Most beer lovers have a couple craft brewers that they love, and a couple more that they aren’t so fond of. Those living in good beer cities (like my hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan), probably have the full complement in their very own backyard. I encourage you to continue trying those you haven’t been fond of in the past, because there’s a good chance you’l miss out on something you like.
A recent visit from Ann Arbor ex-pat Paul stemmed the standard night for the two of us last weekend: the impromptu microbrewery crawl. Starting with The Blue Tractor, we moved on to Arbor Brewing Company, then Grizzly Peak, and finally Jolly Pumpkin.
Despite popular opinions on these fine establishments, I’ve never been a huge fan of Arbor or Jolly Pumpkin. Believe me, I’ve tried to find something that I enjoy at each of them, but have found nothing that tickles my fancy. The more knowledgeable folk have raved about them, the more out of the loop I’ve felt–until now.
Blue Tractor has never been one of my favorites either, though I’ve only had drinks there, never food. With my newfound desire to become a barbecue aficionado, that may change soon. Regardless, the offerings on Saturday night did nothing to change my opinion. The atmosphere is just OK, as is the beer. We both had a couple brews that were nothing memorable–aside from the soapy taste of the glassware (yuck!).
Moving on to Arbor, on the other hand, changed my paradigm. I’ve found their beers to be merely OK (sometimes trending towards bad), and when combined with a typically rude service staff, I’ve always been turned off from the place. We found a seat at the bar, however, and I ordered the Fat Abbot Belgian Tripel with Paul selecting the Milestone Cask Porter. To my pleasant surprise, both were not only acceptable, but excellent. The service was iffy as usual, but with a delicious brew in front of you, it’s not nearly as offensive.
We moved on to Grizzly Peak, typically one of our favorites – we’re both mug club members there. An annoying experience with a doorman who thought he was much more important than he truly was colored our experience, setting it up to be something less enjoyable than our standard. The seasonal taps didn’t suit our fancy, so we simply ordered menu beers–another strike. As we moved on to the next stop, we felt unsatisfied with a totally mediocre experience.
We wrapped up at Jolly Pumpkin’s taphouse just down the street. Jolly Pumpkin has an excellent reputation among the beer geeks I’ve encountered, and although I’m a pretty big fan of Belgian-style beers, I had never been able to find one of their offerings that I was a fan of in my several experiences at the taphouse. Paul and I each ordered beers that were excellent, and not wanting to end the night too intoxicated, split one of their higher-gravity beers before departing. All were enjoyable.
If you had told me going into the night that I would have a bad experience at Grizzly Peak, and have multiple excellent beers at Arbor Brewing and Jolly Pumpkin, I would have though you were crazy. Alas, that’s the way the night turned out, so I encourage you: If at first you don’t enjoy, try try again.