Hot Takes, Quick Tastes: Mostly Michigan Mid-Summer Edition

In Beer Reviews by Karl

Since it’s summer and you’re too busy having fun to bother with 1000-word-plus recaps of random beers, here’s a quick check-in with some our our top (and maybe not top) summer beers of 2016.

Summer is short and so is your attention span. So let’s agree that you don’t need us to waste your time with all the flavor notes and aroma esters and mouthfeel whatnot. What’s good? What maybe kinda sucks? If you’ve got $10 to burn on a sixer or a 4-pack of cans, what should you spend it on?

We’re here to help. Or at least, tell you some stuff and you can decide if it’s helpful or not. You do you.

Short’s Strawberry Shortscake:

You know we love this stuff. Have loved it for a long time. And plenty of other people love it too — in fact, our timing has been off for the last couple years, so we’ve not been able to find a bottle or draft in quite a while. Shortscake sells out so damn fast that if you’re in Michigan a couple weeks too late, you’re shit outta luck. So you can imagine my surprise when the first thing I see in the fridge on a recent weekend trip to Traverse City was the beloved pink-red-white Shortscake label.

Guess what — it’s still pretty good! But it’s not quite as shit-your-pants tell-all-your-friends-about-this-beer-right-now level good. The bright pillowy biscuit dough has toned down and the green tart just-underripe berry flavor has taken a back seat as well to the strawberry and cream. It’s still a damn good beer, and I’m plenty glad to have found it again. I’m glad I didn’t kill myself to get it this year, though.

strawberryshort'scake

The above is one of our garbage potato-quality photos from a 2010-era cellphone. It’s the best we got. Deal with it. Here’s our original Shortscake review.

Brewery Terra Firma’s ‘My Summer Boyfriend’:

Hey, see a northern-Michigan theme emerging? We’ve been making the trip north more than a few times over the last couple months (it’s only like a 5-8 hour drive, depending on traffic and construction and stopping for beers in Grand Rapids) and the last two trips have both seen stops for beers on BTF’s small outdoor patio.

The best thing we’ve found in a while has been a blend of two beers to create this hybrid awesomeness, the My Summer Boyfriend.

A light lemon-wheat beer and BTF’s semi-famous honey basil ale get mixed in what appears to be a 1:1 ratio to make something that’s equal parts bright, creamy, sharp, herbal, sweet, and complex. It’s sunshine in a glass mixed with a little bit of sugar and bright herbs. It’s great. Get a growler and drink it that day if you can. I wouldn’t count on this being around any more but this is just to say it was great. If you find yourself by BTF soon anything else with that lemon wheat beer will suffice. Definitely one of the top summer beers of 2016.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BHXkmz1B4OO/

It’s damn pretty, too. Forgive my little sliver of finger in the shot.

Perrin Brewing’s Grapefruit IPA:

More Michigan beer? Yeah! More Michigan beer. Deal with it.

We’ve been dabbling in Perrin beers all summer, including their “Pack of Problems” 12’er of IPAs you can pick up at Meijer. The “No Problems” Session IPA? Forgettable. The “98 Problems” IPA? Astonishingly similar to Two Hearted. The “Lotsa Problems” Imperial IPA? A malt bomb!

As for the Grapefruit IPA? Damn…just damn. I mean, this is the beer that put Perrin on the map in Michigan. The first summer this was available on draft around the Mitten it was basically a no-brainer purchase. Light, gently acidic and a little tart, bright, easy-drinking, full of fruit flavor but still recognizably a beer and not a borderline FMB. I feel like the grapefruit has become more pronounced over the (couple) years as fruited IPAs become the Cool New Thing but still, I’d take this over basically any other grapefruit beer, including Sculpin. Yeah, I said it.

Now that they’re in Colorado and a couple other states, I’ve been emailing Perrin every couple weeks to see when they’re coming to Illinois. Once they do, you really don’t have much of a reason to mule beers back from there any more. We’ve got Bell’s, Brewery Vivant and even Short’s now. What else do you want other than Perrin’s grapefruit?

18th Street’s Devil’s Spear Barleywine

Given to me as a late birthday present (in case you were wondering how seriously we take disclosure, yes, we report beers given to us as birthday presents). Look, guys, I’m sure this is a fantastic barleywine, but at the end of the day, it’s a barleywine, and I just sincerely don’t understand the appeal of the style.

Someone’s gotta like ’em because people keep making them — Goose Island wouldn’t waste barrel space on endless amounts of BCBS Barleywine each year if it didn’t sell — but I just don’t think I can get into it. As barleywines go, this is assuredly a perfectly fine one. That’s the best I can do.

New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red

As part of the aforementioned birthday, I decided that it was time for us to finally make it to New Glarus for some beers and a self-guided tour. My wife loved it because Moon Man on draft is still fairly rare (most handles defer to Spotted Cow) and the tour was at your own pace, meaning there was no intern or hung over undergrad telling us about the four main ingredients in beer for the x-thousandth time.

It’s also a beautiful place to drink a beer. I had an Oud Bruin after this which was awesome too, but man, the sticky cherry explosion of a Wisconsin Belgian Red is just an incredible thing to behold. Would it have been a touch more appropriate in slightly cooler weather not in direct sunlight? Would it have been a touch more refreshing in those circumstances? Sure. But who cares. It’s just a great goddamn beer, and worth the beautiful 3 hour drive from Chicago.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BH766FkghIU/

This has been Hot Takes, Quick Tastes of some of my Summer Beers of 2016. As always, if a beer is received gratis, we will disclose at all times, including birthday beers. If you’ve got a beer you’d like us to try, we probably won’t accept it (we ignore most “hey want some free beer” emails because we’re happy to buy our own), but you can try to email us and maybe you’ll catch us on a good day.

Bonus points if you can name the brewery flight in the lead photo. Noone has yet.

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About the Author

Karl

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Karl has written about food, travel and beer for Chicago Magazine, Thrillist, Time Out Chicago, AskMen and more. His book, Beer Lovers Chicago, is now available via Amazon and other booksellers.If you're buying, he's likely having a porter or a pale ale.

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