What Am I Doing in Michigan? Visiting Microbreweries!

As of Monday, Peung and I have been on a pilsgrimage. Our task is to stop in at all the breweries of Michigan. It’s not just for the fun of it — though obviously there’s plenty of that in this trip — but I am working on another beer-focused roadtrip guidebook much like my Wisconsin’s Best Beer Guide. As Michigan may be about to move into fourth place for the states with the most breweries, it just makes sense that this would be a good place to do another book. Being a neighbor to Wisconsin doesn’t hurt either. So expect Michigan’s Best Beer Guide probably by early spring. Here are some highlights of our first week in Michigan.

We are doing a loop from the southwest corner up through Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Flint, and as far north as Bay City. Then back west via Mount Pleasant and Big Rapids before curling down into the beer-centric Grand Rapids area and Holland. Then homeward bound on the Lake Express to Milwaukee. (I have a TV appearance on WTMJ’s The Morning Blend at 9am on July 18, talking about Wisconsin camping!)

First natural attraction after crossing the Indiana/Michigan border was Warren Dunes on the shores of Lake Michigan. We stopped in for the photo opp (and info for some camping research I’m doing) before heading to Greenbush Brewery in Sawyer. Nabbed some samples there, ate some fresh Michigan blueberries just outside town, and hit 5 more breweries before rolling into Kalamazoo for the first two nights.

We were hosted by the Kalamazoo House right in downtown. This place will get its own blog post shortly, but let’s just say that it is a superb B&B&B. That’s bed and breakfast and beer. They often get beer travelers coming to town for the several breweries and awesome beer bars. The Kalamazoo House also has a beer trail package with lots of goodies, a map, and offers from the various beery places. Hats off to Terry and Laurel for running a great B & B (& B)

One of the local brewers of course is Bell’s. On the corner of Kalamazoo and Porter. Yonder Mountain String Band was playing there the night we were in town. Missed it. Bummer.

Our favorite non-brewery in Kalamazoo was the Beer Exchange. Like the stock market meets your local beer bar. Every 15 minutes all the pint prices change for the draft beers. I showed great skill in nabbing some Short’s beer when it dipped below $4 right before shooting up over $5. And got a Rodenbach Grand Cru for just under $9. Buy! Buy! Really a lot of fun though sometimes you find your glass empty and the bar maid asking to fill it and you say, “Hold on, I think the Founders Fat Bastard might go down another quarter.”

I was told to try the Coney Dog, a Michigan classic. And here I had thought it was Coney Island in NYC. Apparently not. They were OK. I’d still prefer a Chicago dog. No offense, Michigan!

I’m just skipping around here, not mentioning ALL the breweries and brewers we met. That’s what the final book will be about. But let’s just say it’s Friday, we left Madison last Sunday, and we’ve got over 1,000 miles under the tires and 25 breweries scrawled up in the notebook. Extra credit points if you can identify this tattooed arm or at least the Michigan brewery it’s responsible for. (Peung took this photo and is making sure I say so!)

I say we can never have enough female brewers. Stacey Roth of Arcadia Ales was a pleasure to chat with and I apologize for cutting into her lunch! She does some open fermentation brewing, not a common thing. She’s making some wicked good brews and Arcadia is opening another brewing facility in Kalamazoo (as if there wasn’t already enough amazing beer there!)

It’s not often that the brewer treats you to some tuba performances. William here of Tuba Charlie’s, otherwise known as The Travelers Club Restaurant and the world’s only Tuba Museum, brews one barrel at a time. Often in the courtyard out back. He also has over 200 beers from around the world in bottles. And he runs a music store next door. And there’s a bookstore. And the lavender in the patio garden makes its way into a brew or two. He treated us to a bit of On Wisconsin (after the Michigan State fight song, of course). See that sparkle? Brewer’s magic.

A bit of German zaniness in the German-founded town of Frankenmuth. We stayed at the Bavarian Inn and had some good times over at Frankenmuth Brewery. Here production brewer Jordan poses with the accordion player. Lots of singing of German songs (all I know is Ein prosit!) and dancing. This is a local Michigan group and apparently they get invited to perform these German songs in Germany. Funny, when I went to Germany the band was playing John Denver’s Country Roads.

Another blurry shot from our lovely Canon S100 which will be going back a second time to Canon. (This is evening in a bar, but it does the same focus performance during the day, unfortunately. Grrr.)

Tonight we are in Mount Pleasant. All the brewers we meet love what they are doing, no question about that. But the folks at Mount Pleasant Brewery, headed up by Kim (seated at center) are so damn passionate and enthusiastic about making beer they make you want to run into the brewhouse and start helping. They are growing quickly and they do over 100 batches of R & D beer which end up in the tap room. Based on public reaction, some of them might end up as regular brews. That’s some research I’d like to be part of.

Brewing over at Mountain Town, the sister brewpub here in Mt Pleasant, is an equally enthusiastic Laren. He totally gets into his brews.

And at the end of a long week of driving and interviewing, we ended the day with… a beer? Nope. Not tonight, anyway. A round of disc golf! We are staying at the Fairfield Inn (nice place, good rooms with microwaves, fridges, and wifi) at the south side of town. Right next door is a round of 18. I had my own disc in the trunk, but the hotel provides them for guests!

That’s all for now. Off to Grand Rapids tomorrow for a very long day of brewery visits…