Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cheboygan Brewery

On a trip up north in 2012 to the lovely town of Cheboygan and Mullet Lake, we were happy to see a new Michigan brewery - the Cheboygan Brewing Company! They had a live band, a few types of beer on draft, and a freshly build upper deck to hang out on, overlooking the river.

We didn't do a formal review of the beers but we did notice that they were probably just getting started. There was a Lighthouse Amber and a hopped up Amber and you could really tell they were the same beer - one with hops and one without! We enjoyed our visit and hope that business goes well for this new Michigan brewery.

Cheboygan Brewing Company
Their website

101 N. Main Street
Cheboygan, MI 49721
Phone: 231-268-3218

Thursday, September 24, 2009

North Peak Brewing Company

The North Peak Brewing Company is one of three breweries located in the downtown area of beautiful Traverse City. We were in town for the 4th of July weekend and North Peak was our favorite brewery of the three in town and we visited North Peak twice, once for beer tasting and then back again later for dinner.

North Peak is a large restaurant with a big bar in the center and it was quite busy both times when we were there, though we had no problem getting a seat at the bar or a booth for dinner later. The atmosphere has a cool "up north" feel to it, with an "industrial meets lumberjack" look. Might sound strange, but it's very cool. The food coming out of the kitchen looked great, you could tell this would be one of those places that had creative dishes and not just your regular bar food, and there seemed to also be several beers on tap.

We sat down at the bar and Tim ordered a sampler so we were able to try 8 beers right off the bat.

Northern Light
T] Unfinished, still has a "zing" to it - 1/10

A] Not a great light beer, sort of sweet. - 2/10

North Peak Pale Ale
T] Decent pale, good hoppiness to it, drinkable - 6/10

A] Too  bitter/hoppy for me, but that's just me - 2/10

IPA (Seasonal)
T] Very good, would've liked to have seen a little more hops - 8/10

A] Tastes like flowers.. you know I don't like IPAs... x/10

Steelhead Red
T] A decent malty flavored red - 7/10
A] Not for me, too burnt caramelly - x/10

Belgian Dubbel (Seasonal)
T] Black licorice - 4/10
A] Too high alcohol for me, 7.5%, but good banana - 6/10

Cask Ale
T] Tastes like bourbon - 70 degrees warm = not right - 2/10
A] Tastes like bourbon/whiskey, which I hate - 1/10

Mission Point Porter
T] Good roasty flavor - 7/10
A] Ick - not for me - x/10

Shirley's Irish Stout
T] A decent stout, could use more roast - 6/10
A] Double ick, milky. Where is the wheat beer here???? - x/10

So I was disappointed that it was the middle of the summer and I couldn't find an awesome hefeweizen anywhere at any of these breweries.. or even a good summer wheat beer. When we went back to North Peak for dinner, on the way out I did notice we missed the other side of the bar that said something about a Cherry Wheat but unfortunately I had ordered the - very flat - rootbeer instead with dinner, so I was sad I missed out on that cherry wheat. We were in the cherry capital, after all!

The food was excellent, I ordered the Wild Mushroom Hearth Baked Pizza which was glorious and Tim had the Herbed Monte Cristo which was also delicious and the pricing is very reasonable considering the quality and uniqueness of the menu. You could tell they tried to incorporate their house brews into the dishes they prepared into the kitchen whenever possible and everything on the menu looked really good. With the assortment of beers on tap, great atmosphere and delicious food, you won't be disappointed when you stop in at North Peak!
North Peak Brewing Company
400 1/2 W Front Street
Traverse City, MI

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Copper Canyon Brewery

Copper Canyon is a big brewery/restaurant in Southfield and has a trendy casual atmosphere which features tall ceilings and a big stone fireplace. It wasn't too crowded when we were there. Sorry the photos are dark, but it was a dark day in a dark place.

They have a very affordable sampler which included almost all of their beers (7) and included a sample of their root beer, Root 696.

A] Tastes great, like blue moon but better almost - 7/10
T] Blue Moon knockoff - 7/10

Devil's Peak IPA
A] I don't do IPAs, as you know
T] A good bitter, too much citrus, unfiltered doesn't work w/ IPA - 7/10

Northwestern Gold
A] Very good light beer - it is very drinkable and refreshing - 8/10
T] Actually has some flavor - 7/10

Copper Canyon Alt
A] Reminds me of Newcastle - 6/10
T] Decent Amber - 6/10

Killer Canyon Porter
A] I hate porters
T] Good roasty flavor - 6/10

Miri Maibock
A] Too sweet for me - 3/10
T] All malt - 4/10

GWSS Scotch Ale
A] Not for me at all, x/10
T] Never liked scotch ales, never will - 3/10

Root 696 (Rootbeer)
A] Delicious, fresh rootbeer, excellent - 9/10
T] Delicious rootbeer - 9/10

Let's talk about the food. As per usual, we ordered the chicken nachos. Copper Canyon should get extra points for making a typical bar appetizer very tasty - it featured multi-colored chips, jalapenos, tasty chicken, and real cheese (Tim has an aversion to that fake 'nacho cheese').

