Original Gravity says:
“Amber Ale brewed with German smoked malt to give a pronounced, but well balanced smoke profile. Fresh Jalapenos added during several stages of the brewing process gives this beer the bold Jalapeno flavor and aroma that marries perfectly with the smoke flavor from the malt.”
After a long Saturday of Easter egg hunts with my nieces and nephews I found myself in a van headed north from Monroe to Milan, Michigan. Me, my father-in-law, brother-in-law and his father-in-law were headed to Original Gravity Brewing. We’d been itching to hit this brewery for weeks and finally got the chance to sneak away on the night before East Sunday.
Original Gravity is located about 20 minutes south of the southeast Michigan craft beer hub of Ann Arbor. The brewpub and brewing facility are both located in a non-descript brick building off of U-S 23. It’s so non-descript that, if you aren’t paying attention, you’ll drive right past it.
find your way inside, though, and you’ll encounter an entertaining mix of new construction that also has an almost dive bar feel. A long, metal bar with a bank of taps and rows of empty growlers behind it greet you when you walk in. Shiny, new brewkettles fill the back third of the bar. Exposed duct work adds a a lofty feel. It’s the decor, though, that keeps it from looking too pretentious. Christmas lights hang from the ceiling. A mishmash of well-worn round, square and rectangle tables are littered about the space. The chairs look like they’re right out of Cheers with black leather backs and worn out gold studs. Lining the wall are three different paintings of dogs playing poker. In the corner is an old school arcade and next to it is the full sized leg lamp synonymous with the cult classic A Christmas Story. This is my kind of bar.
And they have my kind of beer.
The tap list was an impressive mix of sessionable ales and big beers, enough to challenge the beer geek in us all. A flight split between the four of us helped narrow down our choices. The 440 Pepper Smoker, a beer brewed with German smoked malt and jalapeno peppers, towered above the other beers we tried – which included a tasty and light session Belgian beer, a chewy oatmeal stout and a hop-bomb of a double IPA.
Poured in to a 10 oz pint glass (they offer full and half pint pours) the 440 Pepper Smoker appears somewhere between a bright copper to dull orange in color. A nice bit of wispy, off-white head sits atop this beer. Take a whiff and you get a strong, but not overpowering, nose full of spicy jalapeno peppers and mesquite barbecue wood chips. Sip away and you get an initial wave of creamy malts which coat the tongue and prepare it for the onslaught of heat and smoke that is soon to follow. Cracked black pepper leads the charge followed by jalapeno peppers – seeds, juice and all. The smoke from the German smoked malt then flows over the palate to balance out the heat. The 440 Pepper Smoker finishes spicy and the burn from the jalapenos intensifies with each sip but never reaches the point of being unbearable.
It is easy to go overboard and be a little to heavy handed with the spicy when doing jalapeno pepper beers. But this offering is spot on. In fact, it may be perfect. The perfect blend of heat and smoke. Hands down. No question.
The 440 Pepper Smoke manages to be both challenging and enjoyable. Challenjoyable? I think so.