The Week in Beer: Thawing out with a new brew or two
David Bardallis | Contributor
Beer news, views, and events
from Ann Arbor and beyond
Who could have guessed a week ago that spring would suddenly be in the air? Now It’s time to throw off that snuggie and go out and celebrate! And there are oh, so many ways to celebrate, so long as your idea of celebrating is like mine and involves delicious craft brews. Let’s thaw out and take a look at the forecast for the Week in Beer.
Thursday, Feb. 17
Â» The big Belgian Beer Festival at Ashley’s Westland, 7525 Wayne Road, continues tonight with a special Belgian beer dinner, hosted by Jef Versele, the seventh-generation brewer/owner of Brouwerij Van Steenberge near Ghent, Belgium. The six-course dinner begins at 7 p.m. and includes Van Steenberge beers such as Piraat and Monk’s CafÃ© paired with mussels and other traditional Belgian dishes. Call Ashley’s Westland at 734-525-1667 to check ticket availability for tonight (or follow this link — discount should still be valid). or for more information on events running through Feb. 20, or visit abbf.ashleys.com.
Friday, Feb. 18
Â» Another chance to hang outside in the cold and enjoy discounted beer arrives in the form of “Freezing Pints for Prostates” at Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery, 205 E. Washington. From 3-9 p.m., guests who sit out on the sidewalk patio can order $1 pints and $3 bowls of chili, and for every pint sold, 50 cents will be donated to charities that fight prostate cancer. Also, whoever donates the most (via beer drinking) will receive a free lifetime Mug Club membership, and anyone else who wishes to join may do so for half price. Better not put those scarves and long johns away just yet!
Â» If you can’t go to Marshall, then Marshall will come to you. Or at least the beers from that historic little town will, as Dark Horse Brewing is the featured brewery at the biweekly Michigan Beer Tasting hosted by Whole Foods Cranbrook, 990 W. Eisenhower. By now you know the drill: from 5-7 p.m., enjoy $3 drafts or $1 sample pours and no corkage fees for any Michigan beer in a bottle you’d like to try. That’s the kind of “grocery shopping” I can get behind.
Â» If they had ears, my tastebuds would be happy to hear that the 440 Pepper Smoker Amber Ale is returning to Original Gravity, 440 County St., Milan. Brewed with jalapenos, it’s the perfect complement to, oh, say, some hot and homemade tacos made with pork. What a coincidence — both the beer and the tacos will be available beginning at 6 p.m. Brew Crew members get $3 pints of Pepper Smoker all night. Your tastebuds will hate you if you don’t tell them about this.
Â» At Wolverine State Brewing, 2019 W. Stadium, brewer Oliver Roberts displays his penchant for puns with the latest beer release, Drag Me to Helles. It’s a clean and malty bock brewed with Munich and Vienna malts and Noble hops for a balancing bitterness and dry finish — perfect to have while watching a Sam Raimi movie (I’m partial to Evil Dead 2).
Â» Don’t go home early, or you’ll miss the Great Guinness Toast, aka St. Practice Day, at Conor O’Neill’s, 318 S. Main, at 11 p.m.. What the heck is that? An annual worldwide event, began in 1993, that seeks to create the largest simultaneous toast — with Guinness Irish Stout — in an effort to set a, ahem, Guinness world record. And each year, that’s exactly what happens. Check out thegreatguinnesstoast.com — then be a part of history!
Wednesday, Feb. 23
Â» In appreciation of its loyal Mug Club members, Blue Tractor, 205 E. Washington, is hosting its first-ever beer dinner and private release for Mug Clubbers at 7 p.m. Tim Schmidt, head brewer, and James Wilhelm, head chef, will take guests on a three-course journey through hand-crafted microbrews paired with delicious culinary creations, including Soft Pretzels with Smoked Cheddar Mornay and Braised Pork Belly with Maple Glaze. In addition, a special release of Bourbon Oak Barrel Aged Oatmeal Stout will be pouring, with filled, limited edition fancy growlers available to take home for only $25. Tickets are $35; call 734-222-4095 to check availability and make your reservations.
Â» Michigan’s largest brewery is turning 25 — and you’re invited to Ashley’s, 338 S. State, to celebrate! All day long, Bell’s beers will be flowing, a total of 25 of them to be exact, to celebrate a quarter-century of a true pioneer in the craft beer business. Enjoy old favorites and relative newcomers, including Amber Ale, Two Hearted, Oarsman Ale, Expedition Stout, Third Coast Old Ale, Hopslam, Batch 9,000, Double Cream Stout, Best Brown, Smoked Stout and more (see the full list here). And at 9 p.m., be there when a special firkin of Hopslam is tapped, followed at 9:45 by a keg of Batch 10,000 and, finally, at 10:15 Black Note, a much-sought-after bourbon barrel aged blend of Expedition and Double Cream Stouts. Oh, and by the way, Larry Bell himself will be dropping by around 8 p.m. to meet, greet and drink with the gang. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this.
Notes on the Napkin
- Have you been to Fraser’s Pub lately? I was recently, and I would be remiss if I did not let everybody know that the craft beer revolution has arrived at the nearly-50-year-old Ann Arbor mainstay, located at 2045 Packard St. Within the last year, they’ve expanded from eight taps to 16 and now feature a regular rotation of Michigan and other craft beers, including the likes of Bell’s Hopslam, Arcadia’s Hopmouth Double IPA and relative rarities like Sam Adams Revolutionary Rye Ale. Longtime food and beverage manager Tim Donahue is a recent convert to the craft beer cause, so whenever you’re out on that side of town and feeling thirsty, keep Fraser’s in mind.
- Ditto for Ypsilanti’s Elbow Room, 6 S. Washington, where you can find such divine brews as Short’s Bellaire Brown, Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA, Original Gravity Primordial Porter, and Stone Brewing Levitation Ale. And that’s just the draft list; many more great microbrews are available in bottles, such as New Holland Cabin Fever Brown, Founders Double Trouble, Rochester Mills Cornerstone IPA and much more. Check it out!
David Bardallis is a freelance writer and editor, blogger, bon vivant, and man about town. Visit “All the Brews Fit to Pint” at AnnArborBeer.com, follow @allthebrews on Twitter, or join the "All the Brews Fit to Pint" Facebook page.. Email your beer-related thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.