Green Brewing

The University of Michigan’s “Out of the Blue” (perhaps best known for boring the daylights out of viewers hoping they’d see sports late at night on the Big Ten Network) recently tackled a topic near and dear to our hearts: beer.

Michigan Grad Student Jarett Diamond

Michigan Grad Student Jarett Diamond

The show produced an 8-minute feature about Michigan student Jarret Diamond, whose Masters thesis revolved around how to make the brewing process more environmentally-friendly. Though inspiration struck at Arbor Brewing, the project centered around Arbor’s sister brewery down the road in Ypsilanti, Corner Brewery. Diamond and his team first learned about the commercial brewing process, before figuring out how to improve it.

Other members of Diamond’s team focused on improving the sustainability and infrastructure of the brewery. If you’re interested in not only beer, but also the environment (as so many beer lovers are), check it out.

If At First You Don’t Enjoy…

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.

Impromptu Bar Crawl

The route for our impromptu bar crawl

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.

Ann Arbor Beer Updates

Since we’re not fully-attuned enough with current events in our (well, now just my) fair city, time for a brief update. First, from David Bardallis on AnnArbor.com: Beer events Friday (at Jolly Pumpkin), Saturday (at Arbor Brewing Company), and Tuesday (at Corner Brewery in Ypsi and Grizzly Peak). The GP event sounds particularly interesting:

Over at Grizzly Peak, 120 W. Washington, the monthly Brewer’s Night is back. Drop in from 6-9 p.m. for discounted beer samplers, brewery tours personally conducted by brewing demigod Duncan Williams, and a taste of something special on cask — in this case, all your correspondent knows is it will be blended and oak-aged.

Very interesting. Click through for more details. Also at Grizzly Peak, you can pick up a commemorative Oktoberfest pint glass for the next two weeks only. Stop in to get the full details.

Elsewhere in town, Wolverine State Brewing isn’t open for the drankin’ quite yet, but you can join their mug club in anticipation of the brewpub license coming through.

More substantive content coming in the next few days.

Wine Enthusiast: Destination Ann Arbor

Wine Enthusiast Magazine recently discussed some dining options in Ann Arbor, including a few that are of interest to beer aficionados in A2. The places that fall within that category that I’ve also been to (as a drinking establishment, not just for dinner):

The wine scene is just as vibrant. Fatherdaughter team John and Kristin Jonna (who formerly worked for Benziger Winery) opened Vinology Wine Bar and Restaurant (110 S. Main Street; vinowinebars.com), in downtown Ann Arbor during 2006. Pair seasonally inspired small plates with an impressive wine list that includes 38 wines by the glass. Don’t miss the “bubble room” downstairs—an intimate space with 400 hand-blown glass balls suspended from the ceiling; it’s next to a retail wine shop.

The wine list at vinology is insane, but they do also have a beer menu, including craft brews from Bells, New Holland, Flying Dog, and others. The rest come in a trifecta:

And what would a university town be without microbreweries? In 1995 Rene and Matt Grieff opened Arbor Brewing Company Pub & Eatery (114 E. Washington Street; arborbrewing.com). Always evolving, their latest mantra is to buy from local, sustainable producers to build items like stone-grilled pizzas and corned beef sandwiches. Drop in for a pint of light (Brasserie Blonde) or dark beer (Espresso Love Breakfast Stout). Much of the food at Jolly Pumpkin Café & Brewery (311 S. Main Street; jollypumpkin.com), comes from local farmers markets. Pair the brewery’s artisan ales with tempura-battered vegetables, a beerfriendly cheese board and market salads.In suburban Milan, Original Gravity Brewing Company (440 County Street;ogbrewing.com), has about 15 beers on tap, ranging from an eclectic 440 Pepper Smoker (German smoked malt and jalapeños) to a Pale Ale.

I think the blog’s general vibe on Arbor is consistent (meh beer, very poor customer service). Jolly Pumpkin is rather Belgian-focused, but even as a huge fan of the style, I haven’t found a beer there that I’m particularly enamored with. Original Gravity is new to us as of this summer, click the link for Paul’s thoughts on our first trip there.

What’s missing? I guess some of these might not be relevant to the wine drinker, so their exclusion makes sense (though Zingerman’s Deli doesn’t serve wine either… hm), but Grizzly Peak, Ashleys, and Blue Tractor are at least notable for a first time visitor to our fair city.

(HT: Ann Arbor Chronicle for pointing out the original article)

Ann Arbor Beer Week

This Monday through Thursday, it’s officially beer week in Ann Arbor. Bars across town are participating in special events to commemorate the week, and there are a few special events around town as well. First, the week-long deals:

  • Arbor Brewing Company – $3 select draughts 4-7pm.
  • Arena – $3 draughts 4-7pm, $3.25 Michigan draughts 10pm-close.
  • Ashley’s – $1 off draughts 3-6pm, Appetizer specials 3-6pm.
  • Bar Louie – $3 draughts 4-7pm.
  • Blue Leprechaun – $2 Miller Lite all day.
  • Cottage Inn – $2.50 draughts, half-off appetizers 3pm-close Monday-Wednesday only. Bell’s Poolside Ale available all week.
  • Old Town 0 $1 off Michigan beers 4-6pm and 10pm-close.
  • Tio’s – $1 off draughts and Mexican beers 3-6pm.
Arbor Brewing Company

Arbor Brewing Company Presents The 2nd Annual A2 Beer Week

The special events throughout the week include Monday beer trivia at Ashley’s, Tuesday discounts at all participating bars (the above plus Alley Bar) if you wear a Michigan beer t-shirt, Bar Golf on Wednesday, and an American Craft Beer Celebration at Arbor on Thursday. This week is the kick-off for Arbor’s 15th Anniversary Weekend, so check out their website for ticket info and further details. More on the Anniversary Weekend (including details on the street party on Friday) later in the week.

This is a very odd lineup, especially for a “beer week” event. Blue Leprechaun and Tio’s, in particular, are not exactly beer bars, and the rest are questionable inclusions to varying degrees. It would have been nice to see some other legit beer bars and microbreweries (Blue Tractor, Grizzly Peak, Jolly Pumpkin) on the roster.