The Hilltop Has Aye’s

Jen and I decided to try Parker’s Hilltop Brewery in Clarkston on Saturday night. We had heard many good things about it and the reviews were always stellar. We were not sure how the visit was going to be because when we called to make a reservation they said that they were not taking any reservations. Jen asked the person on the phone why can’t we reserve a table, the website says you take reservations? The person told Jen that yes, they do take reservations, but not tonight because they expect the restaurant to be busy. Huh? Anyway, we were not going to be deterred by this dumb answer.

When Jen and I arrived, we were impressed by its spaciousness and rustic appeal. Some of the walls are ordained with pictures of Michigan music icons like Bob Seger, Diana Ross and Alice Cooper, etc. We sat down at the bar and were met by a very affable young man named Sean.  He brought us our waters while we looked at their beer list. Jen and I could not decide so we each ordered a flight of beers. Our flights were the same except for one choice. We both agreed that the Pirates Porter and Sleeping Monkey were great choices. Jen had a Mr. Hockey Irish Red which was also quite tasty. We both determined that the Ry-no Head Belgian Ale was just okay and the FNG American Stout with its extra hoppiness was not to our liking. Look, we try and we want to like IPA’s but we just don’t their just too bitter and lack the robust roasted maltiness of porters and stouts. Overall, the beer is good but unfortunately it is limited and half the choices are IPA’s.

We were hungry so we decided to split prime rib and a prosciutto and arugula pizza. The prime rib dinner came with mashed potatoes and broccoli but Jen and I upgraded to different sides. We opted for mac and cheese and fries. The fries were just okay nothing special and even though Jen really liked the mac and cheese it didn’t blow me away. But that’s not unusual for me, I am someone who can take or leave mac and cheese. Now the prime rib was cooked perfectly at medium rare and bursting with meaty goodness. Please people do not go beyond medium rare when you order good cuts of meat if you want it well done just eat Salisbury steak.

The pizza was phenomenal, salty, garlicky and beyond savory. Wow what a good choice. As we sat at the bar, we watched group after group of people come. Like I said, the place is big but does fill up fast. My advice, if you like good beer and good food, go to Parker’s Hilltop. But go early and save us two seats at the end of the bar cuz we are going back.

Beer up on a Roof

Just because Sedona has one of the largest beer selections around, I have to talk about the beer again. I recently went back to Sedona Taphouse and sat on their new rooftop area. Ladies be careful, the roof has a soft floor that is totally unexpected. If you are in high heels as I was, be wary. You walk along, on hard tile when squish! You feel like you are walking on a gymnastics mat. I almost twisted an ankle, but luckily I averted a really embarrassing accident.

I met my business development group there, we have a happy hour meeting 2x a month and alternate between Big Beaver corridor locations. I ordered a flight of beers, why would you not? A beer is like $8 and so is a flight. A no brainer for me since I like variety.

My flight and reviews:

Scotch Barrel-Aged S’more Stout – a Stout-Imperial/Double by Perrin Brewing Company. A whopping 10.8% apv. This beer is brewed with real marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate, aged in scotch barrels to they say “impart a slightly smokey, fresh toasted over a campfire flavor.” To me, this beer was less like a s’more and more like drinking a campfire. The smokey flavor was over powering and just crushed any hints of marshmallow, graham or chocolate. It was similar in flavor to Bonfire Brown by Saugatuk Brewing Company, another beer I was not a fan of.

Neapolitan Milk Stout (Nitro) – A Stout-Mike/Sweet with 6% apv. by Saugatuk Brewing Company. Now this beer I love and have tried before at Ale Mary’s in Royal Oak. You can read that full review HERE. This beer is like Neapolitan Ice Cream in a glass. You can taste the subtle flavors of strawberry, vanilla and chocolate. Drinking it, I felt like Violet Beauregard in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory eating her full meal gum, “here comes dessert, it is a blueberry pie…”

Passionfruit Mango Fruitsicle – a Fruit Beer by Odd Side Ales with 4.5% apv. One of the lighter beers on my flight, this beer weaved subtle overtones of passionfruit and mango making it a fun, easy sipping beer for a hot summers night. The fruit did not overwhelm the beer or make it feel more like a sour beer, but was just enough to make a crazy refreshing beer.

Blood Orange Honey – A Pale Wheat Ale – American by Cheboygan Brewing Company with 5.7% apv.  Another light summer beer on my flight, this beer is infused with wildflower honey, blood orange zest and blood orange puree. A smooth beer with a sweet finish, has strong citrus aroma and a perfect mix in the beer making it another great summer beer.