Food Ratings - Chicken Nachos
A] Excellent, homemade salsa - 9/10
T] All jalapenos, no beans - 7/10

All in all, the rootbeer was our favorite but there were a lot of good things here at Copper Canyon and the atmosphere is certainly classy yet comfortable.

Copper Canyon
27522 Northwestern Hwy
Southfield, MI 48034

Big Rock Brewery visit #2

We've been to Big Rock Brewery (Big Rock Chophouse) before and it didn't go well. First off, valet only at a brewery? Outrageous. Of course, this is Buuuurmingham. The bar was riddled with probable east siders in their finest Somerset attire dying to impress,... it didn't work on us. Hardly anyone was drinking the house beer. I usually don't leave a brewery thinking "god I wish I hadn't left my Hummer at home,..." but that was the case here - just know this is not just your casual beer hall.

On the other hand, a high-end restaurant and dance club (popular with cougars) that is also a brewery results in a unique combination. We were so put off by the ambiance during the first visit, that it took tasting their beer at a third party location to think twice about Big Rock. At a recent IPA Style Night beer tasting with Rex Halfpenny at John Cowley's in downtown Farmington, Tim suddenly realized that Big Rock Brewery had his favorite IPA (beating out Mad Hatter of New Holland Brewery).

So one rainy night when we had nothing else to do besides visit local breweries, we hit up Copper Canyon and then went back to Big Rock so Tim could have his Raggedy Ass IPA. I should have ordered a sample first, and I regretted my order as soon as I tasted it, the Strawberry Blonde.

Norm's Raggedy Ass Ale (apparently they don't call it an IPA according to the website)
A] 80 international bittering units? Not going to work for me.
T] All the hops you can reasonable enjoy - 9/10

Strawberry Blonde
A] Too perfumey, I knew I shouldn't have ordered this and probably should have asked for a replacement. - 3/10

I've never eaten here, much to my dismay, as the menu looks excellent and wonderfully gourmet. The bar is a long oval and looks very classy, and there are several small booths around the bar area that would make for a perfect first date or romantic night out, and many people were taking advantage of them that night.

The decor is somewhat unusual, it's high-class "great outdoors" or "woodsy" with pine tree, bear, and mountain silhouettes here and there... A high-end luxury mountain lodge (but not a log cabin). So park a street or two down the road, skip the valet, and cross your fingers that the cougars aren't out - there are surely some tasty beers to be had here. The brewmaster, Dan Brown, certainly takes pride in his craft.

I must find out when they have the hefe on tap so I can go to Big Rock again to taste their Hefeweizen,.. from reading their website, I may have tried it at a separate beer tasting once and it might actually be my "dream Michigan beer" with the whiensthephan yeast, which causes the banana-clove flavors I love. That would just be killer to have that on tap somewhere. I guess I'll have to put on my Somerset best at least once more!

245 South Eton Street
Birmingham, MI 48009

Mackinaw Brewing Company

Our first stop on our Traverse City brewery tour! This is right in the heart of downtown T.C. on a main drag and it was 4th of July weekend but we were able to get a hi-top table right away. The place was definitely bustling, mostly people grabbing lunch and a brew. The long and narrow building has a historical look to it with its brick interior walls. The food menu was plentiful and featured smoked meats - and not that fake smoke stuff, but the real deal - we could smell the smokers at work as we were walking up. Being BBQ afficionados as well, we were pleasantly surprised and knew we were also going to get lunch here.

The sampler tray was generous - 8 5oz samples, so we really got to try everything.

G.T. Golden Ale
A] Drinkable light beer - 5/10
T] Perhaps the most boring beer since Busch Light - 2/10

Summer Love American Wheat

A] Very light wheat, not heavy enough - 3/10
T] Busch Light with lemon - 3/10

Belgium Whitecap

A] Not my favorite wheat style, but still OK, pretty light considering the cloudiness, sort of a let down :( - 3/10
T] Way too light, needs more body. Like brewing a pot of coffee with half the amount of grounds - 3/10

Vienna Lager

A] Too sweet for me x/10
T] Malt, schmalt! If you like crappy malt, then this is for you - 3/10

Red 8 Ale
A] Smells sweet (apple cider plus porter) - 2/10
T] Not malty like a standard red, needs more flavor - 2/10

