food & grocery: Standout beers from Corner Brewery's RatFest
What was in my mug this weekend? My friends, what wasn't in my mug this weekend! This past weekend saw the annual RatFest at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti.
The RatFest brings homebrewers — and their tasty beer — from across the area and puts it all out for the drinking. This year, there were more than 30 beers for consumption. The participating homebrew clubs were the Brighton Brew Club, Motor City Mashers, Muskrat Mashers (Monroe), Sons of Liberty (Plymouth), the Ugly Mug and the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild. Seeing all of these wonderful folks in one place made my heart soar like a hawk.
I can honestly say that I enjoyed all of the beers that I tried on Saturday, but here are some standouts:
The Beer I Wondered About: One of my fellow Ann Arbor Brewers Guild members brewed a beer called Yammed If You Do, Yammed If You Don't, a clever name to be sure. I have to confess that some thoughts crossed my mind about this, namely, what the heck would it taste like? Turns out that it turned out great! The beer had yams (of course), marshmallows (!), brown sugar and spices. The spices were not as heavy as in a pumpkin beer and complimented the brown sugar taste.
The Beer I Waited A Year For: Rye Caraway (Motor City Mashers). I'm not sure what happened, but a keg of beer disappeared from last year's RatFest. I blame the Ghosts of Brewers Past for saying, "Heck yes" and drinking up and then realizing, "Oh snap... the humans are going to wonder about this" and then laughing and laughing and laughing at our human follies. Wherever it went, I hope it was enjoyed. Fortunately, the beer made an appearance this year and won best of show! Totally deserved it! It had a strong rye bread flavor and a nice caraway finish. Tasted like what I imagine a New York deli would taste like, if it was a beer.
The Beers I Am Glad I Tried: Tangerine Coffee IPA (Ugly Mug) and Chocolate Stout (Muskrat Mashers). I gotta give it up to the Ugly Mug for not only making kick butt coffee but also knowing their way around beer. I don't always love coffee in my beer (Espresso Love being a notable exception; I will always drink a mug of that), but this IPA was excellent. Nice tangerine flavor and subtle coffee taste. I also have to give it up for the Muskrat Mashers who stayed away from anything "odd" and went for the tried-and-true. My favorite beer that they had was the Chocolate Stout. Not too chocolately, this milk stout was smooth and delicious.
The Beer Brewed By the Most Awesomest: Hoppin' Maori Kiwi Ale. How often do you get a win-win situation? Every now and again, some awesome people get together to brew a beer. That's what happened when three homebrewers, some New Zealand hops and the 10-gallon Rat Pad system got together. To say that magic was made that day is an understatement! Was it mere magic that made the Great Wall? Magic that made the space program? Magic that — okay, fine. It wasn't quite all that, but I helped brew this beer with my friends Steve and Arnold. It turned out delicious, if I do say so myself. No kiwi was used, but the hops had such nice notes of grapefruit and pineapple, that you could sworn that a kiwi or two hopped into the mash. I am really proud of this beer and hope folks enjoyed it.
My Favorite Beers: I tried, but really couldn't narrow it down to one favorite, so I am going with three: Pear Smoked Lager (Ann Arbor Brewers Guild), Imperial Bourbon Cherry Stout (Brighton Brew Club) and Winter Warmer (Sons of Liberty). The pear lager was a helles beer with a light smokey flavor and another example of a lager done awesome. The Imperial stout was amazing! Cherry preserves went into it and then it was aged on bourbon soaked oak chips. It was almost like a cocktail! The Winter Warmer was one of the best winter beers I've ever had! Fruity, spicy and malty, it warmed me to the tip of my toes.
If you missed it this year, you will get a chance next year, so keep an eye out for this annual event! Meantime, if you are free this Saturday, Feb. 4, at 11 a.m., please come to the Reskilling Festival at the Rudolph Steiner school. I will be giving a talk on the Art of Craft Beer Brewing. Hope to see you there! Cheers!