Walk into Dark Horse Brewing Company in Marshall, Mich., and you may immediately feel like a local. It’s likely the first thing you’ll notice is the welcoming, albeit sassy, staff. Look up, and you’ll see 4,000 ceramic mugs hanging over your head, one for each member of the Dark Horse mug club. Every mug is handmade in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and hangs from the ceiling in the taproom. “It kind of makes its own little ceiling,” said Owner and Brewer Aaron Morse. It’s a homey place.
If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the twelve states where Dark Horse is currently distributed, you’ve probably already had Dark Horse Crooked Tree I.P.A., a hoppy ale that’s as drinkable as they come.
You may have to make a special trip to the Marshall taproom to try their Bourbon Barrel Aged Plead the 5th Imperial Stout. This delicious annual release is brewed with a top secret root.
If you haven’t tried it yet, figure out a way to taste Perkulator Coffee Dopplebock. This lager brewed with fare trade organic coffee from The Ugly Mug Cafe in Ypsilanti, Mich. is such an interesting take on a classic style. Perkulator is the brewery’s only distributed lager, and it might just twist your idea of what a dopplebock can be.
Dark Horse got its start in 1997 as a brewpub, but then closed two years later in 1999. Since moving locations and re-opening in 2000, Dark Horse has been making a splash in the Michigan beer scene. Morse said the original seven-barrel system was recently decommissioned and upgraded to a 20-barrel JB Northwest brewhouse.
Dark Horse continues to expand and grow with demand. Morse prides himself on creating beers for the people rather than beers to match a style. Although he’s won his share of awards and accolades, Morse doesn’t boast: “I brew beers for people to drink, not to win medals.”
Michael Ludwig is a Cicerone® Certified Beer Server, with four+ years homebrewing experience. He holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University, and has completed the Siebel Institute’s Concise Course to Brewing Technology, a 4-month brewery internship. He currently writes the blog Man Beer School for a blog for the Chicago organization Man B Que.