Peninsula Pale Ale
A] Not fair for me to comment, I don't like hoppiness - x/10
T] "Hops heads rejoice" - Not exactly an entry level pale ale 6/10

Beadle's Best Bitter
A] Not my style but at least it is flavorful - 4/10
T] Balanced, but bitter is too subtle, malt overpowers slightly - 4/10

Harvest Moon Oatmeal Sout
A] I smell coffee, drinkable for me, tastes like espresso. Not a "meal in itself", it's light, really - 5/10
(note: I don't like porters so 5 is pretty good from me)
T] Another letdown, I geared up for a big powerful beer but I didn't get it - 5/10
(note: the reason I like it is probably the reason Tim doesn't like it)

So by and large, the beer was a letdown and we were concerned they were watered down or something! The wheat looked like it would be delicious but alas... I'm still looking for a brewery that has my favorite style of german hefeweizen. Anyway, let's talk about the FOOD! They have a great selection, and Tim ordered the brisket sandwich and giant onion rings while I had the pulled pork sandwich and fries. Tim thought the onion rings were delicious, I hate to mention there was a hair on his place as I know that could happen anywhere including my house, but he felt the BBQ was "fine" or nothing special. I thought the pulled pork was good, maybe a little mushy, but I appreciated that they smoked it on site as we are an owner of a smoker ourselves.

This is a brewery with a mass-appeal for bringing the whole family in for a decent lunch and the location right in downtown Traverse City is excellent.

Mackinaw Brewing Company
161 East Front Street
Traverse City, MI 49684

A Brief Visit to Right Brain Brewery

Looking back, I wish we would have spent more time at the Right Brain Brewery. After having been to the two other breweries in town (and a few wineries) over the 4th of July weekend getaway in Traverse City, we had a little trouble finding Right Brain since it was a little "off the beaten path" and in a little bit of an industrial area (or so it looked at night). Once inside, it was packed and we could barely find room at the bar.

Like many breweries, they had a chalkboard with today's offerings but this was a giant chalkboard. And the offerings were crazy! They had a plethora of cleverly named beers but it was the ingredients/flavors of the beers that were so unusual - rosemary, chocolate, cayenne, sweet corn, double hopped, triple hopped, etc. We were thinking about getting a sampler tray (6 8oz samples for $15) but with all the hops mentioned, I didn't have any I'd like to try and Tim picked only three. We couldn't even fill up the 6-spots in the sampler request so we ended up with just tasting three:

Magnum Hospitality - Double IPA
T] Too much hops, can't enjoy it - 5/10

Will Power Pale
T] - 7/10

CEO Stout
T] Very good, good coffee, roasty - 9/10

We were actually going to come here for dinner but it didn't work out - this is more of a beer-only kind of place, with the options of peanuts and chips and hommus and such. We ended up just trying those three tastes quickly but knowing we had to head somewhere else for dinner before they closed (it was after 9).

Looking back, I wish my initial response to parsley and cayenne and thyme wasn't "weird" and we should've tried them at least. Also going on a weekend that isn't the night before Cherry Festival would be a good idea, and we should've saved a little more time to spend here to take it all in! Next time in Traverse City, we'll have dinner first elsewhere and I'll be stopping here again. It's a very cool place!

Right Brain Brewery
221 Garland Street
Traverse City, MI 49684

Monday, September 21, 2009

Great Baraboo Visit #2

Well, after the waiter at Copper Canyon said this was one of his favorite breweries, and we were in the neighborhood and in the beer-drinking mood (well maybe we're always in that mood..), Tim and I decided to stop by the Great Baraboo.

"Maybe it will be better this time," we thought. Walking in, it's your average sports bar with a TV in every corner, dark ambiance and music. The bar is a quite nice horseshoe shape and it had a lot of character. There are metal brewing canisters inside the room which at first looked like they were decoration but once I noticed the drains on the floor underneath, I realized they might actually be used for storing beer sometime in the brewing process.

We sit down at the bar and there are only advertisements about Bud Lite drink specials, food specials, and we didn't see anything about home brews. The bartender asked "what'll it be?" and when we said "can we see a beer list?" she was like "Oh.. you want to know about the house beers????" ... As with our first visit to Great Baraboo, we noticed this place is a sports bar first and brewery... third or fourth. It is just not the main attraction and it was obvious but the number of people who were drinking Bud Lites instead of the house brews.

With the house brew menu in hand, it was chock full of cleverly named beers and they seemed to cover all the main beer styles. Here is our review:

King's Peak Caribou Wheat
A] Not too shabby, but not the best wheat ever or anything 5/10
T] Just OK, not horrible offensive like the maple syrup P.A. 4/10

Hoppy Heartland Pale Ale
A] Too bittersweet for me 1/10
T] Tastes like maple syrup!! 1/10

As you can see, the Pale Ale didn't go over well, but the bartender was nice enough to swap out the P.A. for a Porter for free.

