Category Archives: brewpubs

A Taste of Niagara's Best


As I’ve mentioned previously, the wife and I don’t get out of the city very often, so we were glad to have the chance to take a quick day trip down to Niagara Falls earlier this month with a couple of friends (and fellow beer geeks) to check out the recently opened Niagara’s Best Brewery & Pub.

Folks familiar with the very mainstream and somewhat unexciting Blonde Ale and Logger Lager brewed by Niagara’s Best at their previous brewery-only location in St. Catharines might wonder why we would drive for a couple of hours to visit the new place, and if that’s all they had on offer, we surely wouldn’t have bothered. But brewer Ian Watson has taken full advantage of the increased flexibility offered by a brewpub operation and has developed a line-up of nine regular brews plus a rotating “Brewer’s Special” tap, so there was much more incentive to make the journey.

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Montreal – Part 2: Ass Sandwich


Saturday in Montreal found me suffering a slight case of The Morning After The Night Before, with an empty stomach calling for something tasty and a little greasy, so I was glad when Paul went out to grab a Coke and discovered a promising looking breakfast place just around the corner. Restaurant Mosaik (5201 St-Laurent) was, as the reviews promise, a perfect place for a hangover breakfast – a laid-back vibe, friendly staff, good coffee, and food that’s a step up from diner fare without being too chi-chi. A nice touch was the inclusion of a serving of creton, a traditional Québécois pork pâté that I’d never tried before – horribly unhealthy, I’m sure, but really tasty on toast.

After breakfast (well – given the time, it was closer to being lunch), we took a wander around the neighbourhood and checked out a small location of SAQ, the provincial liquor store chain. Since beer is available in grocery and corner stores, the government-run stores don’t carry much of it, but they’re worth a visit to check out the selection of ice cider, a delicious beverage indigenous to Québéc that’s filled with appley goodness.

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Montreal – Part 1: Pata-Chou!


I’ve only visited Montreal a few times, but two of those visits have played a pretty big role in increasing my interest in craft beer.

The first time was in 2000, when I attended the first instalment of MUTEK, an electronic music and arts festival that is held there every May. My time there happened to coincide with Mondial de la Bière, Montreal’s renowned beer festival, so I headed down to check it out one afternoon. I had always been a microbrew drinker, and enjoyed trying new brews here and there, but Mondial exposed me to beers and styles that I’d never heard of, let alone tried before, and it inspired me to expand my beer horizons once I returned home. Still, it remained more of a casual interest than the obsession it has since become.

It was my next visit just over two years later that helped push me over the edge. I headed there with a friend primarily to represent Piehead Records, a small record label that my wife and I were running at the time, at a concert by three artists we had signed. But we also spent a lot of our weekend visiting some of Montreal’s brewpubs and beer bars – including the now semi-legendary Dieu Du Ciel! – and we came back with a trunk full of weird and wonderful Quebecois beers. A couple of weeks later, I discovered RateBeer, and the inevitable slide into complete beer geekdom soon followed.

Last weekend, I finally made a long overdue return visit to Montreal with three of my regular beer pals, and the focus of the trip was beer, beer and more beer. Hell, we even stayed in the apartment above Dieu Du Ciel!, so you know that we were serious.

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Sick in Seattle 2: The Nausea Continues

As previously reported, I was struck down by a bug of some sort during my trip to Seattle. It started on Saturday morning, when I woke up with what I thought was a mild hangover from my Friday night outing. It seemed unlikely since I really didn’t have that much to drink, but combined with a bit of jet lag, it was a possibility.

After some ibuprofen, coffee and a light breakfast, things weren’t getting any better, so I decided to get out to see if some air would help. It was grey, damp and cool outside, but the fresh air still helped somewhat, so I hopped on a bus downtown to do some exploring.

My destination was Pike Place Market, a massive complex of food stalls, shops and restaurants that makes Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market look like a corner store in comparison. I spent more than 2 hours wandering around, and I’m sure that I didn’t see everything. I saw them throw some fish around at the Pike Place Fish Market, took a good whiff at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, had a tasty snack at Piroshky Piroshky, and avoided the bad hippy buskers in front of the original Starbucks.

Feeling a bit better after my morning constitutional, I decided that I was up for lunch at The Pike Pub & Brewery, a spacious brewpub located a block or so from the Market. I ordered up a sampler flight of a half-dozen beers, and found them all to be pretty solid examples of their respective styles. Well, except for the Weisse – it was kinda bland. But I particularly liked the XXXXX Stout, which had a lot of great coffee and chicory character, and hints of molasses and smoke.

