Hudsonville Pike 51 Brewing Co. is a small brewery also connected to the Hudsonville Winery in, you guessed it, Hudsonville, Michigan.
It may not have enormous brewing capacity like Bell’s or Founders, but Pike 51 is absolutely worthy of being on everyone’s radar for their killer brews. In particular, I’ve discovered a love for their small but growing souring program.
“Sour” beers are sometimes mouth-puckeringly sour or have more of a balanced tartness to them. This component provides depth in beers that is so vastly different from all other styles. They are the ultimate pairing tool and are even some of the best “gateway” beers for consumers who are looking to explore the insane medium that is craft beer for the first time. Sour beers are also hard as hell to wrangle and create, even if you are being extremely careful in the brewhouse. The yeast used to create these brews are finicky and love to infect batches of beer where they are not welcome.
So far it seems that Pike 51 has taken this challenge in stride, and two out of the three beers below are in fact from their souring program. Though the product changes frequently, be sure to stop over and see what new tart delight they have up next.
Belgian Pale Ale
$5.50/12oz, $15/growler fill
Malts: Pilsner, Munich, Wheat, Pale Crystal, Honey Malt, and Dark Crystal
Hops: Zeus, MI Chinook, Mosaic
I have an opaque beer in a snifter pushed up at my face. It’s an orange/amber color with a small but quite resistant cream colored head.
A whiff of vinegar hits my nose along with a bit of lemon-like tartness. As I sniff further, I pick up on notes from the hops that I interpret as being a bit grass-like and herbal. Even a bit of tropical fruit like mango skin and papaya comes forward.
As I sip I get a slap of brisk acidity but the brew ends with a slightly dry and tannic quality as well.
The flavor is balanced with light notes of lemon, bread crust and a touch of vinegar again. Delicate and rewarding. The pale ale is exceptionally balanced and refreshing. I think of all the customers or friends I’ve encountered who haven’t gotten on the pale ale or IPA bandwagon. This is the brew for them. It lends enough hop character to show them what those suckers can do, but the refreshing acidity breaks up the bitterness and creates an easier step for those imbibers to take.
Sour Red w/ MI Cherry
$6.50 per 12oz, No growler fills
Malts: Pale, Vienna, Wheat, Dark Crystal, Pale Crystal, Flaked Oats
Hops; Zythos, Amarillo, Centennial
Yet another opaque beer is in front of me, though this time it’s a nice cranberry color with a super resistant tan-colored head.
Very strong raspberry and cherry notes hit me before the beer comes even close to my nose. There are notes of balsamic vinegar among this initial aroma, but besides that I can’t really pick up much else. Those traits are overwhelming.
Drinking the beer, I find that the balsamic vinegar notes are a bit savory, and the flavors overall just become more layered. It takes me awhile to pick it apart. After my search, I conclude that notes of dark cherry and raspberry are still present, but grassy-flavored hops appear in the finish, right after a pleasant appearance of shortbread-like malt flavor.
Bright and acidic in the finish. Overall it has well balanced flavor characteristics and is a refreshing brew.
Imperial Milk Stout aged in Oak Barrels
Aged in Buffalo Trace Barrels and brewed with Costa Rica coffee, Tahiti vanilla, and raw organic cocoa
This was a bottled selection, so it’s not something on tap at the moment, but I hear it may have a comeback.
This is another opaque brew, but this time it’s dark brown, almost black in color with a light brown head. It looks creamy, actually.
My nose picks up notes of dark chocolate and/or bakers chocolate, subtle vanilla and a nice punch of alcohol warmth coming from that Buffalo Trace in the nose.
The body is so smooth and creamy! Very, very smooth! It reminds me of the extra creamy quality in hot chocolate after you let a bunch of marshmallows melt in there.
Flavor notes come through as a balance of milk chocolate, a touch of cream, and a bit of coffee. All of these flavors meld into a more delicate finish than I was expecting. It’s actually pleasant though, to have an imperial stout such as this that is not “blow-your-hair-back” strong and robust all the way to the end. It’s giving me a conversational tone instead of yelling at me. On a more specific note, I get the feeling of roasty bitterness and a moderate sweetness.,
Because of the balanced and more subtle character in the finish, I actually thought of pairing this beer with a savory or smokey meat dish instead of dessert. It has more versatility which makes it quite a bit more fun.