Me “hitchhiking” to the 2011 Michigan Brewer’s Guild Summer Beer Festival – my pack was full of water glaciers, vitamin water, snacks and rain gear
I may not be able to tell the difference between a centennial and cascade hop, tell you who’s brewing beer for Bell’s these days, explain the difference between a dubbel and a trippel, or win the exciting beer- drinking game “identify the yeast strain.” But I can tell you this – I’ve set foot inside 67 percent of Michigan’s brewpubs and microbreweries and have enjoyed beer in each one of them.
I’ve been around our “Great Beer State,” from the far reaches of the Upper Peninsula to the urban jungles of The D and the quirky backwoods and touristy towns of Northern Michigan. And I have lots of local favorite haunts as well.
For lack of a better description, I am a “beer tourist.” I am not a beer connoisseur or expert, but I am a lover of great beer. I attend beer festivals and tastings, and feel like a kid with a fake ID in a candy store when I’m sampling flights of beers I haven’t tried before or tasting experimental brews at a beer festival. This blog is simply a summary of every single craft beer-brewing place I’ve visited in Michigan, riddled with anecdotes, suggestions of things to do in the area, personal memories, and more. Settle in, folks, and make sure you know where to find your bar towel.
I launched my beer exploration odyssey in about 1998, after being turned on by hard cider, which made me belch like a trucker, and thus made me fit in with the guys far better than I would if I sipped a fuzzy navel or cosmopolitan. Though belching is not strictly the province of men, as my accountant friend Jen could prove to you. I still enjoy mixing hard cider half-and-half with stout as a “Black Velvet,” or whatever other sexy name you please. Guess you could say hard cider was my “gateway drug” for eventually becoming the consummate beer lover that I am today. One night my buddy Sam Straight (now a home brewer and member of the Ann Arbor Brewer’s Guild) offered me a Blue Moon at his house and from that point on, the rest is history. I thought, “If this beer is good, there have to be other beers out there that are great, too.”
And thus my journey across Michigan’s beer universe began. Special thanks go out to Sam for helping turn me on to beer, my dear friends for enabling me in my malty habit, and all of those hard-working bartenders out there (please tip them very well and treat them all with patience and kindness). Last but not least, thanks to my beloved husband, best friend, life partner and fellow beer lover Mike, who because of his tendency to back-seat drive and inability to navigate worth a damn, served as my pilot on almost all of our beer adventures. Bless him! Most importantly, he can hold his beer much better than I, and he so enjoys listening to me bark out orders as I read the maps guiding us to our different destinations. He really does enjoy it. Just ask him, he grew up in a military household.
The Michigan Beer Guide has continued to be my steadfast guide in visiting great beer places. My husband Mike and I decided to combine our love of beer and our love of traveling across the state and proceeded to begin checking off places in Michigan that make and serve their own craft beer. Let’s say we’re doing a Pictured Rocks vacation or going to visit my brother in Houghton? Let’s see which brewpubs and microbreweries we can visit while we’re up in da U.P.!
Starting from the top – Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
If you’re a first-time visitor to the Upper Peninsula and love the outdoors, Tahquamenon Falls Brewery near Paradise is a great place to start. Why? Because all you have to do is visit the delightful state park of the same name (with Lower Falls, Upper Falls and Rivermouth units) to get to this place, plus it’s only a couple of hours away from the Mackinac Bridge. Its beer is easy-drinking, and you can’t beat the novelty of being able to enjoy the best waterfalls this side of the Niagara AND have a beer at the same time. The fried pickles are so tasty after a hot summer hike! You do have to replace some body salts, right? Other menu items include appetizers, sandwiches, entrees, and as is required at any restaurant in the UP, whitefish! In the summer, expect hordes of tourists, but in the winter, expect snowmobilers, skiers and fewer tourists. Particularly memorable was when burly guys in snowmobile suits serenaded my husband on his birthday in 2010 after the bar staff found out it was his birthday. On New Year’s Eve, we each got a free beer because Mike was nice enough to head outside to the bitter U.P. winter cold to help move a guy’s truck that got stuck in a snow bank. Visit the Upper Falls section of the state park and check out this brewpub! Just as a warning, it may be extremely busy in the summer months, so be prepared to wait for a table. Since there isn’t another place to get craft beer brewed on premises for miles around, you might as well browse the souvenir shops, take in the scenery and enjoy the wait. You’ll soon what U.P. hospitality is all about!
Me in a standard touristy photo spot at Tahquamenon Falls
About an hour north of the Big Mac (Mackinac Bridge) via I-75, in downtown Sault Ste. Marie is Soo Brewing Company, which opened in 2011. They have run out of beer on busy nights, are always running out of growlers and have an active Facebook presence. Running out of beer means people are coming in to drink their beer, and that’s because it tastes good! When we visited in August, 2011 Soo Brewing had a nicely complex Irish red, an organic pale ale (made with grains from a local natural grocery) and a blonde on their taps and from what their updates on Facebook tell me, their selections continue to vary. When you come here, you’ll probably notice the bench-style seating and long tables, which encourage patrons to have to mingle with one another. A bar employee told us the furniture was made in Germany and was intended to give the place a “beer hall” look. I have a good feeling about this place and believe it to be a rising star in Michigan’s beer universe. I truly wish it well! Give them some support, you’ll be glad you did!
Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie
While you’re in Sault Ste. Marie, stroll down the street and watch the freighters go through the locks. It’s free, relaxing, and a great chance to see freighters up close and personal. As any U.P. resident or “Yooper” will tell you, freighter spotting is one of their versions of the “I Spy” game. You can even try waving at the freighter crew, but don’t be insulted if they don’t wave back. If you have the right documentation and are feeling particularly bold, or rich, check out the casinos on the other side of the International Bridge. Expect city -style parking and bring some change if you have to feed a meter in Sault Ste. Marie.
Though Soo Brewing is a fairly easy stop off I-75, most of the other U.P. stops are more out of the way. Lake Superior Brewing Company in Grand Marais is one of those. This is a great place for whitefish, lovely Lake Superior scenery and of course cold craft beer! We stopped in after a three-day backpacking trip in 2006 and demolished a whitefish dinner coupled with salad bar, and of course, beer (of which we brought a growler back to camp). We learned later that the brewery played host to possible witnesses of a crime! Anyone remember that case where that guy supposedly pushed his wife off the cliffs of Pictured Rocks? According to published reports, a group of teachers dining at the pub talked about hearing an argument leading up to the “fall” and that police were looking for them. Thomas David Richardson of McBain is currently serving a life sentence for killing his wife, Juanita Richardson. If you’re planning to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, this is a great place to stop, whether you’re planning to push your loved ones off a cliff or not. Grand Marais also has become an easier town to visit in recent years because of a massive road paving project connecting it to Munising.
