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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Michigan's Little Bavaria

"Chug" Dorda
In his first offering to the new blog, Siciliano's staffer Doug Dorda records events from a weekend spent with friends and family in the historic town of Frankenmuth. They drank beer, they ate cheese, they bought a puppy. From what we understand, it was a pretty typical weekend for the Dorda clan.

In the deepest doldrums of winter it can often be difficult to look outside and find a reason for joy. So it was with an adventurous heart that I sought to break the mold of the mundane and dive head-first into the most abundant annoyance the winter has to offer: snow. Though the quaint destination of Frankenmuth, Michigan may seem best frequented in the brilliant summer months, it's worth seeing in winter, too, especially during the annual snow fest, which is hosted by local chicken aficionados, Zehnders. The festival is centered around the art of ice and snow sculpting, and never ceases to amaze. The entirety of the historic village is adorned with ice- and snow-art of a breathtaking caliber that is sure to delight both families and art buffs alike. The town is also peppered with Bavarian nostalgia and filled with shops of all kinds, none so intriguing as the legendary Cheese Hause, which will make even the most discerning foodie salivate with culinary possibility. To be steeped in a universe of such undeniable cultural influence is truly a unique experience.

I stayed the weekend in Frakenmuth with my parents and several close friends at the enchanting Bavarian Inn, famous for it’s multiple pools and entertainment options that accommodate any age group. Within minutes of unpacking it was time for the first round of drinks (designed to stave off the chill during our outdoor romp), and then we were off to the town square. Just a few moments walk from the hotel and we were already glimpsing a wonderful display of snow sculptures ranging from a broken light bulb to an incredibly detailed shipwreck scene. The “warming” drinks seemed to have had a bit more "warming" effect on my father, for it was no more than ten minutes into our walk that he fell in love with and then decided to purchase a puppy. Rather impulsive I admit, but really, who can resist a puppy. With my new brother Max in my arms we set off again – this time to the ice sculptures. Between the constant requests of nearly every tourist to pet the puppy, I was able to discern that the ice and snow work was stunning in craftsmanship and detail.
"Max" Dorda

Although the puppy was unbelievably cute, I decided to hand him to my father so that my friends and I could “warm up” once again. With swift feet we sought out the Frankenmuth Brewing Company (a legendary establishment, with a tumultuous history, worthy of its own blog). It was quite possibly one of the most beautiful restaurant/breweries I have ever seen. Given the chance to go back again, I could more accurately depict its stunning d├ęcor and warming ("warming") atmosphere, but my friends and I were single-minded and thirsty so the details will have to wait. Enter the munich dunkel, heffeweizen, and baltic porter, each a fine beverage indicative of its style. They paired perfectly with the local ambiance, and the magic of drinking German beer while in that particular town cannot be truly explained or overstated. However, it's important to remember that when enjoyed too quickly, carbonated beverages often result in hiccups (Here's a tip for you: eating snow so that it becomes water is not an effective way to rid oneself of hiccups. Trust me, we tried.).

Feeling quite warm and sated, it was off to the Cheese Hause to fulfill the wishes of the gourmet in our hearts. Once we were able to tear our eyes away from the 7- to 12-year-old cheddars, we split from one another to ogle in peace and seclusion. Settling on some aged moldy cheeses and a dozen or so meat sticks, we again set forth, intent on one last destination: The Lager Mill.

The Mill is a remnant of the historic site of the Brewing Company. It has since been transformed into a wonderful bottle shop, and will eventually house a beer museum sure to pique the interests of beer geek and domestic drinker alike. The store is designed by beer lovers for beer lovers, offering everything from Michigan-made micros to German-, Belgian-, and domestically-produced micros in an impressive array. Finally leaving the store after what seemed a lifetime of contemplative thought, we made it back to the hotel. The doors swung open and we were greeted by a host of family and friends with libations in hand. It felt as though our room itself was a German beer hall. Food was in abundance, beer flowed like water, and there was no shortage of conversation and laughter. Fireworks blazed in the sky as the night wore on and our “warmth” grew into full inebriation. My father and mother led us in a chorus of oooohs and ahhhs as the finale of the fireworks lit the sky. The night ended with spirited--if not correctly played--games of scattegories and charades. All in all it was one of the better weekend trips I have had in some time, and I guarantee my friends and family in attendance will agree.

The winter is often viewed as a season to stay shut indoors and forget the inconvenience that so often coats the ground. Most of you are people who find grand luxury in the simple sip of a beer; I propose extending the same mindset toward the winter season. Frankenmuth is a wonderful place to brave the cold, enjoy a meal, drink a beer, travel through time, or simply enjoy the company of your family and friends. Only a short distance from Grand Rapids, or merely hours from most parts of the state, it is a must see in any season. Did I mention they also host the world expo of beer in the summer? Something to think about….


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