2015 Beer Guide

FACT: Michiganders love beer.

As the state with the fifth highest number of craft breweries in the country, Michigan is at the forefront of the craft beer explosion. Beat only by California, Washington, Colorado, and Oregon, we boast expert recipes brewed far from the West Coast. So why are we in the middle of this delicious boom? We checked in with a few local hop heads to find out.

The Beer Grotto

Jake VanAtta, Director of Marketing
303 S Ashley St. | Ann Arbor 734-369-4212 | beergrotto.com

My favorite Michigan beer:
Dark Horse “Rain in Blood.”

Beer presently in my refrigerator:
Blackrocks Brewing Co., Greenbush Brewing Co., Founders Brewing Co., Dark Horse Brewing Co..

My first beer:
My first beer was the famous Pabst Blue Ribbon. It was the perfect beer on a college student budget at the time.

What beer do you recommend for day-drinking?
A great session IPA is always a good choice, as well as a wheat-inspired beer.

My favorite pairing:
Any beer with pizza.

Are hops still trending, or is something else on the horizon?
The use of hops will continue to be a trend moving forward but you are starting to see different craft beers gain momentum such as craft lagers and sours. Lucky enough we have two of the best in Washtenaw County with Wolverine State Beer Co. and Jolly Pumpkin.

Blue Tractor

Pat Meehan, Head Brewer
207 E Washington St.| Ann Arbor 734-222-4095 | bluetractor.net

My favorite Michigan beer:
It’s tough to choose just one. I find myself ordering Founders Red’s Rye pretty often. Jolly Pumpkin’s Luciernaga is also excellent.

Beer presently in my refrigerator:
Stone Delicious IPA, Boulevard Brewing’s Tank 7, and New Holland Paleooza.

My first beer:
It was a can of Budweiser. Things have improved since then.

My favorite pairing:
Blue cheese and IPA. We have a steak salad on our menu with a blue-cheese bacon dressing that pairs perfectly with a hoppy, dry IPA.

What beer do you recommend for day-drinking?
Sessionable beers in cans are pretty convenient—Founders All Day, Evil Twin Bikini Beer, and Sierra Nevada Pale all have low enough ABV to enjoy more than a few without over doing it.

Are hops still trending, or is something else on the horizon?
Hops aren’t going anywhere. They’re delicious and growers are constantly searching for and creating new varieties with new flavors. I think more session beers are on the horizon for our region—mostly because they’re everywhere else already. Beer has historically been a communal beverage, best enjoyed in the company of others. Lower gravities keep both the beer and the conversation flowing freely.

Grizzly Peak

Duncan Williams, Brewer
120 W Washington St. | Ann Arbor 734-741-7325 | grizzlypeak.net

My favorite Michigan beer:
Hard choice. Gun to my head, I’d have to say Bam Biere from Jolly Pumpkin or Euchre Pils from Arbor Brewing Co..

Beer presently in my refrigerator:
Keewanaw November Gales Pale Ale, a number of Jolly P (Luciernaga, a few Bams) some GP growlers (Gold and Prahpah Brown).

My first beer:
Stroh’s of course. Had way too many. Swore off drinking until college.

My favorite pairing:
Grilled asparagus and our GP Victor’s Gold.

What beer do you recommend for day-drinking?
We’ve been brewing Table beers here at GP. These are beers that are generally below 3% but with lots of flavor. We’ve brewed Miss Havisham’s Table IPA (hoppy English Table beer), Schwarzen Tisch (a Dark Lager is on tap in the Old German that clocks in at 2.4%) and we’ve got Annie’s Saison de Table (a hoppy and effervescent farmhouse ale that’s 3.2%). These are all super drinkable.

Are hops still trending, or is something else on the horizon?
Session beers are pretty hot right now. I want to be able to have more than a few good beers and not get myself into too much trouble.

The Arena Sports Bar

Mike Flore, Owner
203 E Washington St. | Ann Arbor 734-222-9999

My favorite Michigan beer:
Pretty much anything from Dark Horse.

Beer presently in my refrigerator:
Two Hearted.

My first beer:
Miller Highlife – I'm 52 so when I was almost of legal age, the tall blonde was the beer to get, so we had a friends's brother buy us a case of the tall blondes from the drive thru, a big score for a Saturday night.

What beer do you recommend for day-drinking?
I'd recommend anything light, because most of the time I day-drink it turns into night-drinking as well, so you don't want anything heavy to slow you down.

My favorite pairing:
Beer & Peanut M&M's.

Are hops still trending, or is something else on the horizon?
Every couple of months it seems there's a new, awesome brewery out there.

