…..continued – We reluctantly left Detroit on Monday, September 9th. It was humid and rainy, but by the time we reached Kalamazoo there was a blazing sun beating down on us. We walked the quaint, quasi cosmopolitan city in the early evening and while Julie captured a gorgeous sunset the humidity thickened the air considerably. Kalamazoo was not just a point on the map, it was west and we were headed west, but most importantly Kalamazoo is home to the Bells Brewery.
Lounging on the Bells outdoor patio, too excited to have my first Oktober beer to worry about the lake of sweat forming on me in places no man wants moisture, I was relaxed and ready for a beer. The Marzen came and was good. Of course it had the proper aroma, was malty without fruit, down the center as far as bitterness, however not as classic Bavarian a Marzen as I’m accustomed to, feeling like an American Amber dressed as a Marzen. I often like when breweries take something classic and delicately spin it to fit their aesthetic, doesn’t always work, but for Bells it does.
Many years ago in the middle of a painfully humid and hot New York City July my good friend Michael Doctor and I went on a Stone Smoked Porter binge. The bodega by his apartment on 96th sold bombers for $3. We went nuts on that amazing beer, so now I associate porter as a summer beer, let’s be honest Stone’s Smoked Porter is a fantastic beer whenever you drink it, have you tried their Vanilla Smoked Porter? Given my affinity for the style, I ordered the Bells American Porter on this crazy hot September evening. (By this time we had moved indoors) It was awesome! American porters are very exciting and this one was exactly that. True to form, a little bitter, not too sweet, beautifully roasted with a noticeable and decent amount of booze that left a gentle chill as it flowed down my throat.
Sated, we left Bells heading further west towards Lake Michigan, spending the hottest and most uncomfortable night in the car to date. At rest stops in Michigan, cars are parked away from the highway behind the facilities, separate from the idling big rigs and for this reason it feels safe, quiet, and virtually private.
Dawn eventually broke and with only a brief amount of sleep between the two of us, we were on the road early to watch the sunrise. The majestic blue water of Lake Michigan and the sandy beach we were walking reminded us both fondly of being on the ocean. After our walk we found the Planet Fitness, where Julie is a black card member, which allows us to visit every PF in the nation for a work out and a shower. I’m mentioning our travel process because I’ve been asked recently how our lifestyle works. This is how it’s been for us. Despite our roaming lifestyle, we work like everyone else, on the Internet, and there’s a place called Starbucks that serves stiff coffee with internet access, we found one of these places just over the state line in Indiana, ironically in a town called Michigan City.
Again it was hot, middle 90’s, did I mention it was September 10th? We went to the beach, walked a few sweaty steps and realized there was no possible way we could manage another sweltering night in the car so we opted to stay at a place called the Microtel. It was air conditioned, had a refrigerator and offered breakfast.
Michigan City is set up along the shores of Lake Michigan, there’s a rather nice beach for swimming, a harbor with fishing boats, a Nuclear Power Plant and Cooling Tower and most importantly: The Shoreline Brewery.
We sat at the bar next to the city’s Fire Chief who is a fellow cyclist and one of the coolest men I’ve had the pleasure of drinking a two dollar beer with. Oh I didn’t mention that, on Wednesday’s at the Shoreline Brewery, there is a $2 beer on the offering. This particular evening I was poured their American Pale which was named Benny’s APA for $2. Benny’s APA was true to form with a lovely hop aroma, some citrus, perfect color and not as hoppy as some of the commercial Pale Ales (that really fall into the IPA category) which was nice, not too boozy either at just about 5.5%. I could have easily had a dozen pints. I love when a beer is well-crafted, easy to drink with a really good flavor and fresh ingredients. Hats off to Shoreline for making an excellent enjoyable albeit simple beer. You can learn a lot about a brewery’s philosophy when they offer something so crisp clean and true, a trait so often overlooked in the competitive world of craft beer. Maybe that’s the charm of the small town breweries, their sole focus is making really great beer without the stress of distribution or shelf recognition. Perhaps I’m reeling from the hop Olympics of craft beer or the often bizarre ingredients added to make a brewery/brewer standout. That’s not to say I didn’t love the fennel stout I recently had in Memphis, but when a simple beer is done right, it really does make all the difference and Benny’s APA from Shoreline in Michigan City, Indiana was done right. Go there the next time your in town. (Although, there really isn’t any reason why you would ever be in Michigan City, Indiana, unless of course your were avoiding a sweaty night sleeping in you car on the highway on your way to Chicago.)…to be continued….