Midwest Road Trip (Part 2: The Mitten)
If you’ve seen Beth’s post, then the Midwest Road Trip needs no introduction. We did write these posts in backwards order though, because the trip actually started in my home state of Michigan. (Yes, the lower peninsula absolutely looks like a hand. We Michiganders affectionately call our state “the Mitten”. And yes, I am from the thumb – the top thump knuckle in fact.)
Our first stop in Michigan was my sister’s house, for a quick visit with my sister, brother-in-law, (who has been doing awesome design work for us – the logo, business cards, coasters, our eventual exterior sign at the shop, etc. Thanks, Tommy!) and the nephews. Because this is how Michigan rolls, we were greeted with fresh cans of Founders All Day IPA. Welcome to Michigan, The Great Beer State. Don’t worry, we left them some homebrew and other delicious beer they can’t get in Michigan.
It was a short drive from my sister’s to my home town of Port Huron, which sits on the water and just a bridge away from Canada. Port Huron is starting to get some good beer bars (Fuel, The Vintage, Lynch’s) but currently has only one young brewery: Thumb Coast Brewing. I’ve been to Thumb Coast a handful of times since it opened just over a year ago, and each time I go I’m thoroughly impressed with the beer. They’re making great beer across several styles. They started simple by nailing it with classic to-style recipes and are now branching out into some more adventurous brews (like the Black Cherry Wheat), also with good success.
After a couple of days in the thumb, we headed toward my alma mater, the beautiful city of Ann Arbor. On the way, we decided to make a quick stop at the homebrew shop – Adventures in Homebrewing. We needed a ton of stuff for some recipe experiments we’re conducting, and AiH was the perfect place to get those small quantities of many different kind of grains that we needed.
From AiH we went to Ann Arbor’s neighboring town of Ypsilanti, which my GPS thought was pronounced something like “Pss-lanta”. A quick stop off at my friend Erin’s house, where she would spend the next couple of days/nights hosting us, was followed by a trip to Corner Brewery, Arbor Brewing Company’s microbrewery. Of course we imbibed in some Bollywood Blond and Ypsi Gypsy Pale Ale, but we made it an early night because we had a big day of beer ahead of us the next day!
We woke to a gorgeous Michigan day. There aren’t many of those as early in the year as April, so we took advantage with a quick jog around town, seeing the famed Ypsi water tower/phallus, and Eastern Michigan’s campus. (I will take the blame for extending our run to make sure it included the water tower, but I blame Erin for making the run 4+ miles.)
We started our Ann Arbor day at Hopcat’s new location. Hopcat is a beer bar originally out of Grand Rapids, which has recently started to expand. In Ann Arbor, they are located where the Borders Books used to be. It brings a little tear to my soul to know that even the very first Borders store has gone the way of the dinosaur, but my “books rant” is a story for another time. Back to the beer! We decided to keep it local and went with Dark Horse’s Crooked Tree IPA and Brewery Vivant’s Big Red Coq. Now, Beth is not usually one for a red ale, but throw a Belgian yeast in there and she’s on board. (It was delicious – I’m not usually jealous of someone else when I’m drinking something as beautifully hoppy as the Crooked Tree, but I admit I had a small amount of beer envy.)
A trip to Ann Arbor wouldn’t be complete without a (partial) campus tour, so we checked out some of my old stomping grounds while working up an appetite for more beer. The B-School, the Diag, the Law Quad, and Liberty Street all led to Jolly Pumpkin, land of sour beer. We split a Biere de Mars – a Flanders style sour that poured a murky red-ish color and tasted, well, great. We’re still admittedly sour rookies, but this one was tart without being astringent and intensely fruity. If you’re into sours, or trying to get into sours, Jolly Pumpkin is putting some great things out there, and is even available in our area!
We closed out our Ann Arbor day with dinner at Blue Tractor, which specializes in BBQ and…you guessed it, brewing! We went for their sampler, which had all six of their offerings and a bonus brew: a Jalapeno Pale Ale. The six base beers were all solid, with the nitro stout being my favorite. (What? It was evening and starting to get cold outside – it’s Michigan!) The Jalapeno Pale Ale was…something that will have to grow on me. My spice wimpiness definitely plays a role here, but I am still searching for a pepper beer that I’m into. But I will keep trying!
All in all a great time was had in the Mitten. And I will reluctantly admit that Ohio was fun too. (I’m kidding! We had a great time all the way through!) We started the trip with a trunk full of beer, and we came back with a trunk full of completely different beer. Sounds like a win to me.