A Craft Beer Lover’s Guide to Monroe County

It can be tough to live in a small town that seemingly doesn’t care for craft beer as a whole. At least as a resident you know where to go for good beer but what is a visitor to do? There are a lot of good sites that will help you find where to go but I have found that my hometown Monroe is not always covered well. This is where our new sidebar comes in. I am hoping it will help people find their way to the bars and restaurants that care about supporting local breweries.

I have been wracking my brain on how to promote bars and restaurants that support local beer since we started this blog years ago. I was stuck on the angle of blasting places that don’t support local beer by name but I have decided to go positive by giving credit to places that get it. Ranting about someone’s beer selection doesn’t help anyone.

Here is the list of bars/restaurants that serve Michigan beer as of this post. If you know of any I missed please let me know.

Oh and yes there are people who visit Monroe. We have the River Raisin National Battlefield Park which is nearing it’s bicentennial and we are the home of General George Armstrong Custer. We even had President Clinton pass the baton to Al Gore here to kick-off the Gore campaign. So if you want to lose in a monumental way this is a great place to visit or make your home.


UPtoberfest – Escanaba, MI 10/8/11

<div class=\"postavatar\">UPtoberfest - Escanaba, MI 10/8/11</div>

I’d like to again alert all of the MIBeerBuzzers to the U.P.’s only beer and wine festival, UPtoberfest!  This will be the 6th annual event, and marks the 3rd year of my homebrew club, Bay de Noc Brewers, running it.  This year we really tried to focus on Michigan beer, and more specifically U.P. beer, but we do have some beer from afar as well.

Even if you were just in Marquette for the Michigan Brewers Guild’s Fall Festival, UPtoberfest is still well worth attending.  There will be about 60 beers/wines to taste, free hors’doeuvres from Bobaloon’s (a local deli), and you get a real pint glass to taste out of instead of a little plastic cup.  We’ll also have some breweries present that weren’t at the MBG fest such as Hereford&Hops, Soo Brewing Company, and Brewery Vivant.  Also present will be Short’s, New Holland, Keweenaw Brewing Company, and more!  The event is held in downtown Escanaba on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Tickets are only $25 in advance or $30 at the gate.  They can be purchased at Hereford&Hops and Bobaloon’s in Escanaba, White’s Party Store and Blackrocks Brewery in Marquette, or online at www.uptoberfest.org.  The best part is that we donate 100% of the proceeds to The United Way of Delta County.  Hope to see you there!

A Visit to Brewery Vivant

<div class=\"postavatar\">A Visit to Brewery Vivant</div>

Surely, if I ever walked into a church, the very foundation would crumble. Brewery Vivant certainly looked like an old church, yet the foundation…she remained standing. Come to find out, it is actually an old funeral home and the brewery is in the stable where the horses used to be kept (how cool is THAT?!). Okay, that makes more sense! The world can keep turning.

As it turns, you should consider a trip out to Grand Rapids and check out this very unique brewpub. Focusing on Belgian beers and sustainably, the brewpub features some amazing beer and food. Jeff & I were lucky enough to visit Brewery Vivant twice in about two weeks. On the second trip, we had snacks which included something absolutely amazing…deep fried avocado. Again, I ask: how cool is THAT?! We also had pomme frites which I think are just kind of like French fries but full of AWESOME! They also have deviled eggs and bacon peanut brittle (which I did not eat because I do not eat pork but again…AWESOME).

Oh, and the beer is pretty darn good too! Here are my stand outs:

Farmhand Ale: They made this beer with raw, unmalted grains like old farmhouse ales. A quick aside–back in the Day, farms used to brew their own beer to keep their farmhands happy. Also, recall, water was pretty crappy (Ha ha!) and beer was often much safer to drink. But you didn’t want Farmhand Fred getting wasted and, um, fertilizing the crops (if you know what I mean), so you kept the farmhouse ale pretty low in alcohol. This lighter beer was to style and would have kept Farmhand TeacherPatti really happy.

Solitude Belgian Amber Ale: this was a very malty beer, almost bock like, with hints of caramel and raisin. (Not lying, I could really taste those things!)

Triomphe IPA: Nice Belgian yeast gives this beer a slightly sweet flavor, but then it hits you with American (i.e. citrusy hops). I wouldn’t have thought these two tastes would go together, but they did. Kind of like Reeses Peanut Butter Cups! (Hey, you got your Belgian yeast in my American hops! You got your American hops in my Belgian yeast! And on it goes).

Big Red Coq: Why yes, you do pronounce that third word the way your dirty little mind thinks! And yes, I did belly up to the bar and order it like that, but I was kind enough to comment that I’m sure they’ve heard that about a million times and I’m sure people have said “I’m sure you’ve heard that a million times” a million times! Me, I am quite savvy. That’s how I roll. A hoppy red beer, it provides lots of citrusy tastes (I got pineapple) without losing its essential Belgianness (is that a word? It is now)

Brewery Vivant is one of the many brewpubs that is now canning. Ain’t gonna lie–canning beer still does not thrill me. I can’t drink pop out of a can because of the “can” taste, and I haven’t loved the canned beers I’ve had. I am, however, very anxious to try their stuff because it is SO good that I have to think it will overcome the “can” taste.

