ML's Soul of Detroit: Talking suds with Free Press beer writer Robert Allen

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I've always believed being a government watchdog was the best job in Detroit - but beer critic Bob Allen just may have me beat.

Still, even though he brought the beers, my podcast crew didn't let him dodge the tough questions.

Marc Fellhauer: "What's one of the most unusual things you've seen someone put in beer?"

Bob Allen: "How about this one. This is Foster's Banana from Offside. recently released. it's a barrel aged imperial ale brewed with lactose aged in bourbon barrels with bananas, brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. 

ML Elrick: "Ok, so stop it. Just make beer. Don't put every piece of (blank) you've got in the fridge and put into a bottle. Make me a beer!"


"Mangalitsa Pig Porter" from Right Brain," said Allen.

Elrick: "They put a head of a pig in the beer?"

"Yeah," Allen said.

"Don't - you're not going to open that one here, are you?" Elrick said.

Bob Allen landed in Detroit five years ago, developing a fondness for local suds.  So he created the "Spirits of Detroit" column (get it) and has been opining on beer and breweries ever since.

If that sounds like a dream job, think again.

"I've probably put on like 30 pounds," Allen said. "I was doing P90x when I started drinking beer, I was fit, I was trim."

Ok, so it really is a dream job -- and here's just one of the many reasons: 

Elrick: "Don't you just have a sip, swish it out drink some water and try the next one?"

"That's for wine tasters," he said. "Beer drinkers swallow the beer." 

Elrick: "If we want to have a very Detroit beer experience, what's your prescription doctor?"
"I think we had one the other night - I think you can't go wrong going into Corktown," Allen said. "There's still a couple bars - I don't know if you call them dive bars - but they're a little grungier where you can still get the easy drinking yard beers and then you can still stroll over to Brew Detroit and the Batch Brewing Company, great breweries within walking distance. "

"Very unpretentious," Elrick said.

Bob got a few things off his chest in his farewell column, which you can find at we couldn't let him head off to Colorado without checking in on a few of his favorites ... 
"Bell's Two Hearted. It seems clichéd, obviously, that is such a damned good beer," he said. "It's just consistent, it is great, 100 percent centennial hops, and the depth of flavor they get out of that beer is just phenomenal.

"If you want to go to a place and try everything from Michigan, a lot of the really, fresh, best stuff, you can't do better than Hop Cat," Allen said. "I really like what they do at Griffin Claw. When you order a big flight they have a skateboard that they drill holes in and it's filled with glasses of beer."

To hear Bob's assessment of the beer industry's health and his vision for its future, check out ML's Soul of Detroit podcast You’ll also get to listen in on a spirited debate over the merit of yard beers vs craft beers.