Tales from the Maker – Mr. Bluesky

There’s a summer tradition that has deep roots in the Michigan beer scene and that’s the highly anticipated release of our beloved seasonal wheat beers. Well times have changed and Michiganders soon demanded that wheat beer options be available year round. Griffin Claw is one of those who heeded the call and now stocks the coolers full time with their summertime favorite, Mr. Bluesky. Without going full hashtag science on you, wheat beers are so welcoming in the summer heat because they have been engineered throughout history to quench ones thirst. They are light bodied, balanced, and refreshing. There isn’t much guesswork within this beer category, if you’re new to the craft beer scene let wheat beers be your beacon if you’re looking for something entry level.

Their appearance is typically golden-orange and very opaque. The high proteins associated in wheat beers give brewers headaches during filtration…so instead of filtering other techniques are implemented to achieve a finished product, but a cloudy one at that. It’s no secret that Americans love a bright, sparkling-clear beer so do not be turned off by any cloudiness, clumps or sediment associated in this category. Wheat beers should never be clear. Be reluctant if a brewer presents you a clear wheat beer (they’re trying too hard). Those high proteins in the wheat help establish an immense white head which is best displayed in a tall slender glass that promotes brisk carbonation delivery of citrus bursts to your nose that is balanced by a house signature spice. This is not a hop heavy beer so do not expect bitterness or floral hop aromas like the pale ale categories. Wheat beers are historically sweet and are associated with summer as many fruits are available during these months. These fruits can be used as garnishes or as an actual ingredient for the brewer. Pro tip: a watermelon spear looks and tastes amazing as a garnish with these beers and your photo just might break the Internet while you’re at it. Many consumers might grab a well known option like Bell’s Oberon to fit the wheat niche. Nothing wrong with that, but I’m encouraging you to branch out and try something different but within the same category. If nothing else, this writing should give you the green light to grab wheat beers when you’re heading off on a picnic or an all day fishing adventure. Day drinking should be executed with strategy my friends. Those imperial IPA’s will have you sweating in the hot summer heat…save those styles for dinner time or as a nightcap.

For your consideration and under my high recommendation I present you Mr. Bluesky by the fine brewers at Griffin Claw. This one checks a lot of boxes without overdoing anything nor trying to gimmick the customer with silly ingredients. This is an all day pleaser at 4.5% ABV. It has a light bitterness but perhaps perfectly balanced at just 10 IBU’s. Going with old school tradition they’re using a fair amount of coriander as an appropriate ingredient but they also throw in grapefruit peel as a signature flavor. The grapefruit is perfect and adds a slight overall bitterness that helps harmonize the sweetness. This beer is “at one”. And when I say that I mean that it is balanced and VERY drinkable. Maybe grab an extra 4-pack as this beer is a crowd pleaser. For instance, I had my father try this beer as I wanted his input, and less than two minutes later it was…gone. I quipped to him, “the only thing you didn’t do was stomp on it as if you were a hammer”. We laughed and then he quickly whimpered “May I have another?”

One quick note about Griffin Claw as a company before I pair this beer with our cheese…this is a truly astonishing company. I embarrassingly had not done my research on them before they had me on a private tour. I knew their beer was great but as soon as I stepped foot on campus I was immediately blown away. Inside their brewery, which resembled a giant airplane hangar, they had rows and rows of gorgeous little fermenters designated for research and development, they had another whole room dedicated to cider, another for distilling, another for sour beers! You get the idea…they touch on all the arts of fermentation. This is as cool as it gets and actually gave me pause if I’d consider being a professional brewer once again. What’s just as cool is their approach to being sustainable. Pretty much all breweries harp on the idea that they’re being sustainable and earth friendly. And sadly it’s not true. Breweries use a massive amount of water and natural resources to make beer. To grow hops and barley it takes even more resources. It’s up to us, the makers, to produce in sustainable practice so our arts can be performed in the future. The guys at Griffin Claw are using methods that I never thought I’d see on the craft brewing level. Incorporating equipment like hammer mills, mash press filters and even CO2 recovery systems. They are setting the bar high. These guys don’t just make great beer but are leaders for the future of craft beer. Their leadership is bold and their brewers execute a high level plan with precision and purpose. My hat’s off to you.

Now, what’s the best cheeses to pair with wheat beers. I’ve been researching this and come to find out wheat beers are a perfect little companions to feta and other goat cheeses. We have an excellent feta made right in house in which the salty dense cheese will pair ideally. If you haven’t tried our feta please consider. I’ve never reached for feta in the past but just got a chance at a fresh batch and let me tell you this is something worth reaching for. Just remember to let it come up to room temperature before serving, the flavors are much more prevalent when ambient. Jerry, our Head Cheesemaker, and our in-house foodie Lana, both suggested that the mild citrusy flavor of our Lincoln Log cheese might pair well with Mr. Bluesky. So I gave it a go and presented an offering to my family and everyone was thrilled. The grapefruit peel in the beer married perfectly with the citrusy notes developed in our cheese.
Lincoln Log out of package
Our Lincoln Log’s are a soft-ripened cheese that we hand roll and press into four inch logs. At birth, we inoculate this cheese with penicillium candidum, this is the same mold that gives Brie its firm and gorgeous bloomy white rind. These logs are then hand turned and monitored daily until the desired creamy texture arrives. It’s a unique cheese aesthetically so I think it brings added dimension to a cheeseboard.

Thank you for allowing me to deep dive into one of my favorite beer styles. This brought back fond memories when I was just a kid brewing in Battle Creek making a long lost recipe called Whitsun. There’s an old saying around these parts, “Drink Michigan Beer”. Well while you’re at it; Eat Michigan Cheese and have a beautiful Michigan summer!

-Bo Lytle

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