A few weeks ago, our friend Todd Abrams posted a blog entry, “A Splendid Pint: Hand-pulled Two Hearted Ale,” at Swigs, a site that he operates jointly with another friend, Evan Hansen. (Swigs is devoted to “Observations on nature, drinks in all forms and the nature of drinks in all forms,” sentiments that we can surely get behind. Abrams is also a contributing writer with the Metro Times in its Food and Drink section.) In it, he explains how “hand pulled” beers and ales are manually pumped, less carbonated and less chilled than your average draft. In Great Britain (and now, at least to some extent, in the craft beer community in this country as well), these are referred to as “real ales,” another concept that we can get behind, given our penchant for “real wine.”
Todd waxed rapturously about the Bell’s Two Hearted Ale (brewed in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for the uninitiated) being served in this manner at the Berkley Front brew pub in Berkley, Michigan, and I meant to get over there right away to give it a try, but sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake. Ironically, his commentary served as inspiration to order up the standard Two Hearted Ale on draft at Amici’s a week or so later; perhaps just as ironic is the fact that Amici’s is right down the street from “the Front.”
Fast forward to late last week, when I got a message from Mr. Abrams that the hand pulled Two Hearted was back at the Front, and this time, I wasn’t going to miss out. It had been quite a while since I’d last been to this establishment, maybe as long as 10 years. Walk in the place and at first, you’d think you were in any other old school neighborhood bar that serves burgers and Pabst Blue Ribbon (actually, they DO serve burgers and Pabst Blue Ribbon), and then, you take a gander behind the bar and get a load of the 42 tappers, which pour a variety of drafts ranging from craft selections produced by Michigan breweries to beers from around the country to imports.
I ordered up a pint of Two Hearted Ale for $5.50 and asked the hipster tending bar to tell me a little about hand pulled ales. He told me essentially the same things I had already read in Todd’s blog, so I sat and sipped mine for about 25 minutes, watching the Pistons get hammered by the Magic with the sound off and the juke box playing jazz and The Pretenders. I only stayed for one, because I had no one to swap tall tales with, and while the place wasn’t terribly smoky, any smoke is too much for me these days if there isn’t enough entertainment to compensate for even that mild annoyance. (The live music in the Dean Martini Lounge upstairs hadn’t started yet.)
Did I enjoy the hand pulled Two Hearted Ale? Absolutely, it does everything for me that I want from a good (in this case, very good) IPA. Did I like it better than the regular draft version? I can’t say that I did. Perhaps it’s my conditioning, but I like a little more carbonation that the standard version has to offer, but if I had a steady diet of the hand pulled, who knows, maybe I’d change my tune.
Case in point; I’m sitting there sipping away with pleasure, when a couple of Brits walk in and stand next to me whilst ordering. One bloke calls out for a Guinness and the other arsks what IPAs are available. The bar tender first poured him a short taste of Founders Centennial IPA (brewed in Grand Rapids), not a bad selection by any means. He then followed that up with a sample of the Two Hearted, and I mentioned to the gent that it was what I had in my glass and that I quite enjoyed it. He took a sip, expressed his satisfaction and uttered, “Oh yeah, I’ll have one of these.” And so it goes.
For another take on hand pulled “real ales,” check out this blog entry by “Jonathon” at We Are Never Full.
Reporting from Day-twah,