Disclaimer: I am not a beer expert. I have not been trained in the mysterious ways of beer judging. Anything said here should be considered the ramblings of a madman.
Quite some time ago (probably around 12-13 years ago), there was a brew pub in Lawton, MI called Duster’s. The story of that brew pub is tenuous in my brain, so my history may be more mythical than reality. As I recall, it was started by a man who was a crop duster. There was a crop dusting motif within the pub that gave it a true pub atmosphere. They really didn’t have much in the way of food at the time and the staff were downright surly. More than once, I had an argument with the waiter over what they charged me.
The lack of food didn’t matter. The pissy attitudes of the waitstaff didn’t matter. They had a good red (I think) and this remarkable IPA. To be fair, they may be one and the same beer, I can’t remember. Whatever their attitudes, they knew how to make beer. This was back when micro-breweries were just beginning to form (at least in Michigan). It was an exciting time for anyone who despised Budweiser.
This beer that we liked was the most aggressively hopped beer we had ever tasted. We were convinced that it would take the paint off your car and straighten pubic hair (sorry…). My drinking buddy has a bit of a reaction to hops. When he had this Duster’s beer, he would begin to sneeze uncontrollably. After a few minutes, he would get himself under control and happily finish off his beer. It was that good. Note: there is now a beer that may be close in hop aggressiveness. It is Huma-Lupa-Licious, by Short’s Brewing in Bellaire, MI. It’s another mega-hopped beer that you will hate if you don’t love hops. Short’s is another brewery worth visiting but that is outside the scope of this posting.
Duster’s was then purchased by Larry Bell (of Bell’s Beer fame). Our favorite beer disappeared and we stopped heading out to Lawton. Arcadia, Bell’s and Kraftbrau were closer and there were just no compelling beers to be found there anymore. It appears that The Old Hat has since been purchased by the brewmaster that Larry had put in charge of the brewery. They now serve food (good bar food) and sometimes have live music.
Tonight there was a bluesy band. They were good. The food was good. The beer…interesting. The Old Hat seems to trend toward maltier beers, which I like, but which aren’t my favorites. I got a sampler of all their beers and wrote quick notes about each. If you know how to evaluate beer, you won’t like my descriptions. My ignorance knows no bounds. The beers were all tasted in small sampling glasses, so it was harder for me to get the scent. Having said that…
Station 1300 — This is their “light” beer. I’m not fond of light beers but I enjoyed this one. It has a light body and a good color. There is a nice hint of hops that gives it character but it isn’t a hoppy beer; you get the sense of hops but not the bitterness. This would be a good quaffing beer. 4.5 out of 5.
Pumpkin Ale — One of my rules is, keep fruit out of my beer. I’m sure there are good examples of beer with fruit in them, but aside from the Belgian ales, I’ve not found them. This beer has the spices associated with pumpkin pie. To be honest, it was better than I expected. It wouldn’t be my favorite and would have to be saved for special occasions, but it was drinkable. It has a light body and the nutmeg/cinnamon taste is prominent. 3 out of 5.
Hefe Weizen — It definitely has the unfiltered look you expect from a hefe weizen. It also has a light body. There is a pronounced banana taste to it. There is a hint of the yeast flavor that I associate with the wheat beers I’ve had in Germany but that taste yields to the banana. My drinking buddy for the evening loves wheat beers. He liked this but felt it was stronger in taste than either Oberon or Whitsun (he preferred Whitsun but liked them all). To me, it was pleasant; another quaffing beer. 3.5 out of 5.
Red Lager — This was light red in color and bitter. It is bitter but not hoppy. It seemed like a more carbonated, lighter IPA. The malt keeps the bitterness from being overwhelming. It isn’t sweet like some of the other reds I’ve had (but they were probably ales). 3.5 out of 5.
Pale Ale — This beer is copper colored. It has a more balanced hop/bitterness that makes it fairly smooth. 3 out of 5.
Cherry Baby — (cherry weizen ale). This beer is more coppery colored and is clearly unfiltered. You get your nose near this one and it screams cherry. The cherry overpowers in the scent and in the taste. It was like drinking bitter maraschino cherry juice. I’m sure there is an audience for it but I hated this one. The overpowering cherry essence probably hit me the way my favorite hoppy beers hit others. 1 out of 5.
Lug Nut Brown Ale — This is a dark beer. Possibly Porter dark. It is light-bodied, smooth and malty. If I had to describe it, I would call it a Porter Light. It’s a good beer but not one I would drink often. 3.5 out of 5.
Billy Bock — This was also coppery colored and appeared unfiltered. It is light bodied with a hint of fruit. It is not sweet or as full-bodied as other bock’s I’ve had. In fact, it’s not very sweet at all, which is good. To me, it just didn’t have a lot of taste or character. 2.5 out of 5.
Scotch Ale — This is reddish in color and medium bodied. It has a definite bitterness to it. Again, it is not as sweet as I would expect but it is more bitter than I would expect. There is a definite hint of the roasted malt to it. It doesn’t have that strong sense of alcohol that may Scotch Ales seem to have. Without that and the sweetness, it’s a more refreshing version of a Scotch Ale. 4 out of 5.
Coffee Porter — This has a good, dark color. It is fairly light-bodied with a medium roasted malt taste. The hint of coffee plays well with the malt and keeps it pretty smooth. 4 out of 5.
Stubbin Stout — This has the expected color. It is smooth. It has less body than the Porter and a smoother roasted malt taste. Another easy drinking beer. It isn’t Guinness but I don’t think it’s trying to be. 4 out of 5.
All in all, I enjoyed the beers. The maltiness without a pronounced sweetness was refreshing for me. It made the beers more drinkable. The waitstaff is now MUCH more pleasant also…