The fun part of exploring Michigan is that you often find surprises on your way home. We, for example, discovered that the Saugatuck Brewing Company is right on the way home from Baroda, Michigan. Noticing that, we had to make a stop next to this little brewpub snuggled close to the beautiful city of Saugatuck, Michigan.
Located about a mile off Exit 36, the Saugatuck Brewing Company is easy to miss. It's nestled along a highway where I expected there to be little other than grain feed stores, tractor outlets, and mosquitos. It took a stern conversation with the GPS along with a very sharp left turn to locate the place. Once found, though, it's a very attractive little brewpub. It reminded me of the Michigan Brewing company. . .as if someone had taken that large, nondescript building, put on some Irish-styled lettering, and plunked it down in a wooded area close to Lake Michigan. The outdoor seating was clean and pleasant and well serviced, and the waitstaff went a long way toward making everyone feel welcome.
I admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the beer. My only experience with Saugatuck Brewing Company's selection up until visiting has been their Singapore IPA, which packs a hop-wallop that is unmatched by any other IPA I've had so far in the state of Michigan. (Reminder: trademark “HopWallop.”) In fact the only beers I've had that compare to the level of aggressiveness shown in this beer would be from our friends at Stone Brewing way out in California. It's too aggressive for my tastes, but if you hop fans think that New Holland's Mad Hatter is “hoppy,” you're really missing out by not trying this.
Side note, and interesting fact: as I was doing the research for this post, I learned that the Singapore IPA is named after a ghost town at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River that found itself completely unprotected from the elements after chopping all of its trees down to rebuild its neighboring cities after the great fire in 1871. The sand dunes swiftly swallowed it, and it was abandoned by 1875.
Laura and I avoided the IPA and instead sampled 5 of their other brews and one of their ciders. The biggest surprises to me were the Maggie's Irish Red and the True Scot (Scottish Ale). I don't often stumble across a Michigan Irish Red, so to find one this smooth (nitrogen was used to give it a smooth, silky mouthfeel) was rare. It was sweet and creamy, with a roasted caramel malt flavor that was more reminiscient of dessert than anything else. There was only the slightest twinge of hops to finish, but with a beer this smooth the bitterness would've only gotten in the way. The true Scot was a different animal; while I expected the deep, alcohol punch of a Scotch ale, I had forgotten that this was not a Scotch ale, but rather a Scotish ale. The taste began smooth and sweet, although not as sweet as the Maggie's Irish, with a more complex finish that blends caramel with some bitterness and a rich bready flavor from the yeast. I would be happy to spend an evening with six of either of these beers.
The food itself was delicious as well. Laura's roasted pork was tender and juicy; the gravy came in heavy on the salty side, although both Laura and I agreed this was a strength, not a weakness. I had the Douglas Club, a fantastic grilled chicken and ham sandwich topped with melted swiss and a very original roasted red pepper. My compliments to the chef; food like this makes me question how chain restaurants manage to stay in business.
After finishing our meal, we met with the greatest and most pleasant surprise of the evening: the owner and brewmaster for the Saugatuck Brewing Company, Barry Johnson, regularly spends time with his clients out on the floor of the pub. After Laura and I moved inside to talk beer with the bartender and listen to some of the local live music, Barry introduced himself and generously offered to give us a tour of his facility!
|view from the bar|
|Original brewing equipment on display|
|Barry showing us the mash tun|
Part of the charm of the Michigan brewing scene is the level of comradery and feeling of belonging that one gets when working with local brewers, and Barry's excellent brewpub and brewery are no exceptions. Barry (who also happens to be the mayor of Saugatuck!) gave us a very pleasant experience and I can heartily recommend this place to anyone. It's well worth a 50 mile drive out of your way.
|Our hosts, Barry and Kathy Johnson|