Blue Tractor Brewing Company
207 E Washington St
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Visited on July 30, 2010
Starting from Arbor Brewing Company and walking toward downtown Ann Arbor, Blue Tractor is the second brewpub that you come across on the journey to sample all four. The place has an interesting character, seeing as how it at least looks like the entire place was gutted to include more giant wooden rafters, supports, pillars, and floorboards than would originally be in a building of its type. That is, it’s been made to look more rustic than it probably ever was in its past. It works, however, seeing as the place does indeed give off a nice barn feel. And it actually has decent barbecue – a rarity for the Midwest I’ve found. The weak point comes with the beer. With only four beers on tap and none of them notable, the brew came up well short of the effort put into the location and the food.
For some reason when you do a Google search for brewpubs in Ann Arbor, this place does not appear. So imagine my surprise when I learned there was a fourth brewpub on the street that already had three! The reviews online didn’t sound promising, but I’ll tell you what, it’s like give a mouse a cookie. The folks there have two high-level brewpubs on the same street, and they complain when a newbie comes in and isn’t quite as good. It’s still better than 85% of the places I’ve been to.
You can’t tell from the outside since you’re in downtown Ann Arbor, but the inside has really gone all-out on the western theme. There’s so much wood that it looks like the inside of a converted barn or saloon. The walls, floors, beams, rafters…everything…is wood. There are a few well-spaced plasma televisions and some old country music on the radio. The granite bar is a nice touch, but the ice strip to set your glass on is rather pointless. The place has several rooms sort of compartmentalized to themselves, so it’s tough to tell how many it seats, but it seems like a lot.
I ordered a huge plate of meat and country sides. It came with pulled pork, pulled chicken, brisket, grits, baked beans, coleslaw, and a corn muffin. It was a ton of food. The sides were fantastic. The beans had chunks of bacon in them and the grits were out of this world good. The chicken was moist and perfectly done. Unfortunately, both the pork and brisket were extremely dry. The latter was so dry, in fact, I had to smother it in one of their four varieties of barbecue sauce just to try it. I left most of it on the plate.
There were only six beers on tap and I don’t think they ever have more than that. They were pretty good, though not quite up to Arbor Brewing or Jolly Pumpkin standards, which is why I think it’s gotten a bad rap online.
The pilsner was definitely not German, but it was quite good. Very strong notes of banana and other fruits, smooth and slightly thick. The bock was a buttery amber with some pilsner undertones; almost like a light amber ale without the sweetness. I have no idea what style the NP Siren was supposed to be even after tasting it. It was very different, and maybe for that reason alone, I liked it. The SSR was dark – nearly brown. It was supposed to be smoky, but wasn’t. Very bland and not very good. The IPA was just really bitterly hopped without any backbone and the Archangel was strong just to be strong.
In short, though the first two don’t follow style, they’re still good. The rest is kind of crap.
And the service was decent, though nothing to write home about. I was there alone sort of between lunch and dinner and ended up bored because nobody bothered to talk to me. Oh well.