We only had about an hour of driving left until we arrived in Ann Arbor, our destination for the night. But we couldn’t just drive straight through – no, there’s too much beer to drink in this world! First, we stopped in South Lyon to visit Witch’s Hat Brewing.
We were ravenously hungry when we walked in and absentmindedly ordered the first food item we saw. Pro tip: if you’re about to taste a bunch of beers, don’t get the spicy salsa. So please keep in mind that the following beer reviews were impacted by a fiery spiciness, since I am a total wimp.
We still managed to taste 10 more beers, including two variations on a milk stout named Sweet Lou – one aged in a bourbon barrel and one made with cinnamon, chipotle and ginger (called The Angry Ginger). The Sweet Lou itself was a little too sweet for my liking, like a sugary mocha drink. The amusingly-named Angry Ginger did a lot to temper that sweetness. Even though it wasn’t spicy, the chipotle added a nice savory twist, the ginger came through nicely and the cinnamon was a lovely accent.
My favorite was the Apricot Hyppie Girl, a blonde ale brewed with coriander and apricots. It tasted just like I always wish apricot beers would taste; fruity but not too sweet, with lots of citrus character and just a twist of berry.
Although I really enjoyed the beer, what I loved even more was the communal vibe of the taproom. This was also my first encounter with a mug club. As soon as I walked in to the taproom, I was struck by the large wall of glass mugs that made up the majority of the decoration. Curious, I asked about them, and was told that the mugs could be purchased by members of their club, who also had access to special events and discounted beers for their membership. These mugs were all hand crafted and hand paint, and were left at the brewery for specific drinking only purposes. I’d never heard of a mug club before, but it’s a brilliant idea.
Finally, we trudged off to Ann Arbor to settle for the night. Our last brewery stop for the day was Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, a brewery specializing in the production of sour styles. Ann Arbor itself is a lovely university town; a nice downtown core is filled with hip bars, stores and a very impressive comic book and board game store. Fun fact: Ann Arbor is actually the hometown of Iggy Pop!
Jolly Pumpkin is delightful in many ways, featuring not just their beers but food and delicious cocktails as well, made with their own spirits. Nick and I split a flight of beers, all with varying degrees of sourness. Even though Nick doesn’t usually go for pumpkin beers, we both really enjoyed La Parcela. The pumpkin flavor was very present but wasn’t too sweet an was complemented well with some spices and orange. The Bam Noire was also exceptional. This dark farmhouse ale tastes strongly of berries, with just a hint of coffee and plums.
Even though we were in it for the beer, my cocktail was a definite highlight. The Thai Boxer is rum-based, with creamy coconut milk, ginger beer, lime, mint, cilantro and basil. All these flavors meld together to create a tropical vacation in my mouth.
(Side note: I wore my Jolly Pumpkin shirt yesterday, and never have I made more friends in New York City. There were three separate occasions when complete strangers told me it was their favorite brewery. Jolly Pumpkin, you’ve got lots of fans in NYC!)
We stopped by an impressively stocked bar that whipped up a mean Old Fashioned, and promptly collapsed into bed as soon as we returned to the hotel.
Drinking all day is hard work, guys.
NEXT TIME ON THE GREAT MICHIGAN BEER JOURNEY: It’s a new day, and our journey to Kalamazoo takes us on a detour. We visit New Holland and Founders, two big dogs in the Michigan beer scene.