Monday, August 2, 2010

"Waiter, There Is A Ephemeroptera In My 800th Beer"

Sundays in the waning weeks of summer can be a crapshoot. If I'm not working, anything goes.  But it is not out of line to suggest my spare time might involve a beer or a bug.  Yesterday, I managed both in one shot at the Frankenmuth Brewery.

Oh, but we did not head there straightaway...

For years, I have been hearing about an Native American site in the "thumb"  by Bad Axe administered by the Michigan State Parks.  While I doubt many lay persons would spend hours there, the Sanilac Petroglyphs are worth a stop if you are in area.  The 1,000 square foot sandstone chunk was discovered by locals in the late 19th century after fires swept through the region.  Intricate designs clearly showed that the  locals of the region were not the first to find this particular rock.  Images including animal tracks, handprints (you can see it in the picture), a bowhunter, spirals, and what are now unknown carvings were etched in to the soft rock.  Unfortunately, erosion is taking its toll.  Despite the shelter that has been built over it, these carvings, which may be 1,000 years old, are likely to be gone in the next few decades.  Fortunately for us, staff was on site and we were able to get behind the locked gate. No, you can't walk on it (that would be stupid), but we could walk right up to it. Very cool.

From there, Frankenmuth is about an hour away. Yes, the same town that gives you world famous chicken dinners, Christmas 361 days a year, and more German vibrations than a loose strut on a Volkwagon, is also home to a new, and simultaneously old, brewery.

The Frankenmuth Brewery, fires, and tornadoes don't play nice.  After operating for over a century under various owners beginning in 1862, the brewery basically met its end in 1987.  A fire destroyed most of the place.  Literally rising from the ashes, it was basically wiped out (again) by an F3 tornado in 1996. After re-opening, it closed, only to be re-opened (again). Today, in 2010, is seems to be doing quite well...for now.  

Such crazy history made it a great place to enjoy another milestone beer and a few extras.  The Cass River Blonde, Hefeweizen, Pilsner, English IPA, Batch 69 American IPA, Red Sky Ale, and Oktoberfest (#795-#801) were all on tap and served up in quaint little glasses.  I scored them all a three out of five. None of them were bad, but by the same token, they didn't provide any spark for my wienerschnitzel.  The Hefe did not have a hint of cloudiness (something that I thought was a standard for the style).  Plus, I was down right confused by the Oktoberfest.  In July?  I thought only Bronner's showed a blatant disregard for the calendar. 

But a peculiar little event occured that made this trip and my 800th beer so memorable.  

After taking some sips of the Red Sky Ale, you might imagine my surprise when my tablemate told me to look into my beer.

Yes, there was an uninvited guest in my 800th beer.  Part-time bug guy that I am, I knew right away what I was dealing with.  No, not two critters - one critter and it's recently shed skin....

Ephemeroptera (eff-ehm-err-OP-tera), or Mayflies, are the cool little beasties that bust out for one wild and crazy night, "fun" during the early summer. Their entire life is all in the name of one wild orgy on the waterfront which ultimately leads to millions of little mayfly eggs getting dumped into the water.  The following year, about the same time, it all happens again. 

Unlike other insects, the adult form (the imago) is not the only life stage capable of flight. The stage before, the sub-imago, can fly, too. So, the larvae sheds his skin, and becomes the sub-imago, and then some time later, sheds again.  Butterflies? Beetles? Nope. Only the adult stage can fly.   That is why my beer has two floaties - the one of the left is the actual insect (the imago) while the one on the right is the shed skin of the sub-imago.

Sad to say, this fellow could not even enjoy the beer.  The adult  doesn't have a mouth. Yup, no mouth.  That "they only live for a day" notion regarding their lifespan is a bit misleading.   No, they don't live for a day - they live for about a day as an adult but spend months in the water as a nymph.  Basically, they fly around, have sex, dump eggs, and die.  Who needs a mouth?

So, there it was, in my 800th beer and it couldn't even taste it.  I did.  Yes, I simply picked it out and drank it. What is the big deal? It's probably cleaner than the silverware, right? Besides, there are people that drink the worm at the bottom of a bottle of tequila.  After snapping the above picture, he/she went off on his/her merry way looking for a willing partner before he/she bellied up in the Cass River. 

(In case you are wondering, this whole Frankenmuth trip was inspired by an iPhone app called Groupon.  In short, everyday, I get an email with a reduced price coupon for something in the metro-Detroit area.  While I don't do my nails and certainly have no need for a barber, the savings, sometimes in the range of 50% or more, can also include places to eat and other entertainment stuff.  Pretty cool. Check it out.  I don't recall the details for the Frankenmuth coupon, but it was basically free samples, tons of food, and take-home pint glasses for $10.00.)

After a peaceful evening of photography around town, we were home by 10:30. 

On to 900.......

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