Big Buck Brewery & Steakhouse
Gaylord, MI

Style: Blond Ale
ABV: 5.2%
Big Buck Brewery & Steakhouse in Gaylord is a bit of a Michigan-enigma. They were one of the early players in Michigan, dating back to 1995 when their huge “beer” bottles (grain silos painted to look like bottles) served as a lighthouse for Northern Michigan travelers heading north on I-75. They also operated satellite brewpubs in Grand Rapids, metro Detroit and Texas for a time and employed numerous brewers over the years. In fact, they were one of the entities pushing to change Michigan law to allow brewery owners to operate multiple locations, something not allowed under the original brewpub and microbrewery licenses.

Their beers were by and large “training wheel” brews – nothing too extreme, in an effort to attract “mainstream” beer drinkers and their food was an ode to the carnivore who liked his protein cooked thoroughly.

I stopped by their flagship location on a recent trip to Mackinac Island and was pleased to discover that original brewer and manager Scott Graham was back at the helm. A large figure in the Michigan beer scene, Graham has also served numerous roles as a brewer, distributor, and leader. Since 2007, he’s also served as Executive Director of the Michigan Brewers’ Guild.

They only had a half dozen brews on tap – down from their usual dozen or so – but each was much improved from previous experiences.

Their starter brew was their Big Buck, and American style ale with corn in the mash, replicating an American light lager. It has surprising mouth feel with a fruity, creamed corn nose. It was nonetheless pleasant. Pouring a light straw color, with a thin head, it finished crisp with the faintest of hop bite. A “light” beer, no doubt, it was still better than almost any canned swill and actually tasted like beer.

This is a fair effort and great place for any commercial beer drinker to start.