When I first visited Side Project a few years ago I ended up at their Cellar location, where they serve not just their own beers but many varieties of guest beers. I didn’t realize at the time that the main brewery location was down the street. Still, I returned a few years later, in March of 2018, because I was generally impressed by the quality of the beers the first time and my friends continue to post about how good they are. On this return trip, I was able to try three interesting beers on tap and ordered a bottle for on-site consumption because I wanted to taste something with fruit.
I started with the Foedre Fremier, a foedre aged golden sour. I enjoyed that it was complex tart and funky with a nice buttery oak finish. After that, I tried the Provence Lapsang, a barrel aged Saison with tea and orange peels added. While initially I thought the foedre version was more complex of the two, as both of the beers warmed up I’d had a difficult time differentiating between the two.
The Noir Fremier was creamy with light roast and notes of honey and citrus with vanilla on the finish from the bourbon barrels. I enjoyed this the most of the three on tap and brought home a bottle for myself. In order to taste some of their more sought after beers, I ended with a bottle of fence row. This is a popular blackberry sour that they bottle. I initially thought it had aromas of mustard although as it warmed up I found it mildly acidic, smooth and dry with flavors of a dry red wine with notes of berries. I thought overall that the berry character could have been much stronger but it was a solid beer.
While I was at side project, they also had some new IPAs that they were releasing. I did not try those because I was focusing on the sours. However, they appeared to be quite popular and there was a can release that same day. I look forward to trying more beers from side project in the future. When combined with the other breweries in the Saint Louis area, it is worth a trip out to Side Project or connecting with some locals to trade for some of their beers.
Come for farmhouse ales and wild ales though they recently started brewing IPAs and other clean styles as well.
Cabin Boys Brewing
Both Cabin Boys Brewing and Heirloom Rustic Ales have not been open very long when I stopped by. Cabin Boys had an interesting line up of beers though sadly they were having issues with the big imperial stout that I was most interested in trying. I tried a flight of four and then went on to American Solera where I planned to spend the most time. I was surprised by the taster prices at these new breweries but it seems that $3 tasters (and thus $12 flights of 4 beers) are here to stay in some parts of the country. Cabin Boys has a great little tasting room with a fantastic theme that you can see in the photos included here. I think they will grow into a solid spot for the locals.
I started with the saison, which was good though a bit unbalanced. It had notes of spice and a good dry finish but also a strong bubble gum flavor that may be from their choice of yeast. The bubble gum flavor was strong and overpowered the rest of the beer but with some tweaking this could be a great saison. The stout was excellent with tons of smoke and notes of toffee with a thick chewy mouthfeel. This should stay on as one of their core beers if it isn’t already. It also makes me extra sad that they had issues with the imperial stout while I was there.
The IPA was very classic west coast with low aroma and high bitterness with notes of grapefruit and pine. Though I am generally not into this style anymore, they nailed the classic flavor. This again should stick around as a mainstay. The wheat beer was also a bit unbalanced like the saison, though this one a bit bitter and spicy on finish. If actual coriander was added to the beer, they could have added too much to cause this. Since this was recommended to me by the bartender, I think it may simply be a variation between batches that isn’t common to this beer.
Though I didn’t find anything particularly unique, the beers at Cabin Boys were good enough that I would visit again the next time I am in Tulsa for American Solera. The stout and IPA were well done and to style. Plus their space is quite welcoming in the winter when it is cold outside.
Heirloom Rustic Ales
Heirloom Rustic Ales is also quite new in Tulsa though they appear to be enjoying quite the following. When I visited they had recently released some crowlers and they were mostly sold out on the Saturday I was there (the day before Super Bowl) so I was told by the brewery I should buy cans on Saturday if I wanted any. I stopped by on Saturday first to get two cans of Sticky Bottles, their deliciously hopped pale ale with Vic Secret and Citra hops. Because I had crowlers i did not drink it while I was at the brewery the following day. It was a delicious pale ale bursting with hop aromas including citrus and light herb character. I am also glad because this taught me well what Vic Secret hops taste like.
I started with Caves, an open-fermented lager made with all French hops. It had lovely notes of toast and funk with light hop character and a good full body. This is fairly unique as far as lagers go. Next I tried Plains, an open fermented farmhouse ale. This was my favorite of the day, with bright notes of peach and tangerine, some light funk, and a good dry finish.
The Black Cauldron, dark lager, was delicious and balanced with light caramel and raisin notes. This is quite a tasty dark lager. I finished with a strange beer called Devil’s Snare that was more of a novelty beer than anything else. It was unique and something I would not try again but since they mentioned it was made more for novelty I won’t bother going into tasting notes, though I would warn you to not order more than a taster unless you have tried it and know you like it.