Unfortunately, halfway through my lunch, things started rumbling around again, and I decided that it might be a good idea to head back to my hotel room and take a bit of a break before heading uptown to check out a couple more beer spots. But when things didn’t get any better in the gastro-intestinal department, plans for further outings were scrapped in favour of – well, just laying around feeling generally shitty, really.

So, that was my trip to Seattle. Half great, half lousy. Meh.

Sick in Seattle

My body often doesn’t take well to travelling, especially when it involves different time zones. Adapting to a different eating and sleeping cycle, even when it’s only 2 or 3 hours difference, does a bit of a number on me, with the main symptom being, uh, “gastro-intestinal distress” (to put it politely). Normally, popping a few Pepto tablets keeps things in check, but this time it seems to be hitting me even harder than usual, and has expanded to include headaches and a generally feeling of crappiness.

As a result, I’ve not been enjoying my visit to Seattle as much as I would have liked. I’ve only visited a handful of places that I’d planned on seeing, and while it’s only afternoon on Saturday, I’m honestly considering just staying in my hotel room for the rest of the day & evening. The idea of drinking more beer is actually somewhat unappealing. This is not good.

Still – I have managed to get a bit of exploring in, starting with last night when I headed out to Capitol Hill neighbourhood. This area is Seattle’s version of Greenwich Village or Queen Street West, as well as the heart of the city’s gay community, so needless to say there are lots of funky shops, trendy restaurants, espresso bars, high-end grocery stores and the like.

My first stop in the ‘hood was the Elysian Brewpub (1221 E Pike St.), a large and inviting place that seems to be popular with the slightly aging hipster set. Several tables were taken by post-grunge couples in their mid-30s who had brought along their little Kurts & Courtneys in training. One kid in particular caught my eye – he couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6, and he was dressed in faded jeans, a red plaid shirt, and had a mop of dirty blonde hair. Very cute, in an odd sort of way.

Anyway, my well-inked waitress was chipper and friendly, and the beer and food were both quite good. My dinner was grilled mahi-mahi tacos – the fish was a bit overdone, but still tasty. And on the beer side, I did a sampler flight of five of their house beers, with the Hydra Hefeweizen and Perseus Porter being my faves, and followed that up with a glass of their Spirit Fire IPA, which was a hop bomb but in a very good way.

Leaving Elysian, I walked a couple of blocks over to Broadway, which looked to be the main drag in the area. When I got the corner of Pike & Broadway, I saw a Bartell Drugs, and recalled that Sheryl had found out from a friend that they carried Idaho Spuds, a local candy bar that we had read about in Steve Almond‘s Candyfreak and wanted to try. I went in and found not only Spuds, and Sheryl’s beloved Payday bars, but about a dozen other candy bars that we’d never tried. I called Sheryl to list them off, and she replied with “one of those, and two of those, and…”. The somewhat embarrassing result is pictured to the right.

Next up was The Stumbling Monk (1635 E. Olive Way). Located a couple of blocks off of Broadway, this a serious blink-and-you’ll-miss-it place. I ended up walking several blocks past the turn on Broadway, and then had to keep my eyes open for it once I back-tracked and found the right street. It has no sign and heavily frosted windows, so unless you know it’s there, odds are you won’t find it – but according to the friendly barman, that suits them fine. They have a steady local clientele who dig the laidback neighbourhood vibe of the place, as well as the impeccable beer list. After all, where else would you find a corner tavern with Duchesse De Bourgogne, Chimay White and Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux on tap, alongside some solid local micros? And I’m sure the the large, Belgian-heavy bottle list probably helps, as well as the remarkably reasonable prices. I spent an enjoyable couple of hours at the bar, and put back some of the aforementioned Duchesse along with an Imperial Stout and a Silk Lady Belgian-Style Ale from Dick’s Brewing of Centralia, Washington. All nice stuff.

And then I woke up this morning with what I originally thought to be a hangover, but what has proven to be something more nefarious. I managed to get out for a couple of hours at least, and I’m still not sure about whether or not I’ll head back out this evening. Whatever happens, watch this space for a summary in the next day or two. Bleh.

Mill Street Brewpub

For a city of its size and population, Toronto has an embarrassing dearth of brewpubs. In fact, up until a couple of weeks ago, we had exactly one of them: The Granite. It’s a great place, but since I’m a downtown snob who tends to get nosebleeds if I go too far north of Bloor Street, I don’t make it up there very often.

