Michigan packs a lot of breweries into their mitten. Traverse City, on the beautiful West and East Grand Traverse Bays, is home to about a dozen. After a pleasant three hour drive up from Hoffmaster State Park in Norton Shores through the wooded Manistee National Forest, where the multiple snowmobile trail signs made me wish it was winter, I backed B into a nice site at the state park on East Bay. Then I had to jockey her around to make the power cord reach the common pedestal serving five campsites and ended up with a slideout straddling the campfire ring. I’m ordering a 50′ extension (dang they are pricy!) because the Canadian parcs (their spelling, not mine) warn that their power runs are long too. Anyway… on to the brewery visits! BTW, this is gonna be a lengthy post; as I’ve noted before, Michigan has more than its share of breweries!
First stop: Monkey Fist Brewing Company for a flight of four including an average German Pils, a good pale ale and a couple good IPAs, Peninsula Hopper being my favorite. The still new brewery shares space in a small marketplace and I enjoyed chatting with an old guy (shut it) and watching Croatia and England kick the ball around through indeterminable stoppage & overtime. Soccer is weird. Whatever. Hell, I’m liking saisons & farmhouse ales; might as well add watching soccer to my transformation! 😳
Next I stopped into Mackinaw Brewing Company whose IPA wasn’t anything to write home about. The Walleye sandwich was good. That’s it.
A few blocks away is my latest favorite brewery! Workshop Brewing Company is in the warehouse district and is exactly what we want in a real brewery. No fluff. No BS. Just really good beers and great people. Sitting outside with the breeze off the bay certainly adds to the ambiance. I’ll be back. For this visit’s flight I started with, yeah, the Sickle, a farmhouse. Solid brew. Aaron’s right: I’ve gone over to the dark side. The acclaimed ESB didn’t really blow my skirt up but the IPA was quite fine. Cool place & people.
Thursday for dinner, after an outstanding day at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, I was famished and headed over to The Filling Station Microbrewery for a thin-crust pizza and a couple pints. This popular place is in an old train station where they serve their “ales by the rails“. I had the Walla Walla IPA and the Piper’s Porter, both very good German-style brews in the 7% range.
After hiking in deep sand earlier I was fading kinda fast but headed over to Right Brain Brewing, located on one of the hundred lakes around here. Funky spot where I think we could hang for a day and not run through their beer list. The Looping Owl is an amber ale laid down in Old George Whiskey barrels. The beertender was confused, I guess, because he described it as a porter which when he presented it, it clearly was not. So I tasted it and liked it enough to not have him pour it out. I was in for just one 12 oz. pour anyway and enjoyed it on their patio, then headed back to my home at the park.
On my way from Grand Traverse Bay to Young State Park I passed through Charlevoix which I wanted to visit. Cool looking town but didn’t look like there was any convenient—or inconvenient—place to park my 57′ rig. So I decided to postpone my visit to the brewery there until next week when I can drop down from Petoskey. I continued to the campground and quickly set up (gettin’ pretty damn quick at that!). There’s a brewery in Boyne City, just a couple miles from the park so I headed there.
I knew I’d like Stiggs Brewery & Kitchen when I pulled up and saw the smoker going full on in front. Perfect. My flight of six beers ranged from an amber to a session to a porter to a stout to a strong ale. The beers were good and went down well with the smoked pork nachos. I usually don’t care for the pile style nachos but these were very good. House-pickled jalapeños and house-made BBQ sauce were excellent touches. And their guacamole rivals many. But this post is about breweries…
Stigg’s Avalanche porter went down especially well. Paired well with the smoky, sweet nachos I thought.
Another cool aspect of Stiggs is they host lots of other Michigan beers. So I crafted a second flight of the guest beers, from breweries I knew I wasn’t gonna be able to visit. Melt My Brain, a “gin & tonic beer” from Short’s Brewery was surprisingly refreshing. Tasted like, well, a G&T. I guess not so surprising.
On my way to Burt Lake the next day I stopped into the aptly named Burt Lake Brewery. Their brews are … interesting. The business began as Seasons of the North winery; I liked their wines more than their IPA and cider. Very friendly folks.
Same goes for Cheboygan Brewing Company: great people with some interesting beers. They apparently had a big weekend so during my visit Monday I could only taste their strawberry saison, blueberry cream ale, chocolate cherry stout and bourbon barrel scotch ale. They were actually all darn good. I picked up a 4-pack of IPA to go; they’re in the cooler now.
