Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Michigan Brewery Tour, part 3

The aim for day 3 of my brewery tour was to get to Grand Rapids.  There are a ton of breweries in Grand Rapids so the original plan was to hit a few on the day that I arrived and several more on the day that I left for Kalamazoo.  As I was starting further from Grand Rapids than I had originally planned, some breweries were going to have to be cut.  Notably, the one that I was going to miss was Perrin Brewing Company, a brewery in the northern suburbs of Grand Rapids.  While the goal for the day was Grand Rapids, the first stop was going to be in Holland, about 11 miles north of where I stayed for the night.  I knew that I wanted to stop at a couple of breweries.  Specifically, I wanted to stop at New Holland Brewing, but I knew that there was another brewery really close, Macatawa Ales, so I thought that I would stop there as well.  I checked out and got on the road, discovering after about a mile that I was going south instead of north like I should have been, so I quickly turned around and got on my way on what was looking to be a beautiful day.  I arrived in Holland about an hour later and found a beautiful town.  I came upon the Taproom for New Holland Brewing (their bottling plant is in a different location in Holland and while it would have been cool to see, I didn't want to spend the time to visit it) from the back and saw that they had a beautiful enclosed beer garden.  I also discovered quickly that it was very popular.  All of the bike parking by the taproom was taken so I was going to have to do a little searching for a place to park, something a little unusual for me as a cyclist, but not completely unheard of.  As I was looking for parking, I discovered another Brewpub, Our Brewing Company, right next door to New Belgium.  While this was going to bear further investigation, New Belgium was going to come first.  I found a parking spot about half a block in the opposite direction.  I did have to have a little laugh though because the racks were constructed for the bikes to be put in in one direction and it seemed that people should have been taught because the bikes that were there were parked backward making them very easy to steal.  I parked my bike the right way, grabbed my bags, walked into New Holland, and sat at the bar.  I went to plug my phone into my power supply and discovered that I had failed to recharge it and it was dead.  I was fine at New Holland, but I was going to have to be careful with my battery and try to find places to charge on the road.  The Pub is very rustic, but it also has a digital tap menu, so it's a pretty cool mix of classic and modern.  New Belgium makes a variety of beers (as well as liquors in their distillery), but they also do a lot of variations on the two beers that put them on the map, Mad Hatter IPA and Dragon's Milk Milk Stout.  I got varieties of both in my flight.  For my flight, I went with a Monkey King Farmhouse Ale, Full Circle Kolsch, a good light summer beer, Michigan Awesome Hatter, an IPA made with Michigan grown grains and hops, and Raspberry Lemon Dragon's Milk which they had just cracked.  All of the beers were very good and I would happily drink them all again, but I think my favorite was probably the Raspberry Lemon Dragon's Milk.  The food menu seemed to be a combination of barbecue and farm-to-table fare and while there were many things that looked really good, I decided to go with the Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich with Pickled Red Onion, Dragon's Milk Barbecue Sauce on a French Roll.  It came with Fries and a Giant Pickle.  It tasted really good and was a good start for what I knew was going to be a long ride.  After I left, I walked next door to Our Brewery which didn't obviously look open (admittedly it was bright outside and I couldn't see inside well).  Further investigation found that it was open, has an interesting tap menu, has flights, and gives half off to veterans, so I will definitely have to return.
My next stop was at Macatawa Ale Company which was about 1/2 a mile away.  While it was on a main road with a lot of traffic, the stand alone building didn't have a lot around it to draw people there.  When I pulled up, there were a couple of people working on the side of the building.  They asked me my opinion on what would be the best way to install a bar to be used for bike parking and I told them.  I walked in and found that I was the only customer, so while I sat at the bar, I also used a table on the other side of the room to plug my phone in.  Macatawa does not serve flights and their smallest serving was 10 oz, so I was only going to be drinking a couple of beers if I was going to continue on the road.  My beers were a Citrillo APA and Erin Go Bragh-less Irish Red which were both very good although I think that I preferred the hoppy sweetness of the Citrillo.  Talking to the bartender, who was one of the owners, I found out that Macatawa was about a year old and that all of the owners work day jobs yet.  They were making a profit, but not enough yet to support everyone well yet.  The owner behind the bar was a boat carpenter and he had built everything in the bar.  It was simple, but it looked very well made.  I also found that they drew most of their customers on weekend evenings when they would have musicians in.  Macatawa is very much a mom and pop shop.  The beer and service were very good and I hope they continue to succeed.

