I find myself in western Michigan for an extended stay, and I’ve stumbled upon one pleasant surprise after another. First, after a summer of wildfires in the West, I am appreciative of Michigan’s oxygen. The trees and the humidity create a jungle-like effect, and the trees help block the view of no mountains.
Michigan has been making wine for a long time. The American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) in this part of the state have been established since the early 80s. The vineyards are at roughly the same latitude as Idaho, reflected in brands like 45 North. I’ve tasted a few good rieslings and winced at a few reds, but my favorite wine outing was when I was informed the wine I was tasting had been served at the White House by none other than First Lady (and Michigander) Betty Ford. Naturally, I felt conflicted by this information. So far my impression of Michigan wines has driven me to the local brewery scene.
And that scene, gentle readers, does not disappoint. I didn’t know what to expect of rural Michigan, but I certainly did not count on having a virtual Mr. Rogers’ Beer Neighborhood in my temporary backyard. But indeed, this is what happened.
Grand River’s 313 Polish Lager and Oktoberfest happened to be paired with an Oktoberfest celebration and German buffet. Cabbage cooked 27 different ways, spatzle, bratwurst, and eventually enough polka music to send me scurrying away before I did too much damage.
I learned that not far from Grand River was Dark Horse Brewing with frequent live music at their spacious outdoor area. Dark Horse is a fun place to hang out and has been my go-to spot for enjoying the last blast of summer that’s hanging on here. Whether it’s a pink lemonade shandy on the upper deck after a walk along the slightly swampy Kalamazoo River or a Reserve Special Black Lager to go with my BBQ competition ribs, Dark Horse definitely counts in the pleasant surprise category. In a wicked turn of events, if I walk to Dark Horse, I have to walk home past True North Ice Cream shop. This is proving to be problematic.
Finally, for today’s post, I would to extoll the virtues of the Albion Malleable Brewing Company. The odd name harkens back to one of this small town’s bedrock businesses — the Albion Malleable Iron Company. A mural from those times graces the backside of the historic building. I’m a porter lover and AM’s American Molder is about as good as it gets for me. For hydration, I’ve also enjoyed the kolsch and Skin in the Game berlinerweiss. Their Reuben with house baked marble rye bread is reason enough to visit Albion. The brewery just earned a silver medal at the esteemed Great American Beer Fest for their Iron Lion Belgian Blonde but the tap on that has been out since I got here. With any luck, a new batch will come on-line while I’m still an honorary Michigander.