All posts by micraftbeer

Motor City Brew Tours Tour Bus

 Bell’s (Kalamazoo, MI), Arcadia (Battle Creek, MI), Darkhorse (Marshall, MI), Sleeping Bear (Random exit off I-94, MI)


We caught the bus from Copper Canyon Brewery in Southfield around 9:00 AM.  Once we all signed the waiver saying we were taking responsibility for ourselves, the 2 Cornelius kegs were tapped (Irish Stout and an IPA- both from Copper Canyon).  By 9:30 for sure, we were into our first beer.  The bus trip out to Bell’s took about 2 – 3 hours from when we left.  Getting lost at the pickup spot for the Ann Arbor group didn’t help any, of course.  By the time we got our beers at Bell’s and sat down, we were all feeling pretty buzzed.  I suppose that’s the hazard of giving us free self-service access to 2 kegs of beer and a long bus ride with nothing to do but sit around and talk.  In hindsight, a little slower start to the drinking would have left clearer memories of the breweries/beers later, but that’s why they say it’s 20/20.

2012-03-31 11.43.33

Bell’s Eccentric Café was quite cool.  Interesting old brick place, high ceilings, stained glass windows, and a ton of Bell’s stuff on tap.  All the 2012-03-31 12.09.49usual favorites, plus they had 3 or so “Experimentals” that didn’t have a name yet, just a description, and Hopslam on cask.  The food was good, and I noticed the place seemed quite full of people/families there for lunch (which I would do to my family too if I lived there).  The Two-Hearted IPA was absolutely amazing.  I had a hard choice between something that I’d already had and knew I liked-
knowing that fresh from the source would be even better, or one of 2012-03-31 11.46.35the Experimentals that could only be bought there.  I’m glad I went with the Two-Hearted and was blown away, rather than try something new and potentially being disappointed.

Arcadia was quite spacious, seemed to be in an old main street department store.  The beer was all good, nothing that totally blew me away.

Dark Horse was a cool place.  It seemed like they had expanded at some point, as the building inside looked like it was 2 different vintages.  But it had a very cool and earthy feel inside, with a low ceiling that was covered completely with mugs hanging up.  I don’t know if these were mug club mugs or just decoration, but it made it very cool looking nonetheless.  They had an outdoor area as well that we enjoyed sitting outside and soaking up some sun rays.  They had a small outdoor stage there where someone told us they have bands every now & then.  I know I love Dark Horse beers, but by this point, several beers in at the breweries with the gaps in between filled with bus beer, my taste buds were getting a bit, “Yeah, whatever.”  So I’m pretty sure it was good, but doesn’t distinctly stand out.  They did have a large gift shop with tons of shirts, sweatshirts, hats, etc.  They all looked pretty good, but were a little pricey for my souvenir taste.

The last stop was Sleep Bear Winery & Microbrewery.  This was just off of I-94, in what must have been an old restaurant of gas station type place.  Pretty unattractive from the outside, and in the middle of nowhere right next to the interstate.  Inside was bright & lively.  Of course our busload of 40 drunks surely livened the place up, but I was surprised at how many random folks kept coming in and having a couple of drinks.  There was a free pizza buffet here, that helped cap off the day’s beer.  At this point, my thinking brain got the better of my drinking brain, and I switched to 100% water.  So I can’t tell you if the beer was any good.  Not that I would have been much use as a taste-tester at this point anyway.  I do recall some of the pizza being quite gross though, and that’s what I blame on the stomach virus that got me the next day and stayed with me a week.  I decided none of my friends got it because they were drinking beer, while I was just drinking water.  If I had been drinking beer, the alcohol would have killed the food poisoning germs hiding out on it, and I would have been fine.  Or maybe it was the water itself, perhaps run-off from a nearby farm and filled with chicken poop or something.

After some good napping on the bus back, I was feeling refreshed enough to try to help the cause of polishing off the bus beer.  The IPA was gone, but there was Stout left.  However, I decided that Stout that had sat at room temperature all day long on the bus wasn’t so good 12 hours later.  We got back to Copper Canyon about 9:00PM that night.  All in all, quite a good time, and well worth the $60 ticket price.  Of course we paid for all of our drinks at each place, but these were all top-notch breweries (except the unknown Sleeping Bear- which still remains unknown to me, other than a life lesson of not eating pizza from a buffet when your sense of good & bad is somewhat blurred by a day full of alcohol).


Southern Tier Un*earthly

Southern Tier Un earthly

Very sweet aroma.  Initial taste is a bit hoppy, but not too strong.  Has a slight bite that gives you a hint of the high ABV, but is quickly followed by the sweetness and finishes with a mix of sweetness and hops.  May leave some with too much sweetness, but for me is quite nice.  I found this in oaked form and that was amazing.

5 out of 5 Stars.

Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival 2012

Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival

February 25th, 2012, Comstock Park (Grand Rapids), MI

This was the 7th annual winter festival for the MI Brewers Guild, and fortunately I’ve been to 6 of them now.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a perfect attendance record.  This year, the festival must have gained in popularity for some reason because everything sold out early.  Usually, I book the hotel over Christmastime, then take my time in January to buy tickets online and finalize plans.  This year, I was surprised to find tickets online sold out in early January, and most of the places around town to buy them were also sold out.  I bought the last 3 tickets in the state when I bought combo Festival/Bus tickets from Motor City Brew Tours.  They sold out their first 1,500 (out of 6,000) in a few hours online.  I noticed that as a result, for the first time they’ve started posting the date when tickets go on-sale for future festivals.  Summer festival is in July, but they’ve clearly communicated tickets go on sale on May 1st.  I’m going to be ready!

I didn’t want the bus ride, because we always stay over in Grand Rapids and enjoy a few craft beer hot spots Saturday night, but it was my only way to tickets.  So we paid the $80 for bus + festival, then told them we weren’t taking the bus and asked them to just mail me the tickets ($40 price for tickets alone).  The usual Holiday Inn hotel downtown was sold out of all but the most expensive rooms, but we were able to find a room at a good price at the Amway Grand Plaza hotel.  The downtown area has many great restaurants and bars/pubs all within easy walking distance.  And the town is very clean, with a lot of attractive older buildings that have been kept well maintained.

We got to town Saturday morning, grabbed some lunch, and headed to Hopcat bar.  We missed the bus (left ½ hour earlier than they told me it would when I reserved 3 spots), but met a couple of other festival-goers that were taking a minivan cab out there, so we joined in.  The line was huge.  We probably got there about 12:30 (1/2 hour before they opened the gates), and based on the fact they sold 6,000 tickets, I’d guess there was

probably 5,000 – 5,500 people standing in line in front of us.  We figured it would take an hour to get through all of us.  Amazingly it took 15 minutes because they were very organized in checking IDs ahead of time, etc.

Winter Beer Festival 25-Feb-2012

Festival was fun of course, but freezing cold.  We dressed prepared for it, but every time I had to take a glove off to mark down some tasting notes, I swore I was getting frostbite.  The more popular places, as usual, had huge lines.  So it was a combination of alternating between a lesser-known place to get quickly served, followed by standing in the long line and drinking down the beer.  This worked well for getting a mix of the old favorites, and a few new ones at the same time.  My taste ratings are below.  After the festival, caught a taxi back downtown and spent some time at Founders brewery.  Of course great beer, and it was packed.  Couldn’t get back into Hopcat (without paying a $15 or $20 cover charge!!), so we stopped off at some other non-descript place on the way from

Founders to Amway Grand.  Of course the final topping on the evening was a burrito take-out from Taco Boy, across the street from Amway.

  1. Witch’s Hat Brewing Co, Big Doedish Double IPA (6 out of 5 stars. Yes, I know. But this was really really awesome and the only way for me to convey how great it was.  This was a new brewery and a very special find.  Of note, my 2 other companions each had something different than me and also said the beer was very good.)
  2. Dark Horse Brewing Co, Double Crooked Tree (5.5 out of 5 stars).
  3. Shorts Brewing Co, Hopstache IPA w/ grapefruit zest (5 out of 5 stars).
  4. Lily’s Seafood Grill & Brewery, Sven & Ollies IPA (5 out of 5 stars).
  5. Bell’s Brewery, Two-Hearted IPA (5 out of 5 stars).
  6. New Holland Brewing Co, Double Hatter (5 out of 5 stars).
  7. Copper Canyon Brewery, Northwestern Gold (4 out of 5 stars).
  8. Michigan Beer Cellar, Double Black Magic Double Rye PA (4 out of 5 stars).
  9. Olde Peninsula Brewpub, Bourbon Stout (4 out of 5 stars).
  10. Michigan Brewing Co, India Pale Ale (3.5 out of 5 stars).
  11. Right Brain Brewery, Barrel Aged Ale (3.5 out of 5 stars).
  12. Rochester Mills Beer Co, Cornerstone IPA (3.5 out of 5 stars).
  13. Motor City Brewing Works, Farmhouse Ale (3 out of 5 stars).
  14. Arcadia Brewing Co, Hop Rocket (2 out of 5 stars).
  15. Blue Tractor Brewery, Oak-Aged “Hands off my Goat” (2 out of 5 stars).


Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous

Slightly sweet aroma.  Initial taste is one of both strong hops and strong malt.  The hop taste transitions to end up with a strong malt taste that tapers off slowly.  Leaves you a bit confused with all these strong flavors and aromas coming and going.  After a few drinks, the aftertaste starts to collide with the aroma, and the 2 do not compliment each other.  Leaves you feeling like you’re not sure if you can handle another drink.  In the end, I think I prefer not, but it still intrigues me for some reason…

3 out of 5 Stars.

Stone Sublimely Self Righteous