Review: Dark Horse West Michigan Ale

In Beer Reviews by Ryan

I brought a growler of this back from a trip to Michigan recently to split with Karl and our respective wives.

dark-horse-brewing logoBefore I go in to the particulars of this offering from one of my favorite breweries, lets first talk about the genesis of this beer.  West Michigan Ale is actually a blend of two beers that Dark Horse did with fellow Michigan brewers from The Livery in Benton Harbor and Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City.  The first beer was a rye IPA called Rocker Ale and the second beer was a brown ale they dumped, according to the bartender there the day I popped in, a “shit-ton” of candy bars in.  Blend the Rocker Ale and WGRD (the brown ale) together and you get the West Michigan Ale – a hoppy, dry beer that finishes like a Milky Way candy bar.  It was a hit with all four of us.

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West Michigan Ale poured a tea brown in color with a finger or so worth of tan head that billowed and faded away rather quickly.  Before you get your nose all the way down to the rim of the glass you get a big whiff of piney hops and a subtlest hint of dark chocolate.  Sip away and you get a BIG punch of earthy and piney hops up front but they quickly fade as this beer dries out before making way for a caramel and milk chocolate finish.

The thing I love about Dark Horse is that they always go big.  It doesn’t matter the style, they always churn out a beer bigger than it should be.  For instance, their Oktoberfest.  As a whole, I enjoy the style but it can be a little mundane.  Sometimes it can be tough to distinguish one brewers Oktoberfest from the other.  But not Dark Horse’s.  Their Marzen is heavier, boozier and bigger than any other beer of that style I’ve sampled.

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Big flavors of toasted bread, biscuits and a hint of floral hops.  It also clocks in at 8% ABV.  I know that may not to be for everyone, but I appreciated it.  The West Michigan Ale is another prime example of Dark Horse pushing the limits.  To blend a rye IPA and a brown ale is pretty F’ing awesome.  But to use a brown ale that was brewed with candy bars?  That’s downright kick ass.  It’s on tap for a limited time so run, don’t walk, to the brewpub in Marshall, MI.

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About the Author



Equal parts beer nerd and policy geek, Ryan is now the curator of the Guys Drinking Beer cellar. The skills he once used to dig through the annals of state government as a political reporter are now put to use offering unique takes on barrel-aged stouts, years-old barleywines and 10 + year verticals.

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