I don't know that I learned anything. Maybe that faux Amish beards are in with brewers. A lot of the guys at the two breweries I hit between single A baseball games and small town diners, Dark Horse and Jolly Pumpkin, were sporting variations of big bear face. Looked a lot like a reunion of mid-90s hayseed alt bands like The Waltons (YouTubian homage here) - but even more legit than a band from Saskatchewan as these craft brewers were good folk working with grain. I didn't take any pictures of the many manly heads. I feel like a big enough doofus just asking if I can take pictures or saying I have a blog. But that's to be expected. When you think about it having a beer blog in 2009 is a little like having a great disco collection in 1981.
The zip into northern Indiana surprised me in another way. It was the first time I found myself having a difficult time with a local US accent. Being Nova Scotian, I have no problem with Mainers but this was different. Like listening to the car radio with the dial slightly off station, I just wasn't catching what I thought I should be catching. I got the beer, however, and even got the wave through at customs. I would have brought more than 63 bottles if I had known it was going to be a tax free day.
From the pictures above, you can see some images from both brewery stops. I had to admit I had a hard time finding Jolly Pumpkin as Dexter, Michigan is doing a downtown refit and what I last saw as a grey cinder block repurposed garage is now a red brick one with nicer side walks and streets being build around it. There is a tap room being added as well. I briefly chatted with Ron Jeffries and Drew Karl (I think... as the facial hair was in another amazing formation) who were in the middle of a busy afternoon and picked up one of the best deals in beer - $5.99 for their 750ml bottles at the brewery. They go for at least ten bucks in the nearby shops and more the farther you get from the area. Bought the classic black stevedore wool hat as well and, again, they had to find a receipt book to hand write the paperwork I thought I needed for Canada Customs.
At Dark Horse, I had the chance to ask some questions (and again feel a little like a doofus) with Travis "Vart" Glenn, taproom GM, as he was setting up the compound's on-site bar. I had to admire the pottery mugs hanging from the ceiling. He let me know that they were by a local potter and that they came in batches of a hundred or so - which gave the collection a pretty amazing look. I couldn't stay for tap room opening but I picked up a selection of their stouts as well as some good dry yeast. I'm now a proud owner of blue farmer's work shirt from these hairy lads of Marshall, Michigan not to mention an orange hunters wool cap. Which means I now have wool hats for the two Great Lakes region seasons which are not summer - hunting and not hunting.
The layout of Dark Horse is a bit like a lumber yard with a collection of a few different buildings around a parking lot and which, like Jolly Pumpkin, was stocked with people busting their butts hard at work. You know, I may not buy brewers being hailed as artists and admit I laugh a little whenever I hear marketers label them as "rock stars" but there is no doubt they are some hard working and clever folk making a business of great beer... just so you can drink it. And, when you think about it, why shouldn't that be honour enough? Sure beats rock star any day.