DRAFT PICKS: Surviving and thriving

It’s always good to read about just how much success craft breweries are enjoying around the State of Michigan.

One of my favorites, Short’s up in Bellaire, is simply booming.

In a recent article in the Traverse City Record Eagle, writer Glen Puit reports:

“Short’s Brewing Company is expanding its pub operation in Bellaire in a $1.2 million project that’s expected to create 20 jobs.

“The craft beer producer — which helped ferment this scenic Antrim County village’s economic base for much of the last decade — may seek public money to finance some of the project ...

“The brewer manufactures beer in Elk Rapids and is witnessing explosive growth. Short’s spokesman Matt Gacioch said in 2010 Short’s produced 9,000 barrels of beer. In 2011, Short’s produced 12,000 barrels. The number was up to 18,000 in 2012 and Short’s is on target to produce 24,000 barrels this year.

“It’s partially because craft beer as an industry is expanding throughout Michigan and the country, and we are a leader in craft beer,” Gacioch said. “We have a unique business model, and we put out more varieties of beers with incredible attention to quality and detail.”

Short’s has a long and growing list of brews including some of my favorites ... ever!

Huma-Lupa-Licious IPA will certainly push the hops envelope for any hoppy beer lover.

The Soft Parade, a very fruity offering, has a loyal audience and is the only, only, ONLY beer my wife will even sip. It has a loyal audience of lovers, and an equally vociferous group of detractors.

Short’s Bellaire Brown Ale is a great example of a local ale. If I lived in Bellaire, this would be my standard.

Cup A Joe Coffee Creme Stout is one of the smoothest, finest, most coffee-esque beers I have ever tasted.

I would drink this stuff for breakfast (if I didn’t want to stay gainfully employed!).

Pandemonium Pale Ale is gaining in popularity — especially since being released in bottles.

Short’s Nicie Spicie could almost be a dinner ale, and I’m sure it already is so for many fans.

The Magician is also gaining quite a following.

Still ... it isn’t only Short’s that is not only surviving, but thriving.

A lot of Michigan breweries, guided by folks with a good business sense and a lot of common sense, are making a great showing for themselves and actually slowly but surely taking off despite a continuing sluggish economy.

We can only but wish them well.

Fact is, more people are trekking to Michigan for the Beer Tour than used to visit the state for the Wine Tour.

I don’t mean to diminish from local wineries and vineyards. Not at all.

By my way of thinking, the two — the beer and wine industries — really should complement each other.

Omission Lager (Gluten Free)

Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. 

Portland, Ore.

Omission is another in the growing list of gluten free beers being developed by some of the interesting and innovative breweries around the country. Pushed by a recognition that there is a market (and a growing audience), interested in gluten free beers, breweries are improving the quality of this offering, and creating a much better product than in years past.

Omission pours a muted straw color that is just a touch cloudy. There is a good amount of foamy head that disappears quite quickly leaving behind just a touch of lacing.

There is a rich aroma of grains carefully malted. The initial scent is strong on the citrus side of things, (read: lemony). There are noticeable tones of a fresh bread quality. All-in-all, a pleasant sniff.

The tasting is a pleasure with Omission offering up a hint of lemon balm, or lemon grass, backed up by healthy hints of the lighter citrus that was revealed in the scenting process.

This is a crisp, light, and refreshing brew — just a touch sweet.

Omission is a good example of the development of this relatively new genre in brewing — if not a touch ahead of the pack.

There really are some tasty, well-considered gluten free beers on the market.

Don’t be THAT much of a snob and turn up your nose at these brews.

Give them a try.

Pecan Harvest Ale

Abita Brewing Co.

Abita Springs, La.

Pecan Harvest is a American Brown Ale that the brewer describes as being “ ... made with real Louisiana pecans that have been toasted to perfection ... The natural oils from the Louisiana pecans give the ale a light pecan finish and aroma.”

OK. Now ...I  couldn’t feel pecans in this brew at all.

Nada. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a most pleasant brown ale.

It was.

Pecan Harvest is a delight.

But pecans? Sorry, couldn’t feel or find any.

Pecan Harvest pours a rich, inviting copper color with a nice head that dissipates pretty quickly.

There is a distinct caramel aroma at first whiff. Pecan Harvest has quite a sweet biscuit quality to it, tempered by just a touch of outdoorsy, even earthy hops.

At first wash, there is just a touch of the brown nut ale quality, but to my considering, none of the pecan taste promised. (And I know pecans. We had them growing in our yard when I lived overseas.)

Pecan Harvest is smooth, mildly bready and gently blended to create an excellent brown ale.

It really is a fine and enjoyable ale. I enjoyed it tremendously.

Just don’t get your hopes up for a pecan infused beverage.

That ain’t gonna happen. Not here!

Having said that ... I could easily see myself investing in a few bottles under the right conditions.