Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Michiana Breweries

Mrs. Hackknife's cousin Bob (a beer connoisseur and overall bon vivant) is getting hitched this coming Friday. As one might expect of someone who enjoys spending time with a quality glass of suds, Bob chose for his bachelor party theme a daylong tour of microbreweries located in nearby northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan (a region collectively referred to as "Michiana" for those of you who are out-of-towners), an area that is easily accessible from the Commissary. So it was with great enthusiasm that my brother-in-law Dan and I left town on a bright fall Saturday morning, forsaking college football, Premiere League soccer, and general parenting duties in favor of top-drawer beer consumption (in careful moderation, of course - my days of binge drinking, never much to speak of anyway, are long past).

We first met up with the groom-to-be and the other members of our jolly bunch at Shoreline Brewery, located a few blocks from the lake in downtown Michigan City. I've previously written about Shoreline in this blog - in my opinion, it's a kid-friendly place serving decent food and pouring some beers that are really good, some not so much so. This trip, however, I had the good fortune of picking a winner, a Samuel Jackson's black IPA, which I found to be a nice hybrid between IPA (not usually one of my favorites due to the strong hops flavor inherent to the variety) and stout (the brewery's website describes this beer as being made with "six different types of malt combined with Galena, Pearle, and Columbus hops"). It paired well with the platter of housemade hummus, grilled pita bread, and assorted veggies that I ordered for the table to help take the edge off of these early libations (without food, I'd surely be blotto after two beers on an empty stomach - see Las Vegas, August 2010).

With the noon hour having come and gone, we loaded up the vehicles and made our way towards Stop #2: Greenbush Brewing Company in the small hamlet of Sawyer, MI. Sawyer is only about a 20-minute drive from Shoreline and consists of a few buildings scattered along a brief stretch of central business district that's a stone's throw from I-94. We arrived to find Greenbush's facility to be the clear hub of activity in the otherwise-sleepy town on a weekend afternoon, the noisy taproom packed with patrons enjoying the extensive selection of regular and seasonal offerings. Bob and I were first impressed by Greenbush at Baconfest in April and this encounter didn't disappoint, either - I was quite pleased with my sampler selection of Memento Mori (an Oktoberfest ale), Retribution (a Belgian ale with a touch of sweetness), and Distorter Porter (billed as a combination of porter and stout), each available in a 4-oz. pour for $4 or less (see photo below).

Not quite as impressive was the smoked brisket sandwich I ate to ward off any beer buzz (the meat was a little dry and lacking some flavor). Greenbush definitely has the brewing angle of the business well-covered - if they were to improve their menu a bit, I bet a taproom expansion will be needed posthaste.

Feeling flush and halfheartedly fighting a nap, I passively sat in the passenger seat while Dan directed us towards our final stop of the afternoon, The Livery in Benton Harbor (the rest of our party had plans to continue on towards Kalamazoo for the evening; however, us guys with kids back home were content to turn around after a last pop or two here). The Livery is housed in the basement of an old brick building (a former horse stable) in downtown Benton Harbor, a once-bustling, then dilapidated, now slowly revitalizing city on Lake Michigan's eastern shore. You can see the signs of gentrified urban life starting to poke up among the vacant lots and industrial yards scattered around the immediate neighborhood of the bar (see photo below).

As I was still feeling the effects of my Greenbush sampler, I was content to sip an orange cream soda (yes, I know, I'm a wuss) while the guys played in the bar's courtyard what may very well have been the worst display of bag tossing in modern history. My shame was eventually tempered somewhat by the one beer that I managed to rally for, described as a "hopped-up American red ale" called Danimal (named after a recently-deceased friend of the brewer). Although not as expansive of a beer list as Greenbush, the consensus from the bachelor of honor and company was that The Livery's brews were quality indeed, surpassing those that we found at Shoreline earlier in the day. And with that, Dan and I made our way back down the interstate towards Illinois, the only afterthought being a glimmer of desire to stop at Redamak's in New Buffalo for burgers, which was quickly forgotten in the fading daylight and hop haze immersing my consciousness...

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