Maker: Founders, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
Style: Coffee flavored Imperial Brown Ale
MSRP: $12 (4 pack)
Appearance: Light coffee brown with a big foamy head.
Nose: Roasted coffee, chocolate syrup, brown sugar.
Palate: Dark roast coffee with 3-4 packets of sugar in the raw, a little malt and bitterness, dark chocolate.
Finish: Sticky but not really sweet. Almost exactly like dark roast Sumatra but without the smoke I often get in that coffee.
Parting words: From the folks who brought the world Breakfast Stout, now we have another coffee beer. I like that it’s more than just that, though. They’re using Sumatran coffee (working my way through a bag of Sumatra Mandheling from Chazzano right now, actually) provided by Ferris & Co. roasters of Grand Rapids (details on their Sumatra are here). They also used two types of malt, Aromatic and Munich, and two types of hops, German and Perle. In sum, Founders put a lot of effort and care into this, as they do with everything.
That said, I think this beer missed the mark. There’s too much sweetness here for my taste. It comes off closer to a fudge or milkshake stout than a coffee-flavored brown ale. $12 isn’t crazy for an imperial seasonal offering but it’s too much for something I’m not particularly fond of. Sumatra Mountain is mildly recommended.
Maker: Atwater Block, Detroit, Michigan, USA
Style: Imperial Amber Ale
Appearance: Cloudy burnt orange with an insanely foamy head that took the better part of a half hour to go down enough to be drinkable. Don’t believe me? The picture below is the beer fifteen minutes after being poured into a frosty mug. Still hadn’t poured the whole bottle in. Open and pour over a sink
Nose: Malty and fruity. Strawberry licorice candy, mango, papaya.
On the palate: Medium bodied. Nice interchange of fruity, malty and bitter.
Finish: Like most of my ex-girlfriends: pleasantly thick and sweet, with a hint of bitterness.
Parting words: Aside from the weird head behavior, this is a very nice beer. In spite of its imperialness it is food friendly and easy to drink. It comes in four packs for $9-$10, but considering the high alcohol content, it’s not that big of a deal. This one might even respond well to bottle aging of a few months. A nice pour. Double Down Imperial Amber Ale is recommended.
Maker: New Holland, Holland, Michigan, USA
Style: Brown Ale
Appearance: Dark Coffee Brown
Nose: meaty, cocoa
On the palate: Thick, caramel brownies, dark chocolate, brown butter.
Finish: long and pleasantly bitter and chocolately
Parting Words: This is a delicious, luscious brown ale. Loads of chocolate and caramel, similar to many barrel-aged ales, but not overly boozey. I wish I could say more, but this is just a damn good beer. Cabin Fever is highly recommended.
Maker: Dark Horse Brewing Co., Marshall, Michigan
Style: Brown Ale
Appearance: Big pillowy head that takes a while to calm down. The body is chocolate brown.
Nose: Sweet and a little fruity and yeasty.
On the palate: Full-bodied. Nice balance of sweetness and bitterness. Like chocolate chip cookies chased with a shot of espresso. Closer to a porter than to a typical brown ale.
Finish: Roasty bitterness mitigated by some background sweetness.
Parting Words: Dark Horse is a brewery known for its ugly labels, and this one is one of the ugliest I’ve ever seen. It looks like it was drawn by a 6 year-old child with serious psychological problems. What’s inside more than makes up for it, though. This is a well-executed brown ale that goes well with beefy spicy food or on its own. Recommended.