Happy Hour: Dark Horse Will Not Look At That Photograph

Darkhorse And Nickleback?

Chad Kroeger


So… a couple years ago Nickleback or some representative approached Dark Horse Brewery about some sort of promotional agreement. Apparently, Nickleback’s sixth studio albums (srlsy? they have six?!) is called Dark Horse. Some marketing intern probably got a synergy stiffy and sent off an email. Dark Horse’s marketing director asked what they should do in the blog post linked above. The owner of Dark Horse, Alan Morse, stepped in and made the executive decision to decline the offer because Nickleback is “shit rock.”

This story got posted up on Reddit on Wednesday and blew up Twitter. As Michigan Brewing Company has taught us, hitching your wagon to mediocre musicians is not a good long term solution. That and you should probably pay your bills every once in a while…

(h/t @BeerAdvocate)

Zymurgy’s Best Beers in America

Pliny the Elder


Zymurgy, the magazine run by the American Homebrewers Association, released the results of its 2012 Best Beers in America survey. Pliny the Elder gets the four-peat. I got to taste about 2oz of Pliny at a tailgate this past fall. It was very, very good, but I think the relative difficulty of acquiring it has raised its profile higher than the beer itself. Two Hearted is the first runner up. I’ve written about this previously,  but Two Hearted is a damn good beer that I always overlook because I can always get it. The reverse Pliny, if you will.

Eight of the top ten are some form of IPA1. Thirty-two of the top fifty are between pale ales and hop-bombs. Tim and Nate make fun of me for always getting hoppy beers, but I’m not even this focused. Four Michigan beers made the list, Two Hearted, Hopslam (4th), Founders Breakfast Stout (23rd) and KBS (T37th lolwut?). Bell’s and Founders both rank in the top ten breweries at 5th and 10th respectively.
This may eventually be a full post in the future, but I’m not sure I quite agree with these choice.

Dogfish head Is officially everywhere


Hopslam in Chicago

Tim wrote about his impressions of this year’s Hopslam when it was actually contemporary. He saw Ashley’s tweet about the tapping, and I saw that Sheffield’s was having a tapping party on Facebook. Hooray for beer and social networking!

I won’t give a full review of Hopslam, since Tim took care of that, but I wanted mention a few things about the beer and the bar.

Beer Release Events Are Awesome

Tim attended one at Ashley’s and my Hopslam release was hosted at Sheffield’s. There’s something about the feeling of a crowd together, all excited about the same thing. It’s the reason I like going to movies at midnight the day they open or going to live sports. There’s something about the crowd and shared emotion that makes the event or product itself much more enjoyable.

Beyond the crowd, I enjoyed having a theme for my drinking. Back in Sheffield’s “Beer School” bar they had, in addition to Hopslam, Hell Hath No Fury, Winter White and Two Hearted from Bell’s. It was like being back in Michigan for a night. When I was there for the tapping of Vrienden, a collaboration between New Belgium and Allagash, they also had a New Belgium Trippel and IPA along with Allagash Black and White. While aimlessly exploring an extensive tap list is fun (and usually the way ago), sometimes a more limited, focused and curated experience is awesome as a change of pace.

Sheffield’s Is Awesome

Sheffield's in Chicago

Sheffield's front bar. Photo by Media Fury

This isn’t news or an original thought. Sheffield’s is on Draft Magazine’s top 100 beer bars in the US and comes in at an A- on Beer Advocate. Still, sometimes things just need to be said. The beer list is constantly changing, especially the Beer School Bar. The bar tenders all know and, more importantly, truly enjoy beer.

They also have beer focused events fairly often. To kick off my beer-a-palooza weekend,  I’m going to a five course Texas BBQ dinner paired with beers from Founders. They do a fair amount beer tappings and even road trips, including annual pilgrimages to Two Brothers and to Three Floyds for Dark Lord Day. Throw in the awesome barbecue food, you’ve got my favorite bar in Chicago.

I Don’t Appreciate Bell’s As Much As I Should

I lived the first 24 years of my life in Michigan. Bell’s has been relevant and even top dog in the craft beer scene since I started thinking, “maybe there’s something better than Bud Light…” I’ve never harbored any ill-will toward Bell’s, but when I saw it in the stores next to Arcadia, Founders, New Holland or Shorts, I would almost invariably pick one of the smaller guys.

Being out in Chicago, it’s amazing how excited people get about Bell’s releases. The Chicago Beer Society Listserv I subscribed to was flooded with messages about where you could go to get Hopslam on draft or pick up a case or two. This was totally shocking to me. Back in Michigan, an average party store still has a couple six packs of Batch 9000 and Hell Hath No Fury, etc. Here in Chicago, it’s a mad dash to grab it before it’s gone.

Bell's Beer

A selection of beers made by Bell's

Moving away from Michigan has definitely helped me appreciate Bell’s more. They have tons of different beers (and an incredibly impressive selection of stouts) and almost all of them are anywhere between Very Good and I Could Die Right Now And Be Happy.

I’ll credit it to a mixture of expatriate nostalgia and appreciation borne from seperation, but now when I see Bell’s on draft, I’ll snag a pint (especially Two Hearted). I usually have at least on variety of Bell’s in the fridge at any given time. In getting excited to try new breweries, I let Bell’s fall by the wayside, but that’s not fair to them or, more importantly, to me.

Bell’s Hopslam Release

When Ashey’s Ann Arbor tweeted (@a2ashleys) Monday afternoon that they’d be releasing Bell’s Hopslam Double IPA at 4pm, I had no choice but to venture over there for a taste, right?

Bell's Hopslam

Bell's Hopslam

The description included with the pint (pictured) stated that the hops were chosen on the basis of being very aromatic, though I didn’t think there was a very strong hop aroma. The taste, on the other hand, was out of control. Tons of grapefruit and other citrus flavors from the hops, along with a decent taste of honey, with just enough malt to balance it all out. There wasn’t a strong bitterness either, this was a beer that is primarily hopped for flavor and little else.

I didn’t even realize when I started drinking that it was a 10% ABV beer, because there was no real heat from the alcohol, but it made itself apparent pretty quickly, as I was feeling it halfway through the pint. I typically associate strong honey flavors with high ABV in my mind, so that makes sense. One thing that I really liked about this beer was great color for a DIPA – it’s a little darker than many, but that’s because it had a nice malty body.

In all, this was a very good – though not quite great – beer, although it’s not my preferred style (more on the porter/stout end of the spectrum).

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.