Saturday 19 October 2019

Talk, talk in Ypsilanti

Quite an early start today. Matt picks me up at 8:30. My first talk at Eastern Michigan University is at 10:30 and we need to set up before that.

“It was nice and clean until I went down that dirt road yesterday.” Matt remarks as we approach his truck. It is looking a bit scruffy, with dried dirt all along the bottom half.

“Ypsilanti is one of the most diverse cities in the US.” Matt explains as we enter the town. “This street is full of little ethnic restaurants, Mom and Pop places.”

There certainly seems to be a good range of Asian and European cuisines strung out along either side of the road.

We’ll be in a different building this year. Not a ballroom, but a proper lecture theatre. All newly renovated and rather snazzy. Cory Emal, coordinator of EMU’s Fermentation Sciences program, meets us inside. He’s also coordinating today’s events.

While they’re setting up the food for the interval between talks in the foyer, Cory sets up the technical aspects. Like getting the projector working and miking me up. It doesn’t take a huge amount of time as, thankfully, there aren’t any big problems.

Quite a few people I recognise from my time here in spring 2018, Including Jeff Renner, whom I’ve now met several times.

I kick off with my talk on German sour beer styles. Just a week ago I gave the same talk in Dublin. Well, almost the same talk. I made a few updates earlier this week. Adding a couple more slides about Berliner Weisse and including pH values to all the tables.

In the interval I eat some soup then am led up to the fermentation department proper. Where there are four beers brewed from historical recipes of mine: Matt’s 1857 Barclay Perkins X Ale, 1939 Wm. Younger DBS Btlg, 1956 Shepherd Neame MB and 1950 Adnams DS. The latter three being Student-brewed beers.

They’re all pretty good, but the 1939 Wm. Younger DBS Btlg is particularly nice. In an odd coincidence, I wrote a recipe for this beer a week or so ago.

“What about students who are under 21? Are they allowed to drink the beer that they’ve brewed?”

“Yes, but only in a class.” Cory replies.

“That’s weird.” US drinking laws are totally insane.

“Would you like a pint for while you’re giving your next talk?” Cory asks. I think you can guess what my reply was.

With a pint of 1857 Barclay Perkins X Ale in hand, I plunge into talk number two: Brettanomyces in British brewing. I also made some changes to this earlier in the week. In the section on Harvey’s Imperial Stout I had incorrectly assumed the presence of Brettanomyces. When, in fact, secondary conditioning is by means of Debaromyces, which lurks in Harvey’s pitching yeast.

Yacking done, it’s time to shift some books. Dolores will be pleased with the results. Fewer books clogging up the house, replaced by space-efficient cash.

After the talks, we head to Ypsi Alehouse. For a few beers. Where we find other brewers. Can you guess what they’re doing? Drinking overpriced bottled water and discussing the stock market. Of course not.

The Alehouse is in a fine old building, which was originally a hotel. According to Matt it has three levels of cellars.

What to drink first? It is October, so I start with a house-brewed Oktoberfest. It’s the amber colour I’d expect from a US version and satisfyingly malty. That’ll do nicely.

The chat spins around brewers past and present, the financial perils of the industry and, inevitably, sludge beers. I’m struggling to think of a single professional brewer I’ve spoken with any enthusiasm for that type of beer.

 My next beer is also a house one, Mooneye American IPA. What’s the point of being in a brewpub if you’re not going to drink its beer? It’s a straightforward IPA. The sort of beer which used to be everywhere. Now I feel almost nostalgic drinking this style.

When evening rolls around, Matt drives us to his brewery. We sit in the beer garden at first, but it's a little too chilly. Especially as I don’t have a coat. We head inside.

“Where would you like to eat?” Matt asks over a pint, “There are lots of options.”

He reels off various ethnic cuisines. Not feeling in the mood for a big pile, I opt for tapas. Picking at little bits of food every now and again disturbs my drinking less than filling my hole with a gut-busting quantity of meat and carbs. Have leave some room for ale.

We go back to his house to pick up his wife and daughter, who will be joining us. I wait in the truck as he ventures inside. He warned me that he has a very large and overfriendly dog.

“An hour, at least.” They say when we troll up at the tapas place. Sort of rules that out. Matt’s daughter doesn’t look that upset. I soon learn why: our plan B is Blue Nile, one of her favourite restaurants, which is just over the road.

I understand why. Once the food arrives. As you’d expect, in piles on those spongy pancake things. Mostly vegetarian, but with a few bits of chicken. Pretty damn tasty. And ticklingly spicy. Yum.

There’s lots of good beer around in Ann Arbor. Here they have draught Bell’s Oberon, a wheat beer with an orangey flavour. Something suitably wet, and not too extreme, to wash the nosh down.

After Matt has dropped me back off at my hotel I drop onto my bed. A bit knacked, if I’m honest. Two talks almost back to back was quite draining. It’s not too late, thankfully. Time to turn to TV. Of the least demanding type.

Speybourn is on hand to guide me to my dreams.

Ypsi Alehouse
124 Pearl St #100,
MI 48197.
Tel: +1 734-487-1555

Blue Nile Restaurant
221 E Washington St,
Ann Arbor,
MI 48104.
Tel: +1 734-998-4746

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