Me along the North Country Trail in Pictured Rocks, 2006
My favorite area of the U.P. is also the area that is “way up there.” Turn your left hand, knuckle side facing you, and extend the pinky finger away while keeping the other fingers together. That’s the Keweenaw Peninsula, in the “I use my hand to show where things are in MI” game. Here, you’ll find abandoned copper mines, beautiful lakeshore drives, a delicious bakery run by monks, waterfalls, quirky small towns and of course, places to drink great beer.
View of mural from Keweenaw Brewing Company’s deck
Craft beer places in the Keweenaw include the aptly named Keweenaw Brewing Company, known as “KBC” to the locals, in downtown Houghton, home to Michigan Technological University (and my brother and his family). If driving up there to visit my brother, sister-in-law and wonderful niece is not enough to convince you to come this far, KBC pints are always happy hour priced just $3 (though I can remember when they were only $2)! Their beers are mostly of the easy-drinking variety, but be sure to check their rotating taps for more experimental fare that they don’t distribute. Though they don’t serve food, you’re welcome to bring in your own take-out fare. I’ve visited this place quite frequently, and it’s pretty sweet in the summer to sit out the back deck, where you can see the Portage Lake canal and the “lift bridge,” for which one of KBC’s beers is named. This place can get quite busy when college is in session. I guarantee this won’t be like any college town you’ve ever visited, and it has an eclectic selection of stores – even a “head shop.” If you’re planning a trip to Isle Royale National Park, one of the boat ferries heading out there, The Ranger, launches from Houghton.
Also in Houghton is The Library (no web site), a restaurant/brewpub combo,just a short walk away from KBC. Here, you can expect a full food menu with salads, appetizers, sandwiches and dinner entrees. Expect city-style parking in Houghton, public ramps and lots are fairly plentiful, and street parking is available as well. Be watchful of the town’s one-way streets (some of which are made of cobblestone).
A must-visit destination is The Jampot in Eagle Harbor, about 40 minutes north of Houghton. Though they don’t serve beer, the baked goods and unique preserves crafted by monks are truly intoxicating (and would probably pair nicely with a Belgian, porter or a stout)! Be sure to call ahead or check online for hours of operation, since they’re a seasonal operation, though they offer mail order year-round. The sugar cookies with almonds in center are simply divine, as are the hermit cookies and dandelion jelly.
Nestled in the middle of the Keweenaw pinky is the Red Jacket Brewing Company in Calumet. Officially named the Michigan House Cafe and Restaurant, it’s primarily a full-menu restaurant (their house-made vegetarian burger was among the most unique I’d ever tasted) that serves small batches of house brews. However, its selection of Michigan and imported beers was quite impressive. It’s in a very historic building, just like everything else in Calumet; a once-booming mining town. We stopped in here with my brother and sister-in-law after watching my niece Anabel’s victorious soccer game in August, 2011. This town has a church on nearly every city block, many of which were up for sale. Anyone else out there have Arlo Guthrie-inspired “Alice’s Restaurant” fantasies and want to live in a church? Oh what sinners those copper miners must have been…
As of this writing, Brickside Brewery in Copper Harbor was in the works. I can’t wait to check it out – I love Copper Harbor! The Brockway Mountain drive nearby is breathtaking, and the unassuming, small-town charm will make you see why I want my ashes scattered over Lake Superior here after my friends and family have held a massive kegger in my memory – i.e. my wake.
One of the U.P.’s largest towns is Marquette, home to one of the Michigan Brewer’s Guild’s two Fall Beer Festivals and home to two craft beer places to check off (a third in the works). The only one I’ve visited is the Vierling Restaurant & Marquette Harbor Brewery, which overlooks Gitche Gumee, aka Lake Superior. Their most popular summer beer is their blueberry wheat with real blueberries bouncing around in the fizz. Reportedly, the regulars get quite angry when it runs out, taste it and you’ll see why! Expect a full food menu here, all reasonably priced. Also in Marquette is Blackrocks Brewery, which unfortunately I have not yet visited because of its limited hours of operation. It is on my to-visit list, as is the Upper Peninsula Brewing Company, which is slated to open later in 2012. It annoys me greatly that I haven’t yet checked Marquette completly off my beer list. Argh!
Vierling’s popular blueberry wheat
Ishpeming’s Jasper Ridge Brewery is a fairly decent lunch spot just west of Marquette. Like the Vierling Restaurant and Brewery, they also have a blueberry beer with real blueberries (which are plentiful in the U.P.s forests in late summer). There, I’ve made my point. I love fruity beers. And their lunch menu won’t break your bank either. It’s a bit hard to find since it’s nestled in a strip mall, so if you’re not using a GPS, have a navigator with sharp eyes keep an eye out for it.
Going quite a bit out of our way after visiting my brother in Houghton, we hit Escanaba’s Hereford and Hops Steakhouse and Brewpub. Here, expect a decent selection of basic house beers as well as a rotating tap from other Michigan brewers (on our visit that happened to be Shorts, but I think they were out of it). They also have a full menu with sandwiches and entrees (some vegetarian-friendly) and of course, steaks. Escanaba was as interesting and quirky of a town as you would expect a town named in a Jeff Daniels movie title to be. My God, it’s full of storefronts. They just go on and on, much like this blog. We had the good luck of being there on a relatively balmy winter day in March, 2011 and took a little extra time to check out an old shipyard and Lake Michigan from a different perspective than we’d ever seen in our lives. Wow, it looks so different from the south than it does from the west. If I had to choose a U.P. town to live in, this one would be on my short list; along with Sault Ste. Marie and Houghton.
If moose, crossing lengthy suspension bridges and the mind-numbing boredom of the U.P.’s infamous “Seney Stretch” aren’t for you, there are plenty of great places for craft beer in the Lower Peninsula.
Northern Michigan, aka “Up North”
Strawberry Shorts Cake beer
Situated betwen Petoskey and Traverse City,Shorts Brewing Company, is located in northwest Michigan’s Bellaire. The award-winning, unique beers are among my favorites in Michigan. Food menu selections include snacks (including pretzels in a souvenir Imperial pint glass), pizzas and sandwiches. The beers are definitely the stars of the menu, with its extensive selections varying by season and availability. Strawberry Shorts Cake and Key Lime Pie (both summer seasonals) taste exactly like their names. Phew! I almost had a “beergasm! Like many brewpubs, there is no table service here, be prepared to order your libations and food at the bar. But with the seasoned, bustling bar staff that operates almost like a large, efficient, family, you won’t have to wait long, even if the place is busy.
We visited Shorts our first time when they first opened in 2004, and they didn’t even have growlers yet. Owner Joe Short gave us two quart size bottles with swing-style caps instead (which have since been given to friend Sam for his home brewing efforts). Combine Shorts’ easily with a trip to Traverse City, Petoskey, or Mackinaw City. If you love skiing, Shanty Creek resort is not far away. You’ll probably have to park on the street, but in this small town, it’s never difficult, even in summer. We have friends with a rental cabin nearby and have visited this wonderful place many, many times, once even schlepping two six-packs and a bag of ice 1.25 miles over trail on a hot summer evening. Ah, the price we’re willing to pay to enjoy cold beer!
