Arcadia Barrel Aged Shipwreck Porter

What. A. Beer.

Arcadia Shipwreck Porter

Arcadia Shipwreck Porter

If you’ve read more than a couple of our posts, you’re probably well-aware that I’m a big fan of darker, maltier beers (i.e. porters), and Paul and I are both true lovers of a good bourbon-aged ale. So, this was a beer I was really excited to try (though that’s worked against a couple beers in the recent past). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it in Ann Arbor – and in my search I realized there’s really no good bottle shop in Ann Arbor. There are a few that are OK, but nothing that you go into expecting to find whatever you’re looking for, regardless of how rare or new it is.

Fortunately, Paul was able to find this beer in Chicago at the always-excellent Binny’s. He brought a bottle with him to Ann Arbor prior to heading back west for the Winter Beer Festival, and we kicked off an epic, boozy weekend by trying this bad boy out.

At first, I was really taken aback by the twist-off cap. When you go through the care of sealing every bottle with wax, it seems counter-intuitive to bother with twist-offs. On the other hand, I guess the wax goes a long way to ensuring freshness, despite the less-perfect seal. Anyway, on with the show.

The beer pours plenty dark, with a nice caramel head. Since we were splitting a 12-oz. bottle, each got half a glass. On the nose, there was a ton of bourbon flavor, with vanilla and malty flavors, to go along with standard brewing malts. A very, very sweet and thick-smelling beer.

The taste… my mouth is watering just remembering what this tasted like. Tons of malt, excellent bourbon flavor. There was a surprising amount of chocolate flavor in there as well, but it was just a complement to the main malty and bourbony flavors, of course. When you’re drinking it, you can tell it’s a big beer, but there’s not enough alcohol in the flavor that you’d guess it’s a 12% beer.

Basically what I’m trying to say is I really liked it.

ROAD TRIP: Chicago

When our rag-tag trio of brewing and drinking compatriots split up and mostly departed Ann Arbor, MI (Nathan moved to Vail, CO, Paul to Chicago), it didn’t mean that our exploits in the beer world had come to an end. On the contrary, it opened new doors for our exploration.

The Route

The Route

I recently strode through one of those doors, taking a road trip from Ann Arbor to Chicago to visit Paul. The travel itself was about 5 hours worth of Interstate 94, but I had other plans. As you can see on the right, I planned to stop at nearly every brewery within a reasonable distance from the highway on my route – with detailed instructions written out (it’s always risky to put too much trust in cell phone navigation apps).

So, shortly after 11AM on one fine Wednesday, I left town heading West on the highway, hoping to make it to Dark Horse Brewery in Marshall, MI around noon. I got there shortly after my target time, and grabbed a Reserve Special Black Ale. I (quite foolishly) forgot to take any notes on it, or if I did, they’re long-lost by this point. It was back the the road.

Dark Horse Brewing

Dark Horse Brewing

From Marshall, it was a relatively quick trip to Battle Creek, where I stopped for lunch at Arcadia Brewing Company. Though I’d been there before, it had been a couple years, and much longer since I’d gotten food there. I was surprised then, that a place priding itself on the brewing of authentic Britsh-style ales would also have semi-authentic barbecue comprising a big part of their food menu (along with wood-fired pizzas). I ordered a pulled pork sandwich that came with a choice of several sauces, including chipotle BBQ, Carolina, and Kansas City.

Arcadia Nut Brown Ale

Arcadia Nut Brown Ale

Unfortunately, their beer selection was limited on that day, and I was unable to try something new, having to settle for a brew I’d tried on previous occasions. I went with the Nut Brown (fall seasonal), which was solid as always, but a disappointment because I was looking to expand my horizons.

After taking my time with the meal (and ordering water instead of a second beer, of course), it was back to the road, and I passed up the highway in order to take a back route to Kalamazoo, where I’d stop at Bell’s Brewing and the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange – which, while not a brewery, has “beer” right in the name, so I couldn’t pass it up.

In my effort to stay sober, I decided to make Bell’s a carry-out only stop, and I popped into their general store for a 6-pack of their Batch 10,000 – the last in their numbered batch series. The store itself was pretty cool as well, with Bell’s souvenirs such as T-shirts and hats, along with a cooler stocked with Bell’s beers, and even a homebrew section. I regret not walking around the corner to visit the Eccentric Cafe, but I didn’t have the time.

Going around the corner the other way led to the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange, which had opened just a couple days earlier. Without really knowing what it was (you should really have made it a bit more clear on that since-updated website, folks) I was pleasantly surprised to find a really cool setup for a multi-story restaurant and bar inside what was otherwise an office building.

