The Great Michigan Journey, Day 2: Kuhnhenn Brewing Company

(This is part 2 of an ongoing series. To read part 1, click here!)

We set out nice and early from Toronto, ready for a beer-filled journey to Ann Arbor, Michigan. After enjoying a lovely cup of cocoa yerba mate and some delicious vegan muffins, we were on the road again!

Like any other trip to the USA, I was afraid we’d get stuck at the border for a while. I began to fret even more when it seemed like our line was moving more slowly than others. Finally, we pulled up to the window, faced with a serious-looking man holding a travel coffee mug. We only got two questions from him: “where are you going?” and “what do you do?” So we told him.

He was intrigued when I said I was a TV writer, and asked me what exactly that meant.

I launched into my usual speech, saying that I wanted to join a writers’ room someday and write a great show like, say, Breaking Bad.

Oh crap. THINK OF ANOTHER SHOW THINK OF ANOTHER SHOW THINK OF ANOTHER SHOW
Oh crap. Ohhhh Crap. THINK OF ANOTHER SHOW THINK OF ANOTHER SHOW THINK OF ANOTHER SHOW!

Yes, I mentioned a show about crystal meth to a border guard.

He laughed. “I love that show!” He went on to describe how much he enjoyed its five-season run as Nick and I avoided looking at each other incredulously. “Man, it just made me want to quit my job and start selling meth, you know.”

After that unexpected comment, he handed back our passports and waved us off. As soon as we were on the highway, we both burst out laughing. The day was off to a good start!

Our hot streak continued at our first brewery stop in Warren, Michigan. I had never heard of Kuhnhenn Brewing Company when I found it on a bunch of must-visit brewery lists. It turned out to be so fantastic, I’m giving it its own post.

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They even let me borrow a glass and appropriately clad bar staff for picture-taking purposes!

We were immediately thrilled to find 16 beers on tap, and were even more shocked when we were presented with a list of 10 or so meads. We did the best we could to try everything, so we got two flights. What we thought was going to be a quick stop turned into a couple of hours as we were surprised to find that all the beers were excellent. Even better, most had kooky, often pun-filled names; Shandy Koufax (for you baseball fans out there), The Fluffer, Penetration Porter and more. IMG_0921Speaking of The Fluffer, it had to be my favorite, hands down. A light (only 4.5%) West Coast Session, it had those awesome citrus, peach and pine hop notes that I love.  I could have just enjoyed it all day long, if there wasn’t so much other beer to try.

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So refreshing, so hoppy, so yummy!

Another stunner was the Roaster Cider, made with cinnamon, toasted pecans and vanilla. It tasted exactly like a boozy apple pie, with the notes of vanilla and cinnamon appearing very strongly. I could imagine myself sitting in front of a fire mid-winter, enjoying this cider under an enormous, fuzzy blanket.

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Guys, I’m so excited for real autumn to be here.

Their cask for the day, the Coco Thumpin’ Good Time IPA, was also a definite highlight. Basically, the brewers took one of their regular brews and added coffee and cocoa nibs. This was a surprising one – you don’t expect the coffee punch and tons of earthy chocolate from the gold color. Also impressive was Kuhnhenn’s Double Rice IPA, their award-winning flagship beer. That award was definitely justified. There was a ton of citrus along with some pine, just a touch of pepper spiciness, not much malt at all but instead a ton of lemon pith and zest. Just so, so good.

At this point, people starting noticing we were taking notes, and we chatted with a delightful man who turned out to be Eric Sr., the father of the founders/brewmasters, Bret and Eric. He cracked open Kuhnhenn’s cellars and offered us tastes of two unique beers. The first was an aged Simcoe Sillier Belgian golden strong ale, which had lots of sweet maltiness and delicious simcoe hop character. It was the second beer, however, that blew my mind.

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The special brews, in all their glory!

There were only four bottles left of the 2 year bourbon barrel aged imperial stout, and I feel honored that Eric shared one of those with us. It will live on in my memory as not just the best stout, but one of the best beers I have ever put in my mouth. The texture was unctuous in every sense of the word. Both the aroma and flavor were wonderfully complex. Milk chocolate, vanilla, oak, caramel and booze on the nose mixed with figs, coffee and deep toffee in a mouthwatering combination that I never wanted to end. Seriously, I’m drooling now just thinking about it.

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Just look at that. It’s like chocolate milk for adults, but somehow even better.

The deliciousness didn’t even end there – we threw ourselves into three last meads to round out our total to 15. We went the flowery route, opting to try the jasmine tea mead and the lavender mead – both very pleasant. The standout, however, was the cedar-aged, which had just enough woodsiness to cut down on the sweetness of the honey.

IMG_0953All those beers, and our day wasn’t even close to being over! Tune in next time for the rest of the journey to Ann Arbor, some sensational sours and the discover of Michigan’s mug clubs.

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