If you like cherries, vineyards, and gambling in addition to great beer, there are several spots in Traverse City in which to indulge your vices. For beer, my favorite is Right Brain Brewery. As of our most recent visit in 2009, they only served snacks but allowed delivered food. Like Shorts’, their beers are the reason to visit. They use the meatloaf philosophy of brewing by literally throwing anything into their beer. Beets, spinach, herbs, smoked pork (vegans beware!), green tea, asparagus, chocolate and strawberries are just a handful of the ingredients they’ve used in their always creative and tasty brews. I won’t eat beets but will happily drink them if Right Brain brewers turn them into their delicious (and interestingly-colored) Wicked Garden Ale. Their “Scarborough Fair” beer made with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme ranks as one of my husband’s faves. We revisited Right Brain in their new location near Traverse City’s Boardman Lake recently. The bigger digs makes me wonder if they plan to start distributing their beer. Their CEO (chocolate, espresso, oatmeal) stout remains one of my faves, from the first time I tried it at a hung-over visit to the Michigan Summer Beer Festival. Such a fun way to get a bit of caffeine!
Right Brain’s Wicked Garden ale: are you ready for a beet-down?
In Traverse City’s touristy downtown is Mackinaw Brewing Company. This is a fairly traditional restaurant/brewpub with basic “pub grub” (sandwiches, fries, steaks, and fish with some vegetarian options) and a decent selection of beers on tap. I particularly enjoyed their ESB, which is one of my favorite beer styles. A few summers ago I randomly met fellow beer goddess Patti Smith here while she was beer touring at the same time (like minds think alike!). Just down the street is North Peak Brewing Company, also a restaurant/brewpub with a full food menu. Be sure to allow plenty of time to find parking downtown, and try to have some change if you have to feed a meter.
If you love scenic vistas and ghosts with your beer, be sure to visit Traverse City’s Jolly Pumpkin Mission Peninsula franchise. Located in what used to be a cannery of a lumber baron’s estate, this two-floor tap room is visually pretty impressive. Here, the food and beers shared fairly equal star billing (both are on the pricey side, however, if it’s not happy hour). Though JP specializes in sour farmhouse beers, they also have several delicious session beers, too. Next door is the supposedly haunted Bowers Harbor Inn if you like ghosts! Hell hath no fury like the scorned wife of an adulterous lumber baron. Here, you can find one of the state’s first working elevators. The views of the east arm of Grand Traverse Bay here are simply breathtaking. Drive farther up the peninsula if you have the time, it’s pretty cool seeing water on both sides, and the vineyards will make you think you’re in California. For the beer lovers on your gift lists, you’ll find plenty of swag in the gift shop area near the entrance. Or if you’re cheap, just take a couple of beer mats from the bar. Did you know people actually sell those things on eBay?
Speaking of vineyards, we went quite a ways out of the way to check out the Big ‘O’ Brewery at Good Neighbor Organic Vineyard near Northport. Why? They also had a couple of beers on tap when we visited. Be sure to ask the proprietor about the moose… Just as a warning, this place is a vineyard, not a brewpub. On a Saturday afternoon expect a whirlwind of activity when the wine tourists are continually popping in and out – and spitting instead of swallowing, like good beer whores.
Cheboygan Brewing’s “beer museum” display
Not far south of the Mackinac Bridge is Cheboygan Brewing Company, in downtown Cheboygan which opened in 2011. A unique thing about this place is that it has museum-like displays containing artifacts and placards describing the city’s vibrant brewing past. Cheboygan was once the site of a large distribution brewery around the turn of the century, as you will undoubtedly learn when you visit and peruse the gallery of displays. Be sure to take copious notes, kids, because there will be a quiz afterwards! When weather permits, rooftop seating is available. Plan to park on the street or drive a bit to look for other public parking. A bottling and distribution operation began in summer, 2012. We were able to drink their Lighthouse Amber on tap while watching the Euro Cup 2012 finals at a sports bar in St. Ignace. It was pretty sweet watching the Mackinac Island ferries sploosh through Lake Huron while we enjoyed our beers and the Beautiful Game (and the beautiful Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas :).
Standing alone as the only brewpub on the east coast (or at least close to it) north of Bay City is Wiltse’s in Oscoda. This is a great stop after a day of taking dozens of photos of oversized lumberjacks, learning everything you ever wanted about lumberjack lore at the nearby Lumberman’s Monument and enjoying the vast stands of pine forests and Lake Huron and Au Sable River vistas. Wiltse’s is a brewpub/restaurant with a full menu, with some very creative, tasty entrees, vegetarian options and decent beer, some of which have “lumberjacky” names. I think we had one named for Paul Bunyan when we visited in 2008.
If you’re a carnivore, beer lover and member of the Cabela’s Fan Club, Big Buck Brewery, in Gaylord will not disappoint you. This place’s theme is antlers, taxidermy and various other outdoorsy kitsch (some of which is for sale, be sure to bring your life savings to buy the giant wooden bear sculpture), but the wait staff is professional and the beers are good! Vegetarians are advised not to arrive too hungry or be creative with how they order their food. Gaylord is a nice freeway stop if you’re traveling to or from Up North and actually has “real” stores if there is anything you need to pick up for the road. The Glen’s grocery store nearby has an excellent selection of Michigan beer.
Stuck in the Middle of Michigan
If you like Indian casinos and a small college-town vibe, Mount Pleasant is a great place to visit. But since I’m an alumna of Central Michigan University and met my husband here, I may be biased! Mountain Town Station, a full-service restaurant/brewpub located inside a renovated train depot building. Expect a moderately-priced menu with appetizers, salads, sandwiches and dinner entrees. The park where my husband Mike and I went on our first date in college is not far away, and is a pleasant, scenic walk in decent weather.
Not far away is Mountain Town’s distributing sister operation Mount Pleasant Brewing Company ,which is a limited service tap room. I particularly like their raspberry wheat beer and the iron horse IPA.
Roll into Bay City if you’re craving barbecue and beer and check out BART’s downtown. They had an impressive 12 beers on tap when we visited in the fall of 2011, all of which were fairly true to style (we shared a flight of all of them). Menu items include sandwiches/fries, barbecue fare as well as standard dinner fare. Not very vegetarian friendly. Here, you can buy “party pigs” of beer in glass containers shaped like pigs. Cute!
Oink, oink! A “party pig” at BART’s.
If you happen to have in-laws and family in the Big Rapids, MI area like I do, a place to bring them for beer is the Big Rapids Brewing Company, located inside the Blue Cow Cafe downtown. Though they only offered a small handful of beers made on premises, they offered an impressive wine selection as well as a wide selection of bottled Michigan beers. My 4-foot 11 mother-in-law particularly enjoyed a bottle of Shorts’ Soft Parade. Since she was designated driver, she had to cut herself off at only 1 beer! Expect a cafe-style menu with sandwiches, soups, and snacks.
