By Bobby Bush
This is the final installment of my journey through the southwestern portion of the
wonderful beer state of Michigan.
Just off the interstate, we found Michigan Brewing Company behind a truck
stop in Webberville, Michigan. No kidding, we drove past refueling 18 wheelers to get to
the brewpub’s parking lot. Another one of those unpretentious places that makes you
wonder how they stay in business, Michigan Brewing has been open since December
1995. Rustic and definitely a local hangout, the crowd at the bar slid over to make room
for us. Though a little surprised that we wanted to try all of their beers, the bartender was
just as friendly and accommodating.
From a 30 barrel system, visible through windows behind the bar into a cavernous
dark room, came eight different brews this day. Michigan Gold was mild and hoppy.
Packing 8% alcohol, IPA was hoppy front to back. Hops even came through loud and
clear in the nose. Scotch Ale shaped up well with a sweet supple body. Michigan Wheat,
Bavarian in style, wafted a strong estery aroma and appropriate clove spiciness. A bit
thin, Michigan Nut Brown Ale was lightly sweet, while Dunkle was smoother with low
detection of hoppiness. Peninsula Porter came on a little too hoppy for style, but the thick
roasty Superior Stout made amends.
Michigan Brewings’ food menu consisted of peanuts and big 99 cent bags of
potato chips. I bet the truck stop had a restaurant if hunger were to grow stronger than
thirst. We didn’t have that problem. After saying our good-byes we headed on toward
the hotel in Lansing. But not before one more stop.
Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub is a relatively new establishment in East
Lansing, having first fired up the brew kettle in September 1997. This was a college bar
par excellence. Pizza, pasta and burgers were still moving briskly at this late hour. From
the hexagon-shaped island bar, we spied the crowded brewery behind glass near the
kitchen. Otherwise we would have inquired as to whether Harper’s really made their own
Eschewing social commentary for a moment, we started in on the beers. Harper’s
Light was a “why bother?” low hop, minimal body wannabe beer. American Wheat tasted
better, nice, clear and too cold. An English-style Nut Brown proved to be not too sweet,
while the Pale Ale could have stood more hops. The seasonal May Bock was sneakily
sweet, medium bodied and left a tinge of hops on the tongue as a keepsake. Flavor
improved as it warmed. The Oatmeal Stout had a thin, fruity body, good balance between
roasty malt and a hoppy aftertaste. Somehow it was strangely pleasant. Harper’s is not a
place I’d go back to voluntarily.
What a trip! For those of you keeping score, that was eight brewpubs visited in
two days and three nights. With over 60 brewpubs and microbreweries, Michigan really is
a great beer state worthy of a return trip one of these days.
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush