Monday, May 21, 2012

West Michigan part 2

Outdoor stage at Dark Horse

Day two started off a little sluggish for us.  The previous day we had visited 6 breweries and were slated to visit 4-6 more on this day.  With pancakes in our stomachs and a visit to Starbucks under our belts, we were on our way to Battle Creek, MI, cereal capital of the planet, and home to Arcadia Ales BrewingCompany.

David had coordinated with Tim Surprise, owner of Arcadia Ales, to meet us at the Arcadia Brew Pub around lunch time.  Tim informed the bartender that he was running late, so we hit the bar!  I ordered a sampler tray of all 13 beers they had on tap for all of us to share.  We also liked their food menu and a few of us ordered lunch.   They have a smoker on premises, so there are a lot of BBQ options.  James had a brisket sandwich that was really good.  Beer and BBQ, how can you not love this place?
13 samples from Arcadia

Arcadia Tap List
During our meal and drink sampling, Tim showed up, so James and David chatted with him for a bit.  He introduced us to Rick Suarez, one of the Arcadia Ales sale’s reps.  Rick had us laughing a lot.  After we were finished eating and drinking our beer samples; Tim was ready to take us on a tour.  He told us the tour was better with a beer in hand, so we each ordered a full pint of beer to take on the brewery tour Tim gave us.  

Tim introduced us to head brewer Stacy Block, one of the first female brewers I have ever met.  She is proof gender doesn’t define brewing; only craftsmanship and hard work.  She then explained the process of brewing at Arcadia; which is uniquely different than most breweries.  I will refer to their website for their brewing process as I won’t do it justice in my explanation.

Peter Austin Brewing system
Tim granted us access all over the brewery.  We dug our hands through the spent grains and hops, check out the open fermentation tanks, watched labels get placed on a specialty beer, and took a look at their canning line which they got from Maui Brewing Company.

spent hops and grains
Arcadia was a good visit for us and I would recommend going for some BBQ and suds any time.  Our favorite beers were Loch Down, Whitsun, and the ESB.

Next we headed to Marshall, MI for visit Dark Horse Brewing Co.  For some reason, this was the brewery I was most looking forward to.  It did not disappoint.  As we walked into the cozy brew pub, the smell of pizza hit my nose instantly (there is a large food menu with a lots of pizza).  The second thing we noticed upon entering the taproom was the ceiling.  It is covered from wall to wall with mugs hanging for their mug club program.
Mugs from mug club

After securing a table, we fell into our normal routine of ordering a sampler of every beer they had on tap and explaining to random patrons why all five of us were wearing Better Beer Authority t-shirts.  Our waitress, whose name I never got, was great.  She introduced us to Dave, one of the brewers who agreed to take us on a tour of the brewing facility. 

Dave showed us the outdoor garden area with stage, before we entered the brew house.  Once inside, we saw a lot of wooden barrels that contained aging beer of various varieties.  We walked through the bottling line and into another section where he introduced us to “Wiggs,” another brewer.  Wiggs was busy finishing his daily duties, but was kind enough to talk for a few moments.  Wiggs is actually they brewing operations manager and resident hippy, according to his business card.

some good stuff aging in these barrels!
Afterwards we went into the new VIP loft that hovers about the main brewing floor.  You can only go up there if you are on a tour, or by special invitation.  It is a bar/lounge area; and it is badass.  I will save the details for you, but I think you will see it in the upcoming Michigan beer travel video from us.   The woman pouring beer up there recognized James; but not from the BBA videos.  It turns our Joanna went to high school with him in Toledo, Oh.  Random.   Wiggs joined us as we sampled even more beers.  Double Crooked Tree, Sarsaparilla 666 Stout (yes, it is made from Sarsaparilla).   

We were having a great time at Dark Horse, but alas, we have more breweries to visit.  I went into the general store to buy a six-pack of Crooked Tree IPA and a t-shirt.  It also doubles as an excellent home brew store.  When we rallied back at the car David and James came back with a gift from Wiggs, a mixed case of Dark Horse beers.  Dark Horse was already the most fun visit for me, and to cap it off with a take-home case from them was pure icing on the proverbial cake.

If I had only one brewery visit left in my life, I would return to Dark Horse.

After most of us were well lubricated, we headed to yet another brewery which I will write about later. 

We owe a big thank you to Craig Kortlandt for being our host and designated driver through our trip.

List of beers we sampled from the two breweries.

Arcadia Ales
Starboard Stout
sky high rye
Hop mouth
Loch down
Cocoa loco
Cereal killer
Imperial stout
Brigids red ale
B craft
Big finish

Dark Horse
Crooked tree
Raspberry ale
Boffo brown ale
Spinet trip ale
Too cream stout
Seven seas
Plead the fifth
Double crooked tree
Sarsaparilla 666


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