DRAFT PICKS: The ever-growing popularity of breweries in Michigan

I have written time and time again about how impressive the growth of Michigan’s brewing industry has been.

Impressive. Almost stunning.

Although I wrote about this some time back, there is a good reason to update some information for you this week.

Good reason No. 1 is that two of the state’s more senior craft breweries have been named to the list of the 25 best craft breweries in the United States, and the company they keep on the list is pretty grand.

Founders took fourth place on the list which was generated by Marcy Franklin, of TheDailyMeal.com, based on an extensive nationwide survey of beer lovers. Her article was published in USA Today and was quoted in TIME magazine as well as many, many other newspapers and journals. Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo took an exceptionally respectable eighth place. Company names on the list are really a “who’s who” of the brewing world.

I’m proud to note that aside from four of those tagged, all have been reviewed at one time of the other in this column.

Founders and Bell’s are in good company. Today, Michigan boasts more than 100 breweries, and that number continues to grow.

According to the Michigan Brewers Guild, Michigan’s thriving brewing industry contributes more than $24 million in wages, with a total economic impact of more than $133 million overall. The guild represents 87 breweries in the state.

Michigan ranks fifth in the nation in total number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs. Michigan’s craft beer industry grew by 20 percent in 2012, according to a “state of the industry” report from the Demeter Group Investment Bank of San Francisco.

The state added 17 breweries last year and outpaced the average national industry growth rate by 12 percent.

There’s a lot going on in the brewing world, locally and around the country.

It’s good to know that Michigan is not only holding its own, but is well considered a leader in the industry by those in the know around the state and nation.

Following is the list generated by researchers at TheDailyMeal.com:

  1. Dogfish Head, Milton, Del.
  2. Stone Brewing Company, Escondido, Calif.
  3. Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, Mo.
  4. Founders Brewing Company, Grand Rapids, Mich.
  5. Cigar City Brewing Company, Tampa, Fla.
  6. New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colo.
  7. Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, Calif.
  8. Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo, Mich.
  9. Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa, Calif.
  10. Sierra Nevada, Chico, Calif.
  11. Odell Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colo.
  12. Three Floyds Brewing Company, Munster, Ind.
  13. Avery Brewing Co., Boulder, Colo.
  14. Oskar Blues, Lyons, Colo.
  15. Rogue Ales, Portland, Ore.
  16. Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver, Colo.
  17.  Victory Brewing Company, Downington, Pa.
  18. Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, N.Y.
  19. Green Flash Brewing Company, San Diego, Calif.
  20. Boston Beer Company, Boston, Mass.
  21. Devils Backbone Brewing Company, Roseland, Va.
  22. Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, Maine
  23. New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, Wis.
  24. Great Lakes Brewing Company, Cleveland, Ohio
  25. Anchor Brewing, San Francisco

And as for this week, here are a couple of new brews to try. Both are American Pale Ales. Enjoy.

Simcoe Sensation

Odd Side Ales

Grand Haven

This week we coincidentally seem to be focusing on the American Pale Ales.

That’s OK by me. This genre tends to be sharp and clear. Refreshing to be sure.

Simcoe Sensation is named for the specific type of hops which carries this recipe. It pours a honey color — perhaps a touch to the light side. There is a decent head of foam that actually hangs around for awhile, allowing you time to use it well in the scenting. You’ll probably get a beer mustache off this drink!

There is a strong smack of hops right off the bat. As with many brews in the genre, there is a defined citrusy aroma, with a muted background of malts.

Simcoe is not too complicated. It is a well designed beer with all the elements of good beer right up front.

There is a definite hoppy taste with some citrus bitterness. A certain acidic quality kicks in, but not overwhelmingly or unpleasantly so.

Simcoe has a very nice mouth-feel and finds its best expression well-chilled.

This is a good beer to have in stock in the fridge — certainly for the warmer summer days we hope will still waft through this area.

A very tasty brew and well recommended.


Southern Tier Brewing Company

Lakewood, N.Y

Live pours a hazy, somewhat cloudy dried apricot color — a flat gold that offers up a quarter inch of foam which disappears pretty quickly.

There is a distinct outdoorsy smell at first nose, almost grassy in a sense. The hoppiness shows up in tones of citrus — a bit like a lemon zest or grapefruit peel. There is a touch of dry maltiness in the form of a muted bread or yeast aroma.

At first sip, there is a distinct tartness — an almost bitter quality. Still, there is a crisp, clean flavor that highlights the citrus tones felt in the scenting.

For those who aren’t expecting a sweeter drink, this beer comes off quite refreshing. If you are expecting sweeter elements ... they are here.

Look, class. Live is an American Pale Ale. It’s going to be a touch acidic but not as hoppy as many brews on the shelves. Still, the hops are well represented in the citrus tones and more earthy touches.

If you want something even more hop-centric, aim at an IPA.

Despite the citrus accents, I found Live to be pleasantly creamy — especially at the end. It goes down quite gently, and is not too heavily carbonated

This really is a pleasant brew — smooth on the tongue and pretty gentle on the palate.