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Michigan, USA

So from the Windy City, we blew ourselves over the state line through Indiana, up to the great lake state of Michigan.

Wandering into Bell’s Comstock Brewery (around 25 mins from Kalamazoo) you suddenly appreciate the scale of some of these American family owned craft breweries. Bell’s is actually the 7th largest independently owned craft brewery in the US,  it was pretty spellbinding to see their huge 200barrel brew house in all its glory.

There is no tap room here unfortunately, so our next stop was their originally brewery & homebrew shop, at Bell’s Eccentric Café.

Our first pint was their “Two Hearted Ale”, an IPA brewed with 100% Centennial hops from the Pacific Northwest.  Larry Bell – apparently also a bit of a traveller himself & has decorated the café with huge amounts of travel memorabilia he has acquired along the way, hence why it is indeed an Eccentric Café.

It is however, hardly a Café – with 40 taps & a full service restaurant, movie nights in their huge garden & a range of seating. We enjoyed a few pints here as the sun went down.

Kalamazoo overall is quite the unexpected beer town. There was a brewery map in our AirBNB with routes, many walking distance, around the town ready to be explored. Sadly, we only had time for Bells, as we had a very important date up at Founders.

A short ride up to Grand Rapids and we were ready to explore Founders, another American “craft” brewing institution. We had a 2 hour tour around their epic site with Beau, and got to peak at the shiny goodies that investment from Mahou/San Miguel gets you.

Happily, their focus on the local community, staff & their epic barrel aging program is still top priority here which is great to see. Their tap room is an epic spot, and was fairly packed when we visited at lunchtime midweek. Though we could have stayed here a while, sadly we had to move on.

There were three primary reasons for visiting Detroit. 1) We’ve always like Eminem. 2) Mike is a Red Wings fan & 3) Schramms Mead.

After our epic time at Superstition  in Arizona, we had to head over to Schramm’s to see what the other great mead producer in the world was getting up to. Owned by Ken Schramm, author of “The Complete Meadmaker”, Schramms has been sparring with Superstition for best mead in the world for a long time now. They are best known for “The Heart of Darkness”, crafted from the handpicked fruit, grown in Ken’s own garden & Michigan honey – such prime ingredients cause for limited batches & high prices. The limited release of this beauty, results in lines round the block & grandparents being demanded to queue up for their grandchildrens haul, oblivious to the fuss.

Detroit in itself is an interesting place to have one of the best meaderies in the world. In fact B Nektar , another award winning Meadery is just down the road. There must be something in the bees here!

We settled into their quiet tap room and got chatting to the friendly staff behind the bar. It’s clear that very few locals come here! Most don’t even know it exists and find the prices a little on the high side (which they weren’t wrong about!).

It was a friendly relaxed atmosphere, but felt quiet bearing in mind the hype & the premium nature of the product. Being so quiet whilst we were there however, did mean we got to try The Heart of Darkness itself…. When in Rome right?

At $25 for an OUNCE (yes this is not a typo) to taste this beauty.

Personally I would have loved to have taken it to a bottle share, analysing the ins and out of every sip. So in many ways, if you going to drink it, picking up a bottle and enjoying amongst enthusiasts isn’t such a bad idea at all.

So did we have a favourite between Schramm’s & Superstition? Couldn’t possibly say…!!

Back to beer and our time in Detroit, took us to hang out with Stephen at Batch Brewing.

Getting to chat to brewery owners is so incredibly useful, so you can talk the ins and outs about spreadsheets & business planning. So we did just that, all at his awesome tap room & restaurant on Porter Street.

They had some pretty awesome and varied beers on tap, great food & beer slushies – not sure you can ask for more than that for somewhere to do some work?

We whiled away a good few hours here as I’m sure anyone could, and would definitely recommend grabbing a bowl of their famous gumbo & beer if you were ever in town.

Thanks to Stephen also for the time he spent with us & advice he gave – always appreciated.

From here, our route took us quite an interesting path, through Columbus, Ohio to get one of the first tours of the brand new BrewDog site, then down across to Louisville, through Nashville onto to Atlanta, ending up all the way down in Charleston, South Carolina.

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