At Greenbush, with just enough time for a little Retribution

By Amy Tindell

It had been a long, hard day of self-sacrifice, forcing myself to consume our bounty of specialty cheeses, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, carrots, olives, almond croissants, and cookies from the local farmer’s market, on a sunlit beach no less, and then jaunting through those shady Michigan woodlands that smelled of springtime. Those arduous chores now complete, and with the afternoon clouds rolling in, we reluctantly relegated ourselves to the nearby brewery to drown our sorrows. Pulling into the town of Sawyer, our caravan was greeted by the old-style letters atop the roof of the building spelling simply “BREWERY.”

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The sky not-so-subtly suggested that the storm was rather imminent, but we delighted the hostess at Greenbush Brewing Company by locating some unused space on the outdoor patio and agreeing to occupy it. The patio sits along some old railroad tracks, and a quick internet search revealed the brewery’s connection to them: “in 1951 a freight train derailed at the Flynn road crossing, rode the rails for a mile and plowed into the building. We hope our beer can make that sort of impact on you.” With that in mind, we chose our tasting flights with care.

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My favorites were Anger, Retribution, and Doomslayer. Anger is a black IPA made with Columbus, Amarillo, Simcoe, and Cascade hops, and Belgian dark malts, weighing in at 7.6% ABV. True to its name, the unique mix of grapefruity citrus flavors mixed with more roasty toffee notes would be sure to distract from a day of pent up emotion. I mused that the brew walks a line close to a porter. As thunder sounded in the distance, we observed that Retribution poured a deep dark brown color, and smelled nutty, earthy, and floral. There was some nuttiness to the taste, but cocoa and coffee flavors dominated, with sweetness up front. In addition to the Belgian grain bill and two varieties of hops, the recipe includes brown sugar, golden raisins, dark raisins, and honey.

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We moved on to the last taste as the darkness of the sky grew more ominous. Doomslayer, made with maple sap, was perhaps the most interesting brew, pouring black into the glass, smelling and tasting of chocolate, maple, and some spice. The sweetness from the sap along with the 8.9% ABV nicely rounded out Doomslayer – and our tasting session – as the patio cleared to make way for the storm.

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On the way out, I noted the brewing system that produced those beers through the picture window in the taproom. The owners, Scott Sullivan and Justin Heckathorn, home-brewed for years before moving to their current copper 7 barrel brew kettle that was once housed in a men’s only establishment in an old Italian neighborhood in San Francisco, complete with a “self-flushing spittoon” under the bar (i.e., a urinal). While Greenbush takes pride in the “long and sordid history only befitting our line of beers,” they take care to note that they were not able to procure the self-flushing spittoon along with the brewing system. However, they do offer 12 beers on tap on a daily basis, for immediate consumption or by the growler, along with a tempting food menu.

Fortified by the beer, we were not perturbed by the minor soaking from the storm on our way back to the caravan. It was only once we were belted safely into our cars, on our way to dinner at Café Gulistan, that the sky unleashed its very own Anger.

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