One Tank Trip: Frankenmuth Breweries

Most things from my childhood have either disappeared or changed.  My elementary school? Demolished and now it’s just a field of grass (and for the record, I will never forgive the city for doing that).  My first library?  It’s now merged into some huge building complex and the original building is gone.  The mall that we went to? Changed beyond recognition.  Most of the restaurants and shops that we went to? Long gone.  I understand that things can’t stay the same way forever, but it still depresses me to think about what is no more & will never be again.

Fortunately, a place that loomed large in my childhood–the city of Frankenmuth, Michigan–is still the same.  Well, not exactly the same. But they changed in the right way.  And by “right” of course I mean the way that I think things should change; to wit, expand with caution but keep the old stuff the same.  The two big restaurants–Zehnders and Bavarian Inn–are still there.  I can still go to the bathroom in Zehnders that I went to with my grandma.  I can still go to the shops on the main street where my mom bought me toys and candy. Meantime, they’ve added some hotels and a bridge and a riverboat.  This to me is the best of both worlds–I can walk on the bridge or stay at the jazzy hotel if I want to…but I can also still have my picture taken in front of the Zehnders sign like I did with my grandparents back in 1980.

About every other year, I convince Jeff to go up to the Ragtime Festival that they have at Zehnders.  They always show silent movies on Friday night and I like to go to those.  This was an “on” year so we went.  The carrot for Jeff (and me too, even though I do love those movies) was a trip to the two breweries in Frankenmuth:  Black Forest Brewhaus and the Frankenmuth Brewery.

We rolled into town on Thursday & had dinner at Black Forest.  The beer was great and so was the slogan on their pint glasses:  Cures what ails you; ales what cures you.  I thought that was cute.

My favorite was the Grateful Red.  It was, in fact, one of the best reds I’ve had and it was my selection for my pint of the night.  It was a lovely amber color, smooth and malty tasting.  The “tongue feel” was that of a full bodied beer, yet not too heavy.

Our sampler also had the Mr. Mojo Weizen (bonus points for creative name, even though I’m not a Doors fan).  This was a true wheat beer and I am not a huge fan of wheat beers.  Jeff is though and he drank it right up.  The Woody’s Light was your typical “crossover” beer.  It was good for a light–a classic golden ale with three kinds of hops–and my dad would have drank it.  The “would Daddy drink it?” scale measures from 1 (“you know I don’t like that fancy stuff you make”) to 5 (“it’s not a cold Budweiser but it’s okay”).  I would rate this one at about a 4 in that he would have made a small face but finished it.  Next was the Prairie Squid Blond, which had a sharp “Belgian” taste to it.  The description said it was a subtle Belgian taste but I picked right up on it.  It was slightly sweet, with a dry finish.  Next was the McGale’s Ale, which is an English ale.  This was a great English ale–bitter with a great hit of hops.  Super aroma, too.  The IPA was not available (“we had a catastrophe”, our waiter said cryptically) and this made for a nice substitute.  The last two beers in the sampler were stouts.  The first was Black Monday Stout, which was full bodied and malty.  I picked up on a “smoky” flavor that was lovely.  The other was the Black Tooth Stout, which was one of the better stouts I’ve had.  It had a nice hoppy taste, smooth and creamy.  It went well with the smoked salmon that I had for dinner.  It also made me think of my friend Cindy, who we call “Stout Girl”.  She would have been pleased with these selections.

On Friday, we ate brunch and wandered around town for a minute.  Then we decided, hell, it’s 5:00 somewhere and went to the Frankenmuth Brewery.  Cuz that’s how we live.

Jeff and I went to the previous incarnation of the Frankenmuth Brewery when, unbeknownst to us, the beer was being brewed offsite somewhere.  This time, there was no mistaking that the beer is being brewed right there.  The equipment was shiny and pretty and looked new.

The bad news was that they, like their fellow brewery across town, were out of the IPA.  The good news is that it didn’t matter so much because everything else was so great.  Our sampler’s “special” beer was an Easy Brown Ale, a Southern England style beer.  It was a lot lighter than most browns that I’ve had and a little sweeter.  It had some nutty undertones and a nice hop finish.  Since it was 3.1 ABV, one could drink a lot of this beer if one did not stop oneself.  Next was the Cass River Blonde Ale.  On the “would Daddy drink it?” crossover beer scale, I’d put it at about a 3.  I think he’d drink about half and then go looking for the Budweiser.  I liked it though as it was hoppier than a usual crossover beer.  There was a Pilsener which was a typical pils–light and crisp.  Not bad, not great.  The Red Sky had more of a grainy taste than the red from Black Forest.  I think I would have liked it a lot more if I hadn’t had that awesomely creamy red the night before. (This beer was Jeff’s favorite and his choice for his pint).  Nevertheless, I wrote that the red was “surprisingly complex” with a roasted taste and dry finish.  I’m not sure what I meant by “surprisingly complex”, but there you go.  The American Pale Ale (named “Batch 69″…hee hee I just said 69) was a nice hoppy beer, not as hoppy as my IPA would have been, but still good.  The Munich Dunkel had a toasty taste to it that made me remember those flying toaster screen savers from back in the day.  Oh goodness, with the “surprisingly complex” red and flying toaster dunkel, maybe I had drank too much?  (It’s all good though cuz our hotel was right across the street!)

I saved the absolute best for last–the Hefeweizen!  I never in all my life would have thought that I would fall in love with a Hefe but I did! It didn’t have that “harsh” Hefe taste that I don’t love but rather was spicy and fruity and very lightly hopped and just divine!  In fact, it was my choice for my pint.  When Jeff and I returned that night, it was my choice for my pint again (along with the American Pale Ale and the Blonde).  Again, peeps, fret not because our hotel was literally right across the street.

So both breweries get the thumbs up.  The real finds were the Red from the Black Forest and the Hefe from Frankenmuth.  Jeff and I also got to see some way cool silent movies and join in the sing-a-long (and by Jeff and I, of course I mean, I) prior to our second trip to the Frankenmuth Brewery.  Perhaps the most giggle-icious thing that happened (after the silent movies) was our second trip to the Frankenmuth Brewery.  Our bartender looked at me oddly when I ordered the APA.  “Have you ever had one before?” he asked.  “Oh yeah,” I said politely.  “We are beer geeks so we know all the styles.”  “Good,” said he.  “Cuz we have lots of people coming in here and ordering it because of its name and then not drinking it.”

Moral of today’s story? Don’t be a douchebag and order a beer just ‘cuz it’s named Batch 69.  Cheers!

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Published in: on April 25, 2010 at 6:55 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Patti, What a great weekend! Sounds like a trip up that way has much more than family-style chicken to offer. My husband will be eager to try all those beers, too, but truth-be-told, I like the image of you having your pix taken with your gramma. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm!
    Diana

  2. Patti,

    The Hefeweizen sounds lovely. I’ll have to try that for sure. It sounds as though you had a great weekend. I love living vicariously, especially when it involves food or drink. 🙂


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