If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that my wife and I have been living the expatriate lifestyle here in Germany going on two years. Living on this side of the Atlantic has afforded me the opportunity to delve deeply into European beer culture – particularly Germany and Belgium. In fact, it was a trip to Belgium that first inspired me to learn all that I could about the brewing arts. Although I’ve really loved experiencing all that Europe has to offer beer-wise, I regretted the fact that I didn’t discover true beer enjoyment while I lived in the States.
I have always enjoyed good beer though. Even when I knew nothing about the craft beer scene, I was aware that there was a difference between the BMC stuff and the high-end, quality brewing. However, the most exposure I have ever had to the American craft beer world was a memorable trip to New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado. Aside from them, I have virtually zero experience with true American craft beer. Fortunately, that’s about to change.
This coming week, my family and I will be making our very first trip back to America since we left almost two years ago. Since I’ve last seen those amber waves of grain, I have become an entirely different beer drinker – hopefully, a bit wiser and more discerning. So, I’m really looking forward to taking advantage of our time in the States to become more acquainted with amazing American beer. I have even come up with a “most drink” list of particular brewers that I want to concentrate on while I’m there. Since all of our time will be spent in the Midwest, I’m focusing on some of the most well-known breweries from that region. So, without further ado, here’s my American Beer Tour 2011 road schedule:
1. Three Floyds Brewing in Munster, Indiana. We will actually be flying into Chicago and from there making are way across the Midwest visiting friends and family. Luckily, my aunt lives a mere 10 minutes away from Three Floyds brewery and pub in northwest Indiana. This world-renown brewery is going to be my first stop. Unfortunately, I’m going to miss Dark Lord Day by a few weeks, but that’s not going to dampen my excitement for getting my mitts on some of their other beers. In particular, I’m looking forward to trying out their Alpha King pale ale and Dreadnought IPA on top of anything special they might be serving at their brewpub.
2. Bell’s Brewing in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Originally, we had planned on making a stop in Michigan which meant that a side trip to Bell’s would have been warranted. Unfortunately, plans change and we won’t be going near Kalamazoo. That isn’t going to deter me from making this awesome brewery a priority. I’m hoping to procure various beers from the brewhouse formerly known as Kalamazoo Brewing Company over the course of our trip. At the top of my list are, of course, the famous Hopslam Ale and Expedition Stout. But, anything else I can come across, I’ll probably pick up too.
3. Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, Ohio. Being a native Ohioan, there’s a good amount of pride knowing that one of the best breweries in America can be found in good ol’ Cleveland. What I like most about this brewery is their excellent pale offerings. In a craft beer world, where the heavy hitters like Stouts and IPAs seem to get all of the glory, it’s refreshing to find a brewery that can make some mind-blowing pale brews. I’m especially looking forward to GLB’s Dortmunder Gold and their Burning River Pale Ale, both of which have earned high praise over the years.
4. Hoppin’ Frog Brewery in Akron, Ohio. Just south of Cleveland is the old rubber capital of the world, Akron. In this rust-belt town of some 200,000 people, you’ll find this small but quality brewery. It’s definitely the least known of all the brewhouses on my road tour, but it’s definitely got some great beer. In particular, I’m hoping to try their B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher Oatmeal Imperial Stout as well as their intriguing sounding Hop Master’s Abbey Belgian-style Double IPA.
Well, those are the highlights. Of course, there will be specific entries in the weeks to come sharing my experiences of these various breweries. Aside from these four, I’m hopeful that I will also encounter a few random surprises along the way. If you have any suggestions of Midwestern breweries or beer that I have to try, feel free to point me in the right direction. Bottoms up! We’ll see you in America!