After I got settled into the Petoskey KOA which, by the way, is perhaps the nicest KOA I’ve stayed in and knocked out four loads of dirty clothes, I visited Beards Brewery downtown for lunch and to taste through their PAs & IPAs. All are good beers, especially All Paid Up, a hoppy black currant black IPA. It was supposed to be a stout but never developed enough gravity so they ended up with “a lucky mistake” in this good beer. I also like Copperstar Galactica, made exclusively with Michigan Copper hops from nearby. I backed up my taster size with another pint of this one. I’ll revisit Beards to rake in their awesome Lake Michigan views and try out their maltier brews.
The next day I was wandering around Charlevoix and stopped into Bridge Street Taproom for a quick Rayder Pilsner from North Peak Brewing Co in Traverse City before meeting Shelley & Brett and Fred & Annette for lunch at The Landing on Lake Charlevoix. Lunch done, Brett, Fred & I found our ways to Lake Charlevoix Brewing. A flight of four across the style spectrum was good; I just wasn’t all that thirsty.
Friday’s visit to Mackinac Island included a duck into The Draught House where Bells Brewery had taken over the tap wall. I went big: their Cherry Stout, Black Note Stout and the Bourbon Barrel Aged Expedition Stout. It had cooled off and I wasn’t driving so the three big beers worked nicely! I liked them all, pricey though they were!
Saturday enjoyed lunch at The Pier on the docks in beautiful Harbor Springs with Shelley & Brett and Shelley’s sister Beth. They were wedding-bound. For me, a rainy Saturday while the last few British Open players finished up called for a visit to nearby Petoskey Brewing. This is a busy brewpub housed in a brewery building from the late 19th century. A very nice patio & beer garden on a different kind of weather day would’ve been great; instead I sat at the inside bar while it dripped outside. The year-round Mind’s EyePA is a runofthemill IPA. But their Hopsessed Double IPA at 119 IBUs and StinkFist Triple IPA at 147 will each tantalize and treat your tongue’s bitter buds. I like them both a lot. My IPA loving roots aren’t gone completely! I finished up with a couple more tasters of Robusta Nut Coconut Chocolate Porter and Morning Fog Mochajava Stout, a couple more four-pointers on Untappd. Petoskey Brewing crafts good stuff. Also cool is they have only a couple staple beers; their other dozen+ brews are limited time pours. I love that in a craft brewery!
A lazy Sunday after Molinari won The Open drew me to a couple outlier breweries cohabiting with wineries. These can be interesting (sometimes at best!) breweries but I was pretty pleased with what I found. Burnt Marshmallow Brewing offered up a fair Pilsner, a very tasty apricot cream ale, a decent session IPA and a hotter-n-hell ghost pepper amber. Pretty place with great views, a curious pig and friendly people.
I followed that up with a visit to nearby Mackinaw Trail Winery/Brewery. Started where I left off at Burnt Marshmallow, with a habanero saison. I liked it (I know, doesn’t make sense to me either). Apparently now I like saisons and pepper beers. Help!
My fiver-flight also included the Red Flannel Saison, a nice follow up to the first beer; a DIPA made with Petoskey hops, also pretty dang good at 99 IBUs; a maple blueberry porter; and finally a coffee stout. I’m glad I swung by this place because their beers were interesting and good. Plus, a pretty lady liked my truck!
My last night in Petoskey I returned to Beards for their recommended Cuban sandwich and to try their maltier brews. The sandwich fell short: nothing special at all. The porter and couple stouts were good beers. I had to laugh though, when the bartender said he was waiting for the temps outside to drop before opening the roll up windows to the patio. It was 74 degrees outside 😝. Knowing I wouldn’t last until their sunset trivia at 9pm, I walked back to my truck several blocks away. A block from my truck I found the Noggin Room, a typical downstairs, low ceiling, dark yet inviting northern pub in the landmark Perry Hotel. Definitely worth stopping in for a Moscow Mule. Gotta love these iconic pubs!
Wednesday as I headed off the Mitten into real northern Michigan I stopped into Biere De Mac Brew Works for lunch. This is a cool, low key place with a wide selection on their tap wall. I liked Jacobs Farmhouse Ale and really like the Blueberry Wheat. I’m hopeless apparently. The cheesesteak sandwich, served on naan bread, was by far the best I’ve ever had. I paired it with a De-Bliss-Cious pale ale and Horse Latitudes IPA, all flight size pours, all quite good. Dessert was a 49 Fathoms stout, named for the depth of the Mackinaw Straits. I almost bypassed this brewery gem and am so glad I didn’t. It’s my latest favorite brewery!
And, with that, my tour of breweries in Michigan’s north southern peninsula wraps up. Over Big Mac bridge spanning the Straits and onto the Upper Peninsula now, where my first stop will likely be the brewpub at Tahquamenon Falls. More on that in the next Michigan breweries post. Cheers, friends!