Sunday, June 3, 2012

Brewery Review: White Flame Brewing Company - Hudsonville, MI

White Flame Nano Brewery
I made my way here via bicycle on Saturday afternoon. It took about 30 minutes from Down Town Holland. (the way back was a bit more challenging...) The original plan was to head immediately here, but I happened upon the Grand opening of Pike 51 Brewing Co. that was literally two or three blocks away. And legend has it, Hudsonville having two breweries is an astonishing feat. I've heard there wasn't a too distant past where starting your lawnmower on Sunday was taboo!
But, that's the past, and today is a great time for the Hudsonville community to embrace the craft beer movement and become a destination for good beer!
Things aside, these are the beers I tried:

A generous selection from the new local nano brewery
Golden Boy – a pale gold color with a white trim lacing. Carbonation persists within. The scent reminds me of corn, but with a faint hint of yeast. I get a hint of creamed corn in the flavor. Smooth and easy to drink with a nice bite from the carbonation. Notes of grain finish out the end.
American Wheat IPA – Clearer Gold color with again a stronger carbonation persisting in linear form to the surface. Lacing is entire and cascades down towards the surface. Aroma has a touch of pine and lemon. Flavor is represented by a pale malt bill and notes of citrus oriented wheat. Hops are more present in the end. Soft and bubbly.
White Shoes Pale Ale – More of a coppered color with a soapy white head. A glimmer of haze persists. Flavor is mildly carameled with notes of haystraw in the foretaste. Medium body. Hops are withheld a bit leave more of a malt presence. Reminds me more in the direction of an amber or a mild.
Super G IPA – A legitimate Amber with a light soapy ring. Complex and spicy with notes of crystal malt in the foretaste. Nice grapefruit and undertones of nectarine emerge once the palate adjusts. The bitterness matches the style well with this one. My favorite so far...
Check out that lacing! (Super G IPA)
Eagle Eye Rye – Lighter in color than the IPA but still maintaining a similar appearance. The Head is a creamy texture. Lacing is fantastic! Rye is pleasant and full. Caramel and complimentary hop characteristics. Slight earthiness.
Pale Otter Porter – Dark coffee brown with a thin foam around the glass. A nice sweet roast erupts from the surface. It isn't the slightest bit acidic. The flavor is balanced by a sweet caramel and a darker, bitter roast malt. The end is refreshingly malty, but still falling on the lighter side. Some smoke is even present. A good porter I'd come back to.
Ugly Stick Oatmeal Stout - Great head retention. The foam is maintained 15 minutes as I taste my way through the sampling flight. Black color and robust. Smooth roasted chocolate malt and a tint of roast at the finish. Toasted malt makes the majority, with the deceptive colored black malt filling in the rest tending towards a nose of roast. Milky cream texture. My ideal stout. Nicely done.
Black Sheep - With little light, the beer looks extremely dark. However, the light reveals a nice clear red color. Entire white lacing. Scent has a mild chocolate scent, combined with notes of grapefruit. The taste is interesting. What initially starts as a toasted sweetness, develops into what you think will be a roasted, acidic bitterness. Only then are you faced with an abrupt change with a sweet bitter pine and floral flavor from the hops. Quite a change up. I think this should be a staple of the mainstay...
Options---> (mix black sheep and the Ugly Stick to dampen the hops)

Bill White running the taps
Favorites: 1) Super G IPA - Nice caramel malt base with a decent amount of darkfruit and grapefruit hops to counterbalance 2) Ugly Stick Oatmeal Stout - Rich, creamy and with a sweet chocolate base. Delightfully harmonizing toastiness and chocolate while not ending bitter from the roast 3) Black Sheep - Deceptive in its color, but rounding with a fortifying pine bitterness. Some dark malts come through as the beer warms. 4) Eagle Eye Rye - A typical run of the mill rye. It wasn't too strong to necessarily pick out if I wasn't told, but still flavorful and balanced.
I ended up getting a pint of the stout in the end, as I weighed the future suffering of biking home after having a pint of the IPA. 

A look at the bustling pub
Pub/Brewery: The exterior took the appearance of a little red dock cottage with a stair/ramp access to the front door. The brewery, even though it is on a side street, is easily visible from Chicago Drive. Walking it, the bar is quite large, to fit the many publicans that visited on this rainy Saturday afternoon. I was greeted by Bill White (Brewer bartending? What!), whom I briefly met at Pike 51 Brewing Co. only an hour earlier. I ordered a sampler of 5 which was only $6.00! unlike other local breweries who really pump up the prices on their samplers (Frown). Bill also poured me three of his "Special" taps consisting of the Wheat IPA, Black Sheep and the Eagle Eye Rye. I took a seat at one of the many 4-person black wooden tables and began jotting down notes. The Bar itself is extremely roomy (I've found that Michigan Breweries do not short their customers on seating space). At least 10-15 people can sit at the bar, and that's not to mention the other 20-30 or so who can sit at the tables. Pint glasses and Swag layered a side wall of the bar and the menu was jotted colorfully on a overseeing chalkboard against the back bar. As I got halfway into the reviews, the rest of the gang from the last brewery walks in - Andrew (New Hollands QC Lab specialist) and his family, Saugatuck's QC manager "Little Jon," their brewer Ron and his Gf? and the rest of the group. I stayed there for around an hour and a half enjoying the company and the beer.
People of all ages were there, showing that the atmosphere was inviting and open to all.
The setting was comfortable, new and clean. I thought the bear skin that was pinned to the wall was an interesting touch. And for a Saturday afternoon, having the bar that busy must have been extremely gratifying for Bill, as well as us brewers who see the movement growing larger and more successful every day.
The Group
I found a few of the beers with subtle hints of DMS (think creamed corn...) Particularly the Golden Boy and the Wheat IPA. However, the rest of the selection was fantastic especially the stout and IPA.
Next time I hope to get a look at the system and have more pictures up, but I understand it probably wasn't the right time to ask Mr. White for a tour.
Anyway, Hudsonville furthers itself as a beer destination, and supports the West Michigan Brewery scene as a whole. Thanks guys and keep it up. I will be back.


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