June 2010 Archives
As I headed out of work, the sun - still high in the sky - had burnt off all but a handful of feathery clouds. It was four-thirty on Friday, September, Seventh, Two-Thousand Seven. I was heading over to the Georgetown library to pick up a book relating the history of my church at the time, a millenarian eschatological cult who had predicted the end of the world more times than I've brewed beer. On my return I decided to stop off at Founders for a brew.
Founders was still at their former location in the old Brass Works building on Monroe. As I circled around looking for parking and the precise location of the brewery, I was chatting with my buddy about his faith in his current religion. I still had no idea the full spiritual experience that was awaiting.
Sitting down at the far end of the bar, I had a nice view of the stainless steel brewery sitting behind a glass wall. A list of high gravity ales in bright colors bedecked the chalkboard behind the bar. Taps lined the wall, a stained glass Founders sign hung above them. Before I could take it all in the bartender was there asking if I knew what I wanted. The service was great, little did I know at the time, great service is, and was, the standard at Founders. While I had enjoyed many of Founders products in the bottle before, I had yet to sample their pub fare. Founders sandwiches are all made fresh, of the freshest ingredients, all the time. Quite honestly Founders has the best pub food that I know of in the state.
As I sat sampling my Kentucky Breakfast Stout - now known as KBS - I met a home brewer and software developer who is now a great friend of mine. After a few hours, and a few incredible ales at Founders, we stopped off at Cambridge House.
Well there it is, my spiritual experience. Well I guess you just had to be there.
Founders now resides at 235 Grandville Avenue Southwest, in Grand Rapids. Their ales continue to impress me as much as their great service. If you like barrel aged stouts their Canadian Breakfast Stout is awesome, KBS is a classic, and their Centennial IPA is about as it gets when it comes to IPA's. As anyone who has gone to their Breakfast Stout Breakfast can attest, their breakfast stout, well it goes pretty good with any meal, including breakfast. After three, if you order food at the window, you are likely to be greeted by Chance Jones (Joshua Burge) or one of the other great characters behind the window. Watch out for the gnomes hanging around in the rafters, I think they hang out up there just to catch the smell of fresh malt as it wafts past the tap room, like ambrosia in the wind.
Thanks! I wanted to combine my love of Suds and Dubs... The car is an 06' GLI w/REVO STGII+. I bought a second trunk lid, laminated it, and attached the tower. It takes about 5-10 minutes to swap out the lids. After all I don't think my HR department would enjoy that in the parking lot. The bar coasters are magnetic and the entire setup remains on the car while in motion. So far the tower is good up to 135MPH winds. For SoWo I used a 1/4 barrel of beer (7.75gal) and a 5lb aluminum CO2 tank. I was supposed to get the tank polished to match the wheels but I ran out of time. H20i is going to be even better as I'll have my homebrew instead of crappy bud light (yuck). In addition I plan on expanding the tower to dispense both cold beer and margarita.
My fathers friend is one of a few artisans left who specializes in the custom design, and fabrication of stainless steel work. I drew up a diagram and two days later I had a perfect drip tray at my door shipped all the way from Montana.
I built a backer plate and made a custom NTP threaded nut and washer to mate up with the drain and secure it to the door.
When I visited New Holland Brewery back in March, Brett told me there was a new Microdistillery and Brewery opening up in Sparta, Michigan. For the next couple of months I was trying to figure out just where. Succeeding in doing so a few weeks ago, I stopped in one morning on the way to work and met Dan Humphrey. He had not opened up yet and was just getting things together, he saw me poking around and invited me in and gave me a tour. He has made a lot of his own brewing equipment as well as two keggle style reflux stills. I was excited to come in once he opened up and sample his wares. Thursday night I had just that chance. I called ahead to make sure he had wifi and power, both of which he had.
I took a couple of photos of the place and sat down. There was a decent band playing in one corner, taps lined the far left wall popping out through a massive stainless steel back splash. The bar, a light oak colored structure supports a glassy sea of poly that Dan troweled on. The bar chairs are stiff backed, with a nice thick cushion, they were horribly uncomfortable since they didn't seem the right height to meet up with the bar. After a few pints I seemed to forget about the whole ergonomics of beer drinking however. Adam the bartender was serving a few folks, he is a young man who has apparently never worked a real pub bar before, having done mostly Applebee's type work.
