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7% ABV, Bottle

Appearance: Clear red with a small tan head.
Aroma: Nutty with some dark fruit.
Taste: Nut throughout, with some roasted malt, caramel and minor dark fruit notes.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with some medium to high carbonation levels.

Frankenmuth’s Winter Bock is a nutty, malty lager with hints of caramel and dark fruit. It leans towards the sweeter side, but has a dry finish which helps balance it out a bit. Overall this is a pretty enjoyable brew, but I think I would’ve enjoyed it more if it weren’t quite as dry.

5.2% ABV, Bottle

Appearance: Clear gold with a medium head.
Aroma: Citrus, spice and banana.
Taste: Spicy up front, followed by some banana towards the finish.
Mouthfeel: Light to medium bodied, on the higher end carbonation-wise.

Frankenmuth’s Hefeweizen takes a somewhat different approach to this classic German-style beer — it puts the spice at the forefront, with much of the citrus and banana flavors coming towards the finish. It’s a nice, subtle change compared to most hefeweizens out there, though it does take away a bit from the balance.

5.27% ABV, Draft

Appearance: Copper colored with a minor head.
Aroma: A bit hoppy, with some floral notes.
Taste: Malt-forward with some bread-like and caramel qualities.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a bit of bitterness at the finish.

Frankenmuth’s Oktoberfest is a classic version of the fall seasonal, with grain, spices, bread-like qualities and caramel. Hops take away from most of the sweetness that would otherwise be present, and the brew is pretty drinkable for this type of brew.

5.25% ABV, Bottle

Appearance: Murky dark reddish-brown, low carbonation.
Aroma:  Sweet caramel tones, slight roastiness.
Taste: Refreshingly balanced. A little roasty. I got a bit afraid when I first caught the caramel, but found complete balance when I took a full drink of it. All the flavors are subtle and work together to create a classic amber ale taste (without the sweetness that sometimes turns me off).
Mouthfeel: Water-like feel with very little carbonation.

I have to say this is a well-balanced amber ale, though it lacks some in flavor. I’m OK with that because the roast characteristics play well on the tongue, and I’d rather not be left with that sweet aftertaste. This is an amber that joins my list — perfect for any time of year.

5.1% ABV, Bottle

Appearance: Bronze colored with a small head.
Aroma: Toffee and caramel, with some decent spice.
Taste: A little nutty with some toffee elements. I taste just a bit of roasted malt, chocolate and vanilla at the finish.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with light carbonation.

Frankenmuth’s Dunkel Lager is a perfect example of a dark lager that stays away from typical lager stereotypes. Dunkel is not only flavorful — it’s not as watery as you’d expect, either. Earthy nut and toffee flavors are present throughout each sip, with just a hint of roasted malt, chocolate and vanilla towards the end. This lightly carbonated brew is pretty drinkable, too, as its flavors are well-balanced and complement each other well.

FRANKENMUTH — Paul Boissevain spent this past weekend trying to introduce more folks to his craft beer. It’s the same mentality Mark Lorenz embraced as he embarked on the annual World Expo of Beer.

Neither of the two Northern Michigan brewery owners necessarily planned to showcase any awards during the annual Expo, but both smiled ear-to-ear at having won awards.

“We’re out there making beers we like to drink,” Boissevain said of his Keweenaw Brewing Company, located in Houghton. “We’re not there for style — we’re there for something that makes you want another drink.”

“We’re very surprised, very happy,” said Lorenz, a member of Cheboygan Brewing Co., which took home a first place award for the brewery’s seasonal brew Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest, created by the brewery’s operation manager and brewmaster Tim Perry, was inspired by the 1976 Späten Oktoberfest bier from Munich, Germany. Although it was not available at the Expo (as it is a seasonal), Lorenz described it as orange in hue with a pronounced malt presence.

Meanwhile, Keweenaw Brewing Company captured second place  in the American Ale category with its Lift Bridge Brown Ale.

“It’s one of our poor(est) selling beers,” Boissevain said. “The Brown happened to win because it fit a category.”

Since both Lorenz and Boissevain say their two breweries do not emphasize brewing for a style, fitting a category to win awards from the Expo was no easy task.

With nearly 300 beers available, the Expo packed Frankenmuth’s Heritage Park inside and out Friday and Saturday. It took less than three hours after doors opened at 3 p.m. Saturday before it became somewhat difficult to shift through the crowd and maneuver to various medal-winning beers.

The event also offered the opportunity for attendees to talk to brewers, owners, distributors and managers if they happened to track them down. Although Keweenaw has been open since 2004, the Expo is the perfect event for exposure (especially since some consider the UP another Mitten). For Cheboygan, the Expo was infinitely more important — it just opened last May.

Cheboygan used the opportunity to showcase its Lighthouse Amber Altbier and La Cerveza, which were both recently expanded into new distribution areas.

“Agreements have been established with Powers Distributing Company to market our products in the Oakland and Macomb counties in Southeast Michigan,” Lorenz said. “We will also begin distribution in the Lansing and East Lansing areas with the Dan Henry Distribution Co. beginning in May.”

Boissevain, who co-owns Keweenaw with Dick Gray, encourages visitors to make the trek to his taproom, a 30,000-square-foot rustic building with a deck wrapped around — he calls it “a real cozy environment.”