Another spot in Big Rapids, Cranker’s Brewery, just opened in 2012. Though we only had time for a brief visit, their tap room appeared to be quite impressive, with a “beer hall” look and a permanent stage for live music. The menu items featured a variety of unique, international fare including Greek, Italian, Asian and of course, standard pub fare such as giant onions rings and delicious looking soft pretzels. Four beers were on tap during our visit, including an easy-drinking Munich blonde, a standard-fare Bulldog Red (named for the Ferris State University mascot), a stout and an IPA. This place is definitely worth a second visit! If Coney dogs are more your bag, go no further, a Coney Island is actually attached to the tap room…
If tudor-styled buildings, fried chicken, lederhosen, glockenspiels, humongous Christmas stores and beer excite you, look no further than Frankenmuth. This somewhat cheesy tourist town is a great backdrop for enjoying beer, either at one of its two breweries, or at the World Expo of Beer held annually in May.
Frankenmuth Brewery, is located right on the lovely Cass River and on a nice day (but not too hot or you’ll fry quickly in the sun) you can sit on a deck overlooking the river. In keeping with the whole German theme of Frankenmuth, most of the beers here are German styled and taste true to style; including Dunckel, pilsener and alt. If you haven’t already stuffed your gut full of fried chicken and spaetzle, you can order food from a menu including sandwiches, appetizers, salads and entrees, all decent pub fare. It is not served family style. You can also buy real German style growlers here for $75 with the reusable caps. A perfect gift idea for the beer lover who has everything (except a growler like that one).
Located on the other side of the Cass River near the sprawling Bronner’s Christmas store isSullivan’s Black Forest Brew Haus & Grill, . Their beers are more along the British style and the food is basic sandwiches and fries pub fare. I liked the McGale’s English ale with Golding hops, but they also had a light beer, a porter and an IPA on tap.
An easy freeway stop off I-75 south of Flint is the Redwood Lodge . Forget about what you might think you know about Flint: this place is pretty upscale! They boast award-winning beers and an extensive menu with salads, appetizers, pizzas, steaks and sandwiches, priced moderately to a bit pricey. I haven’t visited this place for quite some time, but if you arrive hungry and thirsty, you’ll leave happy!
Just south of Flint and the Redwood Lodge is the Fenton Winery and Brewery, located in a strip mall (yes, strip mall). We visited in spring, 2011 when they were just starting out and only had a small handful of draft beers available, including a decent high-alcohol Belgian. They seemed to focus a bit more on the wine than on the beer here, so it might be a good place for a mixed couple (one wine lover, one beer drinker). Basic snack menu available.
Grand Rapids(ly) Growing area for Beer
Brewery Vivant interior
Grand Rapids is undoubtedly the fastest-growing area for microbreweries in Michigan (and thus the hardest to keep up with when maintaining a checklist)! Plan on visiting Grand Rapids at least a couple of times a year in order to keep up with its ever-changing microbrewery world.
One of Grand Rapids’ newest (and most unique beer places in MI) is Brewery Vivant. We visited in the summer of 2011 during a whirlwind Grand Rapids beer tour which included three stops on our way to visit the parents-in-law near Big Rapids. Brewery Vivant is a remodeled funeral home (yes, funeral home), where its former chapel has become the visually stunning tap room. Stained-glass windows, cathedral ceilings and long tables with benches will make you feel like a monk and if you’re not careful, you’ll soon be as drunk as one. Their beer is that good! And if you like fancy-pants food with your beer, go no further! Though we didn’t try anyhing but the beer cheese, their food menu looked quite expansive (though on the pricey side) and even included pheasant. Their “angry hour” (come angry, leave happy) featured pitcher and appetizer discounts. If your’e still craving their delicious beers after your visit, be sure to look for their beers in stores, which is distributed in pint-sized cans. That was our Christmas beer in 2011. Delectable!
Also in Grand Rapids is Founders Brewing Company. Just a warning, their brewing specialty is NOT session beer! Their bold and feisty beers are not for the meek or inexperienced beer drinkers. When we visited for our wedding anniversary in 2010 they had handmade sandwiches on their menu, but as with most great beer places, you go for the beer! Their beer names say it all: “Arrogant Bastard,” “Dirty Bastard…” I think there was even a beer called “Death.” If you’ve ever seen how long their lines are at beer festivals, you’ll learn why this beer is great. That is, if you haven’t tried their beer already. Their Centennial IPA helped take the edge off a long day on the road when Mike and I attempted to find camping spots in the U.P. (the campground we wanted was closed because of road construction near Pictured Rocks). These are the kind of beers that make you say “Ahhhh!”
Not far away from Founders is Hopcat. Though they only had a handful of house beers,their food menu was expansive and reasonably priced (my husband enjoyed the vegetarian chili). They also had an extensive list of tap beers from around Michigan and from all over the world. In early 2010, we walked to Hopcat with my mother-in-law, who was taking a break while her husband recovered from surgery at a nearby hospital. A couple of pints of Hopcat’s sage-based Sage Against the Machine made short work of the stresses of having a loved one in the hospital. She even told us “I love you guys” at one point and promised to help us when it came time to buy a home. Unlike many other drunken promises, this was one that was later fulfilled!
Also in downtown Grand Rapids is B.O.B.’s Brewery. This polished, bistro-styled place is equally at home for folks sporting formal wear as it is for touristy schmucks wearing T-shirts and jeans like my husband and I. We visited this place probably about 10 years ago, so all I can really say is that it looked really, really nice and their nachos were pretty good. We’ll have to visit this place again so I can provide a more fresh review for all of you!
Be sure to allow plenty of time to find parking in downtown Grand Rapids and be sure you passed the parallel parking section of your driver’s ed test. I didn’t pass that the first time around. I still suck at it. Good thing I’m not the one who has to do the driving.
If you like ping-pong, sexy beer names and logos, dogs and Michigan Technological University, you’ll love Schmoz Brewery, south of the city in an industrial park area. Here, you can play ping-pong and since it is dog-friendly, the dogs will help fetch wayward balls when you get too drunk to keep the damn things on the table. A decent selection of MTU apparel and memorabilia decorate the walls, and that’s because the owners and investors are all alumni of Michigan Tech (my brother’s alma mater). No food service was available, but the nice salty popcorn will encourage you to drink more of their beers, some of which have pretty racy names and logos, such as “Hopknocker” and “Kiss My Scottish Arse.” I definitely approve of this practice. Sex sells, people! Go to a beer festival sometime and you’ll see what beers people will line up to drink!
