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7% ABV, Bottle

Appearance: Dark brown with a surprising amount of sediment. Low white head.
Aroma: Oaky and malty, a bit boozy.
Taste: Roasted malts and oak, and even a bit of a berry taste to it. A bit smoky as well, but not overpowering.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, pretty smooth.

Michigan Beer Cellar’s Headknocker Scotch Ale can easily be confused with an aged fruit beer. With a taste full of berries and a bit of an oak and malt tone, the flavor is surprising for a scotch ale. The smooth brew is pretty drinkable, with only a slight smokiness at the backend.

SPARTA — Citing health issues, Michigan Beer Cellar owner Dan Humphrey is looking to leave the business he started two years ago.

In an MLive article, Humphrey says, “I’ve got some health issues and it’s getting to be too much for my wife and I. I’ve been working probably 16 hours a day for three years straight to build this business and I need to slow down a bit.”

In addition to brewing beers — several of which are distributed — the brewery also makes wine, mead and artisan spirits.

The business is currently listed on Craigslist for $540,000.

4.8% ABV, Bottle

Appearance: A reddish gold color, with little to no head.
Aroma: A little citrusy with some spice.
Taste: Bready and malty, with some citrus and spice on the front end. A bit watery at the finish, with a small amount of bitterness.
Mouthfeel: Light bodied with moderate carbonation.

Brit’s Best is technically an ESB, but bitter is the last thing I think of when drinking this brew. With some bready-like qualities, malts and just a hint of fruit sweetness, this brew is very drinkable — the only hint of bitterness occurs at the end. Overall this is a pretty good cold-weather brew, as it gives you a warmth while sipping it.

4.8% ABV, Bottle
Appearance: A reddish gold color, with little to no head.
Aroma: A little citrusy with some spice.
Taste: Bready and malty, with some citrus and spice on the front end. A bit watery at the finish, with a small amount of bitterness.
Mouthfeel: Light bodied with moderate carbonation.
Brit’s Best is technically an ESB, but bitter is the last thing I think of when drinking this brew. With some bready-like qualities, malts and just a hint of fruit sweetness, this brew is very drinkable — the only hint of bitterness occurs at the end. Overall this is a pretty good cold-weather brew, as it gives you a warmth while sipping it.

5.7% ABV, Bottle

Appearance: Caramel coloring with a very thin head.
Aroma: A little fruity but not a whole lot there.
Taste: A bit of a malty taste with some fruit and caramel. Very balanced.
Mouthfeel: Light bodied with some moderate carbonation.

Michigan Beer Cellar’s Golden Blonde is a refreshing, light ale that brings out flavors of fruit, malt and caramel. While its flavor profile isn’t huge, it’s perfect for a blonde ale, and makes the brew very drinkable. I’d be happy to enjoy this again out on the porch. While it doesn’t win any awards for innovation, its balance makes it so that I’d come back to it again and again.

6.2% ABV

Appearance: Dark amber with a small head that lingers.
Aroma: A bit fruity.
Taste: Some caramel, fruit and light malt. Wheat is also present. Very well balanced, though a bit sweet.
Mouthfeel: Light to medium bodied with some carbonation.

Michigan Beer Cellar’s Uncle Krunkle’s Dunkelweizen is a somewhat fruity, caramely wheat ale that’s very easy to drink. Its light to medium body gives way to a bit of carbonation.

What I’d consider to be a sweet wheat ale, Dunkelweizen is a bit heavier and sweeter than your typical summer ale — say Whitsun or Oberon — but still offers very balanced flavors.

6.2% ABV
Appearance: Dark amber with a small head that lingers.
Aroma: A bit fruity.
Taste: Some caramel, fruit and light malt. Wheat is also present. Very well balanced, though a bit sweet.
Mouthfeel: Light to medium bodied with some carbonation.
Michigan Beer Cellar’s Uncle Krunkle’s Dunkelweizen is a somewhat fruity, caramely wheat ale that’s very easy to drink. Its light to medium body gives way to a bit of carbonation.
What I’d consider to be a sweet wheat ale, Dunkelweizen is a bit heavier and sweeter than your typical summer ale — say Whitsun or Oberon — but still offers very balanced flavors.

SPARTA — The thought of a cellar typically conjures thoughts of a dingy, chilly and dark basement.

And, if you’re a Michigander, likely a dirt floor. In other words, it’s the ideal location for storing beer, not for enjoying one. Unless you walk into Michigan Beer Cellar.

Located in downtown Sparta, the brewpub and microbrewery — yes, it’s also a winery and distillery — opened under the vision of owner Dan Humphrey, a longtime and noted home brewer.

“I won a lot of awards home brewing,” says Humphrey, who began brewing in 1989. “One day I just decided it was time to open my own brewery.”

Walking inside this particular cellar is not like many others. For starters, it’s a lot warmer. There’s also lots of life, staged well by its pool table, jukebox, arcades and long wooden bar against the front wall (the bar seats about a dozen patrons).

But then other parts fit the cellar moniker, such as the dark bluish green painted walls, low lighting and overall stark decor. Three lantern-style lights add glow along the mirror that lines the entire back wall behind the bar, accompanied by three TVs. Another large flat screen is situated in the main seating area, which is two steps higher on a stage-like area away from the bar.

“We like to have a laid back atmosphere,” says Humphrey, whose pub hosts live music, trivia night and karaoke, amongst other forms of entertainment. “It’s a place you can come relax, bring some friends and drink some beer.”

ONE DOOR OPENS

Timing was everything for Humphrey when he concocted the idea for his brewery — he was laid off from his engineering job after a downsizing in 2009. That summer, the Rockford resident “kicked around” the idea of opening a brewery and began filing paperwork in September. On May 28, 2010, Michigan Beer Cellar opened its doors in a former banquet hall at 500 E. Division St. in Sparta, just five miles from Humphrey’s home.

Less than two years later, the long-time member of West Michigan’s Prime Time Brewers is distributing his brews to five counties while pumping out pints on location.

“My distribution here can’t keep up with my production,” says Humphrey, who plans to expand placement to Kalamazoo and south by early spring, followed eventually by Lansing and Traverse City. Currently, MBC beer is available in more than 25 retail stores with 15-20 handles on tap at restaurants/bars, such as The Green Well and HopCat in Grand Rapids.

Besides the beer, Humphrey ferments wine and spends some time distilling. The pub also serves deli-style food with emphasis on “food quality” with “good,local ingredients.” Items include appetizers, gourmet hotdogs, sandwiches, paninis and wraps.

ALL ABOUT THE BREWS

The brewery has 14 taps, mostly mainstays with two rotating seasonals and a hard cider.

“I like to brew hoppy and big ales,” Humphrey says. “I’ve always brewed a big IPA and English IPA — you kind of brew what you like to drink.”

One of the most-celebrated brews is MBC’s Black Magic RyPA. Others on tap include:

  • American IPA
  • Blonde Ale
  • Dunkelweizen
  • English IPA
  • Porter
  • Summer Sunrise
  • Irish Stout
  • Oatmeal Stout
  • Irish Red
  • Cellar Lite
  • Vanilla Porter
  • Mocha Java Stout
  • Double IPA
  • Head Knocker (seasonal)
  • Peach Passion (seasonal)

For Humphrey, he approaches his business with humility.

“We’re just a small brewery — or a large home brewery,” he says.

Michigan Beer Cellar is open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 2 a.m. Sunday. The brewery’s website is michiganbeercellar.com and patrons can keep tabs on its Facebook page.