Northern Michigan Brewing: With angry November gales beating at the door our first impulse might be to seek the dark and chewy refuge of stouts and porters, but this month actually sees some subtler Northern Michigan brews pouring from tap handles in Traverse City and beyond. Brown ale, ESB and Alt are friendly to the soups, stews and ragouts centered on the late Northern Michigan harvest bounty of squashes and root vegetables. A crisp lager can lighten the mood on short, dark days, and pumpkin pie plays well with amber ale for a startlingly delectable dessert. Read on as we explore Northern Michigan seasonal brews and even jump across the pond for an Old World pint.
Brauerei Pinkus Organic Münster Alt
A seasonal favorite at the Seven Monks Taproom in Traverse City, this malt-forward, classic German altbier throws a cloudy, dark-golden hue laced with sweet malt, honey and floral tones with a very subtle hop bitterness. Perfect with butternut squash soup. 5.10% ABV. 128 S. Union St., Traverse City, 231.421.8410.
Jolly Pumpkin Maracaibo Especial
This intensely delicious brown ale from the Old Mission Peninsula brewery is styled after Belgian Trappist beers and brewed with cacao, cinnamon and orange peel. Cerebral maltiness and smooth caramel notes. 7.5% ABV, 13512 Peninsula Dr., Traverse City, 231.223.4333.
Mackinaw Brewing Company Wildflower Honey Lager
One of Mackinaw Brewing’s Mug Club members helped source the wildflower Kansas honey used in this crisp and citrusy seasonal lager. Light on hops this sexy session sipper flashes bright floral overtones. 4.8% ABV, 161 E Front St. Traverse City, 231.933.1100.
Right Brain Brewery Pumpkin Pie
Collaborating with the Grand Traverse Pie Company, Right Brain crafts a light amber ale that gets dosed with whole pumpkin pies in both the mash-tun and fermenter. The result is a rich, smooth mouth feel from the pumpkin with undertones of nutmeg and cinnamon, and a finish that tastes like, well, pie crust. 6% ABV. 221 Garland St., Traverse City, 231.944.1239.
Short’s Autumn Ale
Joe Short’s London Extra Special Bitter (ESB) is amber-hued, medium-bodied and dangerously easy to drink. Classically styled, this beer delivers sweet malt and bitter hops with tasty equilibrium. 6% ABV. 121 North Bridge Street, Bellaire, 231.533.6622.
More on Seven Monks Taproom
Seven Monks Taproom owners Jim Smolak and Matt Cozzens set out to craft a hip Traverse City venue with a vast and dynamic beer list (46 on tap plus dozens more in bottles) that changes almost daily. They enlisted the help of wire sculptor and brew enthusiast Jason Kasdorf to shape the selections. Seven Monks is a nod to the seven traditional Trappist monasteries, six in Belgium, one in the Netherlands, that have been brewing beer for centuries. These breweries are nonprofits that support their communities through the beer, cheese and breads that they craft. This sense of community and a love for beer culture is behind what is happening at the taproom. Seven Monks intends to be a place where beer lovers can come to taste a wide variety of brews from all over the world in a comfortable, relaxed setting with beer-friendly food.
The essential character to Belgian and Belgian-styled beers:
Overall, Belgian and Trappist beers are ales brewed with top-fermenting yeasts that give them a characteristic cloudiness and complexity. Belgians run the whole spectrum of intensity and ABV with lighter styled Saisons coming in at five percent alcohol and the dark triples going all the way to 13. 128 S. Union St., Traverse City, 231.421.8410.