Kalamazoo Beer Exchange

Kalamazoo Beer Exchange Entrance

Kalamazoo Beer ExchangeKalamazoo Beer Exchange Interior

Since I would be unable to stop into The Livery in Benton Harbor (which didn’t open until 4PM), I planned to get my fix of one of their beers at KBE, but some sort of snafu led to ending up with something else – it tasted like a Belgian Dubbel or Tripel – that didn’t meet the description of anything that The Livery brews. I had no problem, as it was delicious, but I’ll never know which beer I actually ended up drinking there.

From Kalamazoo, it was a long trip before another stop, which I finally made a mere 6 miles from the Indiana border at a tasting room for the Round Barn Winery and Brewery. Not wanting to do any tasting of my own, I was intrigued by their house-made spirits, and since they didn’t have a great beer selection available for purchase, I picked up a half-pint of their Whiskey.

Shoreline Brewery Setting

Tommy used to work on the docks...

From there, it was on the Michigan City, Indiana, where I would eventually end up at a brewery that looked like it was set in a Bon Jovi song. With lakeside factories pumping out exhaust in the background, Shoreline Brewery sits near the banks of Lake Michigan. The building itself seems to be some sort of defunct factory, and it was tricky getting to the taproom area.

Shoreline Brewery

Shoreline Brewery

My intention was to pick up a growler from Shoreline, but since I didn’t know what they had available, I inquired with the kind young lady tending bar what was available. Once she told me they had a barrel-aged series on special, I was hooked. That one of the choices was a barleywine only sealed the deal. I purchased a growler of the beer, and got back on the road.

After an ill-fated stop in Indiana to visit a brewery that had shuttered its windows for good (thanks for mentioning it on your website, guys, or at least disconnecting your phone), I made my way to the final brewery stop of the day: Three Floyds in Munster, Indiana.

Three Floyds

Three Floyds

Three Floyds

Three Floyds

By this time, I has grown pretty weary of my travels (and as you can see, night had fallen since the ast time I stepped foot inside a building), so I made quick work of purchasing a 6-pack of Robert the Bruce, a Scotch Ale that I’d never had, despite it being one of the more popular offerings of Three Floyds. With a couple quick pictures of the pub area and one of the brewery, I was ready to finally get on to my destination: Chicago.

In all, it was a good time, and though I had planned it well, there were some hiccups along the road. If I were to to it again, I’d certainly try to ensure I wouldn’t be flying solo the whole time.

Review: Arcadia Brewing Company

The Location:

103 West Michigan Avenue – Battle Creek, Michigan

The Facts:

Arcadia Brewing Company, the producer of Arcadia Ales, opened in 1996 in downtown Battle Creek, during a revamp period in area spurred by a request by Kellogg for the city to unghettofy or else they would move out of the area  (and when the largest employer of your city gives you an ultimatum, you obey). They rock a 25-barrel Peter Austin system and are in the process of adding additional fermentation tanks.

Several of their beers are hopped with locally grown hops picked from the fields owned by Jolly Pumpkin in Dexter, MI.

Notable Beers:

  • Arcadia Amber Ale – American Amber
  • Arcadia Angle Ale – English Pale
  • Arcadia IPA – IPA
  • Arcadia Jaw Jacker –  Pumpkin Ale
  • Arcadia Whitsun – Witbier
  • Arcadia Hopmouth Double IPA -DIPA
  • Arcadia London Porter – Porter
  • Arcadia Scotch Ale – Scotch Ale
  • Arcadia Nut Brown – Brown Ale
  • Arcadia Cannonball Gold – Wheat Ale
  • Arccadia Cereal Killer – Barley Wine

Review:

As the only brewery in my hometown of Battle Creek, I have a special attachment to this place. Most of their beers are decent to good (the Scotch Ale is phenomenal). None of their beers I’ve had do I really dislike, though the wheat beers aren’t exactly my style (few are).

Pricing is average, generally around $4/pint, with a few of the larger beers being abound $5.  They have typical brewpub food, that is pretty good, but expensive, and a staff that at least knows a bit about the process/beers, even if they can’t tell you the exact type of hops added in a particular beer.

Bottle of Arcadia Ales can be found throughout Michigan and in other parts of the midwest, and is turning into a top 5 Michigan brewery in terms of distribution. If you haven’t tried any of their beer, and see it in the story, I’d recommend picking up a sixer (try the Scotch!).