This is a beautiful place in a lovely area of Grand Rapids. It also uses something quite cool…something called conpoto.com. You see, this allows you to buy your friend a drink, and it will be waiting for them when they show up. Brewery Vivant, in fact, has a board that lists names of people who are receiving their free drink. I don’t mean to be bossy–as I know I can sometimes be–but I’d really love to see some local establishments partake of this and I’d REALLY love to see my name on that board at said local establishments! Come on! I took a huge pay cut at my job and teachers need to drink, too! Just sayin!

UP Festival: Keweenaw Brewing

Earlier this week I sent Q & A emails about the upcoming UP Fall Festival  to some of the UP breweries. I quickly received an email back from Keweenaw Brewing.

Everyone should be familiar with this brewery. They were the trend setters that have been selling their beer in cans for years making it my solution to the no bottles on the docks rule where my parents dock their boat. The cans also fit easier in those tiny refrigerators. Factor that in with the taste and that is why Pick Axe Blonde is one of my favorite summer beers.

Thanks to Paul Boissevain for taking time out of his day and replying to my email.

What beers are you bringing to the festival? We will bring in cans:
  • Pick Axe Blonde
  • Red Jacket Amber
  • Lift Bridge Brown
  • Widow Maker Black
  • Olde Ore Dock Scotish

On tap we will have:

  • Solstice Hefeweizen
  • An IPA, though we are still deciding which to bring.

If someone could only try one of your beers what beer would you want them to try? I would want someone to try the Widowmaker Black Ale first. It is a unquely light flavored beer for its black color, filled with notes of smoky molasses with a very light hop finish. While there are a huge number of very good Blondes, Ambers and Browns out there in the Michigan market, this is a unique beer with not much else out there like it.

What is your brewing philosophy? Right on our can: turning beer drinkers into craft beer lovers. All our canned beers are on the light side of Micros, 5% ABV and less than 20 IBU’s. These are brewed as session beers, meant for drinking all through a long hot afternoon on the beach, or a cold evening around a campfire. Good drinking anytime, but being glass free, we are especially welcome in the great outdoors that Michigan has to offer.

What do you want us trolls to know about your Brewery? Our Brewery n Houghton, taproom and small batch experiments, is just a nice place to come drink with friends: outdoors in the summer or around the fireplace in the Winter. Just ask anyone you may know from Michigan Tech.

Side Trip to Odd Side Ales

In our brewpub travels, Jeff and I have long since learned to trust our brewer friends on where to go.  So, when we were about to head to the western side of the state, we solicited advice on that great magic board known as the Facebook.  Sure enough, one of our pals suggested skipping XYZ (I’ll never tell) brewpub in favor of Odd Side Ales, located in Grand Haven. It was a touch out of our way, but we made it work.

It took us a minute, even with my Smart Phone—you should SEE what MY phone can do!!!!—to find the place.  For future reference, it is in a cute little shopping center (think: Kerrytownish) in the downtown area of Grand Haven.  The brewpub is charming, with lots of dark wood with cool grains under glass accents.  (Seriously, there are grain patterns under glass…really neat).  There were board games to play, but sadly no Roll a Role (my all time favorite bar game, and one that Jeff refused to play. I would have to take people to the Corner and then coerce them into playing.  And then one day, the game disappeared.  And it was sad) and plenty of good beer to drink.  Here are my favorites:

Derelict:  This was a pineapple IPA which is one of those things that, in my opinion, could have gone horribly, horribly wrong.  I like those little cans of pineapple juice that my mom used to put in my lunch, but I’m not a huge fan. Happily, this beer came out nice…good balance between citrusy hops and the pineapple.

Hoppy Peppercorn pale ale:  The nose was all pepper and heavenly.  Nicely balanced between hops and peppercorn.  This might be a good beer to try if you are interested in pepper beers but haven’t had many (or any) previously.  Your gateway pepper, if you will.

Cherry Baby:  This Belgian wheat was brewed with Michigan cherries.  Definitely more cherries than wheat and would make a lovely dessert beer.

Peanut Butter Cup Stout:  This was far and away my favorite beer of the day (next to the peppercorn pale ale).  Again, this is a beer that could have been done very poorly but came out very well.  There was more peanut butter than chocolate which was great for me because I like peanut butter more than chocolate.  Not too heavy, even for a hot August day, with a nice peanut finish.