The well-hidden Hideout
In keeping with its name, go a bit out of your way north of Grand Rapids to Hideout Brewing Company, styled similarly to a Prohibition-era watering hole. Serving a decent selection of house beers and wine/hard cider, this place will make you appreciate being able to drink without having to “hide out” to do it as those poor drunks did in the 1930s. A variety of Prohibition-era photos adorn the walls in keeping with the history lesson. A basic snacks menu will help you keep the munchies at bay.
Southeast of Grand Rapids in Hastings is the Walldorff Brewpub & Bistro, which we visited a few years ago while on a camping trip at nearby Yankee Springs Recreation Area, which has a ban on alcohol in its campgrounds. Yes, we still decided to camp there, discretion was the watchword, and is another blog topic entirely… My favorite beer was the Bee Sting Rye Pilsener (which is still listed on their beer menu) and their food menu will cater to the gluten allergic, vegetarians and carnivores alike. Our server told us that their brewer had been “stolen” from another big Michigan microbrewery which explained why their beers were so fantastic! This place is a bit out of the way if trying to work into a Grand Rapids beer tour, but is definitely worth seeking out.
South-Central Michigan (all along I-94 & beyond)
Bell’s Eccentric Cafe
A fairly easy road trip for those living in Southeast MI is Kalamazoo. There, be sure to find on-site parking and visit Bell’s Eccentric Cafe, Bell’s beer is definitely a Michigan beer lover’s favorite, and if you’re an experienced Bell’s beer drinker, try focusing on the beers that aren’t widely distributed when you visit. Their two-story taproom with a loft and stained-glass windows and lots of art on the walls was impressive, though if you’re going for food, expect deli-style sandwich fare in the $8-$10 range. They also have an outdoor patio for beer and a light-filled atrium at the entry with a fountain.
Full-time taps at Olde Peninsula
Within walking distance is Olde Peninsula Brewpub and Restaurant. We were particularly impressed with both their full-time and seasonal beers, especially the one that tasted like gingerbread cookies, of which I ate too many over the 2011 holiday season. Groan. Their food menu is expansive and reasonable, including appetizers, sandwiches and steaks/fish, all under $20. If you parked at Bell’s, you won’t have to worry about finding street or meter parking here. The historic storefront right on a corner won’t be hard to find.
Be warned if you’re not familiar with Kalamazoo, the one-way streets can be a bit of a navigation challenge.
If you’ve been wondering what to do in Battle Creek since they closed the Cereal City USA museum, look no further than Arcadia Brewing Company downtown. Since they brew some of my favorite Michigan beers, I was excited to visit this place. It’s impossible not to find a beer you love here. When we visited a few years ago I particularly enjoyed the Sky High Rye, which was new at the time. I was bummed when they wouldn’t put it in a growler for me, but since it is now distributed in bottles, I can have it whenever I like! If you’re hungry, expect a reasonably-priced basic pub-style menu with sandwiches, pizza, and appetizers.
A little side story about Arcadia involves a defunct beer that won my heart and palate during the summer of 2000 – English Reserve Mild. I still pine for that delicious summer beer and still mention how much I miss it each time I visit Arcadia’s booth at beer festivals. I still haven’t found a beer I like nearly as well, though Motor City Brewing Works’ Ghettoblaster comes close, as does Arbor Brewing Company’s Big Ben House Mild (which unfortunately is not bottled)! More on these two places later…
Standing by itself in the cool historic town of Marshall is Dark Horse Brewing Company, which is not only worth a visit, but several repeat visits! Don’t expect stained glass windows, fancy stemware or marble floors here… Just drink the beer, damn it! And lots of it. They know what they’re doing here. Their raspberry ale is one of my summer favorites, and their stouts and IPAs are pretty fantastic, too. I had their Tres Blueberry stout on my most recent visit, which was a nice blend of sweetness and bitterness, not unlike your first love. You can probably tell by now that my taste in beers can be as fruity as my personality 🙂 Food selections range from homemade pizzas (which smell delicious and will warm the place on a cold day) to sandwiches, all reasonably priced. Their beer garden is particularly large and even has a stage (unsure if they still do live music or not). Its taproom is not huge and can get crowded when it’s busy, but you’ll never be sorry you came here. You’re almost always sure to find interesting conversations, which of course become more interesting the more Dark Horse beers you drink…
The handmade mugs (shown above) for mug club members are all as unique and as individual as the beers. We’ve never had trouble finding parking on-site, but if you do and don’t mind a short walk, downtown Marshall and other public parking is not far away. There is even a magic museum in Marshall. It’s just a neat town, and boasted a traffic roundabout long before they became fashionable. One of my favorite childhood writers John Bellairs grew up here.
Formerly a truck stop, a Stuckey’s and St. Julian winery is the Bad Bear Brewery in Albion. Located just off I94 at the Sleeping Bear Winery, it’s an easy freeway stop. We stopped in for a beer over Easter weekend in 2012. I had the honey raspberry ale (nice and summery), and my husband tried the Irish Red. This place definitely has more of a winery vibe than that of a brewery, but is still a fairly pleasant freeway stop and if you’re hungry, they serve pizzas and other basic bar food. As of our visit, brewery staff were reviewing different designs for bottles.
Bad Bear Brewery in Albion – you can still see evidence of its truck stop past.
Michigan’s West Coast
In Southwest Michigan is Benton Harbor’s The Livery. As you drive through Benton Harbor, you’ll doubtless notice that this coastal town’s best days were definitely in the past, but don’t let that stop you from trucking on to this brewpub, for very tasty beers and a unique atmosphere await you! It’s in a neat historic building with a real horse elevator, though I don’t believe it’s used for horses anymore. It just looks cool! It has a second level to its taproom with a wrap-around porch, perfect for shooting the breeze on a nice spring or summer day. Since they don’t distribute, any beer on their menu is fair game to try. Their high-alcohol honey pilsener, which they brought to the Michigan Brewer’s Guild Summer Beer Festival in 2011 still brings a smile to my face. So good….! I think I visited their booth twice for that beer. Or was it three times? Expect a basic sandwich/snack menu if you’re hungry. We visited here in 2009 while having a reunion with our old college roommate, who lives in nearby South Bend, Ind. He’s not even a real beer fan, but he enjoyed the beer at the Livery. They apparently have a vibrant live music scene here, though I haven’t witnessed any of it.
If you’re visiting Ludington State Park north of Ludington and want to take a break from the overly crowded campgrounds or bring a growler back, be sure to check out Jamesport Brewing Company, downtown, especially in warmer weather. There, you’ll find a reasonably priced, expansive food menu as well as a decent variety of beers. When we visited in the spring of 2011, we tried the high-octane Scotch ale, which will send you shopping for kilts in no time. Remember, if it’s not Scottish, it’s crap! This place also makes a nice stop if you’re taking the car ferry to Milwaukee. One of the seasonal beers is even named for the ferry itself: the SS Badger.
