June 9, 2010

Finally... Detroit trip

I've had a ton going on recently. Work is busy, I've been out of town a few times, lots of gigs with my band... My beer consumption has been slightly lower than usual. I'm trying to get back on track with my beer adventure and photography. To help me get back on track, I'm finally going to post some of the details (beer related anyway) from my recent trips to Cincinnati and Detroit. My good friend Jason lives in Cincinnati and we try to visit every year or so. While I'm there, we usually take a trip to Jungle Jim's International Market in Fairfield, Ohio. They have a huge selection craft and foreign beers and I always end up picking up a few things for enjoying during the trip, plus when I get home. This trip, I picked up a 4-pack of Dark Horse Brewing's Plead the 5th Imperial Stout, a 4-pack (16 oz cans) of Southern Star Pine Belt Pale Ale, a six of Founders Dry Hopped Pale Ale and a four of Founders Double Trouble Imperial IPA, a 750ml bottle of Ithaca Excelsior alpHalpHa, and bombers of New Holland Brewing Dragon's Milk and Nøgne Saison.

After 5 days in Cincinnati, I headed north to Michigan to visit my new friend Michelle. We met through a mutual friend (who went to high school with Michelle but currently lives in Annapolis) on Facebook. We had struck up a conversation sometime in April then started talking regularly on the phone. After hearing my Cincinnati road trip plans, Michelle suggested I come visit, being only a few hours north. In addition to beer, I have a thing for cute tattooed girls and I couldn't say no. Michelle lives in Ferndale, a suburb of Detroit. I got to her place on Thursday afternoon and we headed straight to Woodward Avenue Brewers, otherwise known as "the WAB". We grabbed dinner and some beers; Michelle had the Raspberry Blonde while I had their all-organic IPA, Green Bullet, which was very hoppy, earthy, yet surprisingly smooth and well-balanced. I had a few more of these a few nights later. On Saturday night we cooked out on the grill and Michelle and I shared the Nøgne Saison and the alpHalpHa.

The Nøgne Saison was very refreshing on that hot afternoon. It doesn't have as much of the funk that other saison style beers do, and instead has a little more hop presence, though I wouldn't call it "hoppy". Aromas of grass, lemon, sour apple. The flavor was subtle, but very smooth, which probably contributed to Michelle's enjoyment, as she'd never had a saison before and may have been turned off by a funkier one. Another great beer from the brewery I can't seem to stay away from... Nøgne.

Next we popped open the Ithaca Excelsior alpHalpHa. Very lively beer. Got a lot of suds just opening it, and it had been sitting on the table for a few minutes. Instant smell of orange, pine, and the Cascade hops. It's a very "dirty" beer, with lots of sediment. Honey is definitely noticeable in the flavor, as well as grapefruit and orange, with a nice bitterness to it but not overly dry. I've never seen this back home in Maryland, so it was nice to be able to try this.

On the last day of my stay in Detroit, Michelle and I headed closer to the city, to Michigan Central Station, a beautiful old abandoned train station, to get some photos. We met some great folks from Canada and ended up sticking with them through our entire journey through MCS, from break-in to escape. Afterwards, the Canadians said they were going to Slows Bar-B-Q for dinner and asked Michelle and I to join them. I'd heard of Slows before, it was featured on one of those Travel Channel or Food Network shows about BBQ. Anyway, we were just excited to get out of the heat, have a beer or two, and eat some great BBQ, but I was even more pleasantly surprised when I saw the beer offerings at Slows:

New Holland, Southern Tier, Mikkeller, Bell's, Founders, Jolly Pumpkin, Dogfish, Victory...
I started off with a glass of Bell's 2 Hearted Ale. I can't get Bell's in MD, though I've seen Oberon in DC, but I was able to try a handful of their beers at the Charleston Brewvival back in February. The 2 Hearted Ale was actually from a firkin, also exciting, as it was my first time having a hand pumped beer. I knew the beer would be "warm" but I was surprised how "chilly" it started off, about 55 degrees, maybe a little more. Beautiful golden orange color, soft fluffy head. Well balanced, with tons of flavor, lots of fruit flavors, orange, lemon, pear, grapefruit. Strong hop aroma, pine, grass. Absolutely delicious! My favorite beer of the trip. I need to pick some up next time I see it, which will probably be when I'm in Detroit next Friday to visit Michelle again!

After the 2 Hearted Ale was done, I tried the Mikkeller Single Hop Nelson Sauvin IPA. Pours deep amber with big, bubbly head. Flavor and aroma unlike many IPA's, not the typical orange/pine/grapefruit thing, but more "juicy" and "substantial", like a peach, but with bit of spice to it, like nutmeg. I was having trouble picking out what was going on because the 2 Hearted Ale on an empty stomach left me a little light-headed. Michelle tried a sip though, and she had to have one of her own. I'll definitely find one of these and try it again (thank God something I tried on the trip I can get back home).

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