Read our other reviews on Sedona for a full review of food and atmosphere. Overall a great place to go. My only complaint is the forced valet and lack of parking. Otherwise a solid choice for an evening out for you fellow beer lovers.

The Luck of the Irish (Craft) has Run Out

Omar and I began hearing about a local pub our friends started frequenting and had great things to say about. Irish Craft on Mound, just South of 16. We were apprehensive at first due to the multiple reincarnations of the restaurant. Previously Rosie O’Gradys, and many other failing restaurant/bars we didn’t have a lot of confidence in its success.

Our first visit was a welcomed surprise! The burgers were fresh, tasty and really lived up to the “best burger in Detroit” rating they claimed they achieved. The fries, although still battered were better than most. Onion Rings crispy and flavorful, not too greasy. I ordered potato skins, rarely anyone does those well, but we were pleased to find they were cooked well, lots of cheese, fresh crispy bacon and green onions. Not the typical “yesterdays leftover baked potatoes reheated with some greasy cheese and bacon bits” that other local venues have to offer. The beer menu is extensive, with multiple craft offerings including IPA’s, stouts, lagers and porters. Most recently Omar tried the Rochester Mills Blueberry Pancake Milkshake Stout, 5.25% apv, this alternate version of the standard Milkshake Stout has all the characteristics of the classic, with aromas of blueberry and a bready, creamy almost pancake flavor. The blueberry seemed more pronounced in aroma rather than taste, but an interesting accompaniment to the classic. Although Omar enjoyed his beer, he will stick to the classic in the future.

Follow up visits to this bar brought still enjoyable experiences, with us branching out trying new burgers, French Onion Soup, chicken tenders (which you could tell were made fresh), wraps and more. We were never really disappointed.

We then discovered that Wednesday Nights they hosted a “Jeopardy” style trivia that we really enjoyed playing. On Wednesday nights Irish Craft got to be our “go to” place for date night where we could play trivia, grab a cold beer and have a nice night out.

We started a “healthier” eating lifestyle January 1st. For those opting for healthier fare we found that Irish Craft was not an easy place to eat well. The salads were mediocre and the rest of the menu was laden with carbs, cheeses and fat. Spitting Fajitas is really your best option, and at the time they were ok.

However, the quality of Irish Craft has gone down significantly. I don’t know what happened. A change in management? Lowering quality to increase revenue? Whatever the reason, they have made some very bad changes. Trivia on Wednesdays has been cancelled with no explanation, which is surprising because they only people there on Wednesdays were there just for trivia. The food quality has noticeably declined. The burgers are just ok now and tend to be overcooked and dry. Fries are no longer included, with soggy stale chips now substituting. The potato skins which were once cooked so well, now were under cooked and hard, with melted cheese, soggy, fatty, bacon and sorely lacking green onion. They have removed items from their menu like the French Onion soup. They have added a pizza menu which we have not tried. Sides like stuffed mushrooms, chicken tenders and onion rings which before were clearly made from scratch are now pre-made and bought in bulk and sadly dropped in the fryer. Looking for a nice fresh salad? You no longer will find that here. If you enjoy bagged salad with some chopped up lunchmeat from yesterdays sandwiches and some shredded cheese, then this is the place for you. The beer offerings are still vast, and served iced cold. The beer is really the only thing now that they have going for them.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and there was 3 patrons. Omar and I and some random dude at the bar, that clearly was friends with the bartender. I get that it wasn’t prime time, but that amount of people on a Saturday was not only sad but very telling. Do yourself a favor, and go somewhere else. I would have told you to go last year, but oh what a difference a year makes.

Sedona is a Beautiful Place This Time of Year!

Sedona Tap House opened on Big Beaver in Troy.  The place sounded great, promising a large variety of craft beers as well as cocktails and wine.  The beer list did not disappoint. Hundreds of beers available for the tasting, and tasting we did! We sat at the bar, and the restaurant offered a cheerful murmur and casual ambiance. The wall was lined with beer taps, and a large variety available by bottle. The menu was rather eclectic, with offerings such as goat cheese and tomato jam bruschetta.

We started the meal with Desert Fire Jalapenos, 4 halved jalapenos, stuffed with Stuffed with 4 different cheeses, wrapped in bacon wrapped with a chilled lime cilantro sauce. They were pretty good, but as with these “fancy” restaurants seemed scant on the plate.

