Pilgrimage to DarkLord Day

Just a brief note before getting a good night’s rest for DarkLord Day…  Our road trip has taken us from Harrisburg to Cleveland last night, and through Michigan and Indiana today. Stops included Great Lakes Brewing Company, Kuhnnan, Dragonmead, Dark Horse Brewing, Bell’s and Three Floyds.

They have been brief stops, but enough to enjoy many new brews, and a few old favorites.  For instance, last night I started at Great Lakes with the Grassroots Ale. At 4.8% and only 20 IBUs, it was a light, refreshing treat on a warm spring evening. The ginger and lemongrass give this beer an interesting complexity, and I remembered why I liked it so much the last time. I followed that up with a Blackout Stout, which was served in a snifter glass. In contrast to the first beer, this Russian Imperial Stout is 9% ABV and 85 IBUs. It has a rich, roasty flavor that coats the top of the mouth, but the hops come through nicely and the alcohol is subtle.

At Kuhnhen (Warren, MI), we intended to have lunch, but the menu wasn’t really appealing so we only drank. This was a strange little place – half of it is a pretty decent bar with seating for 14 and the brewing equipment all located behind and beside it; approximately 12 high wooden tables with chairs in that room. The other half looks like the wall was knocked out and a warehouse converted into a bingo hall serves as the seating area. A piano sits along the wall, boxes are stored under plastic, and the ceiling is either going up or being taken down.  Kuhnhen had 11 different taps, most served in 12-oz glasses, some available in bottles and sample glasses available for a small fee.  I had a 10-oz glass of Simcoe Silly (8.5% ABV) which was more Belgian in nature than hoppy. I’m a big fan of the Simcoe, but there was such banana in the nose, and as they describe, bubble gum flavor, to this one that I was not impressed. My 3-tablespoon sample of Tenacious Cassis (16.5%) was plenty – this is a very sweet and highly alcoholic concoction, which I later learned we have at home in bottles. And finally, the Crème Brule Java Stout in a 12-oz glass. This was the first thing Derek had, and Heath and I followed suit. It was so lovely with vanilla flavor – it made me incredibly happy!

Dragonmead (Warren, MI)was a lot of fun, and certainly a place to which I must return. Unfortunately, the fryer was out of commission, so most of the menu was unavailable, but Kim picked out a lovely roasted red pepper Jack cheese for us, served with a sleeve of crackers, which the four of us could share. I had a nice conversation with Larry Channel – one of the owners – and enjoyed the beers I had and those I tasted from my friends. Dragonmead does offer half-pint options, which was great because there were so many different types! There were approximately 37 beers on tap (12 on nitro, but nothing on either of the handpumps), and four house soda pops available as well. My beers were the Honey Porter, served on nitro (which was spot on and delicious!) and Broken Paddle IPA (which paled in comparison to their Crowning Jewels IPA; both are American IPAs, but mine was simple, while Derek’s was fragrant and full of flavor.) Dragonmead looks totally boring and industrial on the outside, but inside it is colorful with flags and awards, stained glass (made by one of the owners) and lots of locals stopping by, many maintaining their passports. We sat in front of the doors to the brewery, and because they had the back entrance open, the wind blew a constant Grape-Nut breeze of fragrant wort through the place.

We made a short stop at Tim Horton’s, and then headed of to Marshall, MI for dinner at Dark Horse Brewing Co. The place still looks very much the same – like a double-wide trailer holding a yard sale inside – but it was so much more pleasant with a new non-smoking rule. There were only five beers on tap, so I stuck with an old favorite – Crooked Tree IPA. And while the menu is simply, I really enjoyed my toasted sub, and Kim’s pizza looked terrific. Dark Horse is such a great place, so we had to go into the new gift shop across the parking lot to buy a few souvenirs.

The merch shop was our first stop at Bell’s in Kalamazoo, MI. We stocked up on t-shirts before going in for a beer. I was really excited to find Wild One – a Belgian-style fruited beer made especially for Eccentric Day. They have a few extra barrels left over, and will roll them out periodically. I was glad this was one of the days! Wild One comes in at 6% ABV, and is served in 12-oz glasses for $4 and 16-oz glasses for $5. It was very similar to the Kriek made by Selin’s Grove Brewing, but lighter in flavor and lacking the color – this was more of a dark amber with an orange aura. Most beers at Bell’s are available in 12, 16 and 20-oz pours, but we all had smalls. Derek got the Poolside– a cherry wheat that was outstanding (this is saying a lot coming from me – I don’t generally care for the cherry wheats!) It was 5% ABV, which is a little high for a session beer, but I could see myself drinking lots of it on a hot summer day. It was unfortunate that we couldn’t stay, because a funk/fusion band called Spare Parts was playing – three keyboards, a bass guitar, drums, trumpet and simple vocals – and I was enjoying watching the bass player. But we needed to get to Indiana in reasonable time.

So here we are…  we made it to Three Floyd’s, and all of the excitement for Dark Lord Day is building.  We won’t get in the door tomorrow, I am sure, so I was glad to get in tonight for a Topless Wytch Baltic Porter. It was rich with coffee and chocolate, and a nice way to end the night. I need to get some sleep now so I can sample like crazy tomorrow at the festival and still have the strength to enjoy The Livery and Founders in it’s new location.


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