If you ask Michiganders what M-43 is, they might answer that it’s a highway, a state road running from South Haven to Webberville.But after the summer of 2017, many will assume you’re talking about the beer. Old Nation, a brewery from Williamston (just outside Lansing), rocketed onto the craft scene this year with the debut of M-43, a New England IPA — NEIPA for short — that has taken beer lovers by storm.
Despite its recent nationwide popularity, the NEIPA isn’t recognized yet as an official style, but most people can agree they’re characterized as unfiltered IPAs with a prominent hop profile. Often dry-hopped, these beers typically boast a hazy appearance and a juicy mouthfeel that balances the hops’ bitterness, appealing to a wide range of drinkers. To give some perspective: Ford Field has announced that M-43 will be served there this season, breaking into an arena market normally reserved for domestics and craft heavy hitters like Bell’s or Founders.
The NEIPA trend shows no signs of fading, and a plethora of Michigan breweries are hastening to populate store shelves and draft lines with their own takes on the style. But there’s a lot more brewing in the local beer scene for the rest of 2017 and beyond.
“The biggest general beer trend of note is the overall shift to session beers,” said Ben Darcie, the beer education specialist and homebrew shop manager at Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery & Supply. “The craft scene has gone out to the farthest reaches of beerdom, and seems to be circling back around to creating more sessionable styles — that is, beers that fall around 5-percent ABV or less.
“We forget that the Session IPA was practically unheard of less than five years ago,” he noted of the now popular style.
Drew Archer, general manager of 7 Monks Taproom, agrees.
“Sours, wild ales, gose, berliner weiss, kolsch — lighter, sessionable beers with flavor seem to be on the uptick,” Archer said.
While proclamations of a shift away from heavily-hopped IPAs and barrel-aged stouts may sound outlandish to some, the proof is in the pudding (or rather, the wort).
“I remember having a conversation with Ed Collazo (of City Built Brewing Co.) when he was getting ready to open his brewery,” Archer said. “He was really excited about his opening tap list, but I was like, ‘Wait, where’s your IPA?’”
Yet even without a traditional IPA to appease the hophead masses, City Built is thriving on its atypical list of offerings.
Archer cites Speciation Artisan Ales of Comstock Park as another newer local brewery that has made a big splash, with experimental sours and goses as its main attraction.
“What an impact Mitch (Ermatinger) has had on the beer community in the last eight months,” he said. “The masses cannot get enough. I’m asked numerous times on a weekly basis if we have anything from Speciation. … Luckily, most of the time, we do. I feel like he has hit a stride with the sour and wild influx going on, and it happened at the exact right time.”
Sours are definitely here to stay. Even Founders, Beer City’s most well-known brewery and a mecca for hop lovers all over the world, has begun producing amazing examples of the style.
“We have been getting into a good amount of sour beers, which resulted in our latest release, Green Zebra,” said Tracy Evans, a packaging lead on the brewery team at Founders. “Green Zebra is a very summertime take on an old German style. Goses acquire their characteristic sourness through lactobacillus, and this particular gose has a hint of watermelon in it.”
Green Zebra is also Founders’ 2017 ArtPrize beer, which means you’ll be seeing a lot of this sessionable release. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Founders has also recently experimented with malt liquors. The “fantastically hopped” DKML is barrel aged and produced with corn and lager yeast. Founders touts it online as “what could be the first malt liquor worthy of a glass.” In the same vein, Dark Horse Brewing recently partnered with Old Nation to produce its German Hobo Malt Liquor, which may mean we’ll see more craft malt liquors soon.
Asked what he thinks is up next for the industry, Evans said to be on the lookout for “more goses, as well as traditional lagers.” And Darcie of Gravel Bottom is definitely on board with this prediction.
“The next general beer trend that I’m extremely excited about is a shift to lagers,” he said, pointing out that “many people tend to forget the diversity of the lager style, reverting to the standard example of (the) fizzy yellow American Macro. Lagers include everything from that fizzy yellow lager to the easy, malty Oktoberfest, to the hoppy, bright India Pale Lager, to the dark, raisiny Bock and Doppelbock, to the black, roasty Baltic Porter and Black Lager.”
Try these local brews!
Brewery Vivant, Dawn of Vim
Cellar Brewing, Main Squeeze
Grand Armory, Cloudy with a Chance of Hops
Odd Side Ales, Mosaic Dank Juice
Old Nation, M-43
Petosky Brewing, Juicy
Brewery Vivant, Plein de Vie series
Founders, Green Zebra
Harmony Brewing/Harmony Hall, La Gabelle Gose
HopCat, Unicorn On Acid
Jolly Pumpkin, La Roja
Newaygo Brewing, Himalayan Gose
Saugatuck, Backyard IPA
Perrin, No Problems
Bell’s Brewery, Oarsman
Big Lake Brewing, Citra Session
New Holland, Full Circle
Beards Brewery, Oh! The Citranity!
Dark Horse/Old Nation, German Hobo
Creston Brewery, Creston Pilz
Founders, PC Pils