Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Beer Bellies at Wolverine State Brewing Co.

Oliver, WSBC's brewer, knows his beers

Where to begin? Lager is a recent development in the millennia-old history of brewing. It requires cold-tolerant, bottom-fermenting yeast that is thought to have evolved only a few hundred years ago. Ales--beers brewed with top-fermenting yeast--have a greater representation in the beers produced by American microbreweries. Ales are easier to produce, especially on the small scales in which many home brewers begin honing their trade. In this regard, Wolverine State Brewing Company is a bit of an anomaly, producing mainly lagers and a few ales.

Now these are not your father's (or mother's) lagers. That is, they are not flavorless, weak, yellow concoctions. Lager fermentation produces a cleaner, crisp flavor relative to the fruity flavors ale yeast can produce. Wolverine State's beers elegantly mix the delicious flavors of quality ingredients with the crispness of lager fermentation. If you are looking for a wonderful beer that blends a smooth malt flavor with a subtle kiss of hops, look no further than their Dark Lager, Winter Lager, or Drag me to Helles (a Maibock). (Ed.'s note--Bravo to WSBC for recognizing that, in Michigan, a winter lager and a Maibock can appropriately coexist on a menu. That is the kind of insight you can only get from a local brewery, people.)

Wolverine State Brewing Co. is awesome in so many ways. EJ and I had the incredible privilege of complementary tickets to attend its Beer Bellies dinner, the first in what will hopefully be a long line of beer and food events at Wolverine State's Tap Room. The dinner featured the brewery's fine beers pared with delicious southern-style meal made by From the Hearth Catering. We all ate family-style at three tables that stretched the length of the Tap Room. Beyond the superb food and beer, the evening was amplified by the conversations we had with the people (our new friends) sitting near us at our table. We conversed with a young couple, a doctor and computer programmer who recently moved to Ann Arbor from North Carolina and were thrilled with our selection of Microbreweries. We discussed the UP and Michigan literature with a retired UAW organizer and a retired public school teacher from Brighton. Brought together by our love of beer and delicious food, we left the dinner feeling a new found sense of comradery with our dinner partners.

Another highlight of the evening was getting to learn about the history of beer, particularly Michigan microbreweries, from Rex Halfpenny, publisher of Michigan Beer Guide. He spoke alongside the gracious people at Wolverine State Brewing Company, who talked more specifically about the history, philosophy and behind-the-scenes action at the new brewery. (Ed.'s note--There was also an adorable child who encouraged us to drink more beer. From the mouths of babes.) Folks, it was a wonderful evening and the next time they host a dinner, I would highly recommend attending.

Heck, I would recommend visiting Wolverine State Brewing Co. more often in general. The people who work there are awesome (You can check out Director of Sales and Marketing, E. T. Crowe's blog here). The Tap Room, with it's giant Christmas lights, the comfy chairs and foosball table, feels like a giant cozy basement. You can even get Pilar's tamales there on Friday nights, or bring along whatever food you want to eat; It's BYOF. How cool is that? As they say at WSBC, "Love your State. Love your Beer."

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