Brewery Reviewery: A taste of the MBC

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One of the best things about moving to Michigan was the beer.

Before, I had no idea just how many quality breweries (and wineries, and distilleries and cideries) Michigan had. One such brewery, Midland Brewing Company (MBC), located at 5011 N. Saginaw in Midland, is one of several in the Tri-City area. MBC has been making beer since 2010 and opened its restaurant in February.

I sat outside, as it was a beautiful afternoon. I did notice the attractive indoor dining area, where patrons have a clear view into the functioning brewery as well as a wide-open kitchen.

From the start, the service was fast and friendly.

The brewery’s outdoor dining area actually opens right up to the Pere Marquette Rail Trail. Its lawn includes a fire pit, lawn games, bike racks and a bandstand for musicians.

The food menu is a mix of barbecue classics, Asian fusion dishes and various authentic-sounding German sausages, all with helpful beer pairings. I went solidly in the fusion direction and ordered their Korean-fried chicken wings, the Spicy Peanut Butter Burger and a sampler flight of beers.

The Korean chicken wings were an interesting fusion spin on the classic bar food. They were breaded in a lighter, panko-style mix that, along with the sweet red chili glaze, created a more crispy and delicate skin than standard wings. The sauce itself was quite tasty, but it felt a little weak-flavored. Simply increasing the intensity of the sauce’s flavor could make these wings some of my favorite ever.

The Spicy Peanut Butter Burger struck me similarly: a well-crafted item with some inspired flavor choices, but just short of genius. The kitchen nailed the burger itself, perfectly medium-rare on a soft and fresh brioche bun. Where it gets really interesting is the eponymous peanut butter that tops the patty, along with caramelized onion, guacamole and spicy kimchee sauce.

The peanut butter, onions and kimchee sauces work together to create the sort of savory, spicy and nutty flavors found so often in Thai sauces. The guacamole, however, didn’t add much to the burger, aside from bringing down the heat of the already pretty mild kimchee sauce.

My four beer choices drew from each section of the beer menu, and I ended up with a wheat beer, an IPA, a fruit beer and a stout. Their Lumberjack Brawl wheat beer struck me as similar to Blue Moon, except good, with more depth and bitter notes. The Juicin’ Jack fruit beer’s juice-like flavor is upfront and apparent, but it is well-balanced by a whole lot of other hoppy flavors going on. The Brothers IPA is as crisp as advertised, but it doesn’t have much else going on. And finally, the Dublin Street Stout. Here, MBC’s strategy of not taking unnecessary risks totally pays off. Dublin Street is exactly what a stout should be: smooth, smoky, creamy and full-flavored.

Midland Brewing Company is a great place to end a walk or ride on the Rail Trail while the weather is still nice. While some of the risks they take don’t pan out, the menu innovates enough to be interesting for return visits, and the chef’s and brewmaster’s talent ensures those visits will be quality every time.