It took Adam a good ten minutes to ask if I wanted a pint. He was busy, but not that busy, I would have given him some credit for eye contact and a 'I will be right with you' but apparently he is more a cash not credit guy. I asked him what he had on tap, he handed me the menu and walked away. Ten more minutes later I still had no pint. Dan's adult son was wandering around like an excited lost puppy with a pretzel and some dip, and Adam was waiting on folks as they came. So after the bartender had waited on another five folks or so, and pretzel man had come and gone about three times I finally asked him if I could please get a pint next. He asked what I ordered - I told him an American IPA - and he very quickly served one up.
The American IPA was really great, it had an almost cask ale character to it, great body, plenty of hops, I was pretty impressed. I was joined by some friends and once they were served I tasted their samples since my pint ran dry - for a while. Next when Adam finally asked me if I wanted another I got the English IPA. It too was good, nothing like the American IPA, but still very good. It had a bit of an unfiltered homebrew character to it. Lastly I had their porter, a lighter bodied ale, with a slight roasted malt character. Dan came out and was very cordial, and I chatted with him for a few moments. When all was said and done and I was ready to head out, Adam had no idea who I was, he had no tab for me, and he had no idea what I had drank. I let him sweat it out for forty seconds or so as he looked through the computer, the receipt bag, and where ever else he thought that mysterious tab might be. I told him that he had never taken my card, and what I had that night. I also explained the $2.50 tip. Adam is a good kid, I asked him if he had ever tended bar before. That's when he explained he had worked at Applebee's or some place like that rattling off a dozen excuses of why he was slow, it was the computer, he had been there since ten, he had worn the wrong color socks. I explained that I would compensate him better the next time I was in, but that he needed to step it up just a bit. This was not Applebee's. To her credit the next bartender - a young woman - immediately asked if I needed something when she arrived behind the bar. There is a lesson here. When you start a new business do what my buddy recommends, and scout out your employees.
I will be back for more great beer and good music, maybe even some of those roving pretzels. Let's just hope the Michigan Beer Cellar lasts long enough to get their staff trained up to the same level as their beers.
Stefanos the bartender was washing dishes in the back, his girlfreind was enjoying a pint, and the snow was accumulating softly on the ground outside the window. Every single ale they make is perfect, honest. The owner and brewmaster Brad Sancho, is a mechanical engineer turned brewmaster. There is just something about engineers, they make great beer. I honestly think this is no accident, something about the methodical precision of engineering is just what it takes to make great ale. Stefanos offered me a few samples of everything on tap including the OG Pale Ale, and Southpaw IPA. I was super impressed, but then I am a bit of a hophead. If you hate hops just be careful at OG, they don't mess around. I ordered a pastrami sandwich consisting of top round beef pastrami, horseradish sauce, lettuce tomato, & red onion and for me, no cheese. Quite tasty, something I can't say for dinner the night prior. It was pretty much the perfect brewpub experience.
At the Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Fest I met Brad. Not only did he have the Bellywasher Scotch Ale on tap, he was the only - yep the only - guy washing out glasses to give you a clean pallet. So yeah he is pretty much the coolest guy ever, with the coolest brewpub in East Michigan.
So I am sitting here and it just hit me. My site has been
down for so long that I
have not even got to share great beer experiences I had two years ago. Some time ago I had to travel to
So back a couple years ago now I saw a 'vintage' GE fridge for sale on Craigslist for $15.00 or something like that. It seemed like the perfect kegerator fridge. So I picked it up, took it apart to get it in my basement, and there it sat. Then somewhere along the line I saw this cute little Philco fridge that my buddy had. It had the same basic internal dimensions but overall, it was much smaller. I told him that if he ever decided to sell it that I wanted it. The GE continued to sit in pieces in my basement and the Philco sat in his garage. Then one day he decided to sell the Philco. Since winter was approaching and I wanted to paint the Philco we let it sit for another year in his garage. In the meantime I decided to put the GE back together, replaced the door panel to make space and cleaned it up with a little rubbing compound and wax. The chrome was in decent shape and it makes a great beer fridge. Here are some pics. It still has the original ice trays, and accessories. I have saved the door panel in the case I ever sell it to someone who wants the original parts.
