"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Great Lake, Great Beer: Pt. 3

To read Part 2 of our Lake Michigan beer adventure, click here.

With a view like that, who cares about the house itself?
Having crossed the sixth state line of our beercation, Nicole and I finally arrived in Grand Haven, Michigan, where we’d spend a week celebrating my parents’ 40th anniversary with sun, surf, and suds.

We—including my parents, my two sisters and their boyfriends, my brother and his wife and kids, and my two maternal aunts—stayed at a rental property located in the cul-de-sac of a long, snaky road that wound through the dunes and past impressive beach homes all with commanding views of Lake Michigan.  Like so many of the houses on that secluded stretch, our domicile was massive; built atop a hill, surrounded by woodlands, shoreline adjacent (via a steep, sandy downhill), and featuring a pool, our place was a palace—a very tacky palace. 

Enjoying the beach
Everybody agreed the size and location of the house was primo.  The décor, however, left much to be desired.  The black, white, and red color scheme, akin to a cold and emotionless modern art gallery, was anything but homey.  The cavernous main floor with nary a soft surface echoed like a high school gymnasium; each toe dragged across the concrete floor screeched like a Chihuahua at the vet’s office.  Privacy was clearly not a priority during construction, either, as bath tubs sat before large, curtain-less windows, balconies and toilets were separated by nothing but clear panes (again, curtain-less), and most of the bedrooms had glass doors with curtains—sheer, see-through curtains.  It was an exhibitionist’s playground and a family vacationer’s hell.  Overall, the place exuded the ambiance of somebody with a lot of money and no taste; it looked like a house in which the snooty neighbors in Christmas Vacation might live.

Odd Side's taproom
We overlooked those obvious deficiencies, though, when we overlooked something else: the vastness of the lake from our soaring perch among the trees.  The beer made us all more forgiving, too.  Most of the time, the family and I imbibed poolside or lakeside because that’s what the trip was all about—relaxing, lounging by water, and drinking copiously.  But, Grand Haven and nearby Spring Lake are both homes to craft breweries and, being so conveniently located, their siren call was enough to coax us from our private retreat and into their public taprooms.
A touch insensitive (but funny)

Odd Side Ales sits across the street from the Grand River channel and is located in an old piano factory that’s since been turned into a multi-tenant shopping and dining center.  Its taproom uses light sparingly; with worn-wood floors and timbered pillars and ceilings, even the beaming summer sun had a hard time penetrating this dark alcove.  It’s a decidedly rustic, non-modern, and convivial space.  Juxtaposing Odd Side’s traditional charms were vivid beer posters advertising tongue-in-cheek, pop-culture-referencing, and mildly-offensive labels: Morningwood Stout, Oh, Me So Hoppy to Wheat You (billed as “A derisious wheat ale with a hoppy finish that lingers long time!”), Bean Flicker Blonde…etc.  If you don’t understand why these are funny/uncouth, look them up on Urban Dictionary—I already had to explain them to members of my family and I’d rather not relive the experience.  Do your own research.  

Like, a whole bunch of Odd Side beers
Many, many flights were downed at our table so it’s hard to remember details on any particular beer.  I recollect Wheatermelon, a spritzy and refreshing watermelon wheat beer, Mayan Mocha Stout, a thick and luxurious dark beer, and the Pineapple IPA.  Even if the specifics evade me, I don’t remember being disappointed by anything at Odd Side.  

Old Boys’ Brewhouse, the other brewery in the area, resides on the tip of a peninsula jutting out into the braided, meandering Grand River.  Only 1.8 miles from Odd Side, Old Boys’ was actually the closest brewery to our rental property even though it’s technically in a different town.


Approaching Old Boys’, I felt both over and underwhelmed.  The stilted grain silo and cavernous three-story vestibule kept my eyes turned upwards as if I were entering a cathedral.  On the other hand, I couldn’t shake a feeling of mundaneness; yes, it’s a big entrance but it’s basically a blank brick wall with a few windows.  Immense though Old Boys’ might be, it’s featurelessly immense.  Plus, I realized after spotting the bone-shaped logo, Old Boys’ is another dog-themed brewery.  Can we please, as the collective brewing community, stop doing that?  I love dogs but naming your brewery for the family pet has been done to death.  It’s passé.  It’s trite.  It’s not original and it ensures you’ll blend in with the herd rather than stick out.  Just quit it.  When The Onion has enough fodder to satirize craft brewers for uncreative canine appellations then that’s a pretty good indication the trend is over.  Old Boys’ was founded in 1997, before the practice became rampant, so I’m actually going to give them a pass on this one; it might have been a novel idea in the late 90’s when they first opened.  All you new breweries, though?  Keep Fido out of it.

Old Boys' patio
Nicole and I sat on Old Boys’ back patio and my opinion of the place became increasingly more positive.  The patio’s laid out near an expanse of lawn terminating at the river’s edge.  A boardwalk skirts the banks and leisure boats putt-putt through the narrow strait, headed for the docks on either side of our little protuberance of land.  The overall atmosphere is not unlike that found at a mid-level country club.  I felt I ought to be wearing a knitted white vest, tennis shoes, and a visor.  Can we get a croquet set over here?   

My interest was further piqued as I perused the beer menu.  Wow!  I wasn’t expecting such advanced beers; from the ho-hum exterior, I’d assume Old Boys’ merely brewed the standards—IPA, amber, a non-confrontational stout or porter, and a lighter offering—usually a wheat.  Basically, I predicted gateway craft beers, nothing unconventional.  Surely, these brewers don’t cater to radical palates and yet, there they were in front of me: Irascible, an American wild ale aged in Bourbon barrels with Michigan-picked cherry juice added, The Flapjacker, a maple syrup-infused brown ale, Magnum Breakfast Stout, a hefty beer showcasing Sumatran and South American coffee and Ugandan vanilla beans, and several more Nicole and I didn’t have the alcohol-tolerance to order (we had to drive home, after all). 

Left to right: Irascible, The Flapjacker, & Magnum Breakfast Stout

Old Boys’ is truly old at 17 years—a geezer by craft beer standards—but it can be taught new tricks; there’s nothing weary about Old Boys’, their beer is fresh, experimental, and young at heart.  To them I say, “Good boy!  Stay (in business)!” 

Old school dune buggy
As I mentioned earlier, the majority of the week centered on drinking at home, floating in the pool and lake.  We even visited the city beach but the wind was ferocious and nobody wanted to stay very long (here’s a tip for drinking at the beach where alcohol is technically not allowed: bring craft cans because the high school kids who enforce the beach laws are only accustomed to big domestic brands; they won’t immediately comprehend the design of, say, Sun King Brewery’s Sunlight Cream Ale unless they get a really close look at it).  We took a few other excursions to ride the dunes at Silver Lake and to boost Nicole’s roller coaster count up and over the 100 mark at Michigan’s Adventure where a perennial favorite, Shivering Timbers, has been thrilling guests since 1998.  It was on our final day when we really got into the craft beer groove.  Driving an hour east to the state’s premier craft beer city, we arrived in Grand Rapids and visited four of their esteemed breweries.

But we’ll get to that in a later post.

Prost!

Chris      

Odd Side's wall of beer posters

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