Ann Arbor and vicinity
Since I live in the Ann Arbor area, it’s pretty much a no-brainer that its brewpubs were not only among the first I visited, but the ones I continue to frequent most often. Arbor Brewing Company, Blue Tractor, Grizzly Peak and Jolly Pumpkin are all worthwhile visits. For those who haven’t been to this great town yet, it’s an easy check-off, since four brewpubs are all within walking distance of each other! Plan your meals accordingly – if you like barbecue, Blue Tractor is the place to go; if you’re seeking great hand -made vegetarian fare (all made in-house), Arbor Brewing is standout; Grizzly Peak is great for steak and fish fare as well as sandwiches and soups (the polenta fries and homemade ketchup is fantastic!) and Jolly Pumpkin’s menu includes stone-baked pizzas, salads, and unique main dishes made with duck (slightly pricey if eating from the dinner menu). In downtown Ann Arbor, parking can be tight, especially during special events, and for most of it, expect to feed a meter or an attendant in a parking garage. Some free parking is available after hours near the Washtenaw County Courthouse and the Ann Arbor Food Co-Op.
Just west of downtown is Wolverine State Brewing Company. If you’re hungry, expect to order in from their list of take-out menus, but if you’re thirsty, fuggedaboudit! Their beers (primarily lagers) are all meticulously created and tasty. In fact, their beers are so good that you may have to hold yourself back in order to be able to drive home (not that it’s ever happened to my husband and I…). Their flagship Wolverine Lager and sister brew Wolverine Dark are both distributed throughout Michigan, and are among the most reasonably priced of Michigan microbrewed beers you can buy in a grocery store. They have plenty of on-site parking, but their taproom can fill quickly on a busy night. In good weather, outside seating is available.
Corner Brewery’s Bootlegger ale
Ypsilanti’s Corner Brewery, is a unique concept – part tap room, part meeting place (half its space can be rented for parties) and part townie hangout. As the distributing sister operation to Arbor Brewing, expect to find beers distributed widely in bottles as well (Red Snapper, Sacred Cow and Brasserie Blonde just to name a few) as a few other unique and small-batch selections. Food menu includes homemade pizzas, burgers/brats, sandwiches, salads and a wide selection of vegetarian fare, most within the $10 price point.
With the exception of special events (which this place hosts frequently), expect plenty of on-site parking. During warm months, its outdoor beer garden can fill up fast, but it’s a great place for their refreshing Bavarian Bliss hefeweizen, the Strawberry Blonde or the Mackinac Island Fudge stout! This place is a favorite haunt of my husband, friends and I, and was even used as an “office” when we met with a Realtor to buy a home in 2010. Our goal was to find a home nearby, which we happily accomplished! Not to be missed is their Oktoberfest party in mid September. Lederhosen and frau-wear optional.
My personal mug at Corner Brewery
Just a bit south of Ann Arbor is Milan’s Original Gravity Brewing Company. It’s a little off-the-beaten path but easy to visit, especially if you’re heading south or north on U.S. 23 near the Ohio border or if you live in the area. If you’re visiting your pen pal or loved one in the nearby Milan State Correctional Facility, maybe you can smuggle in a growler of OG beer for them… If you’re not a fan of the smell of beer while it’s being brewed, this place will take some getting used to with its open-air floor plan. But if you’re like me and love the smell of brewing beer and napalm in the morning, you’ll love this place! Food selections when we visited included snacks and sandwiches, but they always seem to be getting adventurous with their beer. They even host movie nights, too and have an outdoor beer garden. I joked with the bartender that they should have prison themed beer names, such as “Conjugal Visit Cream Stout,” but was told that it might be a bit too PG-13 for the family-friendly brewpub. Oh well. I can dream, can’t I? Someday maybe I’ll open a microbrewery near a prison and can name the beers whatever I want, so there!
South Lyon’s Witch’s Hat Brewing Company opened in late December, 2011 and is about 15 miles northeast of Ann Arbor. They’re filling a much-needed niche in that area (a friend of mine is excited because he finally has a neighborhood bar that he can enjoy along with his kids). They were doing small batches on my visit Jan. 11, so no growlers, except for two of their selections. My favorites were the IPA and the After Christmas ale, which tasted a bit like molasses cookies, which I enjoyed. Witches Hat is still new, so I’d suggest giving them a visit, then visiting them again later to see what new beers they’ve added to their roster. The art of great beer can take time! Just as a warning, this place is located within a suburban jungle, so keep your eyes open for its small storefront, nestled among lots of different stores and fast-food joints. Which are a good thing since they’re not serving food yet and allow you to bring in your own! Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Tubby’s and Jimmy John’s are all nearby. Also, Pontiac Trail can get a bit congested at times, so be patient for your beer if you’re arriving during rush hour.
Metro Detroit and vicinity (not including the D)
One of my favorite beer places in metro Detroit is Warren’s Dragonmead Microbrewery. When I visited for the first time and perused their menu of dozens of beers, I asked, ‘Which of these are on draft?” The answer? All of them! Your best bet will be to share flights with friends in order to taste as many of these delicious beers as possible. All have medieval/Anglo-Saxon themed names. The Final Absolution Belgian Trippel is a smooth-tasting, high-alcohol nectar that is not to be missed! Expect a basic snack/appetizer menu if you’re hungry.
Also in Warren isKuhnhenn Brewing Co. Here, they allow brewers to come in to make their own beer with their equipment and supplies, I can’t comment in more detail about this, but you can probably learn more from their web site. Their beer selection was quite large, but if you’re hungry, expect a basic snack menu. We ordered cheese and crackers and got a sealed package of pub cheese and a box of crackers. Really! This place truly is about the beer, not about the food. I really enjoyed the Panty Dropper Strawberry beer, which happened to match the shirt I was wearing. Accessorizing is so important, isn’t it? For the record, my panties stayed on while drinking the beer.
Panty Dropper Strawberry Ale at Kuhnhenn
Arguably one of the most unique brewpubs I’ve ever visited in Michigan is Royal Oak’s Bastone Brewery. Part fancy restaurant, part nightclub and part microbrewery. Anyone visiting is sure to find that they want, whether it be a one-night-stand in the downstairs nightclub, tasty award-winning beer or great food from their extensive food menu which (a bit pricey). They even had valet parking. Thankfully they had no dress code as I arrived in a T-shirt and jeans and was not kicked out!
Also in Royal Oak is the Royal Oak Brewery. This is one of my favorite places to eat and drink after I’ve spent a day ogling wildlife in the Detroit Zoo, since all of their food is reasonably priced and their beers are never disappointing! Its sister operation, Rochester Brewing Company, is distributing their Cornerstone IPA in cans, which are nice to bring on a camping trip! Just be sure to bring a cup that will hold a whole pint, or just drink from the can if you’re minimalist…
If you crave seafood along with your handcrafted beer, try Lily’s Seafood Grill & Brewery, also in downtown Royal Oak. Expect to allow extra time to find parking in downtown Royal Oak and be prepared to walk a short distance if necessary. It’s a cool town, so it will be worth the exercise!
