In 2012, my father-in-law, brother-in-law and myself went to Detroit to drink beer and watch hockey. One of our stops found us at Detroit Beer Co. and we loved it, sipping delightful beers after a disappointing stop at Hockeytown. But when we returned to the city in 2015 to drink beer and watch basketball, we found a completely different brewery. Either we had just been too new to craft beer to know good from bad or things had seriously went downhill, but this was not the Detroit Beer Co. we had fell in love with the first time.
But why talk about Detroit Beer Co. when this post is supposed to be about Old Nation Brewing? It turns out both breweries are owned by the same people, a fact that absolutely blew my mind.
Hazy, yeast-driven, low bitterness IPAs have exploded on the scene in the past few years, led by New England outfits such as Treehouse and Trillium (hence the New England IPA classification used to describe these beers). Up until a few months ago, the trend had failed to reach the Midwest on much of a large scale, outside of a few (well-made) examples from Forbidden Root, Transient and Maplewood. But then a new name entered my radar, M-43, from a previously unknown brewpub in a small town outside of Lansing. The beer was getting rave reviews but had come from seemingly out of nowhere.
Intrigued I launched into some research and immediately became perplexed. Old Nation also brewed a beer called Detroit Dwarf, the same name as one at Detroit Beer Co. Coincidence? Cease and desist waiting to happen? But the copy led me to a different conclusion. This had to be the same Detroit Dwarf I had enjoyed at Detroit Beer Co. and a little digging revealed that both breweries were indeed owned by the same people. Which only led to more questions, mainly, how was essentially the same brewery I left from feeling extremely disappointed a couple years ago producing one of the highest rated IPAs in the country?
M-43 is absolutely thick with haze, albeit one from hop oils and proteins and not poorly-floccuating yeast. It looks like murky, pulpy orange juice with a frothy white cap on top. It absolutely bursts forth with a tropical and citrus aroma supplied by a who’s who list of hot hops – Calypso, Simcoe, Citra and Amarillo. (Perhaps more stunning than the Old Nation-Detroit Beer connection is that there’s no Mosaic in here.) There’s a distinct melon character with pineapple, orange juice and the slight tropical funk of passion fruit. There’s a defined yeast character on the palette that mixes smoothly with the fruitiness of the hops. The bitterness is hardly there, strangled into submission by the juice.
Almost as refreshing as the beer itself is that it’s relatively easy to find if you live in Michigan, at least compared to the other NE IPAs that typically attract the beer nerd hype. Long after the trend has died down, there’s a strong chance M-43 will still be relevant. And as unlikely as this all might be, perhaps M-43’s greatest accomplishment is making me consider giving Detroit Beer Co. another try.