Craft beer excitement in Michigan is experiencing a grassroots movement. Not only are new and exciting breweries popping up like daisies all over the state, but smaller taprooms are joining in on the action by offering larger selections of home-woven handidrafts. Because of this, followers of Michigan’s rich beer industry are appearing in burgs and hamlets across the state, which is precisely why Howell’s Shark Club’s 1st Annual Weird Michigan Beer and Food Exhibition held on Thursday July 28th was successful.
The Shark Club routinely has 68 tap handles, 64 of which could be considered beers for more refined drinkers. On Thursday evening, 29 handles served the most bizarre Michigan-born beers available in 4 oz. sample sizes for $1 each. Some of the odder varieties included Arbor Brewing Company’s Chips ‘N Salsa, Short’s Brewing’s Agave Peach Wheat and Original Gravity’s 440 Pepper Smoker, just to name a few.
Jon Cole, product manager and event coordinator at the Shark Club, spoke on the longevity of these zany flavored beers. “They’ll be here till they’re gone,” he said. “If we can sell a [keg] in three weeks, it’s a keeper.”
Jon is always changing handles to keep the selection fresh and mentioned the site On Tap Now (http://www.ontapnow.com), which he uses to manage the announcement of his handle updates. “Log in and add ‘Shark Club Howell’ to your favorites,” he suggested. “I change my handles there and the list updates immediately. You can get e-mail alerts when we change them out in real time.”
I enjoyed the equivalent of two pints of beer, but was able to experience eight different varieties. The bottomless chips and salsa paired perfectly with Arbor Brewing Company’s Chips ‘N Salsa beer, which had the hints of roasted corn and tomatoes I’d expect. Albie’s pasties, Michigan’s staple cold weather food, served with asparagus made a hot and humid summer evening feel like a winter weekend, especially when paired with Bell’s Cherry Stout, a rich stout with subtle smokiness that has just a hint of tart sweetness. The Arbor Brewing Mackinaw Island Fudge Stout float was a perfect follow up to the hearty fare to cool things back down. Adding the cream and sugar of ice cream really brought out the fudgy character.
Brewery representatives were available to chat about their wares, counting Mount Pleasant Brewing Company, Michigan Brewing Company, Arcadia, Arbor Brewing and Original Gravity among them. Other industry vendors were in attendance as well, including representatives of Beer Connoisseur magazine and Michigan Beer Guide who were dishing out information and paraphernalia in promotion of their brands.
Whether you make it to Howell in time to try a pint of Kuhnhenn Brewing’s Heather Ale containing ancient herbs, Dark Horse’s aphrodisiac-infused ROD or Michigan Brewing Company’s Vicious Hibiscus before they run out, stop by the Shark Club anyway. With more than 60 handles of quality craft beer, the Shark Club has found its niche in a small corner of the great beer state.