Boston Blackstone Porter
A] This could easily pass as cold coffee 4/10
T] Coffee taste lingers, heck of a lot better than the P.A. 6/10

This was all we were able to sample on our second visit. The price is right at Great Baraboo, their house brews were only $2.75 and if you really like the sports bar feel and the ability to have a Bud Lite as a back up plan, then this might be the place for you. We wanted to like this place but we felt the brewery portion of the business plan is somewhat of an afterthought.

Great Baraboo Brewing Company

35905 Utica Rd
Clinton Township, MI

Monday, June 29, 2009

Great Baraboo Brewing Company - Visit #1

At first glance, we thought that this was one of those places with "brewery" in the name and no house beer. It was recommended to us so we made the trek out to the east side to check this place out but as Tim noted, it was a mix between a sports bar and white trash and gave it 1/10 for ambiance. I said it was missing the brewery focus and the sports bar idea was front and center.

The menu was extensive, pasta, ribs, sandwiches, fish, appetizers.. oh and don't forget the Bud Light specials. After insisting we really wanted to try the brewery beers, we had five options to choose from:

King's Peak Caribou Wheat [A] - 2/10 - Bad after/during taste, creamy, wrong yeast, lukewarm, chlorine taste (bad east side water??), reminiscent of dirty dish water
[T] - 4/10 - crap flavored cloudy wheat
[B] - 3/10 - wouldn't want to drink a pint of this

Hoppy Heartland Pale Ale
[T] - 5/10 - Good bitterness, just OK
[B] - 7.5/10 - Enjoy bitterness, pretty tasty

Ass Castle, Honey Brown... seasonal, monthly special
[A] - 4/10 - Can't do darks like this...
[T] - 2/10 - Generally sucks

Shark Tooth Bay Golden Ale - East Side Busch Light
[A] - 3/10 - Better than wheat, tastes like nothing
[T] - 1/10
[B] - 1/10

We also tried the Boston Black Stone Porter but apparently didn't even bother using the rating scale, all my notes say are "ick..."

We ordered crab stuffed portobella mushrooms and chicken nachos. Ben thought the mushrooms were OK but I thought they tasted like fishy alfredo sauce on a mushroom. Tim liked the nachos better than CJ's but I liked CJ's better.

Great Baraboo Brewing Company

35905 Utica Rd
Clinton Township, MI

Sherwood Brewing Company, visit #1

Our first visit to Sherwood was with Ben, Tim and myself. It was recommended to us while we were visiting the Kuhnhenn a while before, and the three of us were doing an unofficial metro Detroit little brewery crawl, we decided to make the trek up to Shelby Township and hit up the Sherwood Brewing Company. It was a great time, hardly anyone was there and we sat right at the bar and had a chat with the bartender who was extremely knowledgable and one of the owners. This is a family owned establishment and it was opened up by a brother, sister and brother -in-law and if I remember correctly, one or two of them used to be teachers. Anyway they decided opening up a brewery would be more fun and here they are! I agree, that does sound like more fun.
Don't be fooled by the strip mall location, the ambiance inside is cool with an assortment of tables, booths, couches, a nice bar, etc. Without further ado, here are the beers we tried this night:

Plush Raspberry Wheat -
[A] -7/10 - Tart, good light fruity taste. Not the creamy banana wheat I like but good for what yeast they used.

Procrastination Scottish Export
[B] - 9/10 - Very good

Manacing Red Ale -
[A] - 8/10 - It has a perfect banana scent, taste, and just happens to be dark but has all the great features I love in a typical hefeweizen
[T] - 9/10 - Got all the right malty flavors without excessive caramel overtones

Birch Beer (non alcoholic)
 [A] & [T] - 10/10 - Awesome!

Sherwood Brewing Company
45689 Hayes Rd
Shelby Township, MI 48315

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Welcome to the Michigan Brew Review!

This has been a work in progress for over a year! Our goal is to visit every beer brewery in the great state of Michigan. This adventure began in the winter of 2008 and while we have covered many breweries since then, there are always more to visit and our work is never done! There are new breweries popping up (and unfortunately some disappearing) all the time and there are easily over 80 breweries in the great lakes state!

Some brewery visits have been impromptu with scribbled notes on a napkin, and others visits were well planned out brewery tours, complete with guest tasters and ratings sheets we've filled out. Either way, we hope to inspire you to take a drive and discover a brewery near you.

Wishing you many happy brew adventures!
-Anne and Tim