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Home Food  Tapping into craft beers
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Wednesday, October 19,2011

Tapping into craft beers

Toast the season at Crunchy’s in East Lansing

by Joe Torok

Beer geeks are a species of connoisseur — not unlike
oenophiles — in perpetual search of a beverage both pleasing to the
palate on its own and complementary to a meal.


Craft beer continues to grow as an industry, relying on
the enthusiasm of beer aficionados looking for something a little less
mainstream, unsatisfied with the selection of mass-produced beers on
tap courtesy of the historical big three brewers — Anheuser-Busch,
Miller and Coors — with their multitude of brands. 


In this area, if you’re looking for a tap that travels the less beaten path, Crunchy’s in East Lansing is good place to start.


Crunchy’s has been a destination for beer geeks for over
a decade, tapping into the growing popularity of microbrews and
offering a steady stream of craft beers.


General manager Michael Krueger has been sampling and
selecting craft brews at Crunchy’s for almost two years. His own
appreciation of beer has grown through the years as a server and
bartender at various establishments around town.


Krueger says the first step in beer tasting is noticing
the color (more on that later). Next, a beer lover will look for a good
nose, a bouquet of aromas one learns to distinguish from beer to beer
with practice.


“Going in blind, the smell hits you first,” Krueger says.
His own preference is for an IPA, an India Pale Ale, with citrusy and
floral notes.  


“I like hoppy IPAs,” Krueger says. “Others like theirs malty.”


One particularly timely brew on tap this month is a tasty pumpkin beer, courtesy of Samuel Adams.  The double pumpkin builds on Sam Adams’ original pumpkin beer recipe, intensifying flavor and spice.  The
double pumpkin is creamy and features a bite of pumpkin pie spices
(cloves, allspice and the like) that hits the tongue on first sip and
leaves a smoky finish.


The creaminess of Sam Adams’ double pumpkin comes from the malt, Krueger says. 


Most beers look to barley as the grain of choice for
malting, though mass producers will use rice or corn for their cheaper
price — and cheaper flavor, a beer geek might add.  The other basic ingredients of beer include water, hops and yeast.


Malted grains add sweetness to beer, while hops add
bitter and other flavorings and the yeast initiates the fermentation
process that results in alcohol. 


When it comes to craft beers, creativity is vital.  Additional
ingredients are added to create unique blends and flavors in a brewing
process that combines scientific know-how, alchemy and sheer gut
feeling. 


For neophytes, the sheer number of styles and categories
into which beers may fall can be dizzying: there are porters, pilsners,
ales, stouts and lagers and more.  Beers
are also classified by their color (according to the Brewers
Association, an organization of craft beer brewers). with over a dozen
categories ranging from light to dark, with monikers that include
straw, pale, gold, dark amber, copper, chestnut brown and black.  


To further complicate matters, craft brewers often add
nontraditional and exotic ingredients, resulting in categories that are
fuzzy, at best. 


“Any classification of beer refers to how it’s brewed,” Krueger says. “It’s based on a certain yeast or hop or malt.”


Crunchy’s and other restaurants have begun to match beer with menu items.  Want a touch of sweetness with your meal?  Ask
for something malty. Krueger says a hoppy beer typically complements
spicy-hot fare; mild flavored lagers go well with pizza; and stouts,
with chocolate or coffee undertones, pair nicely with desserts and
sweets.  


Others have gotten in on the microbrew action, too.


In East Lansing, the newly opened Bagger Dave’s matches
beers with menu items; Beggar’s Banquet has been serving craft beers
for years; and Harper’s actually brews its own beer onsite.


In Lansing, the Soup Spoon Café has jumped on the craft
beer bandwagon, and downtown’s Michigan Brewing Co. is an outlet for
the Webberville-based craft brewer.


Crunchy’s is dedicated to craft beer, with around two
dozen always on tap and a monthly cycle that sees 40-50 craft beers
rotated through any given month.  


Crunchy’s also hosts a monthly Brewer’s Night, highlighting a specific craft brewery.


Next up is the Grand Rapids-based Founder’s Brewery on
Nov. 2. Beginning at 7 p.m., revelers will be invited to taste up to 17
different Founder’s brews. A sample of four small glasses served on a
paddle (a “flight”) typically runs $8. Founder’s representatives, and
possibly brewers, will be on-hand, answering questions and distributing
branded swag.


Beer appreciation might not capture the high culture
imagination quite the same way wine enthusiasts do. Then again,
matching the right craft beer to a menu item like Crunchy’s Bucket
O’Pizza Nugs is an art unto itself. 




Crunchy’s


254 W. Grand River Ave.,


East Lansing


Noon–1 a.m. Sunday; 11 a.m.–2 a.m. Monday-Saturday


For more information on Crunchy’s Brewer’s Nights, call (517) 351-2506 


www.crunchyseastlansing.com

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