Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

September 30, 2014

Beer Diary:

Baby-Boy’s Brewery Visit: The Round Barn Winery, Distillery, and Brewery

This western Michigan’s beers—and spirits—are worth checking out.
by Baby-Boy Jackson

Baby-Boy Jackson is just here for the beer.
Contact Baby-Boy»
When beer dorks think of beers in Western Michigan, the most common thought is Bell’s Brewery, but if you take Exit 6 off I-94, you can find a hidden gem in the Round Barn Winery, Distillery, and Brewery.

Now, the pairing of a winery and brewery raises the specter of fruity concoctions being passed off as beers, but Round Barn is good at keeping their beverages separate and honest. At the tasting room in Baroda, Michigan, there are two buildings. In the front is a fancy building that might be described as having an airy feel with high ceilings and good natural light. So, when you visit, make sure you walk around the side to the lower, darker building out back where the beer is. The room is a long, narrow space with a bar and stacks of six packs.

Visitors can do a tasting by buying wooden nickels to get a taster of each beer. My first one was of the Wood IPA. It is a floral, fragrant beer, with enough bitterness to allow any IPA fan to glower at the flowers. It was a good IPA, if that is your thing.

Next up was the Oronoko Cocoa Stout. Oronoko is the name of the local township, and the brewery says that Orinoco refers to the South American river basin where it gets the chocolate for this beer. (“Orinoco Flow” is an Enya song from the early 1990s, and you should probably be embarrassed for singing it in your head right now.) This was a good full bodied stout, and it was dry despite the chocolate flavor. It would be easy to tip this over into a sweet beer, especially given that the beer is brewed with lactose, but the brewers wisely restrained themselves.

“Orinoco Flow” is an Enya song from the early 1990s, and you should probably be embarrassed for singing it in your head right now.
Round Barn also produces a nice easy drinking K├Âlsch that would be a good lawnmower beer. It was light and clean. Though at 5.2 percent ABV, it stands up as a regular beer.

Now, as you would expect, microbrewers are proud of their beers, and they want to make sure that you taste the best they have to offer. Since Round Barn has more than just beer to offer, the staff there wants you to try everything that they produce. Joe, our friendly bartender, told me to make sure to hold onto at least one nickel to try the bourbon, once I told him I was interested. As I hesitated between clenching it in my tiny fist and forking it over to try the “Bob’s Your Uncle” session beer (4.8 percent ABV), he poured me just enough to get a taste without forcing me to buy a whole next round that would have made it a lot harder to drive. Bob’s is what you would expect from a straight forward session beer. It was not overly bitter, but it had its share of hops and a good full flavor.

Round Barn started out by making wine, but it moved into beer and then into spirits. Michigan has become a hops producing state, and Round Barn tries to use local hops for its beers as much as possible. The place has been brewing for over a decade. It started doing local brews for weddings, but moved into bottling over time.

It has also been aging some of its product into spirits. While most of the readers of this site are beer people, if you can appreciate a good bourbon, then try the DiVine Bourbon. It has a smooth flavor, with a bit of warmth when it finally makes it to your belly. It’s got a clean flavor that lingers a bit. I took home a couple of bottles of this, along with some of the beer, and have made good cocktails with it. They also produce vodka and rum.

Round Barn’s beers are available in Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois, and worth asking for when you are in those states. The spirits can only be purchased in their tasting rooms, of which they have three. If you are road-tripping through Western Michigan, make sure to add Round Barn to your itinerary.

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

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