The brewpub is about 16 months old and seems to be willing to experiment, which I find very admirable.  A quick peek at the website shows that some of the beers currently on tap differ from the ones we had less than a month ago.  This willingness to experiment and try different flavors has served many a brewpub well and I trust it will do the same for Odd Side.  So next time you’re traveling, take a clue from your brewer friends and consider making a “side” trip that might seem “odd” but will end up being awesome. (See what I did there? Masterful.)


The UP Fall Festival

I feel like I’m back! It has been a busy summer. We had troubles at work, we were having a lot of work done to the house and I became an uncle for the third time. Then finally as my schedule was starting to clear my computer blue screened! It is still not fixed so I am forced to use the old computer in the basement. I have it set up under a window that gives me a Laverne and Shirley view of the world. I would like to thank Patti for keeping the blog going while I was out. I would also like to thank the Michigan Brewers Guild for giving Sarah and I an event to look forward to which is their UP Fall Festival . It is one of our favorite beer events and should be a nice respite from a hectic summer.

This event has everything: great craft beer, beautiful location,  it supports and promote Michigan products, it’s held around our wedding anniversary  and we have plenty of good friends to drink with.  And it all happens September 10 in Marquette, MI at Mattson Lower Harbor Park between 1 to 6pm.

The park sits between Lake Superior and Marquette’s downtown so you have a great view of the lake and the city. I believe it is the best location of all the MBG festivals. Marquette is one of Michigan ‘s most beautiful cities. It is a college town with industrial roots and was once a thriving port city which gives it an east coast port town feel. (The rolling hills that slope toward the water make it a lot easier to get to the festival than to get back.) The copper tinged buildings downtown give it that uniquely UP feel.

The festival is also a good chance to try out what is being brewed north of the bridge. Sarah and  I tried to hit every single brewery in the UP about 4 years ago but it’s tough because they are so spread out and you can’t just drive the most direct route. With this festival we finally had the chance to do so. They are brewing fantastic beer up there I have been extremely impressed with Hereford and Hops. There is a lot of postive buzz about  Blackrocks brewery and Soo Brewing Company. Hopefully I’ll get to try both this year.

I can’t forget to mention the Vierling Restaurant/Marquette Harbor Brewery which is just minutes away from the festival in. Sarah and I love this place.  Vintage decor hangs on the walls and an old oak bar sends you back to a time when the beer you drank was brewed near by and the food served was local. The good news is that the beer is brewed on premises and is damn good and Lake Superior white fish rivals any seafood I have ever eaten. Sarah can’t wait to have chocolate pecan pie with a little bit of their stout at the Vierling like she did last year. That’s one of the highlights she remembers from last year.

The main reason I love this festival is because of the people. There is an instant bond beer geeks have. You know, we always call each other beer geeks Like you said to, uh, somebody, “You’re gonna like this guy. He’s all right. He’s a beer geek. He’s one of us. You understand? We are beer geeks.” Ok most of this paragraph’s point is to reference “Goodfellas.” It makes up for mentioning Laverne and Shirley earlier in this post. We have met some really nice people(in particular Bay de Noc Brewers ) that we really only get to see once a year at this festival and we can’t wait to see them again this year!

This festival represents the best Michigan has to offer. Beautiful cities, awe inspiring lakes, world class beer and friendly people. Why would you not try to go to this event at least once. I’m convinced if you go once you will go twice. 

Click here for full event details and to purchase tickets on-line.

Here is where you can buy tickets… 

The Vierling Restaurant & Marquette Harbor Brewery in Marquette
Jasper Ridge Brewery in Ishpeming
Blackrocks Brewery in Marquette
Marquette Food Co-op in Marquette
Portside Inn in Marquette
Huron Earth Deli in Marquette
White’s Party Store in Marquette
Rochester Mills Beer Co. in Rochester
New Holland Brewing Co. in Holland
Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City
Mt. Pleasant Brewing Co. in Mt. Pleasant


Michigan Craft Beer Legislation

August 23, 2011

Dear AHA, Brewers Association and Support Your Local Brewery Members,

The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) is supporting an effort by Michigan homebrewers to pass legislation that would allow homebrewers to serve homebrew at meetings and events held at Michigan breweries, bars and restaurants.

Thanks to all of the calls and emails from supporters of House Bill 4061, the bill has been passed by the Michigan House and the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee. It still needs to be passed by the full Michigan Senate before it can be sent to the governor to sign into law.

We need your help to make that happen. The bill could go to a vote in the Senate at any time, so your action is needed now. Please contact the office of the state Senator for your district and ask that they support HB 4061. Contacting your legislators’ offices is quick and easy, and your call or email could mean the difference between passage and defeat for this bill.

Current Michigan regulations prohibit the serving of homebrew for any purpose at microbreweries, brewpubs, restaurants and bars. House Bill 4061, sponsored by homebrewer Representative Doug Geiss, would allow homebrew to be served at licensed Michigan breweries, restaurants and bars for activities such as club meetings and competitions.

Thanks for your support of Michigan homebrewers!

Charlie Papazian
Brewers Association

Gary Glass