Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jamesport Brewing Company

On a recent and long overdue visit to my mother in Michigan I took a little time to check out her local brew scene. She lives in a town very close to lake Michigan halfway up the lower peninsula called Ludington.
A quaint little town with just over 8,000 people, Ludington grew out of a brief history of logging during the late 1800's that stripped 162 million board feet of lumber from its lands and with easy access to the Great Lakes, the town became a major shipping port. Now, a destination for beach goers and retirees the town comes alive during the warmer months and the place to enjoy a good pint is at Ludington's own Jamesport Brewing Company. The building which was originally built in 1890 has that solid feel that comes with Victorian architecture. Hard wood floors, wainscoting and trimmed columns in the dinning area and a full length bar gave me the desire to hang out hoisting pints for awhile.

With a few family members in tow, I pushed my way into this popular brewpub and ordered a beer sampler to get an idea of the tastes of the local brews. I picked five that I though would be a good cross section of styles and set to tasting and comparing while I took in the atmosphere. My selection included a kolsch, American hefeweizen, ESB, IPA and dry stout.

On this day, a lot of people were enjoying the food although I didn't order since we were heading back to Mom's for her famous meatloaf but all looked happy with their meals. Besides, I was here for the beer and wanted to compare the styles with what I'm used to drinking on the West coast. I was impressed with the quality of the beer. Good clean flavors with a good balance of sweet malt and bitterness. Mom gave them her seal of approval with the exception of the IPA which is understandable considering she likes her beer on the sweeter side of the scale.

I especially liked the ESB and was struck by the higher IBU's which I prefer in this English style. I immediately ordered a pint. We also tasted a great example of a Kolsch with an easy drinkability and an outstanding dry stout of which I also ordered a full pint.

Tom Buchanan
The brewery, located in the basement and visible through a large plate glass panel recessed into the floor of the bar, looked inviting. Although they weren't conducting tours at the time, I ventured downstairs and peered through a crack in the door until I was noticed by the brewmaster Tom Buchanan who graciously invited me in to look around. Starting out as a homebrewer, Tom cut his brewing teeth at the Lighthouse Brewing Company in Manestee, Michigan where he volunteered to work for free in order to learn the trade and expand on his passion for brewing before advancing to the head brewer position at Jamesport. Considering the number of beer styles on tap and the popularity of Jamesport, Tom has to keep his three barrel systems pumping to keep up with demand. With a pint of stout in hand I managed to get a couple of pictures of his brewery including the copper kettle and mash tun.

I headed back upstairs and finished my pint as the sound of the car ferry that connects Michigan to Wisconsin the "SS Badger" sounded its exit from the harbor with a blast of steam. I wandered out of the brewpub thinking about the beer festival that would take place the next day and considered how fortunate it was that my Mom had a decent brewpub to go to in her hometown.

Although I have family roots in Michigan I don't have the connection with the place like I do California. In fact, Michigan comes across as harsh to me. I used to joke that Michigan has two seasons, Winter and mosquitoes. But Michigan can be a great place to visit when the season is right, especially now that they have an abundance of fantastic craft breweries.

If you're from Michigan, tell us about the best MidWestern craft beers in the comment section below.

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