I have this thing for little breweries mysteriously ensconced in the oddest of places. Old factories, abandoned dairies, ancient mills -- if you've built a brewery in one of these places, you can be sure I'll hunt it down. So you can imagine my interest in visiting the latest addition to Traverse City's brewing scene: the Right Brain Brewery. What could be more eccentric, after all, than a brewery located in the back of a salon? You can get a haircut and sample a brew at the same time -- what a great idea!
The interior is hip and eclectic with local art lining the walls, creating a very west-coast casual ambiance. The moment you walk in, it's clear that this place is a no-frills-just-beer establishment. It has a "Whadda Ya Want" type attitude that manages to be anything but unwelcoming. An impressive custom-mug club wall sits to the left of the bar. There are no TV's, but instead dart boards and numerous old-school board games to play, if you are so inclined, and some unobtrusive rock/pop music plays over the whole scene. Although there is no food served, there are snacks such as hummus and tortilla chips, popcorn, and pretzels available. But you certainly don't come here for the food. At any one time there are 12 ever-rotating taps, all with a diverse sampling of various house brews, ranging from a chocolate double IPA, to watermelon cream ale and everything in between.
We decided to sit at the bar and order a sampler flight to share, which consisted of six 6-ounce samples for $15. The servers were all prompt, knowledgeable, and friendly. The first beer we tried was the Big Pink Watermelon Ale. I took a sip expecting a painfully sweet, pseudo-fruit flavored syrupy concoction, but instead, to my (very pleasant) surprise, found a light-bodied, mildy sweet, almost a bit salty, sparkling cream ale with just a subtle hint of watermelon flavor. Very easy drinking. Even more surprising to me than the fact that this beer wasn't sickly sweet, was this beer didn't have the slightest hint of a pink hue to it. We found out from our bartender (who helped prepare the watermelons before the brewing process) that approximately 275 pounds of fresh watermelons from a local Amish farm were used to make this beer. That's right -- the brewers and staff at RBB painstakingly cut up 275 pounds of fresh watermelons by hand, and then reduced them down to make the juice that went into this beer. Interestingly enough, the juice loses all of it's color during the reduction process, hence the pale straw colored end product.
Next up on our flight of beers was the Drunken Hawk Owl Amber which had a nice bit of caramel malty sweetness balanced with the taste of aging it in a Grand Traverse Distillery whiskey barrel. The remaining beers in our flight included the Double Black "Eye".P.A (a chocolate IPA brewed with local hops from Empire Orchards and Two Peninsula Hops), the Satisfaction ESB, the Bastard Blend (which gets its name from the blend of hops it's made from -- Spiney, Citral, and Inertia) aged in Grand Traverse Distillery and Woodford Reserve barrels, and lastly, my favorite beer of the lot which was on cask that day, the Simcoe Dream. It poured a cloudy orangish amber color with a surprising amount of head considering it was cask conditioned. The taste and smell were amazing. On the malt side, there was a very light sweet caramely scent, with possibly a little bit of honey, but most of what I noted was a piney, and of course, citrusy hop scent. I've never had an IPA that was as light bodied as this one, but that just gave it great balance and superb drinkability.
|Lake Michigan is right across the street!|