Omar continued just with appetizers, opting for the Prince Edward Island Mussels which are prepared with Tomatoes, red onions, garlic and a lemon basil sauce. He said they were very good, and I would just have to take his word for it – blecch.

I ordered the Salmon Asparagus Salad which the menu describes as broiled Atlantic Salmon, organic greens, asparagus, feta, walnuts, tomatoes, dried cranberries. House made lemon balsamic vinaigrette. The salad was good, and plentiful enough. Salmon cooked well, and not fishy. An overall nice salad. But what really matters is the beer!

Beers on our flights included:

Ellison Tiramisu Coffee Stout 8% apv – a dark brown creamy stout, with aroma of vanilla, coffee, caramel, chocolate a bit of coconut and dark roasted malts. Very drinkable, not too heavy and overall very good.

Osker Blues Breckenridge Bourbon Barrel Aged Ted-Fidy 12.9% abv : Rich chocolates and vanilla, lots of malt. Oak and bourbon very dominant. Very full bodied with great “barrel” feel.

Cake Walk Vanilla Cream – Right Brain 3.8% abv – A light cream ale infused with vanilla bean. A very light, drinkable beer, similar to cream soda.

Saugatuk Barrel Aged Blueberry Maple 6% abv – Notes of berry and maple in this lighter stout beer. Blueberry takes a back seat to the maple, which isn’t my favorite. A very sweet beer.

Crankers Aphrodisiac Chocolate Pomegranate Stout 8.4% apv – very dark, overtones of chocolate and a hint of fruit. A nice contrast of flavors and overall good beer.

Perrin Damil in Distress 10% apv – Looks similar to root beer, this Roggenbier style beer has sour smell, but overtones of malt and rum (as it is a rum barrel beer) easy drinking.

Odd Side Ales Mango IPA 6% apv – ok, an IPA and you know I wouldn’t normally order this, but sounded intriguing with the mango. A sweet start to the beer, has a bitter aftertaste that is indicative of an IPA. Not my favorite, and wouldn’t order again.

The Brewery So Happens it’s Tuesday 14% apv – an American Double/Imperial Stout – dark and tasty, with hints of bourbon, molasses, vanilla, oak, chocolate and malt. Very boozy with the highest abv of the day.

Overall a great experience and would go again! Just use the app to make reservations, which gave is a table in no time, otherwise prepare for a long wait!

Three Ale Mary’s and Two Thumbs Up

The day after we went to Bastone Brewery Omar actually agreed to go to Royal Oak again! Was it he is warming up to the food diversity there, or was it just because our friends Ray and Denise suggested it? It was funny, because Denise and I made tentative plans to meet at Mr. Paul’s Chophouse.  A little tableside Ceasar Salad, Chateaubriand for two… yet somehow our men folk changed plans and we went to a beer hall style dinner.

Humph.  Well going with the flow as I usually do, cause I am cool like that, we headed out to Ale Mary’s.  I have never been here, but heard it was really good from people at work.  We were surprised to find the restaurant was so small.  The second half of Tom’s Oyster Bar, transformed into a German Style Beer hall with long community tables and a robust beer menu.  I don’t really like sitting at picnic table style seating with, as Stealers Wheel so eloquently put, clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, but alas, go with the flow aye?  Also I am getting kind of old for a long beer drinking session with no back to lean up against.

Our “dates” for the evening were running a bit late, and we were running very early, and hungry so we opted to order the duck poutine while waiting. The fries, cooked in duck fat, are layered with a thick hearty gravy, cheese curds and pieces of duck.  Very tasty but so bad for you!

This blog post, I will first review the food, then the beer.

I ordered the cuban sandwich.  It was tasty, with pulled pork, ham, spicy mustard and extra pickles.  The bun though, as I have experienced in the past seemed less cuban-esc and more hot dog bun-esc.  My sandwich cane with even more fries, which I shared but did not partake.

Omar ordered the, wait for it, Beer Cheese burger!! My honey is so predictable.  The burger cooked medium, with applewood smoked bacon, final absolution beer cheese, sprink mix, picked red onion and roasted tomato on a brioche bun. His too, served with more fries.  The burger was good, dripping with oozy cheese and very messy.

Ray ordered a deconstructed chicken pot pie, which consisted of free range chicken, roasted, atop a mound of mashed peas and potatoes, with a puff pastry cap and mirepoix (which for you foodie newbs is basically tiny chopped veggies).  He said it was good.

Denise ordered roasted brussels sprouts for an appetizer for the table. Roasted and tossed with pine nuts and an orange brown butter sauce, they were delicious.  She too ordered the beer cheese burger and enjoyed it.

