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



Michigan Breweries: The Biggest and Newest

Michigan Breweries: The Biggest and Newest

Since it’s the week leading up to the Michigan Brewers’ Guild Winter Festival, we’re excited about beer in the state of Michigan. The mainstream media seems to be similarly stoked. First, the top 10 brewers (by volume) in the state of Michigan, per MLive’s Kalamabrew blog:

1. Bell’s Brewery Inc., Kalamazoo (153,973)
2. Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids (28,516)
3. New Holland Brewing Co., Holland (12,314)
4. Michigan Brewing Co., Webberville, (9,856)
5. Arcadia Brewing Co., Battle Creek (8,759)
6. Short’s Brewing Co., Bellaire (8,420)
7. Dark Horse Brewing Co., Marshall (6,179)
8. Keweenaw Brewing Co., Houghton (5,420)
9. Atwater Block Brewery, Detroit (4,700)
10. Arbor Brewing Co./Corner Brewery, Ann Arbor (4,057)

It’s shocking to me (though it probably shouldn’t be) just how much bigger Bell’s is than Founders. I’ve been to almost every brewery on the list, but haven’t hit up Short’s or Keweenaw in the flesh.

Various newspapers are gearing up for the MBG Winter Festival by profiling breweries. The Kalamazoo Gazette talks Dark Horse, which I’m glad to hear is in the stages of some expansion. The Marshall-based brewery has to be one of the more underrated producers of craft beer in the state. Speaking of expansion, it’s no secret that Founders is is trending upward as well. They project 45,000 barrels of production this year.

There’s a ton more information on MLive about the state’s beer economy and the MBG Winter Festival itself, so check it out. We’ll be talking about Michigan beer all week on YBD because we are very excite indeed for the weekend.

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.

Guest Post: Hopcat Tasting Event

Special thanks to Geoff of The Hoover Street Rag for this guest post. Geoff took in a tasting event at Hopcat in Grand Rapids, and was kind enough to pass along notes.

Shorts Huma Lupa Licious
IPA – Pint glass.

Love the Huma. Always a favorite of mine.  And $6 for a pint plus the house burger and crack fries is a fantastic bargain.  The first taste is of crashing hops bitterness with citrus.  It mellows briefly  before a second wave hits, then the long finish.

Hopcat Kodial Killer
American Barleywine – Tulip glass

Dark, near-black appearance with an aroma of whisky and dark fruits.  Drink slowly to keep from being overwhelmed by the alcohol and pronounced fruit notes and ruining the flavor, which is refined by aging for four months in spend Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout barrels.

Shorts Bourbon Barrel Huma Lupa Licious
IPA – Globe-shaped sampler glass

I wanted to be able to directly compare the bourbon barrel version to the standard, and it’s almost unnecessary.  The whisky smell is huge off of it, obscuring the grapefruit notes of the original, and the bourbon taste is even bigger, almost obliterating the regular Huma, though it’s there underneath everything.  I’ll defer to the Hopcat description: “Think creamy vanilla-laced hop cones, soaked in bourbon.”

Shorts Bourbon Barrel Sustenance
Schwartzbier – Tulip

Oh, this is delicious.  Full of the toasty schwartzbier maltiness with the bourbon coming in around the edges.  I could drink this all night

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
Globe-shaped sampler glass

I had the Bourbon County Stout before, in a 4-pack of 12-ounce bottles, and it was something of a disappointment.  I’d had the Founders KBS before (on tap at the brewery) and hoped that Goose Island would be able to compete with that.  What I tasted was very good, but not in the same class as the KBS.  I’m extremely happy to report that I was totally off base on that.  On tap, Bourbon County Stout is a revelation.  It’s huge, thick; viscous as motor oil and full of chocolate, bourbon, and coffee.  The clear winner on the night.  I still prefer the KBS overall (I think the flavors are a little more complex), but this is ever so close.

Dark Horse Plead the 5th
Russian Imperial Stout – Globe-shaped sampler glass

The lightest RIS I’ve ever encountered.  It pours brown and translucent with no real head by the time it was served.  A whiff of alcohol on the nose, not much more in terms of scent, it has a smooth mouthfeel with tastes of dark chocolate and a strong whisky finish.

Goose Island Imperial Brown Goose
Old Ale – Globe-shaped sampler glass

Pours dark brown with a persistent, thin off-white head.  Goose Island blended their 2004 and 2005 Christmas ales and aged them in 4-year-old Jim Beam and 12-year-old Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, and I can detect cinnamon and nutmeg among other spices alongside a mellow bourbon flavor.

Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout
Russian Imperial Stout – Globe-shaped sampler glass

It smells like a beer, but tastes STRONGLY of charcoal smoke.  Must be the oak chips it’s been aged with, giving it a burnt flavor that lingers for a long time after the vanilla flavors fade away.

Avery Samael’s Ale
English Barleywine – Globe-shaped sampler glass

It tastes sweet and light, but packs a 14.5% ABV wallop and finishes with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Founders Backwoods Bastard
We Heavy Scotch Ale – Globe-shaped sampler glass

You can taste the Dirty Bastard under it all, but to me it tastes more like Devil Dancer than anything else.  It has that same way about it where it hits like a sledgehammer and lingers.

Founders Black Biscuit
Old Ale – Tulip glass

The pour overflowed the glass on the way over and now my hands smell like beer and chocolate.  Black Biscuit has a thin but persistently full head and pours thick and black.  This is a black old ale aged in bourbon barrels, and the chocolate, bourbon, and roasted malt flavors dominate.  It’s not quite as huge or complex as a bourbon stout, but the tradeoff is that it’s more drinkable.  Definitely give this one a try if you have the chance.

Atwater Barrel Aged Cherry Stout Firkin
Stout – Globe-shaped sampler glass

Tastes like black cherries soaked in bourbon and dropped into a stout, but not overpowering the stout base.  I’m not a big fan of fruit beers, but I can see myself ordering this as a a full pour.