Seth and I made a Sunday evening trip to HopCat in Grand Rapids last night. Every Sunday at 8:00PM, they tap a new cask of a beer from Short's Brewing Company. Being that Short's is one of our favorite breweries and we both had today off, we decided we had no choice but to go. Once we stepped in the door, we couldn't believe that we had never been there since their opening in January 2009. They're rated "The #3 Beer Bar on Planet Earth" by Beer Advocate Magazine, have over 200 beers (including 48 taps), and they're only about a five minute drive from our house!
We didn't actually try any of the HopCat brews (shame on us), but we tried four different Michigan beers, so I figured it was still blog-worthy. We will return soon to try the actual HopCat beers, and when we do, we'll spend some more time describing the actual bar. One thing I feel I should mention if you're thinking about going is that the staff are very fast, friendly, and are clearly a bunch of beer lovers themselves, which only makes the place that much better.
Anyway, on to the beer!
Seth started out with the Short's Bourbon Barrel Huma. We both instantly agreed that it was one of the best beers we've ever tasted. It was served in a tulip glass, and poured a clear orange with a white head. There was a definite aroma of bourbon and a faint grainy malt. There was also a perfect hint of bourbon flavor with sweet malt and citrus.
I started out the evening with Short's Black Plum IPA. It appeared maroon, almost black, with not much head by the time I received it. It had a ripe plum aroma, with hints of dark chocolate, and faint hops. Honestly, not much of an IPA flavor, but a pretty strong chocolately plum flavor. It was not really my favorite, but it was very drinkable and great for those that aren't really huge IPA fans.
Next up for me was Short's Caramel Apple. I was leery at first, but our bartender assured me that it wasn't too sweet, so I decided to give it a go. It was served in a wine glass and poured a hazy light brown color with a frothy off-white head that dissipated quickly. Heavy tart apple cider aroma, with a bit of underlying cinnamon and caramel. Caramel and cinnamon were more apparent in the start of the beer with tart apple coming out in the finish. Medium body with a soft carbonation. Another interesting beer from Short's. I'd drink it again.
The final Michigan beer we sampled (thank God it was only a sample), was the Holistic Healing from Short's. Our bartender warned us that it tasted a lot like Jägermeister, and I would honestly rather just drink straight Jäger. I wish I had a picture of the face our bartender made while she was describing it, because I would post that right here, and not have to make myself think about it ever again because that would suffice as a description. The appearance of it was nice enough; a deep reddish-brown with a solid medium head. That pretty much constituted the highlight of the beer for me. You know, I guess the aroma wasn't awful either. It was sort of sweet and fruity and very spicy smelling (cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger being the most obvious). I realize that it's supposed to be that type of wintery, spicy beer, but this one went way overboard for me. There were far too many sweet and bold flavors that all just jumbled together into a gingery spice-bomb explosion. In case you haven't gotten the point, I would not recommend it.
The final beer of the evening for Seth was not from Michigan, but it was pretty tasty, so it deserves mentioning. It was the Good JuJu Ginger Ale from the Left Hand Brewing Company in Colorado. It poured a clear amber color with a very small head. The aroma has a lot of ginger in it, but it was backed, very slightly, by a nice malt with a caramel smell. The flavor was all ginger. Probably too much if you're not a big fan of the flavor of fresh ginger. It was actually a little difficult to detect many other flavors because the ginger was so strong, but that was fine for me because I love that flavor. As it warmed, there was a bit more of a hop base to it, wtih some citrus flavors coming through, but the nose was still all ginger. It seemed like it would pair well with Indian or Asian food, but it's probably not something I would have in my fridge regularly.
So that did it for our beer tasting for the evening. All-in-all, a very good experience. We will return soon to tell you more about the HopCat itself, and hopefully after getting a tour of the actually brewery.
Oh, and do yourself a favor and try the Crack Fries: