I thought I'd had a lot of experience with Dragonmead's beers prior to visiting their location in Warren, Michigan. They regularly make appearances at beer events, and their bottles and draft accounts can be found all over the state.
I have a confession. I don't really like much of the beer Dragonmead makes available in bottles. Under the Kilt Wee Heavy is very strong flavored Scotch ale that doesn't sit right with me, and the choices the brewer made in the Crown Jewels IPA aren't poor choices – they're just a bit too sweet for me. That makes it all the more unfortunate, then, that Dragonmead offers over 40 taps of locally brewed beer at their location, including several different Pale Ales. I've yet to find a brewery with that many of their own flavors of beer available at any given time. Not even Short's Brewing offered that many at once.
Between the four of us (we had along some family with us), we sampled nine of their beers:
- Redwing Raspberry Ale
- Kaiser's Kolsch
- Inquisition Pale Ale
- K2 Strawberry Ale
- Dubbel Dragon Ale
- Castlebrite Apricot Ale
- Ring of Fire Spiced Ale
- Honey Porter
- Broken Paddle India Pale Ale
All nine beers were surprisingly delicious, well balanced and serving a great niche. While I was partial to the Broken Paddle IPA, others really enjoyed the Inquisition Pale Ale. Their raspberry beer was very good – on par with Dark Horse's raspberry ale. The pepper beer was extremely spicy without being painful. Again, with all the choices from which to pick, it's disappointing that the beers Dragonmead bottles were some of my least favorite.
The atmosphere at Dragonmead is like nothing I've ever seen before. Imagine a huge Tolkien fan decides to build a greathall in which to reenact Beowulf. She decorates it with shields straight out of Norse mythology, old velvet curtains, even a suit of armor. Now populate that greathall with bikers. Bikers and I'm pretty sure I saw a couple LARPers. Everyone was friendly and welcoming (I've yet to find a brewery that isn't), but it was a little surreal. Either way, I have to admit that it was a fun experience.
Traveling to breweries statewide has an interesting effect. Beers that traditionally I may have only known from their bottled selections, their draft accounts, and possibly their experimental and specialty beers they bring to festivals now have to show off their wares on their own turf. In some places, that's not exactly complimentary: North Peak brewing makes fantastic beer, and great food, but the look of the place is not exactly memorable. Conversely, Dragonmead's bottled beers made a poor impression on me but I was extremely impressed by their selection available as well as their choice in decorations.