfortable, soft padded chairs with backs.
The seating area is mainly lit by candle light. It would be difficult to read the Monkey Bar’s menu if it didn’t light up when you open it. The bar, which seats about 16, is lit by a back light near the taps with some florescent light coming from the brewery behind and to the right.
The brewery typically keeps 10 beers on tap with space for up to 12. Its brews are also served at other restaurants and bars inside the building, known as the B.O.B, which stands for Big Old Building. The building and its eight restaurants and bars are all owned and operated by the Gilmore Collection.
“(Serving our own beer) creates the artisan factor — it’s local, we’re doing it ourselves,” Riehl said. “We don’t have to pay to ship it from California. It allows us to have the freshest product possible.”
The man behind the brews is John Svoboda. The brewmaster keeps a steady rotation of classic ales and stouts, but doesn’t hesitate to push the envelope with brews like the Mango Chipotle ale.
“John’s very good to staying true to the true form of beer,” Diehl said. “All his beers are very drinkable and true to quality. He tries to represent a little of everything.”
Some brews, like the Mango Chipotle, are specially brewed to pair with Monkey Bar’s menu. Pairing the food and beer is still new for the almost 15-year-old brewery (the Monkey Bar opened just one year ago).
During our recent visit, eight beers were on tap, including six traditional brews, the twice-mentioned Mango Chipotle and a seasonal. Unfortunately, the seasonal ran out just before we ordered.

  • Afterglow Amber — This reddish brown concoction smells nutty and roasted. Malty through and through, the smell carries into the flavor with a creamy mouthfeel and light carbonation.
  • Full On IPA — Less bitter than most IPAs, this dark brownish orange brew has average carbonation with good overall flavor that brings lots of citrus taste.
  • Platinum Blonde — The light gold looking brew is perfect for those seeking the clean, crisp and refreshing. Not much to the smell, but definitely enough flavor and it goes down smooth.
  • Orange Lotus Hopsun — Hazy yellow orange with obvious orange smell and taste with a watery, soft mouthfeel that makes for a refreshing drink.
  • Nautical Dawn Pale Ale — Saison yeast makes this fizzy brew hop. The scent of sour orange tastes more like grapefruit — not bad.
  • Bourbon — With a light foamy top layer, just beneath is the smell of vanilla, caramel and sweetness with a taste that matches. Yum.
  • Mango Chipotle Ale — Hints of mango scent carry into a strong initial mango taste that turns into chipotle by mid drink and carried to a burning end (not for the wimps who can’t handle the heat).

BOB’s House of Brews is located inside the Big Old Building in downtown Grand Rapids at 20 Monroe Ave. NW.

GRAND RAPIDS — There is likely a reason they call it BOB’s House of Brews. Emphasis on “house.”

Tucked away in the basement of a four-story building in downtown Grand Rapids, the brewpub is much like stepping into a modernized basement. It’s complete with a sizable — but small — bar, modern furniture, sophisticated decor and artwork to match.

BOB’s ‘house’ is intentionally dark with some natural light peaking through from a sky light atop the building (the room only gets darker as the day goes on into the night).

“It’s a nice place to hangout,” general manager Alan Riehl said. “It has a relaxed, forward feel that is attractive to all types of crowds.”

BOB shares his basement with another restaurant/bar, Monkey Bar, which serves up Asian small plates with items like duck, pork tenderloin and seafood. Patrons can grab a seat at a high-top table, booth or the bar, all having comfortable, soft padded chairs with backs.

The seating area is mainly lit by candle light. It would be difficult to read the Monkey Bar’s menu if it didn’t light up when you open it. The bar, which seats about 16, is lit by a back light near the taps with some florescent light coming from the brewery behind and to the right.

The brewery typically keeps 10 beers on tap with space for up to 12. Its brews are also served at other restaurants and bars inside the building, known as the B.O.B, which stands for Big Old Building. The building and its eight restaurants and bars are all owned and operated by the Gilmore Collection.

“(Serving our own beer) creates the artisan factor — it’s local, we’re doing it ourselves,” Riehl said. “We don’t have to pay to ship it from California. It allows us to have the freshest product possible.”

The man behind the brews is John Svoboda. The brewmaster keeps a steady rotation of classic ales and stouts, but doesn’t hesitate to push the envelope with brews like the Mango Chipotle ale.

“John’s very good to staying true to the true form of beer,” Diehl said. “All his beers are very drinkable and true to quality. He tries to represent a little of everything.”

Some brews, like the Mango Chipotle, are specially brewed to pair with Monkey Bar’s menu. Pairing the food and beer is still new for the almost 15-year-old brewery (the Monkey Bar opened just one year ago).

