Thursday, February 21, 2013

Preparing for the Michigan Winter Beer Fest: Top Picks

The much anticipated Michigan Winter Beer Fest begins in just under 48 hours and with over 600 different Michigan beers to sample, my liver and palate conspired to create a refined list of options to taste such that neither would be overwhelmed. The list below is crafted to my palate; while I hope that your choices differ either slightly or greatly, perhaps by sharing my criteria for choice as well as the beers themselves, we can illuminate some themes and expectations for Saturday’s great gathering.

Priority Picks will be chosen by the following criteria:

  • Beers I have never tasted. Unfortunately, as much as I adore Greenbush’s Distorter Porter and Dark Horse’s Perkulator, beers I’ve already had must make way.
  • Beers that suit my personal leanings. Currently those include sour ales and spiced beer, so if you are looking for a list of hop monsters or bourbon barrel bonanza, you will be disappointed.
  • Beers with fantastic names. Marketing works, and here’s proof!
  • Beers that are new, rare, difficult to produce, from small breweries, or are otherwise hard to find. If I can buy it at Meijer, it won’t be on this list.

Michigan Beer Blog Most Anticipated Beer List (these are not in order of priority):

  1. 51 North: Tangerine Wit. 51 North is a very new face to the Michigan Beer market, and I’m excited to see what they have to offer. A wheat beer with fruit isn't breaking new ground, but tangerine is not an oft-used fruit.
  2. 57 Brewpub: Mayan Midnight Chocolate Stout. Another new name to the festival, this beer sports a name suspiciously reminiscent of my favorite Michigan beer – Odd Side Ale’s perfect Mayan Mocha Stout. We’ll see if the combination of chocolate and spice continues to thrill.
  3. Beard’s Brewery: Pomegalactic Pale Ale. I love beards and pomegranate. I’m assuming only one of those items is an actual ingredient in this beer.
  4. Right Brain: Thai Peanut Ale. If these brewers can make asparagus beer taste delicious, I have no doubt they’ll be able to impress me with this flavor combination.
  5. B.O.B.: Tiramisu Stout. The brewer at the B.O.B. in Grand Rapids has developed an excellent reputation for making stouts that actually taste like what their name entails…but tiramisu is a complex, fragile dessert. Let’s see if the streak continues!
  6. Brewery Vivant: Helen Wine Barrel Aged Sour Ale. Brewery Vivant releases their phenomenal sour beers in such limited quantity, even as a Grand Rapids resident it’s rare for me to sample their exquisite sours. There’s no way I wasn’t putting at least one Vivant sour ale on this list.
  7. Cranker’s Brewery: 5th Voyage Coconut Porter. Coconut, coffee, and hot peppers are trending beer flavors this winter, and given my respect for the brewer at Cranker’s, I chose his Coconut Porter for the list. I’m also hoping to glean some information, as I want to attempt a coconut porter homebrew this winter.
  8. Dragonmead: Ring of Fire Hot Pepper Ale. Many Michigan breweries have a spiced ale, and I am curious to see how Dragonmead’s formidable reputation fares here.
  9. Greenbush: Zack De La Rojo Mexican Hop Chocolate. The stable Greenbush is bringing to this festival is so eye-poppingly varied and stunningly complex that they could almost host a festival all by themselves. I am continually amazed and impressed by Greenbush, and only picking one beer from them proved difficult. I chose the Mexican Hop Chocolate mostly because I was a huge fan of Rage Against the Machine in the middle and late 90s.
  10. Short’s Brewing Co: Stray Cat Street Fighting for the Devil Old Ale. You know what, I don’t even care what this beer tastes like. It’s a mid range abv old ale brewed with Granny Smith Apples, but it’s on this list solely for the name.

I stopped myself at ten choices, because otherwise this article would not be out until sometime in mid June, which might damage its relevance. What is on your agenda for Saturday?

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