Someday I hope to visit the remains of it's namesake ship at the Great Lakes shipwreck museum at Whitefish Point.
Lagunitas, the people that brought us the
Censored Ale, also produce a fine "Imperial Mild",
essentially an IPA. A deep amber in color, it pours with a lacy head. It
possesses a great fresh hop aroma, like mountain biking in the woods past a
brewery. There's an almost spicy tomato oregano character. Yes, biking in the
woods does not exactly smell like spaghetti and meatballs. It would seem each
wiff you get just a little something different. It's clear that it's imperial ale,
everything about it screams double.
According the label "We brewed this especially bitter ale in dedication to all the world's would-be astronauts, in remembrance of the 2005 St. Patrick's Day Massacre on the Brewery Party Grounds and also in joyous celebration of our 20-day suspension that following January. Do the crime. Do the time. Get the bragging rights. Cheers!"
So you might want to know the story behind the label. Well according to the most authoritative source in the whole wide world - the Internet - this is it.
The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control thought the weekly parties that Lagunitas used to have were just too much fun. So they sent their agents in to 'investigate'. Now there is a government job I could handle. Anyhow it apparently took over eight weeks of said 'research' to determine that having fun with beer was bad. Granted they had apparently been looking for to write them up for serving intoxicated people, minors, you name it without much success. But as we all know the only state with a Governator is also the state where Sativa and Indica are household names. So apparently if you get caught in the Purple Haze the ol' California ABC can use old school prohibition era laws that prohibit running a "disorderly house" to bring you down which they did on St. Patty's Day 2005. Some say they could have been shut down for a year, but in the end they got 20 days, just what they need to get that new bottling line installed.
A few words of caution are in order however. If you use an abrasive disc for mild steel, don't polish you keg with it. Keep a set for stainless, aluminum, and mild steel, and don't mix. You will embed little rustable flakes into your keg if you do, and have a mess. Also while you can polish stainless and aluminum, you can't do this with chrome. Hit chrome with an abrasive and you will get nickel in a heartbeat when you burn through the chrome. Don't ask me how I know. According to George, if you want to clean up your chrome use soft scrub and 0000 stainless steel wool. Then wax it when you are done. If it looks like crap, do what I did and send it to George.
It is now home to a real beer lover. Happy Trails little GE Fridge.
This past Saturday I dropped into
Honey Creek Inn to have a pint. Founders Dry Hopped IPA was the cask ale on
tap. To misquote princess bride 'Since the
invention of the pint, there have only been five pints that were rated the most
passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.' It truly was the
best pint I have ever had.
My first experience at Honey Creek Inn was a few weeks ago. I had been biking the Canonsburg State Game Area and decided to drop in. The amber walls are adored with a well over a hundred of tap handles. Neat, clean, and smoke free it had an authentic pub atmosphere. Eight tap handles advertised a selection a great brews with Bells Two Hearted occupying the cask ale tap. Impressed by the friendly patrons, many of which who were locals who have been visiting for years; I started up a conversation with the couple next to me. They introduced me to Don Kurylowicz, the owner of Honey Creek Inn, and for that matter owner of Cannonsburg
Don explained to me that every tap
handle on the wall had actually been served on tap right there at his pub. He
explained the origins of the public house what it really meant to be one. He
ran me through the history of Honey Creek Inn and its close relationship with
Larry Bell and the local breweries in the area. He was the first to have cask
ale on tap in
Since, I have asked many persons if they knew of Honey Creek Inn with at least half telling me they have been faithful customers for twenty years. So this last Saturday was no accident, the perfect pint just happened to be at my favorite pub.
Mid-April, strawberries went on sale for a dollar a pound. So with six dollars burning a hole in my pocket, I decided to part with them in exchange for a dry wine with a perfectly
distinct strawberry character.
6 Pounds Strawberries
15 Cups Dextrose
2 ½ Gallons Water
Boil up just like strawberry jam. Cool it, pitch a little Lalvin K1-V1116 and you are all set. 1.050 OG (Original Gravity). After ten days I re-racked. After two weeks I added a little gelatin, let is settle for a week and bottled.
And for all you New Zealanders out there it makes a great Eau De Vie.