Weekend Holiday Beer Haul!

It’s been quite the week for your favorite Beer Intern! I’m typing this up a little later than expected (it’s still technically Thursday, right?) because I’m still recovering from the incredible weekend I had. Last Saturday, I joined my family in celebrating the wedding of my cousin Ally and her now-husband Jason at the gorgeous Mont Tremblant in Quebec.

We spent the weekend drinking, dancing and eating too much – basically, all the things you’re supposed to do at a wedding.

Such a beautiful wedding!
Such a beautiful wedding!

But before we kicked off the wedding weekend, Beer Nerd Boyfriend and I had a day to dive into our stash of tasty treats. Some of these beers were leftovers from our Michigan trip, and some I had just picked up at Prospect Heights Beer Works, my go-to bottle shopping spot. Without further ado, here are some short reviews of what turned out to be a very excellent beer night. 20151016_210124

2015 Le Terroir Dry Hopped Sour Ale, New Belgium

We started off with a sour we picked up as we left Kalamazoo. This dry hopped sour ale is a yearly release, and each batch is aged for three years in giant wooden barrels called foeders. The result is a beer that hits some citrus and grass notes on the nose, but undeniably stars some serious sour cherry. The taste is tart and funky, like a good sour should be. The cherry builds slowly, and the finish is sour, bitter and sweet all at once. Those citrus notes from the hops are there too. Yum!20151016_213237Chocolate Sombrero, Clown Shoes (brewed by the Mercury Brewing Company)

This one was a complete surprise. Neither of us had ever heard of Clown Shoes or Mercury Brewing from Ipswich, Massachusetts. We just bought it because – well, c’mon, look at that label! How could you not? Especially when the beer in question is a chocolate stout brewed to be reminiscent of Mexican hot chocolate. I think I’ll let Clown Shoes describe the beer, because I don’t think I can do any better than this:

Roasted dark malts plus extra chocolate malts plus ancho chile plus cinnamon plus vanilla extract plus a chocolate loving, beer drinking, Clown Shoes wearing, multi-limbed, gorgeous and glorious Mexican wrestler on the label. That’s the recipe for a Chocolate Sombrero!

All of that is right there, both in the aroma and the taste (including the wrestler). The mouthfeel is beautifully thick, and intensely chocolatey. The spice and vanilla build gently, and the cinnamon is both very present and very delicious. This is just such a fun beer!20151016_223233

Forgotten Tales of the Last Gypsy Blender: Series 1 Vol 1, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales

Once again we returned to our beloved sours for this saison brewed with tamarind and mango. This is a collaboration between Jolly Pumpkin, one of our favorite makers of sour beers and a stop on our Michigan tour, and Celina Tio, chef/owner of JULIAN and The Belfry in Kansas City. This brew is definitely mango-like in its orange hue, and gives off an aroma of tartness, peachy funk, citrus sweetness and a lot of orange. The taste is like a fresh, tart glass of orange juice; fairly sweet across but with bright citrus, a ton of mango and a pineapple funk near the end that builds to a grapefruit bitterness. In the words of Beer Nerd Boyfriend, “it’s citrus salad in a glass.”20151016_234359

Granny’s Apple Pie, Odd Side Ales

The last beer on our list was from Odd Side Ales, a brewery we didn’t have time to check out on our travels through Michigan. It’s an ale with cider, milk sugar and spices. The color is murky brown, exactly like fresh cider. It smells like a lot of apple, cinnamon and booze. To me, it tasted about the same. Strong on the apple, a little floral, lots of spices and vanilla, some crust-like stuff in the middle along with an astringent finish. Not my favorite beer of the night, but then again I’m not a huge apple pie fan. It did a fine job of replicating all the right flavors of a fall favorite pie. If you love apple pie, you’ll probably like this. 20151017_003012

There you have it, an evening’s worth of delicious beers! And now I’m off to nurse my still hurting legs – that DJ was serious business. Trust me, dancing was mandatory at this wedding.

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The Great Michigan Beer Journey, Day 2: The Road to Ann Arbor

(This is part 3 of an ongoing series about my trip to Bell’s Brewery’s Funvitational in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Read part 1 and part 2 as well!)

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.

Beer waits for no man!
Beer waits for no man!

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.IMG_0960

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.

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This flame-covered one was my personal favorite

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!IMG_0968

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.IMG_0972

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.

So tasty, I just had to pose with it
So tasty, I just had to pose with it

(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.