We came, we saw, we drank the beer.
We did our best to wade through the 900-plus beers served up at this weekend's Detroit Fall Beer Festival, looking for the unusual, the new, the different, the best. And here are the top 10 beers we sampled. Look for them, go find them, enjoy them.
1. OK, I'll do it. I'll jump right into the pumpkin beer firestorm and say, "Go forth and drink the Pun-Kin Pie Ale from Liberty Street Brewing Co." Especially if you can find it blended with ice cream into the Windmill Cookie Float they were serving up at the festival. In the float, it was sublime. On its own, a delicious pumpkin ale. Either way, it's a win.
2. Short's Brewing Co.'s Bloody Beer. This experimental beer blends real tomatoes with dill, pepper, horseradish, celery seed .. "pretty much everything in a Bloody Mary," says brew Ryan Hale. The inspiration was Bloody Marys served with a sidecar of lager ... so why not put it all into a beer?
3. The Saint, a Belgian Trippel from Third Monk Brewing Co. made with monastic yeasts and five pounds of Belgian candy as its sweetener. Smooth, delicious, it will make you believe in miracles.
4. AlternaFacts black rye IPA from Axle Brewing. It's on draught at Livernois Tap, and worth the trip.
5. Fledgling Flight, a Belgian witbier by the up and coming Brewery Faisan. Served up by Brew Detroit, this witbier used pluot and cardamom instead of the more familiar orange peel and coriander.
6. Cranker's Brewery's SP2. It's short for "Solera Project 2," and it's the Big Rapids brewery's experimental and progressive sour ale. It started life as a raspberry blonde, then gained flavor from aging with dregs obtained from California's famed Russian River Brewing. That was SP1. SP2, on tap Saturday, saw the beer further aged in red wine barrels, resulting in a pleasantly tart sour carrying both notes of the raspberry and the red wine. By the time you read this, it'll likely be gone, but, if you're near Big Rapids, it'll be worth looking to see what brewer James Crank does with SP3 and 4.
7. Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout, from Draught Horse Brewery of South Lyon. Peanut butter in beer is tricky. It's usually a case of too much or too little. This one nails it, thanks to the use of extracts of peanut butter and chocolate. It's not quite a Reese's-in-a-glass, but it was deliciously smooth and balanced.
8. Bear Claw Peanut Butter Porter and Brazilian Bean Brown from Cranker's. The Bear Claw was delicious and smooth. The brown carried delicious roast coffee notes over a satisfying brown ale. But Cranker's stand staffer Nicholas (Chet) Winchester, always experimenting at the beer fest, blended the two for a delicious and compelling -- even if officially unnamed -- combination. If you're near their taproom, it'll be worth stopping in to mix your own. Note: The perfect combination is mostly porter with a splash of the brown. That's how Chet does it, and it works.
9. Flavorful Five from Roak Brewing of Royal Oak. This is Roak's entry into the hot New England IPA style that exploded when Old Nation launched M-43. Somehow, Flavorful Five has been out since summer and we've missed it. That should change, says northeast market manager Chad Latta, with deals putting this on on shelves at both Meijer and Kroger. As for the beer, it's got all the haze, a little extra-dank funkiness, and a pleasant bitterness. It's less sweet than M-43, and quite delicious.
10. Black IPA by American Harvest Brewpub at Schoolcraft College. Deliciously roasty and hoppy, this one hit all the right notes for the style. If you like a black IPA -- and not everyone does -- you'll love this one. It also brings up a question: How have we not gone to see what else Schoolcraft College's student brewers are up to? We're putting a trip west on our to-do list.