Ferndale’s Woodward Avenue Brewers, is not far from Royal Oak and easy to include in a beer tour of the Royal Oak area. Its two-story taproom is visually impressive and if you like light, non-phonetic reading, the menu covers are made from recycled license plates. Expect a tasty, easy-drinking beer lineup and a food menu with appetizers, sandwiches, soups and chili. On-site parking is available in the back.
Light reading at Woodward Avenue Brewery.
Another favorite metro Detroit microbrewery (and also fairly close to home!) is Liberty Street Brewing Company . In fact, I kind of debated whether to include it with Ann Arbor or metro Detroit, but in this case, geography prevailed since Plymouth is in Wayne County. If you’re hungry, visit one of Plymouth’s many nearby restaurants first, since their food menu is pretty non-existent. Their focus is on the beer, which will be obvious once you’ve tasted it! I particularly enjoyed a “steam” style beer they had on tap in spring, 2011, but their other seasonal and full-time brews were equally tasty and unique. Expect minor difficulty finding parking here and having to navigate some one-way streets, but as long as you’re willing to walk a short distance if necessary, parking isn’t impossible. Ah, Plymouth. One of the nicest towns in which I’ve ever worked.
Nestled in the “lakes” area of Oakland County’s Commerce Township is C.J.s Brewing Co. If you’re a sports fan, you’re going to want to grab a sleeping bag and move in if they allow you because during all televised games, drinks are happy hour priced! Their basic pub fare menu is reasonably priced and tasty, and the beers are mostly of the easy-drinking variety. This was by far one of the most out-of-the-way brewpubs we’ve visited without being Up North or in the UP and if you don’t have a GPS, be sure to have a very detailed map.
Southfield’s Copper Canyon, is not a brewpub I visited while being a “beer tourist,” but a place I visited while my husband Mike and I were sharing the car he needed for working in Southfield, and I needed for working in Livonia. After picking him up one day, we looked discouragingly at the stacked-up cars along I-696 that served as a daunting barrier between work and home. We decided to stop in at Copper Canyon to have some dinner and beer while we waited for traffic to become more bearable. We weren’t sorry we did, the food prices were reasonable, and the beers were enjoyable.
Entering The D
So far I’ve only visited three beer places in the city limits of Detroit, since my husband doesn’t enjoy city driving, and Detroit is the biggest city in Michigan (and a navigation nightmare if like me, you don’t use a GPS). That said, on the first of two occasions I was able to drag him forcibly into Detroit, we visited Atwater Block Brewing Company, along with our friend Dave who had a GPS. This means Mike wasn’t so forcibly dragged into Detroit on this outing. On our early 2009 visit, we all shared a full flight of their house offerings, which I thought were all very good. Their Vanilla Java Porter remains one of their most popular winter seasonals. As for summer beers, the Dirty Blonde and the light-in-alcohol D-Light Kolsch are a couple of my favorites. The Dirty Blonde is even tastier than the uber-popular Bell’s Oberon, imho! And the kolsch is so good after mowing a lawn. Too bad I don’t really have to mow a lawn since I live in a condo, so I’ll just have to imagine the feeling. They are now canning some of their beers, which is great news for those who like a lighter load when schlepping beers to a beach. I can’t wait until this summer – if they can their Kolsch and Dirty Blonde, I will be a happy, relaxed woman when I’m watching sunsets and freighters on the Great Lakes!
Not far away from Woodward Avenue is Motor City Brewing Works, a cozy gem of a place that could easily become my favorite watering hole if I lived nearby. Here, they not only brew their own beer, including the very tasty Ghettoblaster English mild (remember how I still pine for Arcadia’s defunct English mild? This comes pretty close!), but they also make their own hard ciders and sodas. We even brought home a growler of the cider. As for food, hand-tossed pizzas are the main attraction, and you can even watch them being made if you sit at the right spot at the bar. Rooftop seating is available in nice weather, but be warned that you’re asked to keep your voices down after dark since an apartment building is not far away. Curse those loud drunks enjoying themselves!
Receiving our flight of beers at Motor City Brewing
Right across the street is Traffic Jam & Snug, a restaurant/brewpub. Lots of art and artifacts adorn the walls of this historic building, which boasts a rooftop garden used to grow some of the food served in the bar. Only a couple of tap offerings were available when we visited in the fall of 2011, but their food menu was expansive, made from scratch and reasonably priced with lots of vegetarian options.
Kid Rock’s stomping grounds, aka Detroit’s “Downriver”
If you’re like me, pushing 40 (or older) and have lived your entire life in Michigan, there’s a good chance you’ve visited a now defunct theme park called Bob-Lo Island, which closed in the early 1990s. If you’d like a good opportunity to reminisce about fighting seasickness while riding the Bob-Lo boat down the Detroit River with dozens of drunken folks while listening to various disco tunes (yes I’m dating myself here!), Sports Brewpub in Wyandotte is a good place to do it. Hence its name, this is a sports bar, so if you want to watch sports, talk about them and be immersed in all of its various lore, there probably is not another place in Michigan like it (especially since they also serve beer they make in-house). A former colleague of mine grew up in Wyandotte and said the highlight of his day as a child was to watch the Bob-Lo boat, though his single mom could never afford to buy a ticket to take him there. How very sad and inspiring of a memoir (I wonder if he’s written it yet)! Try to visit Wyandotte during fair weather, as you won’t have to bundle up in a parka to enjoy strolling around and enjoying the Detroit River scenery. Plus it’s easier to reminisce about Bob-Lo in the summer than it is in the winter. But if you just want to talk about sports, you can do that year-round.
Also “Downriver” in downtown Lincoln Park is Fort Street Brewery. It boasts a huge, well-lit tap room and a decent, inexpensive food menu with killer specials on little appetizer plates during their happy hours. Arguably one of the most unique beers I ever tasted was brewed at this place, Doug’s Turbo Sarsaparilla. Basically, it’s an alcoholic root beer. It was so good we brought a growler home to share with our buddy Brad who was doing a campfire that night. Not surprisingly, this is one of the bar’s most popular beers and is a full-time tap, not a seasonal. Expect city parking conditions and allow time to look for public parking in both Wyandotte and Lincoln Park.
