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What ales Ann Arbor

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CATEGORIES: Beer   Feature   Travel  

While the area surrounding the University of Michigan campus has the usual mix of vintage stores and college bars, Ann Arbor does have a grown-up side: Picturesque streets encourage meandering through art galleries, coffee houses and upscale eateries. But this is the city Bob Seger croons about in “Mainstreet,” and since it is the Midwest, beer isn’t obscured by all the fancy. Check out these superb downtown beer stops within steps of each other.

Arbor Brewing Co.

Spouses Matt and Rene Greff’s cozy, creaky-floored brewpub is where Matt’s homebrew recipes sprang to life in 1995, summoning a flood of curious beer lovers through the doors. The aged Belgian-style brews fermenting in the downstairs cellar are small-batch gems, and you can never go wrong with the ever-popular Sacred Cow IPA: It’s soft on the palate, but has feisty ruby-red grapefruit flavors and hop bite. Alt 22 also earns a thumbs-up, roasted and rich with smoke wisps and quiet bitterness. Double up on your beer intake, and try the IPA-marinated Drunken Chicken sandwich, topped with roasted garlic, goat cheese, basil pesto, spinach and red onion on an onion roll. 114 E. Washington St., arborbrewing.com

Jolly Pumpkin Café and Brewery

Jolly Pumpkin’s production brewery is a frenetic place that’s packed elbow-to-elbow with barrels; this satellite spot is a charming two-story brewpub right on Main Street. The brewery’s lauded for its adventurous line of sour beers; keep an open mind as you explore its many carnations of wild yeast. As Michigan tiptoes into spring, order Bam Bière, a clean, thirst-quenching golden farmhouse ale with gentle fruity sourness and bright hop bite; it adds zest to the tongue twisting Fire & Smoke granite-baked pizza, topped with smoked free-range chicken, spicy chipotle tomato sauce, smoked mozzarella and sprinkles of charred peppers and fresh basil. 311 S. Main St., jollypumpkin.com/annarbor

Blue Tractor BBQ and Brewery

Dressed in reclaimed wood from an old barn, vintage fixtures and tractor photography, Blue Tractor is a rustic retreat. Leave the calorie counter behind and dig into warm Green Chile Cheddar Corn Muffins before tackling the ’cue, like the BBQ Beer Can Chicken, basted with the house bock barbecue sauce and served alongside a heaping pile of bourbon-baked beans and creamy buttermilk mashers. Clean your palate with the crisp Bearded Pig Pilsner, or, if you’re trying to keep your wallet thick, order a brew off the $2.50 Retro Beer Menu with nostalgic faves like Pabst Blue Ribbon, Carling Black Label and Blatz. 205 E. Washington St., bluetractor.net

Grizzly Peak

This lively brewpub is just shy of a block from Main Street, and with its lodgy motif—wood floors, exposed brick, friendly buck head mounted on the wall—you’ll feel right at home. For cask lovers, AMS Sherwater IPA, an English IPA made with 100 percent U.K. hops, is always on the hand-pull next to a second rotating cask selection. Regulars favor the Steelhead Red, a crisp, well-balanced amber that pairs heartily with Grizzly’s famous Brewery Steak Sandwich, a meaty hanger steak slapped between crispy potato cakes and adorned with crispy bacon, gooey cheddar and a porter-infused crème fraiche. 120 W. Washington St., grizzlypeak.net

WINE STOP: If you’re feeling like less fizz and more fuss, Vinology (110 S. Main St., vinowinebars.net) is a sleek, romantic restaurant and wine bar manned by a father-daughter team of sommeliers. More than 50 wines are available by the glass and 100-plus by the bottle.


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