A Taste of Pure Michigan: Arbor Brewing Lineup


Sure, Founders and Bell’s breweries may get most of the attention for Michigan beer thanks to wide distribution, but there’s plenty more to be had.

That’s something Friend of the Program, Mark Graves, touched on with his Six-Pack Project entry for Michigan. There are about 100 total breweries spread across the Great Lakes State, so there’s something to be had by all.

The Missus recently made a trip to Ann Arbor, where upon her kindness and the suggestion of a local grabbed me a mixed six-pack of Arbor Brewing‘s lineup. Baring the slogan “Mitten Made,” I can’t imagine of a more fitting way to be more “Pure Michigan” for my tastebuds. Let’s take a dive into some of their offerings, which seem to have a uniquely Belgian inspiration.

Red Snapper Roasted Pale Ale

Red Snapper has a fish on it, but don’t think you’ll find any swimming in the waters around Ann Arbor. It got its name from a friend of brewery owners Matt and Rene Ypsilanti.

arbor_brewing_red_snapper_pale_aleThis brew was originally conceived as a homebrew of the two, which makes perfect sense. How often do you see a pale ale with smoky flavors?

Light roast/smoke is unmistakable on the smell of the beer, with some marshmallow at the end of each whiff. It’s hard to find a discernible hop aroma, but it’s hiding somewhere beyond the smokescreen.

The taste got me a little – if using roasted/smoked malt, or at least the flavor, why not make a black IPA instead? Would that be too much? Do American craft beer drinkers actually ever say that? Either way, the hope character adds a little bitterness, but I picked up more of a nutty malt flavor than hop.

Strawberry Blonde

Oh, hello, beautiful.

Don’t be fooled by the pretty face – this Belgian blonde vixen packs a punch at 7.7 percent ABV and something you’ll never taste. More femme fatale than girl you’ll take home to mom and dad.

arbor_brewing_strawberry_blonde_beerThere’s a strong smell of Belgian candi sugar and yeast esters along with (what I think) is a can’t-miss bready-spicy Belgian beer smell. The strawberry part of this hides well behind it all, but when it’s noticeable, it’s more medicinal than like a berry from the store.

Strawberry Blonde tastes a touch better, but otherwise reminded me a lot of Chimay. Bready maltiness with banana and fig. A twinge of spice at the aftertaste.

It seems the most strawberry flavor you’ll find with this beer comes from your nose.

Bollywood Blonde

If red-heads aren’t your thing, here’s the flipside for all you red-blooded American men.

arbor_brewing_bollywood_blonde_beer_belgianDespite its Indian-influenced name, this Belgian blonde has plenty of ways to dance for you. On the smell, there’s lemon, rose and sweet yeast esters. Don’t forget some orange peel for good measure!

Shaking its hips across your tongue, you may find banana, clove and sourdough bread, too.

I suppose what I enjoy about this beer is that while I expected it to be pretty straight forward (“It’s a blonde! How complex can it be?”) there’s plenty of fruit flavors that make it appealing and pair nicely with herbal/floral hops.

Violin Monster

Werewolves are from Belgium, vampires from Mars. Or something.

arbor_brewing_violin_monster_belgian_dark_beerViolin Monster is listed as an “Autumn Ale,” on the bottle, but is more Belgian strong dark ale if you want to get technical. It’s got lovely smells of chocolate and spice with a little but of vanilla thrown in for good measure.

The taste is not as scary as its mascot, offering up lots in the grape/fig/raisin category as well as brown sugar. There’s some chocolate on the aftertaste which subtly hides the 9.5 percent ABV.

Thanks to its high alcohol content, I suppose this beer is fitting for cold nights when you’re home alone, staying awake to ward off all those dangerous monsters outside.

Ypsi Gypsi Pale Ale

arbor_brewing_gypsi_pale_ale_beerFor what it’s worth, this brew appeared to be the most straight-forward of the bunch. It’s an American pale ale, so it’s a bit hop-forward, but it straddles the line tightly of being like any other general version of the style.

The beer is more crisp than hoppy, more bitter than citrus and carries a fine underline of baked bread. If I struggled, grapefruit was around there somewhere, but the finish was a touch too bitter for what I expected.

This beer is clean, but not what I’d expect from an American pale ale. Perhaps it would fit better on a different palate.

Sacred Cow IPA

Arbor’s website mentions a “full floral Cascade hop aroma” with this beer and if you’re a fan of this popular American hop, then Sacred Cow is certainly up your alley.

arbor_brewing_sacred_cow_ipa_beerHowever, I’d love to know what other hops went into making this beer. The depth of its aroma or flavor didn’t move much beyond “bitter,” although I suppose some aspect of grapefruit and lemon could be mentioned. As expected with a West Coast hop, there’s certainly some acidic citrus notes, but nothing that was terribly ideal to a balanced or complex smell.

The same can be said for Sacred Cow’s taste, which had a decent malt balance, but no true calling card for flavor. Again, aspects of Cascade like grapefruit or orange kick around, but nothing overtly pleasant.

It’s a fine, if average, IPA. Namaste.

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac


2 thoughts on “A Taste of Pure Michigan: Arbor Brewing Lineup

  1. Here’s to haybags who bring us beer. Although, much like a rabbit delivering lettuce, mine brings it AND drinks it.

    That 7.7% Strawberry Blond sounds dangerous. I’m guessing most people who order a strawberry blonde aren’t prepared for 7.7%.

    1. I’m a sucker for red-heads, so it’s easy for them to score a perfect 10 with me. Based on that, I’m always prepared for a 7.7, at least.

      The beer is delicious, too!

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