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Bye-bye Michigan

April, 1999

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 beer.

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

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