Jolly Pumpkin

Maggie Long, Managing Partner and Chef
311 S Main St. | Ann Arbor 734-913-2730 | jollypumpkin.com

Favorite Michigan beer:
I’m going to pull the biased card here and stick close to home. So in no order of preference and more based on mood and season—Oro de Calabaza, La Roja, Luciernaga, Maricaibo Especial, iO and Noel de Calabaza. If not one of Jolly Pumpkin’s then anything from Dark Horse in Marshall. I love the malt forward balance and low hop counts of their beers.

Beer presently in my refrigerator:
Grand Teton Brewing Splash Down, Russian River Supplication and Damnation, Shorts Soft Parade, Brewery Vivant Tart Side of the Moon, New Belgium Fat Tire, Bellows Brewery WitchShark, and Lost River!

My first beer:
It was unremarkable. I truly can’t remember. The end!

My favorite pairing:
Because I’m a big-picture person it would have to be style of beer over specific beer when I think of pairing. I look to the sours and wilds because of their acid, carbonation or stillness, funk and earthiness. They play wonderfully with a wide variety of salty foods, seafood, pork and “stinky” cheeses.

Are hops still trending or is something else on the horizon?
Hops will stay the course, yet I see a move toward better balanced, easy drinking “less is more” single-hopped beers. Also included in emerging trends (my humble opinion only) are low alcohol creative session beers, red and brown ales which are wonderful transition/introductory beers, gose’s, the sours and the wilds.

Tarek amd Rachel Kanaan met in 2006 and began brewing together, later opening Unity Vibration

Unity Vibration

Tarek Kanaan, Owner and brewer
93 Ecorse Rd, Ypsilanti | 734-277-4063 | unityvibrationkombuch.com

Our favorite Michigan beer:
Prolonged Enjoyment-Short’s. Rojzilla by Jolly Pumpkin.

Beer presently in our refrigerator:
KPA Kombucha Pale Ale and Jolly Pumpkin’s 2004 Saison. Our first beer: Snuck out after dark for a Hams on draft at my childhood lake cottage.

What beer do you recommend for day-drinking?
Unity Vibes Crystal Hops Kombucha Tea, which is technically a beer and Dupont Avril

Our favorite pairing:
Unity Raspberry Kombucha Beer or New Glarus Raspberry Tart with Mindo Dark Chocolate. Any good IPA and Biercamp charcuterie.

Arbor Brewing Co.

Chris Davies, Head Brewer
114 E Washington St | Ann Arbor 734-213-1393

My favorite Michigan beer:
My favorites tend to change. Outside of any beers I brew, I would say my favorite beer I’ve had recently was a margarita-inspired gose from Short’s Brewpub. It was kind of like drinking a carbonated 4% ABV margarita. I don’t think that description really does it justice, but it was delicious, refreshing, and complex.

Beer presently in my refrigerator:
I have a few Arcadia IPA’s in my fridge, some of our Euchre Pils (which is enjoying its first time out in bottles), along with some home-brewed beer that’s conditioning.

My first beer:
My first craft beer was Bell’s Amber Ale. I remember my dad really being floored by Bell’s beers like Two Hearted and Hopslam when I was a teenager. It was a brand I was familiar with, so I picked up some Amber Ale. Something about the old label with the heron on it and the color scheme really made me gravitate toward it. I didn’t know anything about beer styles yet. It wasn’t yellow, it had hop character, and it was balanced. While not my go-to style, I still come back to the beer on occasion and it’s still as enjoyable as when I first had it.

What beer do you recommend for day-drinking?
You really can’t argue with All Day IPA from Founder’s for day-drinking. A 15 pack of can is under $20. On a hike, on a boat, in the backyard. It goes everywhere and doesn’t get in the way of whatever activity you’re enjoying.

My favorite pairing:
I’m a novice at pairing beers with food, but I really love getting a few beer samples and pairing them with a cheese plate. Beer and cheese together is a big win.

Are hops still trending, or is something else on the horizon?
Hops are definitely still trending. I think we’re seeing both more and newer hops sneaking into stalwart beer styles. This coincides with a bit of irreverence for style guidelines. Beyond the green world of hops, we’re seeing a lot more sour and barrel aged beers. Wild yeast and other souring micro-oragnisms are eeking their way into more breweries, and beer drinkers are becoming more attuned to those flavor profiles. It’s very exciting to see how fast the trends move, because it’s a clear indicator that there’s much more room for the industry to grow.

Wurst Bar

Gina Jidas, Bartender & Manager
705 W Cross St, Ypsilanti | 734-485-6720

What's your favorite Michigan beer?
My favorite Michigan beer…tough question. I can tell you what my taste buds have been craving lately. I would love to sit back and enjoy a Founders Backwoods Bastard. I love that smokey, oaky, malty flavor.

What beer do you have in your refrigerator at home right now?
The beer sitting in my fridge is the Jolly Pumpkin Baudelaire IO Saison. The beer just sounds sexy, brewed with hibiscus and rose petals.

What was your first beer?
My first beer, sadly, was Natural Ice. I remember my friend and I sneaking it out of her Dad's fridge in the garage. Her brother was having a going away party, he was entering the military. Her grandma also whooped my butt in beer pong that night.

What beer do you recommend for day-drinking?
My day-drinking beer is something of the lighter sorts. I would say Oddside Citra pale or Founders All Day IPA.

What's your favorite pairing?
My favorite beer pairing would be Bell's Two Hearted with Wurst Bar's house made Andouille sausage. The crispness of the beer with the spicyness of the sausage goes hand in hand.

Are hops still trending, or is something else on the horizon?
Hops are definitely still trending. I don't see them leaving anytime soon. Ciders are making their way in though, especially this time of year.

Standing in the center with his fellow brewers is Oliver Roberts, Wolverine’s Brewmaster.
Wolverine State Brewing Co.

Oliver Roberts, Brewmaster
2019 W Stadium Blvd, Ann Arbor | 734-369-2990 | wolverinebeer.com

My favorite Michigan beer:
As a brewer I don’t think I’ll ever have a single, favorite beer. I’m open to anything. I am a big fan of Griffin Claw’s Norm’s Raggedy Ass IPA and lagers from Kuhnhenn Bros.

Beer presently in my refrigerator:
A 4Hands Brewing “War Hammer” Imperial IPA from St. Louis, Jolly Pumpkin “Calabaza Blanca”, Wolverine Amber Lager (great for pairing with lots of food!), a couple howlers from WSBC: “Verano” Mexican-style Amber Lager and “Drag me to Helles” Maibock.

My first beer:
I honestly have no idea. I think I swiped an O’douls from the cooler at a Super Bowl party when I was like 12 years old. I know my first craft beer was a 22 oz. of Bell’s “Solsun.” I remember it so vividly because the label on the bottle was upside-down, and I saved it for a long time! Then somewhere in my travels it got lost, sadly.

My favorite pairing:
Beer and cheese pairings are the best. Big, malty beers with aged cheddar and hoppy beers with a good Stilton or blue cheese. Yum!

Are hops still trending, or is something else on the horizon?
Hopefully hops aren’t going anywhere! In fact, it looks like it’s going to be increasing, which is awesome. We are just finishing up a new beer called “Eclipser” which is a Dark Saison Lager brewed with chestnuts and Michigan honey. I started blending Belgian yeasts with our lager yeast about three years ago and it has given us a whole other dimension to work with flavor wise.


Carmen Fernando, Ann Arbor General Manager and Beer Event Planner
338 S State St. | Ann Arbor 734-996-9191 | ashleys.com

What’s your favorite Michigan beer?:
That’s really an impossible question to answer, because there are too many amazing Michigan beers to choose just one favorite. My go-to’s for the summer so far are probably Bell’s Two-Hearted or Dark Horse Crooked Tree, but ask me next week and I’ll probably have a different answer.

What beer do you have in your refrigerator at home right now?:
A little bit of everything. Some Greenbush Dunegras, Lagunitas Equinox and Founders Blushing Monk. I’ve also got some Unity Vibration Kombucha beers that I can’t wait to try. This is a great season for sour beer.

What was your first beer?:
Does Tequiza count? My first craft beer was Rogue Dead Guy. I stumbled upon 22oz. bottles of it working at a bar that had no idea what they had. I think I drank about a dozen of them over the course of a few weeks before they realized it was wildly underpriced. Those were the days…

What beer do you recommend for day-drinking?:
All of them? No, Founders All Day IPA is almost always a solid daytime choice, or Arcadia Whitsun for a Summer wheat fix.

What’s your favorite pairing?:
When guests at Ashley’s ask what to pair with our popular Stilton Blue Cheese fries, I’ll always recommend a nice darker Belgian, like a Gulden Draak, to go with it. The rich malt flavor of the beer pairs great with the potent cheese.

Are hops still trending, or is something else on the horizon?:
Hops are always going to be big. There are so many varieties that cause such wildly different flavor combinations and nuances, it seems the possibilities are basically endless. As far as our quest in the U.S. to double, triple, and quadruple our IPA’s, I think that will always be around, but I think we’re also already seeing a trend towards a more sessionable and balanced beer, as well. We went out the gate running with our exploration into the bold flavors of craft brewing, but I think we’ll see interest start to grow in complex and unique beers that won’t necessarily knock us over after a pint but will still be every bit as inspiring and original in the ever-changing beer movement.

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