If Michigan had a heaven, it would be Frankenmuth. Just south of war-torn Saginaw, Frankenmuth’s half-timbered cottages and rich Bavarian culture hearkens back to a simpler time that never quite existed in America. All you can eat fried chicken dinners, gift stores stocked with beer boots and suspenders, camp waltzes performed in lederhosen and dirndls… – in short, everything you’d expect to have found in the Germany countryside a couple hundred years ago, and right off the freeway.
That’s Frankenmuth. It’s a rite of passage as a Michigander to make the trip up at least once in your life.
As a kid, I definitely ate more than my fair share of Zehnder’s famous chicken dinners on Main Street, and Lord knows how many hours I spent trapped inside Bronner’s Christmas “Wonderland” while my mom shopped for nutcrackers.
Frankenmuth was a nice enough place, I guess, but it had a distinct element of cheapness to it, that if you didn’t drink enough beer with the chicken or took the toys out of the box, the magic might disappear. It was a working class getaway with all low-brow the trappings you’d expect.
So when I saw at my local shady liquor store that Frankenmuth Brewery was bottling some of that rich experience and shipping it across the state, I naturally had to buy a six pack (or two). One transaction in front of the bulletproof glass later and I was off with my own lil’ plastic bag of Frankenmuth goodness, ready to imbibe.
Of course, it was an IPA. Batch 69 IPA, to be exact. I doubt it resembles any beer produced at the brewery when it first opened in 1862, but then again, that was about million owners ago. Unlike the dark lagers Frankenmuth’s original Luther immigrants would’ve undoubtedly preferred in their authentic beer boots, what we have here is an amber beer with light citrus notes, a yeasty odor, and a bitter, hoppy punch (69 International Bitter Units, to be exact). Made using water drawn at Whitestone Point from the deep blue Lake Huron, a lake as magnificent as any sea, it was closer to what I’d grown accustomed to at various microbreweries than Bell’s Midwestern Pale Ale. A fair effort given its target market.
The price given the quality was a tad steep at over $11 for a six pack, but of course Michigan’s last remaining union-scale wages aren’t going to pay themselves. And, hey, the 6.9% alcohol by volume (get it?) did numb the sting a bit. If Bell’s Midwestern pale Ale deserved 3 1/2 mittens out of 5, Frankenmuth Brewery’s Batch 69 IPA gets 4.