Heavenly and Earthy
Along with herb-flavored ice creams, food-centric beers are now flowing through town. Coriander--a staple spice of Asia and Africa--was the marquee ingredient in house brews recommended by servers at both Wolverine State brewery and Jolly Pumpkin in July (Michigan Beer Month, if you didn't notice). Summery and crisp-tasting in both iterations, Wolverine's coriander lager has lemongrass in the mix and is named "Virtuous." Jolly Pumpkin's "Luciernaga (Firefly)" is one of its sour-style Belgian brews that need no extra tartness. The seasonal brews are ripples in a wave of foodish beers--I recently sampled bottles or drafts containing chocolate, coffee, oatmeal, fruits galore, rose hips, vanilla, pepper, and other botanicals. You can even find local beers as smoked as your main-dish brisket.
Bill's Beer Garden at Ashley and Liberty (now open every night but Monday) is a great place to assess the state of the art because many top brews from across the mitten are on tap. The Dark Horse (Marshall) "Raspberry Ale" is full of the fruit's bewitching flavor but not its sweetness. New Holland's syrupy "Dragon's Milk Stout" is aged in actual bourbon barrels, and at 10.0 ABV (alcohol by volume), is so potent it comes in a smaller flute.
"I didn't drink beer for twenty-five years," admits Garden namesake Bill Zolkowski. Passionate about wine, he had "no interest in the fizzy yellow water" that passed as American beer until visionary enterprises like Kalamazoo's Bell's Brewery began making Michigan a top state for brewing arts. Now he evangelizes about Michigan beer with the fervor of the recently converted.