Friday, January 31, 2014

Ann Arbor Brew Stroll

This past Saturday was a high of 27 and low of 1. We weren't in the negatives so we were doing well. Naturally, we decided it was perfect weather for a brewery crawl in Ann Arbor.

Actually, we initially intended to go on a brewery/distillery tour in Detroit but circumstances would have it that we got stuck in Ann Arbor (the highway was at a standstill due to semi truck accidents and dozens of car accidents). We tend to make the best of our situations around here so decided to check out the beer scene in Ann Arbor... And a hell of a scene it is! A scene that at one point contained a table of about 15 hipsters all dressed exactly alike with their thick black framed glasses... I bet they don't even need glasses...

That last statement shouldn't deter you from visiting any of these places because the beer is most definitely worth it! Mostly (I'll explain).

Our brew stroll entailed 4 breweries located within a few blocks of each other in Downtown Ann Arbor. They are all perfectly baby friendly during the day (what isn't?!) and they all serve food... Bring your stretchy pants.

1. Grizzly Peak Brewing Company

Our first stop of the day was Grizzly Peak Brewing Company. It was noon, seemed like an appropriate time to start sampling some beers.

That being said, skip the beers here.

Grizzly Peak offers a cozy atmosphere and pretty decent American food made fresh daily in the kitchen. What they boast in tasty food and friendly service they seem to lack in the beer department. Perhaps it is their impending expansion that has the brewers a bit distracted but my IPA tasted like water with a hoppy finish. And I wasn't the only one, all four of our other beers tasted very bland and watered down. No one likes watery beer in Michigan, we're not St. Louis... (just kidding, I totally love St. Louis).

On the bright side, this experience gave me some hope for my future brewery ;)

Save your liver for other excitement

2. Arbor Brewing Company

I don't even know where to start I love this place so much!  I've had a few of their bottled beers over the past years and had always been quite pleased so when I realized that the brewery was now on our agenda I was pretty stoked. And I was not disappointed!

The beer list will leave your head spinning and most likely eager for a sampler. The menu is several pages long featuring locally sourced food (as in they even tell you the source!), many diet friendly options (vegan, gluten free, vegetarian), and a few boozy desserts (we did not pass this treat up). 
Arbor Brewing has two locations: The micro brewery in Ypsilanti where the majority of their beers are brewed  and the brewpub in downtown Ann Arbor where some beers are brewed and the food is friggin phenomenal. Did I mention you can make your own grilled cheese?! Oh wait, they have three locations, one in India.. Mhm.

I was really looking forward to a brewery tour here but unfortunately (for me) the brewers generally work weekdays. However, brew tours are available at both locations, and the main brewery in Ypsilanti seems quite eager to give your group a tour upon request during the week. Will definitely be coming back for that!

And while I'm raving about this place, they also have something called the "Rat Pad," a 10-gallon brewing system that they allow amateur brewers from the area to use once a month for draft release! How awesome is that?! It's stellar. This is going on my to-do list for sure... Right after I buy that goat I want. 

Anyways, go here, get yourself a Boozy Irish Sundae or a Stout Float, and good luck making a beer selection! Cheers!

3. Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery

This was one I had never heard of and we were lucky enough to spot it from the window of Arbor Brewing. It was on to destination number three, and with that, sandwich number three! It was a rough day for the bathroom scale.

 Blue Tractor is housed in a gorgeous brick building with large windows opening up into the brewery and kitchen. The atmosphere is pleasant and staff is friendly, even though I was the ONLY one that got carded out of our group of 5 and we're all the same age. Too bad I can't grow a beard.

The beer was phenomenal. That's a pretty high statement, we'll go with fantastic. I hope you can make it in time for the Bearded Pig Cream Ale. Unfortunately they don't bottle, which is quite a shame... But we made sure to let our waiter know to inform the management that they should definitely look into it... I'm sure it will happen now.

As much as I enjoyed the beer and the scenery (this is where the hipster mob showed up) the BBQ is nothing to rave about, especially for a place with BBQ in its name. Come here for the beer, not the food. It is a bit arrogantly priced for advertising itself as a BBQ place and only providing mediocre BBQ. Although I guess it's better than watery beer.

4. Jolly Pumpkin

The sun had set and with that some snowflakes in the bitter night air. But we had one last bar to visit and a few blocks in freezing temps certainly wasn't going to deter us! Or anyone else for that matter, it was packed!

Our final stop was Jolly Pumpkin, home of "open fermentation, oak barrel aging, and bottle conditioning." A pretty tall order. These are some of the finest artisan ales you can find outside of the Belgian countryside. If you're into that sort of thing. It is definitely an art form that is geared for the seasoned beer drinker, a connoisseur really. Ales made in this style tend be on the sour end and unpleasant to some people's taste buds. We are not these "some people."

Jolly Pumpkin truly brews one of a kind beers, they are not innovative; they are historic. Unfortunately, this being our last stop we were all getting pretty close to our stretchy pants limits. A few of the pack had it in them for one last beer and a dessert. The menu is a little pricey but you get what you pay for in delicious, made from scratch, local food. I was so full I even missed their pizza selections made from 100-year old sourdough starter, an unacceptable over-sight on my part! Oh well, that just means we have lots of plans for our next Ann Arbor trip.

Great food, inspired beer (I love it when people go back to traditional methods!) and the staff is ridiculously awesome. One of our boozed up buddies was very interested in the double fermentation of their Golden Manatee Belipago and decided to hassle our poor waitress about it. They went out of their way to find out more information for him, albeit with little luck, but hey, this isn't their main brewery!

Ok, we were pretty over the picture taking at this point... But is this not an awesome chandelier!?

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