I finished with three other tasters though I preferred the first flight minus the novelty beer. The Porter was quite good with notes of cherry and roast. The old ale had notes of maple, apricot, and bitter grapefruit with mild hop bitterness to finish it off. Sub genre, their dry hopped Trappist ale had notes of bright tangerine, mild sweetness and flavors of candied apricot. None of these three beers inspired me to order more although I was also encouraged to leave because my husband wanted to go somewhere else.
I quite enjoyed the feel of their tasting room and may have stayed longer to try more beers if my husband wasn’t pushing me to go on to another brewery. I quite liked the Plains and would love to see where they go from here on future visits. They seem to have some interesting ideas of brewing styles and so they should mature nicely.
Plains – open-fermented farmhouse ale
Caves – open-fermented lager
My second set of breweries in outer Ontario Canada were all in Prince Edward County area, a small island known for its many wineries in part due to its unique terroir.
County Road Brewing
Immediately on walking up to County Road it had the feel of an upscale farmhouse restaurant with lots of wood in the decor yet open areas letting in plenty of natural light. I got to speak with the brewer while I was there and learned that they had recently shifted their focus more toward Belgian styles and farmhouse ales after discovering their water was better suited for this style of beer. From what I tasted while I was there, this seems to be quite true.
I started with their petite saison. It was dry and balanced with light spice character, earthy apricot notes, and grapefruit hops, with a mild bitter finish. I love how they took the classic style and gave it a hop kick that works well with the style. The standard saison is more true to style with notes of cracked pepper, light puckering tartness and a dry finish.
The pale ale was bitter and piney with a mild malt backbone. The gose was light and crisp with notes of lime and mild salt and a lightly tart finish. The version with added cherry was deliciously fruity and brought out the notes of lime even more prominent. The cherries also gave it a bright red color.
The biere de mars had a dry banana bread flavor with mild grapefruit, caramel, and light tart finish. I enjoyed this one a lot because it is a style I don’t see at breweries very often. The malts didn’t overpower the rest of the beer.
These statements are all about the quality of what I had on tap the day I visited. Sadly, the bottle of saison I brought back home from the brewery didn’t have the same classic style or level of attenuation, though things in the bottle are always unpredictable. The Biere de Miel was still great in the bottle and had a nice balance even if it tended to be a bit more sour than what I had on tap.
Biere de Mars
Barley Days Brewing
Barley Days has a good medium-sized tasting room inside with air conditioning and a nice outdoor seating area. I wasn’t very glad when I saw that they chilled all of their glasses prior to serving. This kept me from getting the full flavor from some of the beers because they weren’t warming up very fast. Still the beers were quite good so it would be worth picking up some to take home and serve in your own glasses.
Their indoor voice European pale was to me a pure classic west coast style pale ale with mild herbal hops, tons of melon and citrus hops, and a mild bitterness and minimal malt notes. Their loyalist lager was crisp and fruity with a nice lager character. The harvest gold was dry and mildly fruity with some biscuit malt notes, perfectly to style.
Their dark ale had some light roast and a dark brown color with mild English hop character, overall very balanced. I also tasted some of my friend’s raspberry hibiscus beer that was delightfully balanced with strong hibiscus and raspberry and a mild tart finish. Though I didn’t expect much from this brewery I was very impressed overall with the quality of the beers. Sadly the owner didn’t care that I was disappointed about the chilled glasses.
Indoor Voice hoppy pale
Prince Eddy’s has only been open for a short time but they had a solid lineup available and I tried 5 of their beers. Though they are newly opened, they have a good sized tasting room and plenty of seating. Their pale ale was creamy and minimally bitter with a light malt base though not a ton of hop aroma. Their IPA had low alcohol for the style but a nice soft body with juicy pine and citrus character and lots of flavor for 5%.
The white IPA has more of an herbal balance to it that overpowered it and gave it a strong bitter finish of puckering grapefruit. The Belgian yeast seemed to overpower the rest of the beer a bit too much. The stout was tasty with mild lactose and plenty of roast and caramel, nicely to style. Their cream ale is more English style or as my friend called it Canadian style cream ale. It was soft with notes of vanilla and light sweetness. I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would.
For such a new brewery they were quite impressive and hopefully will grow nicely. The IPA and cream ale will both help them to attract a following.
Parsons is one of the more established we visited and they had a huge number of taps in their mid-sized restaurant. Their rye pale was good and balanced but a little more bitter than I prefer, drinkable but nothing great. The coffee stout was mildly bitter and roasty with a dry finish. The coffee was very minimal and should have been stronger.
The Vortex Double IPA was classic English style and far too sweet and heavy on the malts, overpowering the hops. I didn’t care for this one. The two barrel aged beers I had were not very good. Though I found out later that they use a fairly low alcohol base beer, which gave both of them a really thin body.
