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)

Tasting Notes – One Wort Twenty Yeasts

Waaaay back in early June, Original Gravity Brewing in Milan hosted the Ann Arbor Brewer’s Guild for the One wort 20 yeasts experiment. The concept is… exactly as it sounds. The same wort was fermented with twenty different White Labs yeasts, in order to examine the effect that yeast strain had on the final taste of the beer.

The official AABG tasting notes can be found on their website, and our notes are listed after the yeast strain for each of the different beers that we tried. I’ll go out on a limb and say their notes are much more detailed than ours (but then, most of them have been brewing and drinking a lot longer than we have):

  1. WLP001 California Ale Yeast
  2. WLP002 English Ale Yeast
  3. WLP004 Irish Ale Yeast
  4. WLP005 British Ale Yeast
  5. WLP007 Dry English Ale Yeast – Less hoppy than 9.
  6. WLP008 East Coast Ale Yeast
  7. WLP009 Australian Ale Yeast
  8. WLP011 European Ale Yeast – Slightly dry, earthy, not as hoppy.
  9. WLP028 Edinburgh Scottish Ale Yeast More full than 5.
  10. WLP029 German Ale/Kolsch Yeast
  11. WLP036 Dusseldorf Alt Yeast – Citrus. Slight more malty than 8. We may have switched cups here, because this one tasted more like a trappist.
  12. WLP041 Pacific Ale Yeast
  13. WLP051 California Ale Yeast – More citrus than 1. Ester flavors.
  14. WLP060 American Ale Yeast Blend
  15. WLP080 Cream Ale Yeast Blend – Texture thicker than #4, but more dry.
  16. WLP500 Trappist Ale Yeast
  17. WLP550 Belgian Ale Yeast
  18. WLP566 Belgian Saison II Yeast
  19. WLP810 San Francisco Lager Yeast
  20. WLP862 Cry Havoc – Black pepper flavor.

Note that most of our notes are simply comparisons to another of the yeasts – because we tried them in batches of three or four. Some of them may have gotten… confused. More in-depth notes may or may not be posted at a later date.

Original Gravity Two Year Anniversary

Original Gravity Brewing

Tim and I were  bored last Saturday and decided to check out a brew pub we had never been to before. I couldn’t walk long distances on account of a badly sprained ankle, so it seemed like a great a opportunity to drive out to a brewpub in the surrounding area.

We decided to head two towns over to Milan, MI and check out Original Gravity Brewing Company. It’s just off the road in an unassuming building that used to be an auto garage. The first thing you notice as you walk in is the brewing equipment set in the far corner of the space. Most places separate their brewing area from their dining area, but OG decided to incorporate it with the bar surrounding one side and a low fence surrounding the other. Immediately upon walking in, you get the impression that this place is about beer.

There are quite a few round wooden tables with heavy wooden chairs set in two separate sections, but Tim and I decided to sidle up to the bar. The bar itself is impressive. It is very wide and made out of heavy, dark wood. From the look of the place to the ease and friendliness of the waitstaff you get the feeling the that the place has been around for a long time, yet, as the title of the post may have hinted, OG is just under 2 years old.

Tim and I had both tried some of their beers before (Primordial Porter for Tim, 440 Smoker for me), so we came in with some pretty high expectations. The most memorable beer for me was their Southpaw IPA. Their website describes as being hopped with copious amounts of Cascade and Amarillo hops, which I usually associate with a citrusy, almost grapefruit flavor. The hop taste in this IPA was more resiny and syrupy, which is not to say it was bad. It was a different taste in an IPA than I’d grown accustom to, and the hop taste balanced well with a fairly sweet malt base.

We’ll probably be heading back to OG this Saturday for their 2 year anniversary extravaganza. There are details here, but the highlights include $2 pints until 4pm, BBQ starting at 1pm and, in a collaboration with White Labs, are showcasing the power of yeast. They are taking the same beer recipe and using different varieties of yeast to showcase the flavor profiles of different strains. All 20 beers will be on tap starting at 3pm. If you’re interested in homebrewing and the subtleties therein, this is definitely an event you’ll want to check out.