The Week in Beer: The return of Oberon
David Bardallis | Contributor
Birds sing hey ding a-ding, a-ding,
Sweet lovers love the spring.
Thus spake the great philosopher Willy Wonka, channeling Shakespeare. And so it is that here in March we have more than just a pretty ring time; we have an absolutely thriving beer time. Getting out and about in the unseasonably warm weather has never tasted so good. Let's take a look at the many options in your ding-a-ding Week in Beer.
Thursday, March 22
>> Many Michigan fans may have quit following the college basketball extravaganza known as March Madness, but if you're a Sparty (or if you have a bracket still in contention), you may as well watch the action with a good beer in front of you. Fraser’s Pub, 2045 Packard, aims to please with a 4 p.m. tapping of its first-ever firkin, and the delicious contents are none other than Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. And if that runs out, many of the pub’s "Sweet Sixteen" taps are devoted to other delicious craft beers.
Friday, March 23
>> What do you get when you mix three different breweries and a cool annual downtown Ann Arbor parade? You get FoolBrew Spiced Belgian Wheat Ale, a 7 percent alcohol-by-volume (ABV) witbier created by Blue Tractor, Grizzly Peak and Jolly Pumpkin in honor of the upcoming FestiFools parade on April 1 (and the FoolMoon street party March 30). It's brewed with the traditional witbier ingredients of orange peel and coriander, but the creative elves added green tea and pink peppercorns into the mix as well. Enjoy a glass of FoolBrew at any of the three collaborating pubs (each has its own slightly different version) beginning at 5 p.m. For $6, you get a FoolBrew keepsake glass that can be refilled with the beer for $3, or drink it from a regular glass for $5 a pop. Proceeds help fund FestiFools and FoolMoon.
Sunday, March 25
>> Yes, spring is here, and summer’s not far behind. And with the crazy hot weather we’ve been having already, you must be thirsty. Why not quench that thirst with Michigan’s unofficially official Beer of Summer? That's right, Bell’s Oberon Ale is back for the season, and several local establishments are celebrating with midnight tappings of the refreshing, mildly fruity wheat brew everyone goes gaga for.
- Ashley's, 338 S. State, leads the charge with a midnight tapping as well as the crowning of a new King or Queen Oberon to reign for the next year. Bell’s provides the scepter and cape, but would-be monarchs must bring their own home-made crown. Whichever one is deemed most “Oberonesque” will get its wearer the coronation, as well as the first pour of Oberon and prize package of swag from Bell’s. Everyone else will have a chance to win cool stuff with games and trivia hosted by brewery rep Monica Mooney. Other great Bell’s beers (like Oarsman Ale) will also be on tap.
- Conor O’Neill’s, 318 S. Main, hosts a midnight tapping as well, with $5 imperial pints, prizes and a toast for the first pint.
- Fraser’s Pub and Sidetrack Bar and Grill, 56 E. Cross, Ypsilanti, are the other two area watering holes ushering in the season of Oberon at midnight.
Monday, March 26
>> You know the concept of pairing beer with food has caught on big when long established and beloved local institutions take to the idea. From 6-8:30 p.m., the venerable Knight’s Steakhouse, 2324 Dexter, hosts its very first beer dinner with five courses of surf and turf cuisine Knight’s is known for along with five full bottles of beers from Michigan Brewing, Saugatuck Brewing and Newcastle to go with it all. Tickets are just $25 in advance ($30 at the door) and you can reserve tables for groups of two, four or six — or go by yourself or with an odd number and meet new friends! Call 734-665-8644 to reserve, and check this most excellent blog for the full menu.
Tuesday, March 27
>> The Ann Arbor Film Festival (AAFF) returns for its 50th year, and to celebrate, Arbor Brewing, 114 E. Washington, is releasing a special beer to commemorate the nation's oldest independent film festival. The Color of Infinity Inside an Empty Glass reflects the off-kilter personality of both the AAFF and the beer’s creator, brewer Logan Schaedig. Stop by any time after Arbor opens for a glass of this wheat ale made with orange peel, ginger, and tamarind. It will also be featured at the festival itself.
>> Later on, from 6-8 p.m., Arbor hosts a release party for Buzzsaw IPA, an award-winning West Coast-style hop bomb of Simcoe, Amarillo, and Centennial varietals created by bona fide hophead Bill Gerds. Its name comes from Ann Arbor’s original growth industry (that would be lumber, y’all), and you can enjoy glasses of it along with light snacks and discounts on to-go purchases (50 percent off growlers of it) for the duration. Free for Mug Club members or just $10 for visitors and guests.
>> Maybe your taste buds haven’t gotten enough of that bitter, hoppy goodness. Well, then, point your feet to Ashley’s for a night of imperial IPAs, double IPAs, and double secret IPAs on tap beginning at 6 p.m. Featured tongue bruisers include Buzzsaw, Arcadia Hop Rocket, Avery Maharaja, Bell's Hopslam, Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree, Dogfish Head 120 Minute, Founders Double Trouble, New Holland Hopivore, and Victory Hop Wallop. It’s a hophead’s paradise!
Wednesday, March 28
>> The post-Rat Fest bounty continues, with offerings from the Brighton Brew Club being featured at the Corner Brewery, 720 Norris, Ypsilanti, beginning at 6 p.m. The BBC (not to be confused with the British TV network) brewed up batches of Imperial Bourbon Cherry Stout; Peppermint Patty Porter; Tiger Tea (a brown ale brewed with chai); and, most interestingly, Loaded Baked Potato, made with potatoes, chives, bacon and home-grown hops. Some or all will be available, depending on availability, and if there’s any left at 9 p.m., you can take home a growler of your favorite.
Notes on the Napkin
- The upcoming Chelsea Alehouse is now officially something more than just a dream on paper, as owner and future head brewer Chris Martinson announced on the Facebooks this week that he has secured a location for the brewery at the Factory Building, one block off Main Street in downtown Chelsea’s Clocktower Commons. Follow along on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news.
- You know what would be awesome? More options for drinking beer outside in the warm Ann Arbor summer. You know what’s even more awesome? Mark Hodesh, owner of Downtown Home & Garden and Mark’s Carts, is teaming up with his longtime business associate Bill Zolkowski to create Bill’s Beer Garden. The proposed drinking space will occupy part of Downtown Home & Garden’s parking lot and be linked to Mark’s Carts so you don’t need to drink on an empty stomach. Michigan craft beer and wine, live music and other entertaining events are all part of the planned garden, expected to open on the corner of Liberty and Ashley sometime around midsummer. See this AnnArbor.com story from Lizzy Alfs for details.
- If you’re out Plymouth way, Liberty Street Brewing, 149 W. Liberty, has a treat for you: Siamese Dream (aka Liberty Two) Double IPA is on tap and ready to belt you with 122 IBUs (you read that right) and 9.8 percent ABV. Better bring a driver. Also, owner and brewer Joe Walters just brewed 42nd Parallel Double IPA, which will be ready soon. In meantime, enjoy Joe’s birthday bash on Saturday with jam band Four Block Empire in the upper hall and plenty of great brew on tap.
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.