For those who can’t make the trip, Keewanaw beer is available at events like the Expo and is distributed in cans to three states (Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota) with production increasing every year. In fact, production has more than doubled since 2008.

“I’m glad the cans are taking off in the state,” Boissevain said, adding that cans always made sense for his brewery since it’s situated in an outdoor environment. “It’s better for the beer in the long run.”

The World Expo of Beer is Michigan’s largest beer sampling event, according to organizers. Its mission is to promote great beer, all-the-while raising money for charity (all proceeds are donated to charitable causes).

For the fourth straight year, crowds flocked to DeVos Place to attend the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival last week. And while wine and food were featured strongly, craft beer showed its ever-increasing presence at the event.

In its second year, the Craft Beer Hall showcased breweries from around Michigan, featuring everything from staple beers to unique fall and winter flavors. The festival ran Thursday to Saturday, drawing in an estimated 10,000 attendees.

One of the beers I was most excited to try during my visit Friday was from Traverse City’s North Peak Brewing Company. This past summer, they introduced Archangel — a crisp summer ale with loads of flavor. Following Archangel’s introduction, North Peak came out with Dark Angel Cherry Porter (5% ABV) this fall, which is just as it sounds.

Its dark cherry flavor gives way to the Cherry Capitol’s leading industry, and with its minor amount of hops it brings an interesting twist to the well-known flavor. The brew poured dark mahogany with a small head, and had a hint of cherry smell to it. If you’ve ever imagined tart cherries paired with a dark porter, this brew does very well at defining that.

One of the most impressive brews was from one of the oldest breweries in the state — Frankenmuth Brewery. While I was somewhat apprehensive to try its Pilsener (5.25% ABV) brew, I was overwhelmed by the crispness and subtle flavor that it contained. It definitely makes for a great summer brew in my book, featuring a slight citrus flavor with a low hoppiness. It poured a light gold transparency, with spring-like, floral smells.

Hints of woodsy and cinnamon flavors left Frankenmuth’s Munich Dunkel (5.1% ABV) best described as earthy. Smooth, it had a low head, pouring bronze, and had a slight bitter finish. It, in a sense, defined “the great outdoors.”

Dark Horse Brewing Co. brought the most beer to the event, including some of its holiday and seasonal specialty brews. One Oatmeal Stout Ale (8% ABV) was my favorite of the night — featuring a dark chocolate flavor that makes it the perfect brew for the winter season. The stout was perfectly black, pouring with a low head, and held a bit of a scotch flavor as well.

Dark Horse also served its Scotty Karate Scotch Ale (9.75% ABV), a strong brew with a heavy fruit and spice aroma. The flavor was slightly fruity and had a caramel front to it, finishing a bit bitter. This cloudy, dark amber brew poured with a medium head, featuring very full flavors that didn’t linger too long, but left a slight bitterness on the tongue.

Tri-City Brewing Company also brought an impressive number of beers. I tried the Brownhoist Brown Ale (4.8% ABV), and was instantly hooked. This was definitely my favorite of the event. The smells of nut and caramelized almonds immediately drew me in to the brew, only to be met with chocolate, caramel and a heavy almond-vanilla flavor.

I’ve always been a fan of brown ales, but the Brownhoist was like none other I’ve had — it held an immense amount of flavor that was both welcoming and satisfying. Sitting around the fire on a cold winter night, this is the beer I want to have in my hand.

 

 

FRANKENMUTH — Apparently the World Expo of Beer is a great way to spend a wedding anniversary. It’s also a worthwhile reason for friends to have an annual reunion.

“It’s actually our wedding anniversary today,” said Rusty Blackwell of Manchester. “It’s a cool way to get to know about new beers. We’ll try new stuff as much as we can.”

No matter the motive for each attendee — there were newbies, beer-connoisseurs and, yes, even snobs — the annual event certainly brought the masses together. The nearly 20,000 people in attendance (spanning two days) had their choice of about 400 brews — beers, ciders, mead, malts and more.

This was was the second venture to the event for Rusty and his wife, Jennifer. They began their day by sampling two Wolverine State Brewing Company beers, Helles Bock and Dark Lager.

“We like both of them quite a bit,” Rusty said. “It’s better than spending $12 on a six-pack you might not like.”

While they weren’t all Michigan brews (or even crafts), the majority of representation was from the Mitten. But the Expo was not just about the brews, it was about people. As we scanned the crowd at Heritage Park, we met beer enthusiasts, families, young couples and spotted some people watchers (well, they weren’t drinking and just kind of peering around).

Attendees didn’t have any reason to be bored — blaring music, food and the chance at everything from trying their hand at the beer pong tournament to going to class at Beer School. And let’s not forget the mug strength competition, a test of endurance to see who of five competitors could hold up a mug of beer the longest without bending his or her arm (the record was a little of five minutes for the guys and about three for the ladies at last check).

We tried a handful of beers, ciders and a couple tasters of mead. Not much leaves the BrewCrew disappointed, and we certainly were pleased with our choices (for the most part). Our favorites came from breweries like Wolverine, Atwater, Bells, Shorts, Mount Pleasant, Schmohz, Great Lakes and Saugatuck. Although Crispin Cider Company is not from the Mitten, we have to admit they have a killer pear cider.

All in all, the World Expo of Beer is worth a trip to Frankenmuth (even if you’re four hours or so away). There aren’t many beer events that can match it in the combination of brews, entertainment and food.