The Legend, aged in bourbon barrels, was super hot with a strong alcohol bite and very thin body. There was minimal roast or sweetness with a smoky dry finish. The scotch aged version was even less interesting and was a pure mouthful of peat and smoke that overpowered the base beer.
Parsons was the least interesting of the day for me though perhaps i ordered the wrong things. Lots of their hoppy beers were too old-school for me.
There are many breweries in Western Michigan. I could never visit all of them in a span of two days, nor can I give sufficient time to all the breweries I did visit. I stuck to those breweries most recommended on Beer Advocate message boards. In this post I will cover Brewery Vivant, Founders, New Holland, Arclight, Transient, and Bell’s. I didn’t try anything on tap at Arclight though so I will be posting based on the bottles of sour beer I picked up recently on my way to Transient. I also didn’t taste anything but stouts at Bell’s because I happened to visit on their All Stout’s Day.
Vivant is known for its Belgian style beers and the few that I tried were quite well done even if some were not to my tastes. Vivant is located inside an old funeral church and they have a gorgeous space with two large stained-glass windows. They have tons of seating and a full menu of food. I stopped in quickly for a flight. Keep in mind the tasters are on the expensive side, with prices ranging from $3 to $4. I’m not sure that I understand why they have such pricing. Thankfully, the bottles are more reasonably priced and they have cans of most of their core beers.
Their farmhouse ale was dry with notes of white wine and some mild peach with minimal spice character. It is a very well-done saison. The maelstrom stout is bitter and smoky with some mild roast and hints of burnt caramel. It has a creamy finish and if you give it some time to warm up and for your palate to adjust to the initial shock it is a fantastic beer. The Verdun Biere de Garde has notes of dark fruit with a mildly sweet finish. It wasn’t as dry as I expected but I enjoyed it enough and the beer was nicely balanced. The Liquid Crystal Belgian IPA was intensely floral with a fruity base malt similar to the Verdun. I wasn’t a fan of the mix of flavors and it was not my hop profile but it is a well-made beer.
Their stone fruit sour was excellent with some intense brett on the nose and a puckering tart at the finish that gives way to sweet peach and nectarine. I left with two bottles of this for myself and another for a friend. It is worth checking ahead to see if the brewery has any sours because they are excellent. The barrel aged stout on raspberries was a shock at first with a mix of flavors I haven’t experienced before. I’m not sure I like the blend of bourbon and raspberry. To me this is almost a sour and not something I would recommend for someone who is mostly into sweeter stouts. The raspberry comes on as mildly tart and overpowers the bourbon. If you like sweeter stouts you should go to Founders or New Holland instead.
Farm House Saison
Stone Fruit Sour
Compared to the spacious area of Vivant, which is already a good size as breweries go, Founders is massive. While they do have some people taking orders from the tables, you can also line up and order beer or food directly from the counter, which is faster. They also have a water bottle filling station near the restrooms to make it easy to hydrate. Because of the huge space, Founders has live music and we were blessed by some bluegrass during our time there. I’m not sure why the groups seemed to only play one song and then switch but I wasn’t complaining because despite being bluegrass they had a ton of bass in the music. Come with ear plugs if you like a quiet brewery experience, especially on weekends.
I tried a couple of their IPAs and a couple of stouts but we didn’t have a ton of tasters because they didn’t have many stouts on tap and I wasn’t a huge fan of the IPAs. The harvest IPA was a fantastic mix of resin and grapefruit and nicely balanced with a mild sweetness and bitterness. I got some notes of fresh grapes at the back. The Beer City IPA was quite old school with a prominent bitterness and tons of pine. It was well-made but not my favorite hop profile.
The Rubaeus was a tasty raspberry ale, jammy and not too sweet with the right blend of amber malts to support the berries while giving it some additional fruit notes. The watermelon gose was sweet and mildly tart with a great balance of flavors. It wasn’t too salty and is probably the first really good watermelon beer I’ve had. My husband went up to order the nitro breakfast stout and backwoods bastard tasters but the server heard him to order a pint of breakfast stout. Though he hadn’t been in love with breakfast stout before, he really loved it on nitro. I got an intense nutty coffee with a smooth mild chocolate. The nitro made it extra special.
I had tried the regular dirty bastard before and really liked the flavors of the base beer. The backwoods bastard has a ton of caramel and bourbon and is super smooth. I passed this up in the stores before based on the price of a four pack but now I might consider buying some because it is so good. It is quite easy to spend a full day at Founders if you are staying in town longer. How long you want to stay depends on what sorts of beers they have and your preference. I would recommend Founders more for their stouts though the Harvest IPA was excellent too.
