This has been my first full summer in Michigan, so all of my time not spent teaching or engaged in course prep has been spent on the road, exploring what this state has to offer when temperatures are above freezing. I made a point of visiting as many breweries as I could, to take some tours and soak in as much of the Michigan beer scene as possible before fall hits.
First up was Dark Horse, in Marshall, MI. We arrived to find an ominously darkening sky, but the garrulous tour master (with a poorly sculpted blob-like skull visible on the shelf behind him) soon put us at our ease.
We asked our tour guide what his favorite offering was, and he told us that he particularly enjoyed Sapient Trip, a Belgian style Tripel that’s a dangerously sweet 9.5% ABV. I liked it as much for the taste as for the label, an osteologically appropriate rendering of the Grim Reaper:
Our guided tour of the facilities was the first of the day, and we took the opportunity to interrogate the guide about a number of other aspects of brewery operations. I was particularly curious about the ceramic mugs that adorn the the tap room – they’re clustered so closely together that in some places you can’t even see the actual walls of the buliding. Apparently the regulars at Dark Horse join the brewery mug club by purchasing the beautifully crafted handmade vessels. When we asked the tour guide where they were from he gave us the potter’s business card – a large ceramic token etched with his website on one side, and a tiny skull and cross bones floating over a few pints of beer on the other!
My next stop a few weeks later was in the town of Mt. Pleasant, about halfway up the Mitten. I was making my way to Traverse City for the longest vacation of my summer – a staggering 2 and 1/2 days. I’d decided to make a brief detour to central Michigan because there’s a beer called Train Wreck I’ve always enjoyed when down south, and I wanted to take a gander at the brewery that produced it.
Mountain Town Brewing Co. was a lot of fun – there are always two bartenders staffing the bar, and when business wanes they’ll take you back into the brewery itself to give you a brief tour. They’ve also come up with an innovative solution to the problem of indecisive drinkers. If you don’t know what you want, there’s a gameshow style wheel that the staff will spin to choose a beer for you! In addition to their creativity and friendliness, I have to give them props for the amorphously osteologically-themed logo that decorates their signature beer. I don’t know what kind of long bones these are, but hey, at least they’re bones?
The staff and tour guide were personable and engaging, their kitchen made sandwiches that substituted waffles for bread, and TWO of their beers had osteology themed labels. The first, Dead Kettle, was one of their IPAs:
The second, Spinal Tapper, is one of their slightly higher ABV offerings. I love the label because in addition to including the sacrum, the artist faithfully added in some lumbar lordosis and thoracic kyphosis to capture the curvature of the human spine.
Did I mention they also have a cherry pie beer and a porter made from smoked pig bones? What with the hints of osteology popping up repeatedly and lots of excellent beer, I was quite a happy bioarchaeologist.
I hope you all have had the chance to pursue some similarly excellent adventures in whatever part of the world you’re spending your summer!
Image Credits: Sapient Trip Ale label from beerpulse.com, here. Dead Kettle label from beerpulse.com, here.