During our recent visit, eight beers were on tap, including six traditional brews, the twice-mentioned Mango Chipotle and a seasonal. Unfortunately, the seasonal ran out just before we ordered.

  • Afterglow Amber — This reddish brown concoction smells nutty and roasted. Malty through and through, the smell carries into the flavor with a creamy mouthfeel and light carbonation.
  • Full On IPA — Less bitter than most IPAs, this dark brownish orange brew has average carbonation with good overall flavor that brings lots of citrus taste.
  • Platinum Blonde — The light gold looking brew is perfect for those seeking the clean, crisp and refreshing. Not much to the smell, but definitely enough flavor and it goes down smooth.
  • Orange Lotus Hopsun — Hazy yellow orange with obvious orange smell and taste with a watery, soft mouthfeel that makes for a refreshing drink.
  • Nautical Dawn Pale Ale — Saison yeast makes this fizzy brew hop. The scent of sour orange tastes more like grapefruit — not bad.
  • Bourbon — With a light foamy top layer, just beneath is the smell of vanilla, caramel and sweetness with a taste that matches. Yum.
  • Mango Chipotle Ale — Hints of mango scent carry into a strong initial mango taste that turns into chipotle by mid drink and carried to a burning end (not for the wimps who can’t handle the heat).

BOB’s House of Brews is located inside the Big Old Building in downtown Grand Rapids at 20 Monroe Ave. NW.

HOLLAND – New Holland Brewing Company has come to known some pretty diverse and interesting beers over the years, offering everything from a Golden Cap seasonal ale to the ever-popular Dragon’s Milk. But on Saturday, New Holland played a different tune. In celebration of its Mad Hatter India Pale Ale, New Holland released four new “hatters” to the public during its 14th annual Mad Hatter Birthday Bash.

The event featured nine “hatters” in all, and we were able to try out five of them. Each offered a particular spin on the traditional Mad Hatter, introducing some new flavors and giving familiar flavors a different spin on things.

Centered around a decked-out “Alice in Wonderland” themed brewery, we tried the Black Hatter, Smoked Hatter, Farmhouse Hatter, Sour Hatter and Oak Aged Hatter. And despite the obvious IPA undertones, all five of the beers seemed to bring something different to the table.

The Black Hatter (5.5% ABV) retained the somewhat bitter aftertaste I’ve come to expect from an IPA. Its dark color, though, was refreshing and a great way to start off the night. And like the Black Hatter, the Farmhouse Hatter (5% ABV) still had a hint of bitterness with an underlying IPA taste.

But that’s when the similarities seemed to stop.

The Oak Aged Mad Hatter (7.2% ABV) had no bitter taste to it at all — in fact, it was smooth, refreshing and held a slight caramel aftertaste. It’s woodsy-like flavor was accompanied by a somewhat fruity flavor and golden color. This was definitely the most rustic of the night.

And like the Oak Aged, the Smoked Hatter (5.2% ABV) was equally interesting. Being a newbie to smoked brews, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of flavor the beer let out. It wasn’t overpowering or bitter, and had a nice, relaxed flavor to it.

By far, though, the favorite of the night had to be the Sour Hatter (8.5% ABV). It was the only beer that was served to us in a flute glass (the rest were in standard pints), and was very refreshing and smooth. It’s dark brown color gave way to its slight cider taste and somewhat fruity smell. It was crisp on the tongue, but smooth thereafter. My immediate thought was that it reminded me of those sour candies I used to eat as a kid — but much more refined. It was a great cap to the night.

In addition to the five we tried, New Holland also served up its regular Mad Hatter, Imperial Hatter, Oak Aged Imperial Hatter and Rye Hatter. Surrounded by servers who were decked out in “Alice in Wonderland” costumes, everything seemed to fit together for the event — including the absolutely mad birthday cake.

Being from Northern Michigan, I’ve gotten to know a few of the breweries quite well. There’s Short’s, Right Brain, North Peak, among others. But one that I never really explored, until recently, was Jolly Pumpkin Restaurant, Brewery, Distillery.

While Traverse City isn’t Jolly Pumpkin’s primary brewery (Dexter is home with another operation in Ann Arbor), the location still offers a variety of brews to soothe your taste buds.

Located right on Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City, Jolly Pumpkin is what you’d expect from a microbrewery. The setting is a relaxed, dark environment with multiple tables for conversation. Its bar area is small, but comfortable.

The main dining room has two giant chandeliers in the center — including one made out of a beer barrel. All in all, it’s a great place to enjoy some drinks with friends, and is a modern, yet comfortable outlook on a brewpub.

There are two regulars on tap for Jolly Pumpkin — Bam Noire and Bam Biere.