The plan, after Macatawa, was to get on the road toward Grand Rapids.  I found out though, at Macatawa, that the other brewery, Big Lake brewery, which I knew about but was going to wave off because I thought it too far, was only 2 1/2 miles away on the same road as Macatawa.  The plan changed and I decided to make my next stop Big Lake Brewery.  Located in a strip mall, I thought it might be a little difficult to find, but it was listed on the sign at the entrance to the parking lot and while simple, the sign above the brewery was pretty easy to see.  While the bar had a pretty good number of people, the tables were fairly empty which was good for me because I wanted to plug my phone in again while I was drinking and socializing.  Not that I needed it, but Big Lake served no food although it was a BYOF.  I did see people come in with pizza and also Thai food from the restaurant next door.  The flight at Big Lake consisted of six beers of your choice which are served in the order written on your order in a boat shaped flight tray.  There seems to be a couple of schools of thought on flights.  Some places will serve them in the order that you order them which is less cofusing, but may cause problems with taste if you order, for instance, a stout before a kolsch.  The other is to serve from light to dark which preserves taste, but can be confusing as to which beer is which.  In either case, I try to drink my beers from light to dark so I can taste everything.  For my flight I got Stoner IPA, a dank IPA that has an aroma similar to weed, Mt. Baldy, a Michigan Weizenbock (basically a strong Weiss beer) collaboration with New Holland, Chinook Strong, a Strong Ale made with Chinook hops, Lawrence Brown, an Imperial Brown Ale made with Kona Coffee, Midnight Rider Black IPA, and Citra Session IPA.  While I was drinking and enjoying my beers though, I enjoyed my time here with the other patrons.  I met someone else from Chicago (who splits his time between Chicago and Holland), several people who liked the idea of my bike trip, and a guy who really liked my t-shirt (it was a friendly cartoon Easter bunny with a smile on his face and a human foot in his paws with a stump with an axe imbedded in it behind him).  With the exception of the Citra Session IPA, the beers that I happened to order were all relatively high ABV beers, so I was feeling it a little when I left.  Of these beers, I think that I liked the Chinook Strong best.  After this stop, the next stop was going to be in Hudsonville about 15 miles away.

The ride from Holland to Hudsonville was mostly on 4 lane state highways and the next stop, Pike 51 Brewery/Hudsonville Winery is located on M-121.  There is a wide shoulder, it was a very sunny (and hot) day, and traffic was relatively light, so the trip was fine, for the most part.  I say for the most part because I had to cross a railroad track that crossed the road at an angle.  This is the bane of all cyclists because if you don't hit the track right, it's easy to get pulled into the rail and to go down.  This happened.  I felt foolish, scraped my knee a little, and ended up on my back.  With a full pack, I felt a little like a flipped turtle.  I laid there momentarily while I made sure everything was still attached and moved correctly.  When I got back up, I noticed that I had a tar stain on my knee (that took a week to clean off).  My bike was still fine, so I continued on my short way to Pike 51 Brewery/Hudsonville Winery.  While I haven't been to Napa, the place looked to me like I would expect a small Napa Winery to look.  The building was farmhouse style on the outside and on the inside there were many bottles, a trellis on the ceiling, and a large bar.  They also had a large patio, but as I had just come in from a long bike ride, I wasn't interested in sitting outside.  Besides, I wanted to plug in my phone.  While I could have ordered both wine and beer, because this was a brewery tour, I stuck with their beer offerings which were written on a list on a mirror behind the bar.  For my flight, I went with Brett Saison Farmhouse Ale (fermented with Brettanomyces yeast), Eagles Dare Session IPA, Glory Daze IPL, The Kush IPA (several breweries seemed to want to emphasize the similarity between some hop aromas and the aroma of marijuana), and Yay, Stout! Honey Wheat Stout.  None of the beers, while not  bad, were also not outstanding.  The flavors while there, were moderate and inoffensive.  They were friendly and while the beers were not outstanding, it was a nice place to stop.

