19 October 2009

Greetings From Michigan, A Great Beer State: Stop #1 - Dark Horse Brewing Co.

This past week Gina and I took a couple days off to visit family in Michigan. Of course no vacation is ever complete without enjoying a beer or two, so we also visited a few of Michigan's finer craft beer establishments.

Our first stop was Marshall, Michigan's Dark Horse Brewing Company. You may know of Dark Horse from their distribution in Indiana - beers like Crooked Tree IPA, Reserve Special Black Bier Ale, and Perkulator Coffee Dopplebock.

One thing we've never understood was Dark Horse's scattershot beer packaging. A stop in to their brewpub was all the insight we needed to figure out their marketing philosophy.

Dark Horse's brewpub is the sort of place where bathroom graffiti is appreciated - a Bert's Peppy Grill sort of cobbled together space that is one part Three Floyds, one part biker bar, and one part hunting cabin.

The tap handles are a collection of cast off idols and knickknacks - half a toy horse, what looks like a soft soap dispenser, an idol of Lenin, a Dryad's dildo, a bloody hand in wood, and their more commonly used double barrel shotgun - that pour a varied collection of brews. An Oktoberfest, scotch ale, amber, harvest pale ale, oatmeal stout, and smoked stout joined the aforementioned Crooked Tree IPA and Special Black Bier on tap.

It's obvious that Dark Horse's mug club must is widely supported - you'll notice rows and rows of custom made mugs lining every available space in the bar. Before we left, we noticed a group of folks sitting down at a table towards the back. The waitress walked up and said "the amber?", giving away their "regular" status at the bar. The fact that they were elderly women didn't seem strange at all.

Dark Horse Harvest Pale Ale - This is a cloudy, copper-colored beer, with a milky head and light lacing. The nose is citrusy hops - mostly orange, with a slightly footy note mixed in. The front is bitter but light, backed up with a nice malt balance. The highlight of the beer is the creamy mouthfeel - an element that reminds me of Three Floyd's Apocalypse Cow.

Dark Horse Oktoberfest - The nose on this one is light and bready, and comes from a deep red/almost purple colored brew. The front is grapeish and fruity, but the beer balanced out with a cereal-like malt flavor. This beer has a sugary sweetness that isn't present in most of the oktoberfest beers I've had, which I can appreciate since I'm not the biggest fan of the style.

Dark Horse Black Bier - The beer has a nose of BBQ meat, but the beer is smooth and subtle - a little smokey, a little meaty.

Dark Horse is only 3 and half hours from Indianapolis, and is the perfect start for a weekend Michigan beer trip. Stay tuned for more stops along the way in the next few days.


  1. My favorite beer I've enjoyed at Dark Horse was their "Whiskey Richard In Your Mouth with Kumquat".

    I'm not making that up. Best beer name EVER!

  2. More (from Bells!) Thursday. Maybe. Tom.


  3. looking forward to that, mike - there's a nifty 1/4bbl of best brown on tap at home right now... and it is damn damn good this year.

    I've always wanted to make it up there (maybe next summer while the beer garden is still open - greensky bluegrass?)

  4. If you make your way over to Lake Michigan. I recomend stopping by
    The Liverary in Benton Harbor.
    the Belguim Quad and the Carvacious
    are 2 of the best I've had in a long Time.
    Cheers and may all your mugs be full.

  5. First time reader and commenter here on Hoosier Beer Geek. Found your site through the Indiana Top 50 Blogs (where I threw in a vote for you).

    I'm a beer geek living here in Indy and am so thrilled to have found this site! From what I've been reading you guys do an amazing job on your reviews.

    Grew up in Michigan so I'm a Dark Horse fan (as well as Bells). Great stuff.

    Anyway, I'm so glad I stumbled across your site! I'll be back for sure.

  6. btw...as a Wordpress designer/developer I've gotta say it takes balls to have stuck with Blogger this long...if I ever have the chance to share a pint with one of you guys I'll have to see if I can get to see the light and switch to Wordpress ;-)

  7. If you guys hit up Jolly Pumpkin, let me know...It's only 50 minutes from my house. But my wife could go into labor any minute. That may be a problem.