So this wraps up our 67-percent adventure for now. Let’s move on to those brewpubs and microbreweries that are now a thing of our past…
So Long and Thanks for all the Beer – a salute to bygone breweries (and the third Douglas Adams reference in this blog)
Sadly, despite the best intentions and business strategies, some craft beer places just don’t make it. Here’s a short list of those I remember visiting before they closed their doors (or stopped brewing their own house beers):
Fire Academy, Westland. Since this wasn’t too far from home, I visited this place quite a few times. Though the beers and food were so-so, its atmosphere, which included a real fire truck, was pretty memorable. The beers all had fire-fighting themed names, and during Red Wings games, they handed out mysterious red “shooters” every time the Wings scored. We happened to be there on a night when the Wings were on fire (along with a colleague of mine who lived nearby), so it wasn’t too long before we were downright lit from the combination of shooters and beer. Long story short, a good old drunken time was had by all, and if memory serves, the night ended up at Denny’s where we all attempted to sober up. I used to fantasize about buying the place and changing the name to “Dream Academy,” playing nothing but Dream Academy songs. But then if I did, the business would probably do just about as well as the defunct band and brewpub. Fire Academy closed in the early ’00s, and the last time I remember being there was in 2000. I think a Buffalo Wild Wings is in operation there now. How many of you can name more than one Dream Academy song? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
Recently closing in spring 2012 was the Michigan Brewing Company’s flagship Webberville tap room and microbrewery. Their first location was in a cozy, wood-paneled borderline dive bar not far from a popular truck stop off I-96. I loved that place. Sure, it was small, and almost always littered with peanut shells, but we never managed to go in there without having a good time. It was a magical place. I even played the piano on a night near Halloween in 2001 while I was dressed up as a “Smells Like Teen Spirit” cheerleader. True story. While I was volunteering for an Ultimate Frisbee league I talked the league brass into buying their beer for a Frisbee tournament, which they bottled for us in plastic (more park-friendly). Then they moved into a more sterile location not too far away from their first location and I have only visited them one time since then. But I still love their beer, especially their Celis White, which, for some strange reason, attracts insects in a way that other beers do not. Is it the coriander? Orange peel? It’s a scientific mystery… I’ll let the etymologists figure that one out. Now they also have a tap room in Lansing, which I have yet to visit. Most of their beers have Michigan-themed names, including Mackinac Pale Ale, Superior Stout and Peninsula Porter. And then there’s the Wheatland Wheat. How many of you know the significance of that name? Going once? Going twice? Their newest beer was Kid Rock’s Badass lager (this is the first of two Kid Rock references in this blog). As of this writing, the restaurant/brewpub in Lansing remains open.
Alcatraz Brewing Company, Auburn Hills. What better place to have a drink after enduring the hideous consumer nightmare of Great Lakes Crossing, a sprawling outlet mall. We last visted this place in the late 1990s, and it was at that place where I started coming up with my topical prison-themed beer names such as Lights Out Stout, Angry Warden IPA and my personal favorite, Conjugal Visit Cream Ale (home brewers, feel free to use these, they are freebies! Just be sure I get to taste them!). I wonder if the Rain Forest Cafe is still in business?
Big Buck, Auburn Hills. Big Buck is still open in Gaylord, we visited Big Buck in Auburn Hills only once. The format was essentially the same as the Gaylord branch, lots of antlers-inspired decor and whatnot.
Boyne Brewing Company Boyne Falls, (or thereabouts?). I barely remember this place at all, but I think I remember reading that another brewery wound up buying their brewing equipment, so it’s not like something good didn’t come from their closing! I think they also had fishes on their 22-ounce bottles.
Grand Rapids Brewing Company, Grand Rapids. We visited this place twice, it wasn’t bad, just a basic restaurant/brewpub, and for us, a freeway stop. New owners are reviving the business in 2012, in a different location.
Traverse Brewing Company, Williamsburg (not far from Traverse City). In the late ’90s, I tried their bottled beers on several occasions (Sleeping Bear Brown and Manitou Pale Ale were among them), and visited the tap room once. I used the brown ale to make potato soup while we were camping in the Traverse City area. Tasty. I still have a growler of theirs, now it’s truly a souvenir.
Traveler’s Club/Tuba Charlies’s, Okemos. OK, this place isn’t technically closed, but they are no longer brewing their own beer. In fact, when we visited, the wait staff encouraged us NOT to drink the beer they made in-house. Rather than argue with them, we ordered from their delectable 20-plus page food menu and chose one of the other Michigan beers they had on tap. Plus, they have a lot of tubas and Sousaphones all over the walls, and a tuba fountain outside. What more reason do you have to visit this place?
Petoskey, can’t recall the name. We visited this brewpub in downtown Petoskey with a couple of friends, but I can’t recall the name. I have three other witnesses if no one believes me! But it was so long ago I don’t remember anything else besides that it was in Petoskey. If anyone else remembers this place, please chime in!
Leopold Bros., Ann Arbor. This place really wasn’t too bad, and had a nice, well-lit open beer hall feel to it, which was good for mingling, events and playing board games. But there was a down side to the openness, before the smoking ban took effect in 2010: if someone expressing their civil liberties decided to smoke, everyone else had to smell it. If two cigar smokers came in, that effect was doubled. Maybe smelling the cigar smoke killed my taste buds, but it seemed to me that all of the beers, despite the color and style, seemed to taste exactly the same. Parking could be a pain in the ass, since this place was a bit far from downtown Ann Arbor’s parking structures. I think they’ve become a distilling operation and have moved to Colorado.
Local Color Brewing Company, Novi. I liked their sassy beer names and labels. Tomboy Red. That’s probably the only one I remember. Their taproom had two levels and was kind of cool, and was near a happy hippie organic grocery that sold good imported beer. Was it Vic’s? Mike didn’t like the tri-colored chips in Local Color’s nachos (call him a racist). But he’s really not racist. He just doesn’t like the blue-green poo resulting from eating blue tortilla chips.
Jackson Brewing Company, located in the same spot as the recently closed Local Pub & Brewery (see listing below). What’s up with that space anyway? Is it haunted? And if so, why would that hurt business? Just bring out the “Ghost Hunters” squad. Seriously, I think there have been two different brewpubs there over the past 10 or so years, not including the one that is there now. Can’t Jackson get a break? You’d think having a state penitentiary, daily newspaper (a dinosaur in this electronic day and age), county fairgrounds, an airport, and a Shakespeare festival would be enough to justify having a great place for craft beer. Come on, Jackson residents! Drink some craft beer, damn it! Keep The Local Pub & Brewery open! You can drink your PBR while you’re at home!
Bonfire Bistro, Northville. I remember going to this place before going to see “American Psycho” in Livonia’s AMC Theater with Mike and a couple of friends. Aside from the wood-fired pizzas, I seem to recall it wasn’t too vegetarian friendly, and might have been pricey. But alas, this place is closed, so how detailed of a review do you really need? Now, don’t panic! There are plenty of other beer places to visit in Michigan for great beer (fourth Douglas Adams reference). Michigan’s brewpub/microbrewery universe is ever-changing.
Closing almost as soon as it opened, Jackson’s The Local Pub and Brewery, boasted several German-themed beers as well as giant pretzels, sandwich and basic dinner fare. The pilsener and kolsch were both pretty true to style, though I thought they were served at too warm of a temperature. It’s too bad this area can’t seem to support a place such as this, as this is the third brewpub in Jackson to close its doors.