The Bam Noire (4.3 percent ABV) features a rich, nice finish, but still with enough hops to keep you awake. It’s certainly the furthest from being overpowering, but it’s a perfect companion to a hearty meal (or Jolly Pumpkin’s amazing potato chips).

Its amber color embodies a slight scent of fruit, but otherwise is a standard, dark ale. Being a dark beer drinker, I immediately thought very highly of this. It was smooth, but not syrupy smooth. It was hoppy, but not IPA hoppy. All in all, this brew has excellent balance.

Surprisingly, what I was really excited about was the Bam Biere (4.5 percent ABV). Named one of Men’s Health’s Top 25 Beers in the country, the light gold-colored ale is certainly a light beer, but features all the flavor and greatness I expect.

It featured a bit more of a hoppy finish than its darker cousin, but it ended on a much more smooth note than I initially expected. It had a hint of oaky-ness to it, and was paired wonderfully with my steak sandwich. I definitely sensed some cinnamon and nutmeg flavors, as well as some earthiness with a hint of fruit flavor. The Bam Biere is the perfect summer drink, reminding me instantly of the great outdoors, and definitely trumps the Bam Noire in my book.

In addition to its two beers on tap, Jolly Pumpkin also offers a wide array of bottled beers, as well as a semi-changing tap of cider and North Peak Brewing Company beers.

While it’s a bit off the beaten path, Jolly Pumpkin might not be the immediate brewery you’d think of when visiting Traverse City. But for anyone looking for a unique spin on a few brews, this is a great place to start.

Jolly Pumpkin Restaurant, Brewery, Distillery is located at 13512 Peninsula Drive in Traverse City.

I imagine — based on his story — Jason Spaulding as the character Ray Stantz from Ghostbusters.
In one of the film’s early scenes, the three ghost-hunting entrepreneurs purchase a former firehouse for their headquarters. Two of them play it coy, but not Stantz.
Admittedly, Spaulding was smitten when he first walked through a rundown funeral chapel on the Southeast Side of Grand Rapids that would become the future home of his brewpub, Brewery Vivant. And certainly from my visit, I can see why Spaulding chose the location for his brewery, which opened in December 2010.
I had a sense of awe walking into this European-feeling brewpub, as likely many of its patrons do. With original chapel lighting and stained glass windows, stepping inside Vivant is a lot like visiting a Belgian monastery (except for the monks). Wooden beams meet in a triangular formation near the ceiling with the bar nestled in front of a large archway.
Even though it is no longer a sacred space, it is still communal. The U-shaped bar lends itself to conversation with fellow patrons, and long tables create an atmosphere of sharing, not separation. There is a TV, but even that is not run by normal electricity — a bike nearby powers the screen (peddle away).
Certainly, it is peaceful for a pub and the ambiance complements the beer style – Belgian- and French-influenced concoctions. As Spaulding said, Vivant is one of the only breweries that specializes in Belgian beers with “local ingredients dominated by yeast strains” and a “controlled, wild character.”
The brews are inspired from small farmhouse breweries along the countryside of Southern Belgium and Northern France, Spaulding explained. Certainly it is apparent in the ten brews on tap.
To make it all come to life, brewmaster Jacob Derylo takes special care to ensure each brew is crafted to perfection.
“He’s a perfect brewer for us,” Spaulding said. “There’s no one I’d rather have in there than Jacob.”
A 10-year brewer for New Holland Brewing Company in Holland, Derylo confers with chef Drew Turnipseed to pair entrees perfectly with each beer. If not for the food or beer, Brewery Vivant is worth the visit just by virtue of its tastefully renovated, 80-something-year-old pub. It brings a sense of awe that makes you want to say cheers to its architectural beauty.
Even so, if you can’t make the trip, the brewery recently launched packaged products — in cans — for distribution state-wide and to the greater Chicago area. If you do make it, here’s my take on the tapped brews:
Farm Hand (5.5-percent ABV) — Partly cloudy, it’s lighter in overall flavor and certain to please even the most-apprehensive craft beer skeptics with simple smell and taste.
French Fusion (5.5-percent ABV) — A very drinkable, crisp beer with a soft maltiness that really does some magic.
Zaison (8.5-percent ABV) — Likely my favorite, its high alcohol content that maintains plenty of flavor is sneaky. Orange hints that are not overpowering with a light mouthfeel and body, the tail-end taste of peppercorn is the perfect complement to the citrus.
Vivant Tripel (9.25-percent ABV) — I’d call this the most traditional Belgian-brew with its sweet banana and bubblegum smell and taste complemented by the creamy mouthfeel.
Triomphe Belgian IPA (6.5-percent ABV) — Sweeter and smoother than I expected, which helps cover up the amount of hops I find overwhelming in many IPAs.
Big Red Coq (6.25-percent ABV) — So many hops, it feels more IPA than Triomphe (I thought I was confusing the two at first). For me, the hops were so overpowering I could barely smell the flavors and certainly could not taste them — caramel, mango, pineapple and citrus. Not my kind of brew, it is a popular seller.
Solitude Belgian Amber Ale (6.5-percent ABV) — Puts the “brew” back into brewing beer with its coffee-like undertones and brownish hue — malty with hints of caramel and sweetness. Unique.
Belgian Black Ale (5.5-percent ABV) — Surprisingly both creamy mouthfeel and light-body, it’s basically a black IPA.
Kludde Strong Ale (9.5-percent ABV) — This brew speaks volumes and earns its right to be called a “strong ale”— prevalent plum, fig, anise and raisin smells/flavors, but a chocolate hint that saves it from being too bitter.
 

