Sunday, April 18, 2010

To Michigan, for Easter!

Easter weekend, 2010. In the Great Lakes area, it'll go down in the books as a mostly sunny weekend, weather-wise. Spring seems to have made an early appearance in this part of North America, and the always-iffy prospect of traveling over a long weekend in early April ended up being no problem at all!

I made an early start on Good Friday, and was at the Ontario-Michigan border by 9:30am. By 10:15, I was starting my first Rail Trail walk of the season.

This is the Wadhams to Avoca Rail Trail, and it can be found just west of Port Huron, MI. It was a super walk on a day that topped 70 degrees F (perhaps 22 C). I was very happy to manage 7 miles of walking, although the blisters that were born that day are still visible! I'm hoping to do lots of healthy walking this year, and have mapped out a series of interesting trails to try.

This is the Gallup Park Trail in Ann Arbor. It took me two visits over Easter weekend to complete this one (lots of limping by this point!). This trail goes alongside an active Norfolk Southern line for part of its length, although I sadly missed being able to capture any trains for posterity.

A nice drive, a family visit, some pleasant walks, and! MICHIGAN beer!

Yes, it's something of a Golden Age for the beer industry in Michigan. And I was eager to find out a little about what our next-door neighbours have been up to. A good place to start my research was a visit to the fine folks at
Ratebeer, who have some very nice things to say about Michigan beer, what to try, and where to buy it. That led me to a very fine place indeed, Champane's Wine Cellars.

Yes, that's how it's spelled! Champane's is at 7007 Chicago Road in Warren, MI, just a bit north of Detroit. It proved to be my first-stop shop for a grand introduction to the beers of Michigan. I met up with the manager of the "Beer Department", Michael, who was quick to offer some advice as to what to choose. And there is a lot to choose from! After explaining that I was allowed to bring a total of 24 bottles back to Canada, we quickly went to work. I spotted a newly-arrived Hofbrau Maibock (yes, we get to drink the stuff even before the Muncheners do!), so a 6-pack of that was a MUST. That left eighteen bottles of beer for my wall.

Michael noted that as I was spending a few nights in the state, I really ought to pick up a couple of extras for consumption while in America. He brought out two singles from the fridge with the warning NOT to leave them on a shelf for any length of time. Keep them cool! I did just that, and here are the two in question.
Both are from Bell's, out of Comstock, Michigan, and I should note that most of the beers that Michael recommended came from either Bell's or Founders (from Grand Rapids).

This is Bell's Consecrator Doppelbock, a very dark red beer, smooth and exceptionally easy to drink. It's up there in alcohol content at 8%, but it didn't taste overly strong or bitter. Absolutely delicious!

The "Keep It Cool" Beer #2 was Bell's Lager of the Lakes (referring to the Great Lakes, of course!), a very light-coloured lager of 5% strength. This is one of those perfect backyard BBQ beers. Very pleasant...but I think that Consecrator with those dudes with the horns is our winner!

Well, it's time for a break from all this local brew sampling, so why not head off to Bay City for a Saturday evening? The place seemed mostly closed for the Easter weekend, but here's a find (thank you again, Ratebeer!) It's the Stein Haus at 1108 N. Water Street, and wow-we-wow! Look at all those steins hanging up there! And what's this? Hofbrau helles AND dunkel...ON TAP? Yum!
A friendly chat with patron Beth was a highlight of my visit, and she was quick to suggest I try another Bell's offering, Oberon. "It's like a Michigan summer afternoon", she smiled, and the label on the back of the bottle backed her up! It was also one of the beers that Michael at Champane Cellars chose for me (17 left to go!), and here's what an Oberon looks like. It's a 5.8% wheat ale, a very refreshing cloudy beer with perhaps a hint of orange, or is it just that nice bright label with the sunshine? Whether in a Bay City bar on a Saturday night, or back home on an April Friday night, it was very enjoyable. Even if (at the bar) they serve it with a slice of orange. Is that a sneeze I feel coming on? Ahhh....ahhhh. CORONA!

NEXT: "My Other Beer Is A Stout"!

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