Breakfast stout on nitro
I almost skipped visiting New Holland because we already got their new coconut rum dragon’s milk in San Diego. It was worth a stop to try a few other variants of their beer. The Down Dogger, a hoppy wild Belgian golden was fruity with lots of spice from the Belgian yeast and super dry but it wasn’t sour, funky, or hoppy. It was a fairly standard beer. The Harvest 2, a fresh hop pale, was bitter and malt forward with some notes of grape. It didn’t stick out at all or suggest from the flavors that the hops were fresh. The Vanilla Chai Dragon’s Milk had tons of cinnamon and clove with mild vanilla. To me the spice overpowered the rest of the beer too much. I didn’t really care for it. The Brewer’s Select Dragon’s Milk, a slightly stronger version of the regular, was smooth with notes of vanilla but the alcohol came out a little too hot on the finish.
Comparatively, the coconut rum version, released this year, is much better. It has tons of coconut flavor and a mild rum note at the back. I’ve been enjoying these bottles for a couple of weeks at home prior to visiting. I’ve also had the regular Dragon’s Milk in the past and thought the standard was more balanced than the Brewer’s Select version. The few beers I tasted at New Holland tell me that it is worth sticking to variations of Dragon’s Milk and having other beer styles at other breweries in the area. Since you can find Dragon’s Milk in four packs as far out as the West Coast (we started receiving them in San Diego) I would recommend grabbing some bottles to enjoy at home instead.
New Holland’s various locations are restaurants and they tend to get crowded quickly. The location in Grand Rapids had such an insane wait that we decided to stop in Holland on our way south to visit the original brewery. Since we already ate at Founders, we only had a little dessert at New Holland to go with the stouts.
Known mostly for their popular barrel aged imperial stout called Dragon’s Milk and the different variations.
Transient Artisan Ales
Transient is a very young brewery but has developed a ravenous following from the nearby areas for its release of juicy North East style IPAs in cans as well as the different variations of sours. It is quite a drive to get to Transient either from Grand Rapids or Chicago, and will likely take you over an hour either way. Coming from Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo you can stop by another brewery along the way called Arclight. I stopped there briefly for a few sours they were releasing but they had plenty of other beers available on tap. Considering all the fantastic stouts at Founder’s and Bell’s I might still recommend coming out to Transient for their Buckley light chocolate stout.
I started with the Cromulent pale ale. It was juicy with notes of orange peel and peach with tons of hops and not a lot of bitterness. It is a very respectable juicy pale. I had a small growler of this beer at home the next day and it was still quite good. The pineapple salarium is tasty pineapple, not too acidic, mildly tart, and a dry finish. It reminded me of the Beatitude series of beers from San Diego’s Council Brewing. Bottles were already sold out when I got there. The Indoorsman brett pale ale had a strong woody bite with an herbal finish and some mild bready malts and peaches at the finish. I couldn’t get over the lingering bitterness at the finish and did not finish the taster.
The Henry porter was smooth and smoky with a ton of burnt caramel. Though this one was a bit shocking at first once I adjusted and it warmed up the beer had more caramel and I enjoyed it better. The Double Barrel Obelus was super smooth with notes of honey, peaches, and a mild buttery finish from the American oak. It is a fantastic complex beer that I enjoyed so much I left with two bottles. The Buckley light is pure liquid dark chocolate and creamy smooth. This is an excellent chocolate stout and worth seeking out.
Double Barrel Obelus oak aged saison
Buckley Light chocolate imperial stout
Despite Google showing multiple locations for this brewery, they have only one location that is split into a general store and a cafe. The brewery itself is not open to visit or drink in a tasting room. I visited on the day when they had All Stout’s Day, which meant all but two of the taps at the brewery were replaced by stouts. Thus, I won’t be including any commentary on how good their IPAs or other styles are.
I started with the java stout. It has mild smoke and tons of coffee roast, a very easy-drinking beer. I had two varieties of their expedition stout, one of their flagship brews. The 2014 and 2015 were not all that different but both were fantastic. The beer has tons of caramel and roast and a nice thick body.
The whiskey aged expedition stout was super smooth with a creamy mouthfeel and a strong but not overpowering or hot whiskey. The black note on tap had some nice notes of chocolate and fudge when compared to the whiskey expedition. The whiskey aged 30th anniversary had tons of fudge and cinnamon with some mild vanilla on the finish. The barrel aged dagger stout had tons of vanilla and espresso with a super smooth finish. All of the barrel aged stouts on tap were fantastic but the barrel aged 30th anniversary and barrel aged dagger stout were my two standouts. With such strong beers it gets difficult to give more detailed descriptions after a while.
Intense stouts and barrel aged variants, also some old school IPAs that are quite popular.