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.

Grizzly Peak Fouch Hill Dark Ale

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Grizzly Peak's Fouch Hill Dark Ale

Listed as a “session mild ale,” one of Grizzly Peak’s Autumn offerings for 2010 is the Fouch Hill Dark Ale. An ale with a Scottish flavor, the name seems to foreshadow that, though Fouch Hill is actually located in Northern Michigan, on the Leelenau Peninsula near Traverse City.

Anyway, onto the beer. The aroma is very light, with almost no hint of hops, and mostly a peaty scent (again, reminiscent of imports from Scotland). I could do with a bit more aroma there, actually.

The flavor itself is heavily peat-y, almost something straight out of Scotland, with almost no hint of traditional flavoring hops. There are roasty malts a-plenty, along with a decent alcohol flavor – belying this session beer’s 4.8% ABV. A sweet, malty flavor persists throughout.

The color is a deep caramel, though the beer is a little more transparent than you’d expect from the style. The mouthfeel is a little light for the expectation from the flavor, though it sticks around a bit after swallowing. The carbonation is a little lacking, but that’s more likely a service issue than one from the brewing process.

There are a few (minor) deficiencies with this beer, but in all honesty, it’s the best craft brew I’ve had in at least a few weeks. I’ll be glad to have it as long as it’s on tap at Grizzly Peak.

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.

Drink Beer, Support Wolverines

A hearty tip ‘o the cap to user James Burrill Angell of the day job for bringing this to my attention.

Next Saturday the Jolly Pumpkin taphouse in downtown Ann Arbor will be hosting an event to support the Pat Maloy Cancer Scholarship and the UM Club of Greater Detroit’s Scholarship fund. Blue Tractor, Jolly Pumpkin, and Grizzly Peak are participating in the event, each pairing food dishes with beers from their breweries.

Guests have the opportunity to vote for their favorite pairings, and the winning restaurant will be awarded the Maize and Blue Cup. Proceeds go to a good cause, so check it out. More details on the official .pdf.