The Week in Beer: Braving the elements for good winter brew
David Bardallis | Contributor
The calendar may officially disagree, but it’s otherwise hard to argue that Old Man Winter hasn’t finally arrived, bringing his friends Jack Frost and the Snow Miser close behind him. And I may be a Michigan native, but I’ve never been a fan of our longest, gloomiest season.
Nevertheless I say, let’s toast the coming of Messrs. Winter, Frost, and Miser with a warming mug of seasonal beer of appropriate strength and taste — just to show we’re not afraid of them. Seems like the neighborly thing to do, after all. And read on for oh so many opportunities to find those seasonal beers.
Thursday, Dec. 1
>> The Westsider Holiday Beer Dinner commences 6:30 tonight at The Quarter Bistro, 300 S. Maple. Featuring the beers of Wolverine State Brewing paired with five courses of New Orleans-inspired cuisine, it’s sure to be a delicious time. Unfortunately, if you procrastinated on getting tickets, you’re likely out of luck. But with last-minute cancellations and whatnot, you never know. Can’t hurt to call Wolverine at 734-369-2990 or The Quarter at 734-929-9200 and ask.
>> Do you hear what I hear? If you said bells, you’re almost right — it’s actually Bell’s, as in 20+ taps of beers from Michigan’s oldest and largest brewery, pouring tonight at Ashley's, 338 S. State. Get there by 6:30 p.m. for a taste of Hopsoulution Ale, 7:15 for The Oracle Double IPA, and 8 p.m. for Batch 9,000. In between, fill your glass with Oarsman Ale, Sparkling Ale, Raspberry Ale, Christmas Ale, Golden Rye Ale, and plenty more. Presents for good girls and boys will also be distributed. So have you been naughty or nice?
Friday, Dec. 2
>> Bust out the shopping list and get to Whole Foods Cranbrook, 990 W. Eisenhower, for another round of Michigan beer tasting with beer expert Jimmy and team. As always, it's only $3 a glass, $1 for a taste, and various prices on JP and other Michigan beers in bottles, all during the 5-8 p.m. extended happy hour.
>> If standing out in the cold is your thing, then you'll want to head to Kerrytown from 6-10 p.m. for the Third Annual KindleFest at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, where artisans, farmers, and retailers peddle their wares, musicians and carolers offer yuletide choruses, and selfless volunteers pour mulled wine and local beer. (I was just kidding about standing out in the cold: firepits will be burning to keep you warm.)
Monday, Dec. 5
>> Road trips and big beers are not necessarily the best combination, but you may wish to work out some kind of arrangement to get to and from the Shark Club, 1140 S. Michigan, Howell for the 7 p.m. Great Minds Drink Alike dinner featuring beers from two of the most creative craft breweries, Delaware’s Dogfish Head and Michigan’s Short’s. The four-course meal includes Dogfish World Wide Stout, 120 Minute IPA, and Festina Peche and Short’s Noble Chaos Marzenbier. Oh, and the meals are being prepared by the esteemed Chef Doug Hewitt of Terry B’s Restaurant and Bar in Dexter. Tickets are $60, excluding tip; once again the possibly sold-out caveat applies. Call the Shark Club at 517-540-0300 for the scoop.
Tuesday, Dec. 6
>> It’s Brewer’s Night at the Grizzly Peak Den, 120 W. Washington, from 6-9 p.m. Come by to say hi to head brewer Duncan Williams and/or his merry band of assistant brewers, get discounts on samplers, enjoy a tour of the brewery, and try (if you haven’t already) a cask of Jeff and Susan Rankert’s Our Precious Baltic Fluid Baltic Porter, the winning beer from this past May’s homebrewing competition.
>> Also at 6 p.m. down the block and across the street is the release of an all-new Holiday Ale at Arbor Brewing, 114 E. Washington. For two hours enjoy pints of the festive brew, light snacks, and discounts on merchandise and growlers of Holiday Ale. Cost: nothing, if you’re in the Mug Club, and only $10 if you’re not.
>> Plus, while you’re kicking around downtown Ann Arbor, don’t miss the annual rare beer auction upstairs at Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery, 311 S. Main, from 6:30-9:30 p.m. The event, which raises thousands of dollars each year for the Peace Neighborhood Center, features dusty vintages from the cellar of Mr. Jolly Pumpkin himself, Ron Jeffries, with some individual bottles going for as much as $100. If you’re looking for something unique to add to your own cellar or give to that special beer lover for Christmas, this is the place. And while you wait patiently to make that winning bid, you can sip on Fuego del Otono and other great Jolly Pumpkin beers.
Thursday, Dec. 8
>> Arbor Brewing’s monthly beer tasting focuses on festive seasonal brews including Christmas ales and meads, doppelbocks, old ales, spiced beers, and everything in between, and only a Scrooge would miss it. Get your ticket now ($30 in advance; $35 the day of) and be of good cheer from 7-9 p.m. with more than two dozen of these brews, a sumptuous buffet, and a chance to go home with some great holiday swag. Call 734-213-1393 or stop by the pub.
Notes on the Napkin
- Wondering what to get for all those beer lovers in your life this Christmas? Here's an idea: Get all of them Jolly Pumpkin gift cards. Why? Because Jolly Pumpkin, 311 S. Main, is running a special where if you buy $50 in gift cards, you get a little gift, too: coupons for goodies each month throughout 2012, like discounts on meals, apparel and more. Call 734-913-2730 or visit the pub for more info.
- Blue Tractor, 207 E. Washington, is also offering the same deal; call 734-222-4095 for details. Plus, if you're not following @a2bluetractor on the Twitters, you may want to rectify that situation because they are giving away one Mug Club membership a week until Christmas to lucky followers.
- On tap at Grizzly Peak, 120 W. Washington: Yakima Biere Belgo-American Ale and Funky Bear Porter (house porter aged in wood for a tart character). Coming soon: White Christmas White Ale (a high-octane wit with American hops), Bonny Betty Williams 80 Shilling Ale, and an "Imperial Session IPA."
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.