So moving on to the best part of the evening, the beer.  This first beer, I actually had a whole glass while waiting for our guests.  The rest Omar and I shared a flight.IMG_2190

Saugatuck Neopolitan Milk Stout Nitro: Officially a blend of milk sugar, chocolate, vanilla beans, and strawberries. From their menu: “This decadent specialty stout has developed a cult following and just one sip will tell you why.” I will tell you why: This intricate beer somehow infused all the flavors of a classic Neapolitan in a single glass.  Layers of chocolate and vanilla, with slight overtones of a gentle strawberry flavor.  This really tasted like melted ice cream in a glass. 5.9% abv, I give this beer two big thumbs up!

Clown Shoes Clementine: A Witbier, 5.9% abv, Light-bodied and crisp, this is a terrific seasonal packed with plenty of zest! Hazy in appearance and healthily carbonated, it utilizes Blanche de Chambly yeast to energetically shape its wheat malt base. Light, with just hints of clementine oranges. A light and refreshing summer beer.

Goose Island Matilda: A Belgian Ale, 7.0 abv, this pale ale is fermented with the wild yeast Brettanomyces. Matilda pours a golden sunrise color with dried fruit and clove aromas, a spicy yeast flavor, and a satisfying dry finish.

Wolverine Barista Coffee Lager: 6.2% abv, A collaboration brew with Ann Arbor’s RoosRoast featuring locally roasted Colombian coffee. Wolverine Brewer Karl Hinbern, once in the coffee roasting business himself, spearheaded the coffee side of this beer, finally selecting a Colombian Excelso bean roasted at Roos. Pours a dark clear brown with an off white head and features huge coffee flavor and aroma. OMG Omar and I were in love love love with this beer. Tasted like iced coffee.  The coffee flavor is this beer just slaps you across the face.  Amazing and HIGHLY recommended.

Liberty Street Pooh Beer Honey Porter: I had to order this beer with such a cute name!A whopping 9.8% abv, you wouldn’t know by the light texture and smooth taste.  This is a honey porter made with locally harvested honey, and plenty of it, to give this high alcohol beer a very sweet finish.

Ballist Point Peppermint Victory at Sea Imperial Porter: 10.0 abv, a festive take on Ballist Point’s popular Imperial Porter. They took their trademark robust porter brewed with Caffe Calabria coffee and vanilla and added a dose of refreshing peppermint. The trio of flavors play perfectly on your palate – the brew’s sweet roasting balances nicely with a cool, minty finish.

Founders Nitro Oatmeal Stout: 4.5% abv, brewed with generous amounts of flaked oats, chocolate malt, roasted barley and a healthy helping of Nugget hops, it is extra smooth and has a creamy mouthfeel. This beer was your typical Oatmeal Stout.  Nothing amazing, but good nonetheless.

Overall, we will most definitely go back. Maybe not so much for the food, but for sure for the beer. Check it out while you are in Royal Oak!!

 

 

 

Bastone Brewery – a Beer Tour

You may remember my previous Bastone Brewery Post (read here). We went for lunch during work, so I was unable to sample or review the beer.  I finally was able to drag Omar to Royal Oak.  Begrudgingly, he agreed to go to the “biggest pain in the butt city to park”.  As I now work in Royal Oak, I showed him a world of convenient, albeit paid, parking, easy walks and interesting establishments.  Dare I say he didn’t complain and said he would even return? (Which we did, see my next post!)

We were excited to find out they do indeed brew on-site, and offered a flight of (really large sample) beers for a mere $8! You can’t even order a single glass of craft beer for that in most places.  WE had so much beer we almost (almost) couldn’t finish it!

I will touch upon our food, but as I already reviewed the food here, I want to focus on the brews.

The flight contained 7 different beers ranging from blonde to a seasonal ale.

First glass, Monumental Blonde:  A simple american-style lighter beer. Low abv, 4.5%. This beer is nothing fancy.  A simple beer, akin to labatts, Bad Ass, or other lighter beers. Low bittterness, and very light. Maybe wouldn’t appeal to craft beer enthusiasts due to its ubiquitous flavor.

Main Street Pilsner: A bit hoppier and more malty (is that a word) than the blonde. A wee bit stronger (5.5% abv). Had an interesting aroma of yeasts, corn and malts. Probably one of my favorite on the flight, as the hoppiness was low and flavor profile was unique.

