Posts ByJessica Spengler – PorchDrinking.com
Every 4th of July, citizens across the U.S. gather together to watch their local parade. Red, white and blue floats, outfits and decorations dominate the show, music fills the air, and kids wait in anticipation for candy. Some parades have tractors, some have two-story floats, and others have dancers and singers. While not everyone gets exactly the same show, there are a few parade commonalities across the country that spectators are guaranteed to see. For this special 4th of July edition of our Ultimate 6er, we bring you six of those common elements and the beers that go alongside them.
Michigan is one of those places that never stops. Despite jokes about two seasons (winter and road construction) the truth is, every season begins and ends and brings with it the sort of activities that seem as if they only happen in movies. There is skiing and snowmobiling in the winter, gardens of wildflowers and baby animals in spring, and hills and landscapes full of red, yellow and orange in the fall. It’s summer, however, when Michigan truly comes alive, mostly because the state is littered with natural and human-made beauties that couldn’t possibly be in one area of the world. It’s with this in mind that for this week’s Ultimate 6er, we have six Michigan summer adventures and the beers that will make them even better.
Beer is poetry. It takes a great deal of understanding and thoughtfulness to make a beer that speaks to drinkers and keeps them coming back for more. Putting together a genuinely exquisite beer requires the consideration of each part individually, from the water to the hops, from the malt to the yeast. Over time, those elements become part of one, and sometimes, if we’re lucky, time will improve it even more. Poetry is much the same. With thorough understanding and thoughtfulness, a poem can last for generations, sitting on our tongues and inspiring whomever it touches. It was this inspiration that led Bell’s Brewery to honor one of Larry Bell’s favorite poets, Walt Whitman, with the launched of their Leaves of Grass series. The first release, Song of Myself, is a German-inspired American IPA. Its release in May 2019 coincided with Whitman’s 200th birthday.
Spring is starting to creep back into our lives, blessing West Michigan with warm weather, green grass and lighter beers. However, it’s still just cold enough to warm up with a stout, and Saugatuck Brewing Company’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Dramanatrixxx is good enough to leave you wishing for one more snow day.
For January, my husband and I decided to take part in Dry January, a month of staying away from all alcohol. For many, this month is meant to kick start better habits and possibly pinpoint problems with drinking, but we are doing it to see what sort of impact it might have on our weight (and possibly our pocketbook). I have certainly appreciated the lack of accidental hangovers as well.
Living in Michigan as a beer lover is pretty much the best. You can’t throw a beer bottle without hitting a brewery, particularly in West Michigan. Because of this, our standards are quite high, and we do not suffer bad beer to live. In the same note, to stand out, breweries must be more than above average at something. Saugatuck Brewing Company is one such brewery, and what they excel at is making layered, complex and all around tasty beers. One of their mainstays is Neapolitan Milk Stout, a beer I particularly like, and have said so on this website. Because of my nice profile, Saugatuck contacted PorchDrinking.com and asked if we’d like to profile the barrel aged version of Neapolitan, their Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Neapolitian MIlk Stout, to which I immediately said hell yes.
Christmas time is a time of year filled with tradition, from holiday parties, to caroling, to big, hearty, meals filled with comfort food. For many families, traditions also include baking all the cookies. All these cookies are given out during cookie exchanges, to the mail carriers, to uncles, aunts and cousins, and certainly, they will also end up in gifts to you from others as well. With all these cookies, it doesn’t take long before you are sick of all that sugar. That’s when it’s time to break open some less-than-obvious beer pairings to make those cookies seem new again.
This fall and winter, if you’re looking for a dark beer without the thick texture of a stout or porter, look no further than Keweenaw Brewing Company Widow Maker Black Ale.
Located in Houghton, Michigan at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula, Keweenaw Brewing Company was an early entry in the craft beer boom of the 2000s. This is unsurprising, given that Houghton is not only a college town (home to Michigan Technological University), but a cold and snowy one, with little to do in the winters but ski, snowmobile and drink. Founders Dick Gray and Paul Boissevain opened up their tap room in the heart of downtown Houghton, and it was an immediate hit with students and staff alike. Widow Maker is one of their “core ales, ” alongside Pick Axe Blonde Ale, Red Jacket Amber Ale and November Gale Pale Ale.
Once upon a time, I was a young person who only drank Bud Light. You couldn’t get me in the same room with a craft beer. My (now) husband could not stand it, but he mostly just gave me a little hell while he drank his microbrews. However, his frustration got the better of him one day and he proclaimed, “That’s it! We need to find you something that isn’t Bud Light. Anything.”
I hesitantly agreed and he went to his fridge, coming back with a beer he had already picked specifically for me. I drank it. I didn’t just like it, I loved it. Little did I know that this beer would lead me to a career and to a passion that I would hold for the rest of my life. That beer was Oberon Ale from Bell’s Brewery.
