The first time I went to Michigan, I landed in Ann Arbor smack in the middle of one of the worst winter storms in history. The cab swerved on the icy road from one side to the other and I wasn't sure we were going to make it. Every time I go back, I get the impression that Michigan folk are hard-working family people who value tradition. It’s those qualities that brought Michigan-based New Holland Brewing and Carhartt outfitters together for a celebratory beer tour in honor of Carhartt's 125th anniversary: Carhartt Woodsman.
Carhartt has a reputation for being rugged, durable, dependable and, in recent years, cool, partnering with A.P.C. and A Bathing Ape for streetwear collaborations. Clearly they know their excellent, dependable Michigan craft beer, too — what better way to throw a party than to partner with a renowned local brewery to make a special brew? Well, you can tour it around the country. The crawl kicked off in Lake City on September 20th and will be making its way through Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado, with the final stop October 2nd at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.
While anniversary beers tend to be big and brash these days (and frankly, unapproachable for plenty of beer drinkers) New Holland made sure this brew was both festive and drinkable, settling on a barrel-aged session pale ale: a style that virtually untouched. Because both brewery and clothier wanted to make it a truly Michigan collaboration, they used Michigan-grown cascade hops — a nice touch to a very well-constructed brew.
Unlike a typical barrel-aged beer, this one clocks in at a perfectly sessionable 4.4%. It’s almost unheard of to age such a tiny beer in barrels, partially because of the general obsession with big barrel character in huge dark beers. You won’t find those overwhelming flavors here. It's light and drinkable with a good dose of oak and a hint of vanilla. Although Woodsman is a pale ale, the hops aren’t in your face but are bright, soft and crisp. I can be skeptical about collaborations, but this is a very good beer. If you need any more incentive to try the brew, check out this commercial directed by everyone’s favorite Dothraki chieftain, Jason Momoa. If it’s good enough for Khal Drogo, you know it’s worth a shot.
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