Witface: A Belgian-style white beer, flavored with orange, lemon and coriander. Now I am not a fan or fruited or spiced beers.  If you like these types of beers, blue moon for example, you probably would like this beer.  One of my least favorite samples. This beer had a moderate abv with 5.5%.

Royal IPA: This pale ale, with an abv of 6.75%. Pretty much your standard IPA. Hoppy and bitter.  IPA’s if you have read my previous blogs not really my thing.  All you hop heads out there, this is probably not hoppy enough for you, but alas too hoppy for me.

Dubbel Vision: This Belgian-style amber ale, has a abv of 7.5%. Brewed with candi-sugar and dark fruits. This beer is not a stand out against other Dubbel type beers.  If you are a Dubbel lover, this beer is for you.

Nectar des Dieux Triple: A Belgian style strong golden ale with light fruity notes and a hint of sweetness 9% ABV. This beer was pretty drinkable. Strong candied flavors and a tart bite.

Imperial Cherry Stout: As I said, I am not a fruited beer lover and was kind of dreading this one. It however surprising good! Not the glass of caramelized cough syrup I was expecting.  I apologize, but as a seasonal beer, I failed to get the abv.  My guess is somewhere in the 6-7% range.  This beer was full of deep roasted malt flavors, smooth with just a hint of cherry that added a deeper component to the beer.  Tasty, and to my delight, one of my favorites on the flight.

For the food portion of our evening, I ordered the filet mignonettes.  Beef tenderloin tips, ordered sans mushrooms, with roma tomatoes and a Dubbel Vision demi-glace, and substituted crushed redskin potatoes for the yummy pomme frittes and veggies.  The steak tips were just ok.  The meal kind of reminded me of stew meat, although a bit more tender, with a dark, almost balsamic and tomato tasting sauce. Good, not great.

Omar ordered his classic burger.  It is rare that Omar doesn’t try a burger in these types of places.  He ordered the pork belly burger, grilled and topped with braised pork belly, herbed goat cheese and a red onion marmalade. A side of their delicious pomme frittes accompanied his meal, with both artichoke, garlic and the mammoet (see previous post for description). Omar said the burger was good, but wasn’t bursting with the pork belly flavor he was hoping for.

Overall would we go again? Sure.  Especially just for the beer.  The value and amount you got on the beer flight was well worth the trip.  We recommend.  Especially for those wanting to try out new beer offerings.

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I Found My Thrill, at Rochester Mills

First, let me share with you a little known secret. Sign up for the email birthday club and you will get a free entrée and pint glass on your birthday, and since there is nothing I like more on my birthday than free food and swag, we made sure to hit Rochester Mills Beer Company. They also, coincidentally, have one of our favorite beers on tap, Rochester Mills Milkshake Stout. This is a 5% abv beer, which has a rich, roasted flavor of chocolate, caramel and notes of coffee. It is smooth and not heavy for a stout, with a rich complexity of flavors and textures.

However, this evening, Omar opted to try the Paint Creek Porter, which he said was good, not great. With 5.6 abv (which by the way means alcohol by volume), this beer is robust with lots of chocolate malt. Very deep in color and very full bodied. In comparison, Omar says he prefers the Milkshake Stout.

For dinner, Omar opted for appetizers. We started splitting the brewers bread, which is pizza crust, covered in cheese, red pepper flakes, and fresh basil, folded up and baked til melty and you dip in either pizza sauce or ranch. The red pepper flakes gives this bread a surprise kick, and is nice with the ranch dip.

Omar also opted for the wings. As he finds most “hot” sauces not hot enough for him, he ordered the “F’ing hot wings.” That’s literally what they are called. He asked the waitress if they were hot and she replied, “yes they are F’ing hot!” And they were. I asked Omar if they were hot and he replied while sweat poured down his face, and nose was running that indeed they WERE F’ing hot!! I asked what the allure was to eat something so hot that it made you cry and he went into some lengthy explanation about endorphins and pain and pleasure, frankly it did not look like fun to me!! I did not try them, as even medium wings are too hot for my gentle palate.

I ordered the buffalo mac and cheese. I honestly did not have a lot of high hopes for this meal, but as I got a free entrée I had to order something. I was so wrong. This mac and cheese was amazing! It was creamy, with a smooth, flavorful beer cheese, but intertwined with buffalo hot sauce and grilled chicken. The mac and cheese had just the right amount of heat, and really a symphony of flavors. It also was served with literally ½ a pizza crust with melted cheese. Waaay too much food to eat.

Our waitress was funny, and efficient and our evening was great. We will most definitely return to Rochester Mills and I won’t even wait until my birthday!!