I imagine — based on his story — Jason Spaulding as the character Ray Stantz from Ghostbusters.

In one of the film’s early scenes, the three ghost-hunting entrepreneurs purchase a former firehouse for their headquarters. Two of them play it coy, but not Stantz.

Admittedly, Spaulding was smitten when he first walked through a rundown funeral chapel on the Southeast Side of Grand Rapids that would become the future home of his brewpub, Brewery Vivant. And certainly from my visit, I can see why Spaulding chose the location for his brewery, which opened in December 2010.

I had a sense of awe walking into this European-feeling brewpub, as likely many of its patrons do. With original chapel lighting and stained glass windows, stepping inside Vivant is a lot like visiting a Belgian monastery (except for the monks). Wooden beams meet in a triangular formation near the ceiling with the bar nestled in front of a large archway.

Even though it is no longer a sacred space, it is still communal. The U-shaped bar lends itself to conversation with fellow patrons, and long tables create an atmosphere of sharing, not separation. There is a TV, but even that is not run by normal electricity — a bike nearby powers the screen (peddle away).

Certainly, it is peaceful for a pub and the ambiance complements the beer style – Belgian- and French-influenced concoctions. As Spaulding said, Vivant is one of the only breweries that specializes in Belgian beers with “local ingredients dominated by yeast strains” and a “controlled, wild character.”

The brews are inspired from small farmhouse breweries along the countryside of Southern Belgium and Northern France, Spaulding explained. Certainly it is apparent in the ten brews on tap.

To make it all come to life, brewmaster Jacob Derylo takes special care to ensure each brew is crafted to perfection.

“He’s a perfect brewer for us,” Spaulding said. “There’s no one I’d rather have in there than Jacob.”

A 10-year brewer for New Holland Brewing Company in Holland, Derylo confers with chef Drew Turnipseed to pair entrees perfectly with each beer. If not for the food or beer, Brewery Vivant is worth the visit just by virtue of its tastefully renovated, 80-something-year-old pub. It brings a sense of awe that makes you want to say cheers to its architectural beauty.

Even so, if you can’t make the trip, the brewery recently launched packaged products — in cans — for distribution state-wide and to the greater Chicago area. If you do make it, here’s my take on the tapped brews:

Farm Hand (5.5-percent ABV) — Partly cloudy, it’s lighter in overall flavor and certain to please even the most-apprehensive craft beer skeptics with simple smell and taste.

French Fusion (5.5-percent ABV) — A very drinkable, crisp beer with a soft maltiness that really does some magic.

Zaison (8.5-percent ABV) — Likely my favorite, its high alcohol content that maintains plenty of flavor is sneaky. Orange hints that are not overpowering with a light mouthfeel and body, the tail-end taste of peppercorn is the perfect complement to the citrus.

Vivant Tripel (9.25-percent ABV) — I’d call this the most traditional Belgian-brew with its sweet banana and bubblegum smell and taste complemented by the creamy mouthfeel.

Triomphe Belgian IPA (6.5-percent ABV) — Sweeter and smoother than I expected, which helps cover up the amount of hops I find overwhelming in many IPAs.

Big Red Coq (6.25-percent ABV) — So many hops, it feels more IPA than Triomphe (I thought I was confusing the two at first). For me, the hops were so overpowering I could barely smell the flavors and certainly could not taste them — caramel, mango, pineapple and citrus. Not my kind of brew, it is a popular seller.

Solitude Belgian Amber Ale (6.5-percent ABV) — Puts the “brew” back into brewing beer with its coffee-like undertones and brownish hue — malty with hints of caramel and sweetness. Unique.

Belgian Black Ale (5.5-percent ABV) — Surprisingly both creamy mouthfeel and light-body, it’s basically a black IPA.

Kludde Strong Ale (9.5-percent ABV) — This brew speaks volumes and earns its right to be called a “strong ale”— prevalent plum, fig, anise and raisin smells/flavors, but a chocolate hint that saves it from being too bitter.