Every Brewer’s Guild beer festival seems to expose us to one new-to-us brewery that knocks our socks off. Last year, we were enthralled with Hudsonville’s White Flame. This year? Pike 51. The other craft brewery in Hudsonville.
And we thought they just made ice cream there.
“Right?” owner Steve Guikema asked as he laughed at the reference to Hudsonville Ice Cream. That’s apparently what a lot of people think.
But Pike 51, a 4-year-old brewery and 7-year-old winery is staking a place on Michigan’s craft beer map with some of the tastiest sours not produced in Dexter. Guikema credits it all to brewer Jeff Williams, who joined the company four years ago when they added beer-making to their winery.
“We actually saw the husbands sitting in the cars while the wives came in for the wine,” Guikema said. “We knew this was something we had to do.” Williams, at the time, lived down the street from the then-winery, and worked at Hop Cat, a craft beer bar in Grand Rapids. He leapt to Pike 51.
Guikema and Williams focused on sours right from the start. Williams’ friendships with brewers around the state, including those at The Livery, aided their rapid development.
“Jeff wants to be the leading edge of innovation and he’s there. He has a knack for balancing the beers,” Guikema said.
It shows in the festival release of their Dry Hopped Session Sour, a crisp and refreshing 4% ABV ale released for Day 2 of the Michigan Brewer’s Guild Summer Beer Festival. It’s a perfect balance of hops and delicious tartness, with layers of funk delivered by the aging in oak barrels.
Pike 51 employs 32 barrels for aging. Eighteen are dedicated to the sours program. Fourteen are used for bourbon barrel aging. And that’s where Saturday’s other star comes in. And it’s not even a sour.
Sensual Bean is a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout made with coffee, vanilla and cocoa nibs. None of those flavors dominate. Instead, the beer is a balanced symphony of the oaky, warm bourbon, the sweet vanilla, and chocolate. It’s so well-balanced, it’s hard to tell this one clocks in at a boozy 10.2 percent ABV.
“You’d never know it,” Guikema said. “It’s so well-balanced, nothing stands out. You taste everything.”
Fans of the brewery agree. The festival release is batch 4 of the beer. Batch 3, bottled in 22-ounce bombers, sold out of 650 bottles within 52 minutes of its release last year.
Pike 51 is located at 3768 Chicago Drive in Hudsonville. Its beers are available locally, with some bottled and distributed in 17 restaurants and 30 stores in West Michigan.
Road trip, anyone?