(C’est What is often referred to as a brewpub, but since their house beers are brewed off-site at Durham Brewing, they don’t meet the usually accepted definition of the word.)

So when word came down earlier this year that Mill Street Brewery would be relocating their main operations to a much larger brewery in the suburbs and turning their original Distillery District location into a brewpub, there was much rejoicing throughout the local beer scene.

After months of anticipation, the Mill Street Brewpub was finally opened in late October with surprisingly minimal fanfare. I made it down for my first visit earlier this week, and I can say with very little reservation that it was well worth the wait. My only disappointment was that Alan at A Good Beer Blog beat me to the reviewing punch even though he lives about 250 kms away. Plus he never lets me know when he’s going to be in town. Bastard.

Anyway. Since it’s located in the Distillery District, the place has great atmosphere almost by default, but they’ve really gone above and beyond with the renovations that they’ve done over the past few months. Aside from the brewing tanks in the middle of the room, it’s almost unrecognisable from its time as a regular brewery, and it strikes the perfect balance between being spacious and cozy.

It pretty much goes without saying that the beer is excellent, but I’ll say it anyway: The beer is excellent. In addition to their core line-up of Tankhouse Ale, Organic Lager, Coffee Porter and Stock Ale, they’ve promoted their Oktoberfest, Wit and Helles Bock from seasonal to year-round status, revived their Cobblestone Stout which hadn’t been available for a couple of years, and added an IPA and an ESB to the roster. A Kriek is coming soon, as well as some one-offs/seasonals, and the bar will soon be outfitted with a hand-pump for some cask ale action. Oh, and they found a keg or two of their 2004 Barley Wine that they’re serving up as well.

Lots to choose from, but I was in the mood for some new stuff, so I went with the two that I hadn’t tried before. The ESB was excellent – fresh, earthy & fruity with an appealing graininess and a moderately dry, herbal finish. I was less enthralled with the IPA – it was pleasant enough, with a nice, well-balanced flavour, but when they’ve already got the hoppy pale ale bases covered with Tankhouse, this one almost seems like an afterthought.

As for the food side of things, since pubs tend to cater strongly to the carnivore set, the wife and I were expecting a lack of vegetarian options, and our expectations were pretty well met in that regard. There are only two completely veg options in the main courses – a veggie pizza and the ubiquitous roasted vegetable sandwich – although the appetizers and salads are a bit friendlier to the meat-avoiders. Since we also eat seafood, we had a few more options than if we were complete veg-heads.

To start off, we snacked on a generous basket of kick-ass sweet potato fries. For my main, I ordered a Caesar salad and sprung an additional $3.99 to get some calamari added. At that price I expected maybe a handful of calamari thrown on top, but was pleasantly surprised to find the salad so covered in tasty golden-brown squidy goodness that I could barely see the green stuff underneath. Sheryl went with the veggie sandwich which she proclaimed to be fairly average, and our carnivorous dining companions both decided on the pulled pork sandwich which was declared good but “unusual” due to the inclusion of cheese.

Final verdict: Amazing space, great beer, decent food. It’s a bit out of the way for me to visit often, but I’ll happily return for new beers and other events.

New York City – Night 2: Heartland Brewing and (almost) The Ginger Man

NYC – Night 2 – Monday, September 25th:

First of all, I should mention that due to my knowledge of the location and appearance of NYC landmarks being completely pathetic, I was wrong about being able to see the Empire State Building from my hotel window. It’s actually the Chrysler Building. D’oh.

I did, however, walk over to the ESB last night to visit one of the locations of Heartland Brewery (350 5th Ave. at 34th St.), a brewpub chain with several spots around Manhattan. The atmosphere of the place is an interesting mixture of comfortable elegance and kitsch, with dark wooden tables and leather chairs & benches surrounded by beer posters and paraphernalia from around the world. As you might expect from the location, it attracts a lot of tourists, and the prices definately reflect that: a pint of beer will run you around US$6, and the food is equally pricey, i.e. US$17 for three crab cakes and a slightly wilted green salad. At least the crab cakes were tasty, with a high crabmeat-to-filler ratio, and a nice homemade tartar sauce on the side.

As for their beers, they have a half-dozen regular offerings – including the expected light lager, pale ale, wheat & stout – as well as several seasonals. I had a taste of everything on offer, and found my favourites to be Farmer Jon’s Oatmeal Stout, Smiling Pumpkin Ale and Indiana Pale Ale. The stout was a little thin on the palate, but the aroma and flavour made up for it, with notes of toffee, treacle, cocoa and smoke, and a nicely bittered finish. Smiling Pumpkin is a flavourful autumn seasonal made with honey-roasted pumpkin and a load of spices, giving it that “liquid pumpkin pie” vibe that I really like. And the Indiana PA is simply a well-made, hoppy pale ale, with a lot of citrus and spruce in the flavour.

I was also planning on downing a pint or two at The Ginger Man (11 E. 36th St. near 5th Ave.), but when I passed by both before and after my Heartland visit, I found it packed to the gills. I’d been warned that this is a popular spot, but I didn’t expect such a crowd on a Monday night. It appears to be a great place, though – beautiful decor, an appetizing looking food menu, and a fantastic selection of beer on tap and in bottles. If my course lets out early enough on Friday, I may give it another shot and hope that it’s not as insane in the afternoons.

In the meantime, the course is going very well, and I’m looking forward to an event tonight that will likely be the highlight of my visit to NYC. More about that tomorrow…

Michigan Festival & Road-Trip Report: Part Three

Yes, here it is, the long-awaited third part in my bloated Michigan Road-Trip Trilogy. If you haven’t done so already, you might want to read Parts One and Two first.

Saturday was the main event – the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival. The festival actually started the night before with an evening session that we decided to skip in favour of checking out the scene in Ann Arbor, although as the previous instalment in this series showed, we’d probably been better off going to the fest. But no matter, we had a good day ahead of us.

Now, I can hardly call myself a beer festival expert. I go to Toronto’s Festival of Beer every year, and have been to other smaller fests and events here in town, but my only out-town-festival experiences have been Montreal’s Mondial de la Biere a few years ago, and the Michigan fest in 2003 and this year. But I think I can safely say that the folks in MI put on one of the best beer events in North America. First of all, it’s held in the absolutely gorgeous Riverside Park – which is, fittingly enough, a big park beside a river – located in the picturesque town of Ypsilanti. And more importantly, it features astoundingly good beer from a range of breweries and brewpubs that is just mind-boggling, especially for those of us who live in a province where antiquated liquor laws and government red tape have led to a somewhat stunted – but thankfully improving – craft beer culture.

Soon after arriving with my crew (Jeff, Paul, Jeremy & Harry), we met up with fellow Canucks Mike & Derek, and a few American pals who we knew from RateBeer – they have real names, but we know them best as 11026, Styles and BBB63. We were soon joined by Quebec RateBeerian beerbuzzmontreal and his pal, and then the drinking began.

As much as I would have loved to try every beer available at the fest, the fact that there were something like 200 of them made it a little difficult. But by sharing some samples, I was able to get at least a taste of about 3 dozen or so, and some of my favourites included:

Livery Cask Aged Belgian Cherry Wheat
This Flemish Sour from The Livery brewpub of Benton Harbor was my first beer of the day, and it was so good I was worried that the day might go downhill from there. It featured a strong, inviting aroma of sour cherry and oaked whiskey, and a very nice flavour with tart cherry and wood notes. It was also dangerously smooth for such a strong beer (8.5%) – a theme that continued for much of the day.

Founders Blushing Monk Belgian Razz
Another wickedly strong fruit beer (10.3%), this one from the always reliable Founders Brewing of Grand Rapids. It poured a dark ruby-pink with a tiny white head, and had lots of fresh, tart raspberry in the aroma with some mild funkiness in the background. Sharp raspberry flavour, with enough tartness to keep it in line – some of the others at the table found it cloying, but I really dug it.

Bonfire Kristallweizen
This lovely beer from Northville’s Bonfire Bistro and Brewery was my first ever Kristallweizen, and I’m glad to have tried a fresh, locally brewed sample rather than a potentially stale bottle from Germany. It had a golden yellow colour with a very faint haze. Nice weisse aroma, a bit yeasty and tart with mellow banana notes. Very clean flavour with a bit of spiciness and wheat, and mild banana to finish. Excellent!

Fort Street Farmers Tan
I was going to call Lincoln Park’s Fort Street Brewery the dark horse of the festival, but since Dark Horse Brewing was there, that might get confusing. So I’ll just say that they surprised all of us with the quality of their beers, especially since we’d never heard of them before the festival, as this Brown Ale was the highlight of their beers that we tried. It was dark brown with a nice creamy tan head, and looked really nice for a festival sample. The aroma was roasty and a bit smoky, almost like a porter. It had a soft mouthfeel, and a mellow flavour of roasted malt with notes of yeast and cocoa.

