Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Brewery Review: Schmohz Brewing Company - Grand Rapids, MI

To give a little context.... I had arrived in Grand Rapids the night before after biking 27 miles from Holland. The objective of the weekend was to check out the local brewery scene with Eamon. He graciously accommodated me with a place to stay (though I brought my newly purchased hammock just in case). We had been to Harmony Brewing Co and Vivant Brewing Co the night before. After a slow morning, a brief run and lunch we drove ( I know, but it was far) to Schmohz Brewery. I had only seen them before at the Michigan Brewers Guild Winter beer fest during my interview process with New Holland. We arrived Saturday Morning/Afternoon. These are the beers Eamon and I tried:

Bloody Red: Absolute clarity and a strong foam cream ring. Carbonation visible. Malt centered but with a toffee spicing to it reminiscent of rye, but I can't completely vouch for that interesting flavor. Starts with a bite from the carbonation and rounds out extremely smooth and creamy.
Pickle Tink: Golden color. Slight haze and a minimal foam white ring. White wheat fruit and a faint acidity. A typical light drinker but with a craft twist. Foamy biting zest and very dry resigned finish. Refreshing for sure.
Pilsner: Golden with a subtle haze. The lacing is speckled and styrafoamed. Carbonation visibly present. Brief malt base with an emphasis on the bitterness at the end. Some acidity exists near the end. Very drying in the end. Emphasizing The German nobles. Spicy.
Cream ale: Similar in color to the cirrus. Light malt sweetness of corn or rice adjuncts. Carbonation bites up front, but mellows into a foamy mouthfeel near the end. Some tartness present at the end.
IPA head retention
Cirrus Wheat: Yellow and cloudy, though not an opacity like a Hefe. No head and looks flat. Strong phenols of old world outdoorsiness and hay. Strong wheat and even vanilla near the end under the tongue.
Amber: Just as the beers name suggests...amber. Very clear with a basic white foam ring to make for the head. Still looking. Biscuit and toast malt base. Light body, but boasting a nice sweet malt flavor. Aroma is earthy but sweet.
Hop knocker: Basic amber with a color inhibitory cloudiness. Rich malt base of caramel and eatery of undertones of dark roasted dates and raisin. Alcohol is prominent but complimentary.
Razzmanian devil: Light amber with a tint of berry red. Little head in existence. Tart and berry fruit come through with a light body and strong carbonation. Little watery, but high drink ability.
Zingiberene gruit: Golden copper. Still looking. No head is present. High carbonation and zesty. Made with ginger but nice and light with a great bite to compliment a refreshing finish. Finish is dry.
IPA: Hazed copper amber with outstanding foam head. Fruity aroma, and the taste has a very eatery bite to it. Even some lacto going on to provide a tartness in the finish. Follows a more grassy hop profile.
Bone crusher: Extremely dark - oily black with a dark brown head with complete lacing down the sides. Server warmer. Smoky aroma with strong roasted barley. Carbonation held to a minimum but encouraging a velvety cream mouthfeel. Rich dark chocolate.
ESB: Darkened ruby amber with a dense film head with strong retention. Nice caramel toffee malt base with a pleated twist. Easy drinking and with a finishing spice
Pail ale: Copper with a cream film on top. Still with a faint cloudiness. Big biscuit malt base but with a grassy oriented buttering finish.  somewhat earthy

Brewery Experience: 
Eamon and I arrived and immediately sat down at the bar. Fascinated with the variety of options, we ordered a sample of all their beers. Two wooden paddles were laid out before us of which all got filled, and then some. I was fortunate enough to have Jen's IPAD so getting a quick note down didn't take very long. Nevertheless it took about 10 or so minutes to make our way through the tasters as we discussed the positives and short comings (if there even were any) of each beer. Chas, the brewer sat down at the end of the bar only a few minutes after we got there, with his laptop. It was amusing to see that only seconds later it seemed that a bunch of old guys sat down around him to talk beer. More than halfway through the tasted I felt the alcohol creeping up, so I retrieved some pretzels to shun it away. Once we finished (or at least I finished the reviews) we asked for a brief look around the brewery. Entering in a side door to a massive warehouse Chas gave us an opportunity to peruse the tanks and ask questions.
The Brewery:
At first impression the brewery came off to me with a dive bar theme and a Texas/western twist. And I still stand by that. Upon entry to are greeted with a very long room of seating, ping-pong tables, pool, dart and some arcade. At the very end of the long room is where the rather quaint bar stands. Several regulars were already in the midst of making their early afternoon rounds, establishing an impression that this bar often appeals to their locale and regular mug club crowd. The bar provided free popcorn and pretzels with their beer, always a plus. I found it an interesting choice with the copper bar top, which often stains with the acidity of beer, but nevertheless provided an aesthetic worn look to it. Seating at the bar was adequate enough for over 12 individuals and then some. Still, I felt the overall atmosphere quite homely and inviting. The brewery does put their stuff in bottles, and we did acknowledge its presence at a few other stops during the weekend, but "their overall tap presence in the community is spotty." Apart from that, I had difficulty deciphering the theme the brewery was trying to get at. An Indian man with a dagger and a machine gun? A pickle with a too-too? generally if I had to guess, there is a subtle medieval theme, but then there are quite a few random labels that don't fit (i.e. the pickle..).
Fermentation space and the bottle filler
The Brew House:
When Chas showed us around, I was surprised at the scale! They have a 20 bbl brew house with three tanks (Mash, Kettle and Whirlpool) enabling multiple batches to be made. Tank capacity ranges from 20 to 60 bbls with one very large Brite tank for carbonation and priming. Much of the beer is packaged in kegs, but some is also put into bottles. The bottle filler exists with 15 heads and can do around 55 bottles a minute. I was fascinated that the bottler hardly took up much room (relative to ours, and what I've heard are the drawbacks of bottling - space). The atmosphere in the brewery was a bit dingy/murky, but it was clean.... I think much of this had to do with the lighting. I wasn't able to see, but it looked like packaging and supplies took up nearly half of the warehouse! In any case it was a brewery and everything was intended to be as is.
Following the tour we returned to our beer, finished what we could, settled up and were on our way.
If you're in the Grand Rapids area, they should be a destination on your brewery list.
Check them out at:

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