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Belt’s Beer Garden: Mich You Were Here

Two brews from Northern Michigan: Petoskey’s Juicy & Blackrocks’ 51K


Michigan is one of the countries best producers of beers...and (despite what us fans of #MACtion want to believe) it’s not just reserved to Kalamazoo. So to prove my point, today I have two brews from northern Michigan, including a beer from all the way up in the UP.

First, though, from the top of the mitten - a New England-style brew from Petoskey Brewing.

Petoskey Brewing comes from Petoskey, Michigan, a small city on the coast of Lake Michigan. Petoskey Brewing began back in 2012 in a building known as the “Old Brewery” …which happened to be the exact same building as the original Petoskey Brewing Co., which closed down in 1915.

You can find them across the state of Michigan but no where else for now. They offer three year-round beers and a slew of “Limited Time Pours”. When I was in Detroit for the Quick Lane Bowl, I saw one of those limited time brews and knew I had to grab it just from the name alone - Juicy.

Juicy is a New England-style IPA that comes with a 5.7% ABV and 57 IBU. A four-pack of 16-ounce cans costs just a tad higher than average at $12.

It poured a surprisingly clear straw color that looked more like a pale ale than a NE IPA. Billowing upwards was a massive amount of head; three fingers of fluffy, dense, white head blocked me from the liquid below and only allowed me to pour half the can into my glass.

Although it didn’t look much like a New England IPA, it sure smelled like one. And “juicy” was definitely the right adjective for the aroma flowing from the beer. Huge juicy notes of orange, papaya, pineapple, and other tropical fruits were the main offenders with a slight hint of a hoppy bite backing it up.

After a few minutes I was able to add more into my tulip glass and finally try the brew.

My first sip started with a solid amount of carbonation that fizzled throughout the entirety of the taste. Juicy started with a crisp, sharp mouthfeel that didn’t fit the style of a NE IPA. However, like the smell, the flavors certain had that New England quality to it. And “juicy” was once again the right word to use.

The tropical fruit burst on my taste buds with tangerine and orange leading the way. Behind those are hints of grapefruit and mango with a slightly wheaty characteristic.

As the flavors continue to dance across my palate the hops add a slightly bitter and grassy quality midway through with some pineapple acidity stinging my tongue. Then, as everything begins to wrap up, there is another juicy burst of sweet orange that most certainly reminded me of sipping a glass of OJ…only one that can get me drunk.

Juicy, as I continued to drink it down, leaves some decent lacing but not much. There are strings of bubbles and some cloud formations stuck to the side of the glass but a lot of it is left unscathed.

Overall, Petoskey made a very tasty, very easy to drink IPA. It’s not a true New England IPA but it certainly has a lot of the best qualities from the style, including the huge citrus flavors and limited bitterness (although there still is a tad much for a true NE IPA). There was a little too much carbonation for me but that’s really the only drawback to this one.

From Petoskey we head even farther north to the UP for one of Blackrocks’ go-to brews.

Blackrocks Brewery opened up in the final few days of 2010 with just a 1 BBL brewhouse. The brewery is located in the largest city of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Marquette – a town of 20,000 on the coast of Lake Superior – and has grown to a 20 BBL production system in addition to their original brewing system.

They’ve got four beers that are always around in addition to a slew of seasonal and specialty brews. From what I’ve seen they’re only available in Michigan for now.

I picked up a six pack of their staple IPA – 51K – which cost me $11. I don’t know what hops/malts they used but I do know that each can packs a solid 7% ABV and 68 IBU.

51K poured a slightly cloudy, but light golden straw color with moderate head topping it off. Just a finger of pure white foam settled after it was all poured out. The bubbles didn’t stick around too long and, within a minute or so, all that remained was a thin line around the edge of the glass.

Bright tropical fruits to control of the aroma with notes of grapefruit, apricot, and lemon up front. Behind the citrus were some piney hops and some sweet bready malts that created a nice balance to the scent.

A moderate carbonation led off my first sip which slowly fizzled out on my tongue. The flavors, though, did not wait for the effervescence to end and attacked my taste buds with some bold hoppy flavors.

Up front papaya, mango, and grapefruit took charge during the tropical outbreak with other fruits, like the lemon and apricot, taking a backseat.

The malts quickly added some caramel sweetness in hopes of cutting out the bitterness…and, for the most part, they do a fine job but the hop flavors still controlled the brew.

In the middle of the sip there was a burst of pine and some earthy/floral flavors that only lasted a brief moment before being washed out by some delicious, juicy grapefruit and orange flavors that followed the sip to completion.

That last explosion of sweet citrus fruit was a nice surprise. It really ended the taste on a positive note and left me wanting more.

Although, lingering after everything is said and done is a dull bitterness that sticks to the back of my tongue and a rather dry feeling that had me going for a glass of water after a few consecutive swigs. It was the one time that the 68 IBU were noticeable which, for an IPA, isn’t bad at all.

Blackrocks’ year-round IPA was surprisingly balanced and tasty. 51K had some very nice tropical fruit flavors with a solid, sweeter malt backing, and just the one downfall – the lingering bitter bite and dryness that followed the sip.

This was still a very easy to drink brew and, if you’re able to find in near you, this is a great six-pack to have on hand for almost any occasion.