No one can deny that the influx of local breweries throughout the United States has been a major boon for local economies. Breweries drive beer and food tourism, create jobs, and encourage new business opportunities. In fact, this is often a factor for brewers when choosing where to open their business — they want to make the community better. This is even more clear when breweries make philanthropy a priority, no matter how small. This week for the Ultimate 6er, we’ll be featuring six charitable Michigan breweries who are doing just that — improving their communities in multiple ways.
In 2001, I was a bartender at a joint in Wausau, Wisconsin called Loppnow’s Sports Bar. Our main fare was tap and bottled Bud Light and Miller Lite, but occasionally we sold some Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Smirnoff Ice and Blue Moon. I don’t remember how many taps we had, but I recall that only one rotated: usually with Point Lager or a stout that wasn’t Guinness (we had no nitro). These barrels often took a couple of weeks to cash, with one exception – New Glarus Brewing Co.‘s Spotted Cow Farmhouse Ale.
How I Met Your Mother did for my generation what Friends did for the one before. As a sitcom, it was never going to be subversive or show the realities of every day New Yorkers, but it certainly gave a better sense of what 20 and 30 somethings in the 2000s were really doing, and it wasn’t sitting in coffee shops. Sitting down with your friends for a few drinks at your local watering hole has been a part of American culture for generations, and HIMYM made it look great. Each of the main characters embodied a certain personality type, but with a level of complexity and fun that makes them perfect for an Ultimate 6er.
Springtime is here and, for me, that can only mean one thing: sitting on my sunporch and drinking some fantastic IPAs. Thankfully, I live in Grand Rapids, Michigan (AKA Beer City, USA), which means I’m generally near the birthplace of some of the best made IPAs in the world. Michigan breweries know their IPAs, and Bell’s Brewery has blessed us with one helluva new brew in their recently released double IPA, Hopsoulution Ale.
Trends and tastes are cyclical. And as we’ve detailed on this site before, such is the case with beer. Sure hazy IPAs and pastry stouts are all the rave right now, but it certainly won’t always be the case. And just as American craft beer lovers currently crave innovative over-the-top ingredients, it’s likely the trend will eventually shift back toward sessionable, traditional styles.
That said, for the past several decades, what most American beer consumers think of when they hear the word lager, typically drifts to the watered down macro lagers that have dominated sales for so long. For years American Lagers have been associated with the blue collar, no-nonsense, no taste domestics that rule the beer industry. Founders Brewing is seeking to change that with their latest release of Solid Gold Premium Lager.
I love a good IPA. I know I’m not alone in this, and I do not mind. Because when people love good IPAs, they make good IPAs, and that means more for me. In Michigan, it’s not hard to find good IPAs, which is why when one stands out to me, it’s for good reason. The Mitten Brewing Company’s Country Strong American IPA is just one of those standouts, and it has become my new go-to brew.
7.2% ABV | 58 IBU
As beer enthusiasts, we’ve all thought about it. Some of us may have even looked into the logistics of trying it, but very few of us could ever truly find the time, the money or the energy to visit every brewery in our home state over the course of one year. But that’s exactly what Emily Bennett accomplished in 2017 when she embarked on the Mitten Beer Quest, visiting every brewery in her home state of Michigan.
When a beer stands out to me, it is usually because the brewer has taken the time to think about how that beer will be received by his or her customers. Too often, brewers, in a bid to stay on trend or create a beer that shocks or hits the scene running, don’t consider whether or not the end product will be something their customers will enjoy. Seldom does Harmony Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan fall into that trap. Of all our local breweries (and there are more than 50), their beers are the most complex, thoughtful and well-constructed. This is never more apparent than with their winter warmer Los Conejos, a nitro sweet stout designed around Mexican hot chocolate with a little extra heat.
Winter time used to be a bit problematic for this outside-day-drinking, IPA-loving, oak-aged-avoiding lady. I could never “find” something I liked. For a long time, I thought it was the beer’s fault. The truth is, I wasn’t so much searching for beers as I was avoiding styles that had failed me in the past. I hadn’t realized that times had changed and that brewers were getting savvy to the ins and outs of wood aging and making some stellar concoctions. Once I made that realization, I decided to give wood-aged brews another chance. Happily, I found plenty of good ones out there, including Saugatuck Brewing Company’s Oak Wizard, an oak aged imperial brown ale.
Just in time for the holidays, New Holland Brewing has given us another in their Dragon’s Milk Reserve line, Dragon’s Milk Reserve Mocha Mint. This bourbon barrel-aged Stout sits at 11% ABV and is just as delicious as it sounds.
As a kid, I absolutely loved Whoppers. I’d beg my parents to let me get them every chance I could, and if they gave in, I’d have a small box gone in about 10 minutes. I can still remember the way they melt in your mouth, and am now pretty sure I’m going to the store to get a box. Wait. It turns out, there’s something even better.