In early December 2017, I to traveled to Lansing Michigan, home of the Michigan State University Trojans. I was only there for a couple days, so any in-depth beer research was limited. Early reconnaissance revealed that I needed to be aware of key beers from Founders Brewing, Bell's Brewing, Dark Horse Brewing, Perrin Brewery, Kuhnhenn Brewing, Odd Side Ales, Michigan Brewing and Short's Brewing. I'm sure locals would add a few others to that list.
I know a number of Bell's beers, but don't I know that might be found during my stay. That adventure is always intriguing. Bell's entered the Maryland market in 2015. As I would travel to Michigan, I first discovered the Two Hearted Ale. Now, Two Hearted is on many "best beer" lists. It was on of those beers that grabbed me from first sip. A group of us were in Marquette MI and had settled in for lunch on our first day and without any for-knowledge chose a Two Hearted to accompany our meal. When our server asked if we wanted another beer, everyone that had TH as their first beer asked for another. Bell's Expedition Stout is perhaps my favorite six-pack stout — and that says a lot.
Founder's is another one of my favorite breweries and so happens to be from Michigan. They began shipping to Maryland earlier in 2016. Before then, I had been able to find some of their beer as close as Pennsylvania, so I'm familiar with many of their fine beers before this trip. Their iconic Breakfast Stout, Porter and others, I'd already come to enjoy. Could I score some rare ones while now in their backyard?
Local Beer Trophies
My first evening in Lansing, I had some time to trek across campus to the Big Ten Party Store - Oades (pronounced odies). Reviews on Beer Advocate said to ask about any special beer they might be keeping in the back. So with that in mind, I told the young staff guy, who was busy working on a case of beer, that I was from Maryland (like, that pity on me) and asked if they had any special beers available. I have learned, that a good staff person will be anxious to assist someone who is truly interested in their local beer and their expertise. He pointed out that the case he was cutting on was none other than Bell's Black Note Stout — 99 pts on Beer Advocate. This one was on the bucket list. "Okay, I'll take a four-pack", I declared. His response, "Ah, no, I can give you one." I kept my cool, but was sooo disappointed. Did I mention I've came all the way from Maryland?
They also allow you to make your own six-pack and give you 10% off. So my next question was regarding the rest of the shelf. He helped me pick out about 12 other great local beers. It was Monday and to my great surprise, I was awarded an additional 5% discount. With my trophies stashed securely in my backpack, I was off and heading back to my hotel to enjoy some of my bounty.
That evening, a group of us headed to a local dining establishment, the Hop Cat. The bottom line is that their beer menu was awesome. After my first glance, my response to the gang was, "How many nights are we here?" They not only had many great local beers that I wanted to try, but some favorites on draft that I had only tasted from the bottle - namely, Saison DuPont and Unibroue's La Fin du Monde. So many beers and so little time! I had recently read Michael Kiser's Good Beer Hunting article on his trip to the Brasserie Dupont brewery and that had whetted my whistle for this iconic saison, of which I haven't had for some time in any form and never on draft. I fully expected to make it back for the "end-of-the-world" beer on tap but unfortunately it was not to be. My first choice was a Michigan local Grif Claw Oblivious, a barrel aged wheatwine. After that I couldn't resist — Saison Dupont on tap. It was delicious and I have to say with a bit more funk than from the bottle.
As I'd stated, it was a quick trip, so intentional beer adventures would be limited. I did experience great beer and food at Mitchell's Fish Market (Founders Dirty Bastard scotch ale) and Harrison Roadhouse (pint of CEO Stout). Both highly recommended local fair.
So my quick trip was successful in that I captured many great local Michigan beers that I wouldn't have otherwise plus a Bell's Black Note. I have another trip planned to Michigan in October 2017 so I'll have another opportunity to score some excellent Michigan beer.