Archive for the ‘Brewery Visits’ Category

Brewery Vivant – Belgium Meets Michigan (Awesomeness Ensues)

Monday, January 16th, 2012

As I’ve mentioned before, I end up in Western Michigan from time to time visiting the in-laws. It seems as though each time I visit a new brewery or brew pub has miraculously appeared in the interim. On this occasion I visited Brewey Vivant, another oasis in the desert of macro brew hell that has plagued our friends in the middle of the country until recent years.

But even with the advent of such great players as Founders, New Holland, Shorts, and Bell’s, Brewery Vivant stands out as unique. Offering up Belgian tradition in the land of Miller Lite is daring to say the least, but Brewery Vivant has several great things going for it, not the least of which is its location inside what used to be a funeral home that looks strikingly like a Belgian monastery. My wife and I were able to sneak away the day after Thanksgiving for a few rounds, which turned out to be a perfect time. There were only a handful of folks in the taproom and we happened to catch one of the managers at the taps. We had a great beer geek conversation about what they were doing and, after talking for a while, we scored a private brewery tour through the beautiful towers of stainless steel and wooden barrels behind the taproom. It always inspires me to see the operating floor of brewpubs and how they can create great brews in a small space.

While their beers obviously tend toward the Belgian malty and yeast-forward flavors, they are brewed with a certain (I hesitate to use the word) restraint. This is not to say they are timid about the Belgian style at all, but rather have created a line up of beers that can be both enjoyed for their complexity without being so overwhelming that you only want one. I have been handed more than my share of “Belgian Triples” that made my eyes dilate with intense sweet or ester flavors. Brewery Vivant has not fallen into these practices in the least, opting instead for a refined, very drinkable compositions.

Another point of note for Brewery Vivant is their use of cans over bottles. Not just any cans, mind you, but 16oz “pint cans”. I’ve been a fan of the can for some time now, and it’s great to see another brewery going that direction, not just because cans keep out the light, but also for the better environmental impact. In another nod to the environment, they offset their energy use by purchasing Renewable Energy Credits. All of this makes the California Hippie in me very happy, all the more so after a few of their Farm Hand and Solitude ales. I’m already looking forward to my next trip!

Fifty Fifty Brewery – Truckee, CA

Thursday, August 19th, 2010
Spending the back end of the week here in Truckee, CA and, surprise surprise, I found a brewery! Full disclosure – I’ve been here once before a few years ago after a long day at Northstar ski resort, but I honestly didn’t recall what I thought of the brewery. So this time I went with an eye toward a proper tasting.
I started with the Manifesto Pale Ale. It’s more malt forward that I was expecting, but not out of style. The hops were definitely present, but not overwhelming. The menu said 35 IBU and I buy it. Very California/West Coast citrus hop character, I’m guessing Cascade or perhaps Amarillo. It definitely grew on me after a few sips.
The Rockslide IPA was pretty impressive. Again, a bigger malt character, than your run-of-the-mill IPA. The hops were also pretty big with Amarillo, Centennial and Summit hops. You get a big hit of grapefruit, and hop resin flavor followed by a reasonably dry finish. They don’t filter it so it has a real homebrew aspect to it.
I will be back for their Donner Party Porter and the Basecamp Golden Ale, which I didn’t have time for it on this trip, but it’s always good to leave wanting more! 🙂

Michigan breweries – Tasting notes

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

During my high-speed posting while at the breweries and brewpubs last week, I really didn’t give proper tasting notes for much of what we had.  I thought I’d rectify that with an overview of my favorite beer from each of the places I visited:

Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids
While I was very fond of the Bourbon Apple Cream Ale, the Looking Glass Double IPA came away as my favorite. Seems when people do a 2xIPA they tend to come out a bit sweet, regardless of the truckload of hops that go in to them. Looking Glass, despite clocking in at 11% ABV, had a residual sweetness, but the hop character still came through, keeping this an outstanding IPA rather than an over hopped barley wine.
New Holland Brewing Co., Holland
I’m going with the Smoked Hatter as my favorite this time. Not just for the guts it takes to monkey with your main beer, but for the truly excellent malt and smoke flavor of this beer. If you’ve had a Rauchbier from Germany, the smoke flavor can be overwhelming, but this one added such a nice compliment to the beer while not dominating the malt and hop character that I love in the original Mad Hatter IPA.
Hideout Brewing, Grand Rapids
The Ginger Lee narrowly beats out their Belgian style sour beer for my favorite this time out. The ginger was well pronounced, perhaps even dominating over the malt and hops, but since I’m such a ginger fanatic, I loved it! The base beer is a pale ale, brewed with a light malt and hop character, not doubt to allow the ginger to knock this one out of the park. It was a very nice spice finish with no residual sweetness to cover the mild citrus hop character.

A return to heaven – New Holland Brewing Co.

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Some years ago, I started going to Michigan with my wife to visit the in-laws. Of course I looked up brewpubs in the area and New Holland came up quick. They have never disappointed and this trip was no exception. They love playing with their flagship beer, Mad Hatter IPA. This time, aside from the usual high gravity Imperial Hatter, they had an oak aged and a smoked Hatter. Both were delicious! I simply can not rave about this place enough and if ever you are in the area you would do yourself a big solid to swing by and try these for yourself!

Hop Cat

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Hop Cat is a daring place. The have some 40 or 50 beers on tap and some in bottles, the majority of which are top-shelf stuff. Then they also have their own stuff which is brewed on the premises. Their IPA was well hopped with good citrus notes. The food here is better than average pub grub. Worth a stop. It’s not a very clear shot of the beer list, but you get the idea.

The Hideout – find it!

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

This completely out of the way brew pub is well worth a look. They have an excellent sour beer on tap and a very good ginger infused pale that I had twice. They do small batch runs – 50 gallons or so it looks like. I bought the t-shirt, so you know it’s good!

Next stop: Michigan Brewing Co.

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

A good pale ale, wheat and oatmeal stout, but nothing that blew my mind. Still, solid beers. I can see why the locals like it.

On tour in Michigan

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

First stop, Founder’s in Grand Rapids!