On our Fall road trip, the one brewpub that really captured my imagination was The Livery in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Benton Harbor is a economically depressed, blighted community and I applaud owner and head brewer Steve Berthel for his dedication to help revitalize the area. We stopped into the below street level bar on a Sunday night to find 3 cask ales on hand pumps (they have a really strong cask program with 3 real ales at all times), a gravity poured Wee Heavy from a pin on the counter, 3 or 4 lagers, an oak aged cider, a black IPA, a Belgian IPA, an English IPA, a house produced Sangiovese and (2) 12+%abv barrel aged-mixed fermentation monsters: Impeche (aged with peaches) and Verchuosity (aged with cherries). Both of the mixed fermentation beers were revelatory: for me, these high abv, acidic, wood aged beers are the pinnacle of vintage brewing. The alcohol and acid can preserve these beers for decades.
Theses two beers, along with such other fine examples as: DeDolle's Oerbier Special Reserva and Stille Nacht Special Reserva, Rodenbach's Vin de Cereale, Lost Abbey's Cuvee de Tomme, BFM Bon Chien, Deschute's The Dissident, Jolly Pumpkin's Noel, Fantome's Noel and Russian River's Consecration have informed my own brewing and inspired a few of my own high alcohol mixed fermentation beers.
With the assistant brewer Wally as our host, we drank through their stocks and talked well past closing. The relaxed brewpub is a hub of the community and hosts regular music and yoga in their upstairs performance space. The unbound ambition, creativity and hospitality at the Livery is evident and infectious. Go now...and please, bring back a few growlers for me.