When I planned on stopping at a brewery in Hudsonville, I simply chose the first one that I was going to come to and was planning on skipping the other.  I did not know, however, that White Flame Brewery was only 1/4 of a mile a way in the direction that I would be going anyway, so when I found that out when I was at Pike 51 Brewery, I decided that I had to stop.  It was less than a 5 minute bike ride. The building was mostly wood with a marble topped bar and the tap list on a board behind the bar that can be quickly changed.  For my beers I chose Golden Boy Golden Ale, Eagle Eye Chai Rye Pale Ale with Chai Spices, Two Lips Sour Pilsener, Lumpy Space Princess Pineapple Pink Peppercorn IPA, and Red Shoes Pale Ale with Habaneros.  When I was waiting for my beers, I noticed the tapheads which were all very different and creative, as were the beers that they served (all ales).  As I was sitting at the bar enjoying my beer, a couple of women walked up to me and asked, "You're a cyclist, aren't you?"  I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and my gloves and helmet were in my bag which was at my feet.  I answered yes, that I was a cyclist, but I was trying to figure out how they knew.  One of them pointed to my hands which were not tanned while my arms were (because of my gloves).  I talked to them a little about where I had been and where I planned on going and they asked for a picture with me, which I gladly obliged.  After I enjoyed my beer, I left and made my was to my first brewery in Grand Rapids, Osgood Brewing which was also on the same road, 7 miles away.
Osgood Brewing was in a strip mall and was pretty easy to find and that was a good thing, because by the time I got there, it was getting late and I was hungry.  The place was pretty big and kind of reminded me of a former car lot showroom (with a bar).  For dinner, I wasn't in the mood for a sandwich because I had been biking all day and I didn't want pizza, because I thought it would take too long.  I went with something high calorie, high carb, and very good.  This happened to be the Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese with Pulled Pork, Caramelized Onions, Cheddar Cheese, Cavatappi, Barbecue Sauce and topped with Bread Crumbs.  It was good, filling, and went well with my beers which were the 358 American Pale Ale, Boomhauer Pale Wheat, Journey IPA, and Reverie Saison.  All of the beers were pretty good, the 358 and the Journey were fairly hoppy, and the Reverie was very citrusy.  Of the beers that I tried, I think that my favorite was probably the 358.  I called Osgood the first Grand Rapids Brewery, that is not exactly true because it is actually still in the suburbs in Grandville.  After I left, my aim was to get to The Mitten, which was on the Northwest side of town.

When I left Osgood, it was still light out, but by the time I got into Grand Rapids, the sun had set.  I had never biked in Grand Rapids, the route was not straight, and I didn't know exactly what i was looking for so it took me a while to find The Mitten Brewing Company.  By the time I found it though, it had just closed.  This was beginning to become a theme.  I was very interested in this place simply for the design.  It's located in an old Firehouse and has a Baseball theme.  The Pizzas on the menu also looked pretty good, but as I had just eaten, I would probably not eat again.  In any case, while I had found it, it was too dark to photograph and to late to drink, so it was time to find a place to sleep.  I ended up at the Travelodge Grand Rapids (which is actually in Wyoming) and got a room with a King-size bed, Blackout Curtains, a huge room, flat screen television, and a hot tub for $50.  Why so cheap? It would have been a great room in the 70s.  While it was clean, it was also pretty worn, although they did let me park my bike in my room (again suggested by the front desk).  I rolled into my room, unpacked, and crashed until the next morning.  Sunday I would explore Grand Rapids and travel to Kalamazoo.          

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