Beer geek summer

So you're a beer geek and you want to revel in it. Luckily, all you need is a vehicle and a designated driver, because it's all here. Sure, you'll find a lot of your standard craft beer brewing — your English-style ales, pale ales, IPAs, porters and stouts — but there are extreme brewers to help nurture your bloated liver, whatever kind of beer geek you are.

The Engineer

Strong suit: Can recite beer stats like baseball statistics.

Advantages: Doesn't exceed Twitter character limit when distilling ABV and hops IBU stats. 

Disadvantages: Chemical analysis isn't very romantic. 

Clichés: Wine people like to talk about regions and terroir; but let's talk stats.

Good bets: Warren's Kuhnhenn Brewery & Winery has some beers that run up to 14 percent ABV. Or head over to Dragonmead Brewery, also in Warren. The walls of their comfortable beer house are lined with awards, and their sublime barley wines ought to get those ABV stats up where they're Tweetworthy.

The Historian

Strong suit: Knows the story behind how different kinds of beers were invented
and innovated.

Advantages: Can wax philosophical about the process, which is damn sexier than reeling off the chemical breakdown.

Disadvantages: Difficult to pull him back into the 21st century.

Clichés: "IPAs have a history, man. It's right in the name!"

Good bets: Get a twofer of English-style ales by visiting Detroit's Traffic Jam and Snug (511 W. Canfield St.; 313-831-9470) and Motor City Brewing Works (470 W. Canfield St.; 313-832-2700). Traffic Jam makes almost everything in-house, including beer, bread and ice cream. In addition to pizzas and craft beer, Motor City usually has a few surprises, such as sour brews or cysers. Detroit Beer Co. (1529 Broadway, Detroit; 313-962-1529) has a solid selection, including the popular Detroit Dwarf and excellent Detroit Lager. In the suburbs, hit the Berkley Front (3087 W. 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-547-3331) for a selection of hand pulls from a "beer engine" for real old-style real ale. It's the process, man!

The Extremist

Strong suit: What gusto!

Advantages: Obviously enjoys trying beers with eight times the hops, five times the malt, or whatever it takes to get the biggest flavor.

Disadvantages: His favorite Three Floyds "Dark Lord" brew sounds like a Star Wars thing.

Clichés: He sometimes raves about something that kinda tastes like a cough drop to you.

Good bets: For really intense flavor, no place has zoned in on extreme beer geeks like Kuhnhenn (5919 Chicago Rd., Warren; 586- 979-8361), having created such flavorful brews as wild blueberry pancake ales and raspberry eisbocks. If that weren't geeky enough, there's a home brew shop right across the parking lot! (Ask about this weekend's Summer Solstice celebration, with limited bottle releases of Barley Wine, Solar Eclipse, Imperial Crème-Brulee Java Stout, Winter Wonder Lager and Extraneous Ale.)

The Nonconformist

Strong suit: He is a solid beer nonconformist; just like every other beer nonconformist.

Advantages: Great T-shirts, badass attitude.

Disadvantages: Susceptible to marketing; unconsciously a reactionary still trying to run as far as possible from industrially brewed beers.

Clichés: Drawn to beers with labels that read, "This is an aggressive beer. You probably won't like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. ..."

Good bets: Sometimes a bar will have 40 beers and not a single badass one. But there are plenty of bars that have selections intense enough for the nonconformist, including Michigan beers. A stop at Ann Arbor's Ashley's, or Detroit's Jacoby's, Park Bar, Grand Trunk, Ye Olde Tap Room or Slows Bar-B-Q, for instance.

The Realist

Strong suit: A foodie realist who knows what he likes.

Advantages: Rooted in history, but not a slave to tradition, he enjoys subtlety and grace in a good beer.

Disadvantages: You suspect that, under the tolerant smiles, he may think you're a bit gauche.

Clichés: "It's beer, dude."

Good bets: Someplace that does unique things, but doesn't hit you over the head with what they're doing. Jolly Pumpkin (311 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-913-2730), for instance. Their emphasis on Belgian-style brew provides the historical connection. And, instead of piling on the ingredients, they make subtler beers, finishing it in barrels with bacteria to sour it just right, or even using such novel flavorings as cocoa nibs. It's so real, you can almost smell the wort boiling.

Michael Jackman is associate editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]

About The Author

Michael Jackman

Born in 1969 at Mount Carmel hospital in Detroit, Jackman grew up just 100 yards from the Detroit city line in east Dearborn. Jackman has attended New York University, the School of Visual Arts, Northwestern University and Wayne State University, though he never got a degree. He has worked as a bar back, busboy,...
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