Saturday, July 16, 2011

Quaff Review #14: Mackinac Pale Ale

We've all done things we aren't particularly proud of. Sometimes things that seem perfectly normal and justifiable at the time can, with the weight of years piled atop, grumble and groan and be revealed for how pathetic they really are. For myself, I can think of few things I've done more pathetic than this - wandering the aisles of a Kroger grocery store in Swartz Creek, Michigan, shuffling from one battery of strange and wondrous and foreign American brands to the next, waiting for the clock to click past 7 AM so that they could sell me beer.

Not one of my better moments, but it couldn't be avoided. When my dad and I started our trip west from Toronto to Vancouver last year, we crossed the Ontario-Michigan border at something like four in the morning. By the time we reached Swartz Creek, a small town off I-69 just west of Flint, the sky was beginning to lighten and I was coming up on twenty-four hours straight of wakefulness. By then, I'd already formulated my idea - pick up some beer from every state we travelled through on the way to British Columbia. It didn't work out as well as I'd hoped. Still, in that Swartz Creek Kroger I started things off with a six-pack of bottles of Mackinac Pale Ale, produced by the Michigan Brewing Company.

Mackinac Pale Ale - presumably named after the Mackinac Bridge, which connects Michigan's Upper Peninsula to the Lower Peninsula and is featured on the label - is one of two pale ales produced by MBC. It's definitely a mellow sort of pale ale, which has become more important to me recently; as a beer gets hoppier and more bitter, my ability to take it just keeps going down. While Mackinac has the somewhat watery aroma I've come to associate with pale ales, its bite is modest and it's got a smooth taste. While the somewhat bitter tang is present, it's not overwhelming, which is all I ask - I've run into occasions where I've had to pour beer down the drain because it was just too bitter to finish.

Its label is succinct; to be honest, I don't think I can recall another label with this little information on it. Aside from its size - 12 fl. oz./355 mL - There's the Surgeon General's warning, the note about bottle redemption, a Michigan Brewers Guild logo, MBC's address, the bar code, the machine-printed date 01/13/11 - which I really hope wasn't a best before date - and that's it. I had to look it up on to find out that it's 5% alc./vol. I'm not sure if it's that understatement that led me to buy it; honestly, knowing me it was probably the picture of the bridge.

The six bottles were priced at $8.49 at that Kroger, which is still a pretty good deal when I look around at the prices here in British Columbia. It's doubtful I'll find this particular kind any time soon, though - from my reading of the MBC website, it's only distributed within Michigan. While I know the state of Michigan is one of the modern world's tourist utopias, this beer isn't good enough to justify going there on its own. It's a beer; it's enough for itself.


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