Bo’s Solar Eclipse Imperial Stout
The folks from Bo’s Brewery and Bistro claim that this beer is 22.5%. All who tried it at our table were skeptical of this claim, but if it’s true, then they’ve discovered the secret to hiding the alcohol burn ’cause godDAMN this beer was smooth! It poured pitch black, of course, sitting in the glass like motor oil, and smelling sweet and smoky with notes of coffee with cream, molasses, vanilla – yum! The flavour was absolutely fantastic – roasted coffee & nuts, bourbon, wood, sweet malt – just completely luscious stuff.

Grand Rapids Bourbon Barrel Scotch Ale
Schmohz Kiss My Scottish Arse Scotch Ale
Livery Cask-Aged Kilt Tilter
If it’s nae Scottish, it’s CRAP!

Towards the end of the day, a few guys from Beer Advocate stopped by our table, and while we briefly considered starting a beer-rating-site rumble, we instead decided to enjoy our last beers together and have a few laughs. I was especially glad to meet up with Jonathan Surratt, the guy behind the absolutely indespensible RSBS, an aggregator of RSS feeds from around 100 (and growing) beer blogs and news sites. I gave him mad props, and promised a pint or two if he ever makes it up north for a visit.

Sadly, the festival came to an end at 6 PM, and tentative plans to do something or other with our American pals were scuttled when they found their car had been towed. We briefly considered another attempt to hit some of the Ann Arbor hot spots, but remembering the near disaster of the night before, decided it might be best to stay at the hotel for the evening. After all, with the goodies we’d purchased the day before at Bello Vino, it wasn’t like we were wanting for beer.

I don’t think I mentioned previously that we were staying at the Best Western Executive Plaza, a bizarre hotel/motel hybrid that seemed to be stuck in some sort of time warp, particularly when it came to Bedrock’s Eats & Beats, the hotel bar/restaurant where we had our dinner on Saturday. As the name suggests, the place had a weird Flintstones theme going on, and based on the size of the place and the large dancefloor and DJ booth, it looked as if it might’ve been a very happening place at one point. But on this particular Saturday, we pretty much had the place to ourselves aside from two other patrons who sat and smoked and drank Bud at the bar. At least the food was decent in a bar food sort of way – although Harry’s Bronto-Burger frightened the rest of us a little bit.

Hunger satisfied, we spent the rest of the evening hopping from room to room and sampling stuff from each of our stashes. Dead soldiers that night included HeBrew Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A, Avery Twelve, Arcadia Scotch Ale, Sprecher Generation Porter, Baltika 6 Porter and Arcadia Hopmouth Double IPA. You can click the links to see my notes and ratings at RateBeer.

The next morning, we hit the road bright and (fairly) early for our trip back to Toronto. He had a quick stop outside of Detroit to trade a few things with our American RateBeer buds (who thankfully got their car out of the pound the night before), had the easiest border crossing ever, and hit Windsor just in time to have lunch at our last stop for the weekend, Charly’s Brew Pub.

Walking into Charly’s is like walking into any roadhouse sports bar in any small North American town – lots of TVs; a group of regulars holding up the bar; a faint hint of cigarette smoke still lingering even though smoking has been banned for months; and a slightly surly but efficient waitress; and greasy but tasty food. But in addition to all of this, Charly’s has a beer list of 100+ bottles from around the world (mostly LCBO general list, but still impressive for this sort of place), as well as a small brewery where they brew their house beer, Time Out. In fitting with the atmosphere, Time Out is a pale lager designed to appeal to Blue and Bud drinkers, but unlike those industrial lagers, it has a fresh character and some recognizable malt and hop notes. It certainly wasn’t in the same league as any of the beers we’d enjoyed in the previous two days, but we still enjoyed our pitcher, and found it amusing to note that they also sell a bottled version called Buck Off Beer in honour of the fact that it’s priced at a dollar less than bottles of Blue and other domestic swill.

A few hours later, and we were back home again. All in all, it was a great weekend of good beer and even better company. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do it again sometime.

Michigan Festival & Road-Trip Report: Part One

Anyone who has spoken to me about beer for more than five minutes or so is quite familiar with my rant about the pitiful selection of American craft beer here in Ontario. The only American microbrew available to us on a year-round basis is Anchor Liberty Ale, and the only other even halfway decent US beer on our shelves is Sam Adams Boston Lager. This despite the fact that some of the best beers in North America – if not the world – are being brewed just across the border.

