A drive along Michigan's M-89 brings lots of great options for craft beer
As a freshman heading to Hope College, I spent a good amount of time driving on M-89.
It was along this Michigan highway that I traveled many times back and forth to school, and later to visit the girl who’s now my wife. And for the past 15 years, I have driven along M-89 to pick up clay in Hamilton, Mich., for my pottery studio.
In those early days, beer was probably not one of the first things on my mind — at least not the same kind of beer that I think about these days. And M-89 has seen some changes for the better along the lines of good beer.
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Although I have not yet written about the Lost Raven, I have visited a couple of times and enjoyed offerings from their 12 tap lines, including beers from Tapistry Brewing (Bridgeman, Mich.), Brewery Terra Firma (Traverse City, Mich.) and Latitude 42 Brewing Co. (Portage, Mich.).
Toward the other end of M-89 you will find Salt of the Earth, located in Fennville. This rustic American eatery and bakery sources food as locally as possible, offers a seasonal food menu, Michigan beer and Virtue Cider.
Just recently, however, I found a new little gem on Main Street in downtown Otsego, Mich.: Maude’s Tap House.
On trips along M-89 in my past, there were many stops at Hinkel’s Bakery in Otsego for long johns, donuts and other tasty treats.
The family-owned bakery sadly no longer exists. I recall my father-in-law (who dabbles in baking) strongly considering the purchasing the business when the Hinkels wanted to sell. But my father-in-law’s interest in the bakery faded away, and today there is a very nice “beer-centric” bar in that exact location.
Mark McPhearson’s family owns the building where Hinkel’s Bakery was housed, and as a member of the downtown development commission, he heard more than one request for a microbrewery. But Mark had a different idea.
His family roots have been in Otsego since the early 1900s, and as a native Michigander, he is very familiar with the wide variety of great Michigan beer. He chose to open Maude’s Tap House (with his mom) and feature 41 taps, most of which pour Michigan beer.
Mark told me that he has traveled around the country to other states that have great beer cultures, but he’s always happy to return to Michigan, The Great Beer State, which he feels has the best beer anywhere.
On the day of my visit, tap choices included Boatyard Brewing Midnight Star (cream ale, 6.4 percent ABV), Dark Horse Scotty Karate (both an aged version and a fresh version, Scotch ale, 9.75 percent ABV), Alaskan Smoked Porter (6.5 percent ABV), Brewery Vivant Undertaker (Belgian dark ale, 6.7 percent ABV), Paw Paw Brewing St. James (English brown ale, 5.1 percent ABV), Shorts Brewing White Falcon (Belgian white hopped ale, 5.3 percent ABV) and Arbor Brewing Figjam (Quad, 11.5 percent ABV), just to name a few.
With this kind of a list, I had to choose something that I’d had never had before.
I began with Hideout Brewing Co. Coconut Almond Brown Ale (7 percent ABV) on nitro. It had a nice reddish color and the aroma was strong of coconut. I guess with the name, it shouldn’t be any surprise. The coconut came through strong again in the flavor, with underlying tones of nuts, chocolate and malty sweetness. This is probably not a beer for regular drinking, and if you are not a fan of coconut, it’s probably not for you. I love coconut, though, and would suggest pairing this beer with dessert.
This was also my first chance to experience One Well Brewing XALAPA (chile beer, 4.7 percent ABV). I am not a huge chili beer fan, and although I do enjoy a little heat, I prefer to enjoy the taste of peppers without the huge effect of spice. This was the perfect chili beer for my palate. One Well began with a blonde ale and then infused the beer with fresh jalapeños. With lots of hot pepper on the aroma, the flavor lacked the intense pepper spice that I have experienced in other beers of this style. In effect, this is a session chile beer that I would happily pair with spicy food.
Although I did not sample it, Maude’s has its own house BB Amber Ale (6 percent ABV) brewed by Boatyard Brewing in Kalamazoo. It is brewed with 100 percent Michigan clover honey and Cascade and Centennial hops.
I did not take the time to eat on this stop, but I hope to return soon. There are gluten-free and vegetarian options on the menu as well as their signature balls. Yes, this is what they are called on the menu, and they do acknowledge that it is a funny name. Think meatballs – which is one of the styles offered: “beefball.” Other styles include mashed potato, cheese and spicy lentil, served with Sriracha aioli, cucumber raita and chutney aioli.
One feature that I liked on the menu was the beer flights. All patrons are welcomed to create their own flight with four of any beers on tap, but there are suggested flights as well. These include Flight to Kazoo (with four beers from Kalamazoo), a Michigan stout flight, a Grand Rapids beer flight and more.
Maude’s atmosphere is very comfortable, and there were several people at the bar and tables during my early Saturday afternoon visit. It has an industrial feel with exposed brick and duct work, some corrugated metal on the walls and some really cool and creative black pipe used to house the tap lines on the bar. Warm colors and friendly staff top it off.
Maude’s tap house features 41 taps and more than 55 bottled beers Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. You can check out the beer menu and food menu online, or follow Maude’s on Facebook. Otsego is about one and a half hours drive north along U.S. 131 from my home in Goshen.