Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Week in Beer: Meditating Over a Hearty Mug

The long-awaited Massacre Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Dark Lager releases today at Wolverine State Brewing Co.

The wind whistles through the trees as the sun disappears behind dark clouds and leaves of red, orange, and yellow curl and sway relentlessly toward the earth. The smell of wood-fire fills the crisp air as you shrug your hoodie up over your neck and shoulders to keep away the damp threatening to seep into your bones. Yes, boys and girls, it's full on fall, when Mother Nature reminds us that death follows life and sets the more poetic-minded among us to pondering the mystery of our mortality. And when it comes to pondering mortality, there's nothing like having a hearty beer at your elbow to keep the Big Chill at bay, at least for now. Consider this Week in Beer to be a stalwart companion to your autumnal thanatopsis.

Thursday, October 11

» The long wait is over: When the clock strikes 4 p.m., the time of the Massacre is at hand. Head to the Wolverine State Brewing tap room, 2019 W. Stadium, for the official release of Massacre Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Dark Lager. Four packs are $24.99 (unless you pre-ordered yours); it’s not available on tap. Is it worth it? Only you can be the judge, but here are your correspondent’s impressions:  Massacre packs a distinct but relatively mild bourbon flavor balanced over a dark lager base (Wolverine Dark only doubled up on ingredients to make it "imperial"). It's surprisingly light-bodied and smooth, though the more it warms up, the more its 10.5% ABV becomes detectable, although it never tastes too "hot." It's a nice change from many of the overly sweet, syrupy, and boozy bourbon brews that have become all too common these days.

» Thursday is the new Friday at Whole Foods Cranbrook, 990 W. Eisenhower, which this week is moving its normal end-of-the-week Michigan beer happy hour for a 5-7pm celebration of all things Arbor Brewing. It’s a great time whatever day of the week and hey, a little bird (OK, Facebook) told me this year’s edition of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout is also scheduled to be delivered to the store tonight. Maybe if you beg and plead with someone you can get a bottle. If not, who cares? You got plenty of great Arbor beers on tap to try.

» You’ll want to leave enough time to get downtown when Arbor’s fall favorites beer tasting commences at 7 p.m. at the brewpub, 114 E. Washington. More than two dozen Marzen (Oktoberfest), Vienna, and other autumnal beers will be available for sampling, along with the usual appetizer buffet and raffle of brew booty. Tickets are $30; call 734-213-1393 or buy at the door, if available.

Saturday, October 13

» Football! Food carts! Freaking good beer! Find all three at Wolverine this weekend as the other Wolverines look to curb stomp the visiting Illinoisians for homecoming at 3:30 p.m. Tailgate fun begins at noon out in the parking lot with chow from Darcy’s Cart, Debajo del Sol, San Street, and A2 Pizza Pi. Look for some of Wolverine’s “big beers” released this week, including Gulo Cubed Imperial Pale Lager, 40 Ounces of Freedom Imperial Pilsner, and maybe some Massacre will be left? You never know. If you’re sticking around the tap room for the game, your correspondent recommends the Big House Brown (now with more hops!), full of flavor but low enough ABV that you can stay awake past halftime.

Sunday, October 14

» Another weekend, another fundraiser for a worthy cause at Original Gravity, 440 County St., Milan, this time for the American Cancer Society. From noon to 6 p.m., enjoy great OG beers, a 50/50 raffle and prizes, and the chance to help Michelle Nasers celebrate her fifth year of surviving cancer and her 20th anniversary of being married to lovable man-mountain John Nasers. Michelle will be running a half marathon to benefit ACS and hopes to find some sponsors (see details here). As an added inducement to come out, OG will be releasing Barrel Aged Evil Overlord, a strong dark Belgian ale aged in bourbon casks for almost a year.

Tuesday, October 16

» Bell’s Brewery is turning 27, and to celebrate, Ashley's, 338 S. State, is turning over 27 of their taps to Bell’s beers. Fourteen favorites will go on at 2 p.m. and then at 6 p.m., things get real with an additional baker’s dozen being tapped, one every 15 minutes, culminating in Bell’s new This One Goes to 11 Ale at 9:11 p.m. The Bell’s team will be there, too, of course, and they’re bringing the Wheel o’ Prizes with them so some lucky slobs can go home with some sweet, sweet Bell’s boodle. See the list of beers and tapping schedule here.

Wednesday, October 17

» On the third Wednesday of every month, the Corner Brewery, 720 Norris, Ypsilanti, releases a new Rat Pad beer, named after the Corner’s small pilot brewing system. This month, come in at 6 p.m. for the tapping of Indian Fusion Ale, a harvest brew made with fresh locally grown hops, butternut and yellow squash, and curry. This beer was also brewed in a “historical” way, meaning wood firepits and spruce tip filtering and all sorts of primitive stuff like that. Growler fills are available after 9, if any of the beer remains (and, you know, anyone likes it enough to take home).

» Celebrate the bounty of the harvest with a 6:30 p.m. fall feast at Grange Kitchen & Bar, 118 W. Liberty, featuring the excellent libations of New Holland Brewing. Chef Brandon Johns has developed a five-course meal of local produce and game paired with New Holland beers (and spirits, as word is New Holland’s new Beer Barrel Bourbon is going to appear on the menu). Reservations are required; call 734-995-2107 or reserve online here. Cost is $55, excluding tax and tip.

Thursday, October 18

» It’s official! The long-awaited opening of Bill’s Beer Garden, 210 S. Ashley, is at hand. Put on a parka and head to the parking lot of Downtown Home & Garden, which at 5 p.m. transforms into a magical wonderland of great Michigan beer (Arbor, Bell’s, Dark Horse, Wolverine, Founders, Original Gravity to start), a variety of wines (uh, red and white, I guess?), and good times. Regular hours are 5-11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and Sunday 4-9 p.m. through December 2. Read more about it from’s intrepid Lizzy Alfs here.

Notes on the Napkin

  • At Grizzly Peak, 120 W. Washington, look for Keller Festbier, a hoppy 4.6% easy drinker in the spirit of German kellerbier, and Rotweizen, an amber-style beer fermented with hefeweizen yeast. Oktoberfest Lager returns as well, which is appropriate as Grizzly continues to celebrate Oktoberfest with a German-inspired menu and beer special: Get a limited-edition pint glass for just $5 and fill it with any beer for $2 through October 14.
  • Previously in this space, an October 17 beer dinner up at South Lyon’s Lake Street Tavern was announced, but it has since been canceled. That is all.
  • The Chelsea Alehouse, opening sometime this fall, has sold 400 Founding Memberships so far. What’s that all about, then? Well, for $150 you get immortalized with your name on a plaque in the brewery, a growler with 12 fills, discounts on all draft beers, a handmade ceramic mug, a t-shirt, and other cool honors and benefits. Want to get in on it? See here.
  • Would you consider chipping in to help with the restoration of the iconic Beer Depot sign? That’s what the owners of the downtown Ann Arbor party store are wondering as they ponder the wisdom of a Kickstarter campaign. Chime in at the Beer Depot blog.
  • Speaking of helping a local business with the bills, consider the campaign for Ypsilanti’s Unity Vibration to procure cooperage for distributing their raw, gluten-free, organic, vegan, free-range, fair trade (OK, I got carried away there) Kombucha “Beer” to the masses. (While Unity’s product is a nice fermented beverage alternative, I hesitate to call it beer, as it is a distinctly different animal.) Owners Rachel and Tarek Kanaan hope to see their beverages on tap in bars and restaurants, and that’s where you come in. Go here to learn more.

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