I learned just how much we’re missing back in 2003 when I joined a couple of friends on a road trip to the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival. At the time, I only knew about one or two Michigan breweries, so it was quite an adventure to be exposed to several dozen new breweries and their 200+ beers. I ploughed through as many of them as I could in the few short hours of the festival, but there were so many more that I didn’t try, so a return trip had been on my mind ever since.

Back in the spring, my four regular beer tasting buddies and I decided to take the trip to this summer’s edition of the Festival, and hit a few other beer destinations on the way. Thanks to and the Places & Metros sections on RateBeer, we were able to put together a nice itinerary for ourselves, and on July 21st we were on our way.

We all crawled out of our respective beds bright and early, and after some zig-zagging around town to do the pick-ups and the obligatory stop at Timmy’s, we hit the highway. The morning passed quickly, and the border crossing at Sarnia/Port Huron was uneventful. We made it to Royal Oak by noon, just in time for lunch at our first destination.

Bastone (419 South Main St., Royal Oak, MI) is a slightly upscale but unpretentious Belgian-themed brewpub. The room is large and high-ceilinged, but made to feel cozy with strategically placed booths and dividers, and the service is attentive and friendly. Their food menu features Belgian favourites alongside such pub-friendly selections as burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and pastas – if you happen to visit, I highly recommend the oven-baked macaroni & cheese with truffled breadcrumb topping.

Most importantly, they make some mighty fine beer, drawing influence not only from Belgian brewing traditions, but from other European classic styles as well. Their regular line-up features Blonde, Pilsener, Belgian Wit, Pale Ale and Dubbel, and they also dedicate two taps to seasonal offerings, with Dortmunder and Hefeweizen being the selections when we visited. The only real disappointment in their line-up is the Blonde – it’s a 4% pale lager, obviously brewed to appease any Coors Light drinkers who may dine there – but the rest ranged from enjoyable to very good. I especially liked their Pale Ale, which struck a perfect balance between sweet caramel malts and sharp, citric hops; and their Pilsener, a refreshing and well-hopped take on the style. Good beer, good food, good atmosphere – it was a promising first stop for the weekend.

It was only a few miles from Bastone to our next stop: Kuhnhenn Brewing (5919 Chicago Road, Warren, MI). Kuhnhenn is one of the most creative and adventurous breweries around, as illustrated by their brewery page at RateBeer that lists over 100 different beers, ciders and meads they’ve brewed since 1998. Our primary purpose for this visit was to pick up some bottles of their revered Raspberry Eisbock, and between the five of us we cleared them out of all but a few bottles from their last couple of cases. And since we were there, we couldn’t resist getting a few sampler trays to try the beers they were serving in their rustic looking taproom.

As at Bastone, the most disappointing offering was their pale lager which they dub Classic American Lager and fittingly describe on the menu as “light in color, some sweetness, no hop aroma, very low bitterness” – i.e. one for the mainstream lager drinkers. Thankfully, the rest of their line-up is much more creative, with some highlights from our visit being their perfectly on-style Hefeweizen, their fruity and hoppy IPA, their astoundingly decadent Crème Brûlée Java Stout, and their unique Tangerine Wit that we all agreed would make a perfect breakfast beer. We also sampled their Nine Belgian Ale, Loonie Kuhnie Pale Ale, Scotch Ale, Maibock and ESB.

From there, it was an hour or so to our hotel near Ann Arbor where we checked in, dumped our gear, and then headed out on our main shopping expedition of the weekend to Bello Vino Marketplace (2789 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, MI). These sort of upscale grocery stores that also house a great selection of beer & wine are quite commonplace in a lot of American cities, but to Ontarians who are at the mercy of the LCBO and The Beer Store, they’re like a little bit of heaven on earth. Bello Vino reminded us a lot of Premier Gourmet, a fine food & drink emporium in Buffalo that is a favourite spot for Toronto beer geeks making border runs. But being in a different state, we found a much different selection of beer, including lots of stuff from Michigan mainstays like Bells, Jolly Pumpkin & Founders (although alas, they were out of the latter’s mindblowing Breakfast Stout); goodies from other Midwestern faves such as Great Lakes and Goose Island; and a f
antastic array of imports that we could normally only dream about. Thanks to a very helpful staffer who was willing to split up a bunch of six-packs for us, we were all able to put together a new assortment of local and not-so-local beers, and we headed back to the hotel with a much heavier back-end than we’d arrived with.

To Be Continued…