5 Michigan Breweries Famous on a National Scale

Craft Beer is becoming synonymous with Michigan, with some 250 breweries spread throughout two peninsulas. Ranking fifth nationally for that overall number of breweries, it’s no wonder the Michigan Brewers Guild uses the tag: “Michigan. The Great Beer State.” In celebration of National Beer Day, read more on five famous Michigan breweries (in no particular order), as shared by Dianna Stampfler of the Michigan Brewers Guild.

Did you know there are quite a handful of Michigan breweries and microbreweries that currently distribute outside the state? In fact, Michigan-based Meijer recently announced that it is taking the six largest breweries—Arcadia, Atwater, Bell’s, Founders, New Holland and Short’s—to more than 223-store locations in five states in the Midwest!

Photo Courtesy of Instagrammer @nickgezon

Currently, Meijer carries selections from 50 Michigan breweries and offers 550 different beers from 220 beer-makers in its six-state footprint. It expects to sell $90 million in craft beer in 2016, including $30 million of Michigan-produced beer.

Those who live in Michigan probably know most of the older, well-established breweries. But for those throughout the rest of the country, what do they think of when they hear the names of some of these noted craft producers?

1. Bell’s Brewery. The largest and longest-operating of Michigan’s craft breweries, Bell’s was founded in 1986 in Kalamazoo by Larry Bell—considered the patriarch of the industry.

Available in 23 states, plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico, this brand’s most noted product is Oberon (introduced as Solsun in 1992 and renamed in 1997 due to a similar named beer from another North American brewery).

Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler

The release of this noted beer is nothing less than a National Holiday—Oberon Day was celebrated this year on Monday, March 21 (second only to Eccentric Day, held each December, in terms of Bell’s-focused festivities). Considered a summer seasonal for most states, it is available year-round in states with warmer climates such as Arizona, Southern California, Florida and Puerto Rico.

2. Dark Horse Brewery. Featured in 2014 on The History Channel show “Dark Horse Nation,” this Marshall brewery has a loyal-following for its cast of characters as well as its full beer portfolio. But it is the Crooked Tree IPA which is its top seller, currently available in 15 states, and overseas in Denmark.

An IPA (India Pale Ale) is a style of beer dating back to the early 1800s. Contemporary American IPAs are typically brewed with distinctively American hops. Dark Horse’s award-winning Crooked Tree IPA (6.5% ABV | 46 IBUs) is heavily dry-hopped with a blend of Centennial, Cascade and Columbus hops, to give it a big aroma of pine and grapefruit citrus.

3. Founder’s Brewing. Michigan’s second-largest brewery (and the fastest growing of the top 50 largest breweries in the United States), has been operating in downtown Grand Rapids since 1997 and currently offers a wide variety of beer styles available in 37 states (and growing).

Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler

Among Founders’ diverse portfolio, it is Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) which garners the most attention for the brewery.

“KBS is sold one day a year in outlying markets,” says co-founder Dave Engbers. “Usually. It doesn’t hit the shelves but is quietly held or reserved as a reward to retailers’ best customers. Beer enthusiast have been known to ‘tail’ beer distributor’s trucks so they don’t miss a delivery.”

While KBS is available in limited quantities starting April 1 across the brewery’s distribution footprint visitors to and residents of Grand Rapids were given access to this much-anticipated beer back in mid-March during KBS Week.

4. Jolly Pumpkin. Regarded as the nation’s first brewery focused on and offering an exclusive selection of oak-aged sour beers—often called farmhouse or rustic country ales—Jolly Pumpkin has under the watchful guidance of master brewer Ron Jeffries.

With a special interest in rustic country ales, Ron and his wife, Laurie, realized their dream in the summer of 2004 when they launched Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter (along with North Peak Beer, both of which operate through Northern United Brewing Company). Currently available in 25 states (as well as Hong Kong, Belgium, Ontario and South Korea), the award-winning Jolly Pumpkin is recognized as the America’s premier all-sour brewery.

Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler

And while the creatively-named and inspired beers are all special in their own way, it is the Oro de Calabaza (translation: Golden Pumpkin) that is the #1 selling beer outside of Michigan. This Golden Ale (8% ABV | 30 IBUs) is a “wild ale” brewed in the Franco-Belgian tradition of Belgian Strong Goldens. Available year-round, this orange-yellow hued beer it is “spicy and peppery, with a gentle hop bouquet and beguiling influence of wild yeast.”

5. New Holland Brewing. Founded in downtown Holland in 1997, (and coming soon to downtown Grand Rapids), this brewery and distillery first produced Dragon’s Milk (11% ABV | 31 IBUs) in 2001 as a single-batch annual release. Today, it is the brewery’s largest selling year-round beer – available in all 24 states where they distribute. In fact, in 2015 New Holland renovated its Holland production facility to expand its cellar, where more than 3,500 oak barrels of Dragon’s Milk are now aging.

This Bourbon Barrel Stout is aged in bourbon barrels and is noted for its roasty malt character intermingled with deep vanilla tones that dance together in an oak bath before being bottled. In 2014, New Holland introduced their “Dragon’s Milk Reserve” series, including additional conditioning ingredients, like toasted chilies, and raspberries. The 2016 Dragon’s Milk Reserve series includes Vanilla Chai, released in January, Coffee & Chocolate released in March and will include Raspberry and Lemon and “Double Dragon” later this year.

Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler

It should also be noted that New Holland produces a full line of spirits as well, including Beer Barrel Bourbon – a bourbon-style whiskey finished in second-use Dragon’s Milk beer barrels for 90 days. For those who are so inclined, a snifter of Dragon’s Milk served with a shot of Beer Barrel Bourbon has affectionately been called the “Dragon Slayer.”

Dianna Stampfler is a freelance writer and promoter of all things Michigan. She has served as publicist for the Michigan Brewers Guild since 2008.

Four Types of Detroit Tours You’ll Want to Experience

Today, guest blogger Dan Fuoco of Visit Detroit gives us some tips for exploring the city with these four types of Detroit tours.

Photo courtesy of Instagram user @phillyd1834 | Detroit Tours

Photo courtesy of Instagram user @phillyd1834

Detroit tours are not cookie-cutter or identical – they are custom, one-of-a-kind, jam-packed journeys that will transform your notion of Detroit and leave your thirsting for more knowledge and curious enough to explore on your own.

The right tour can be found based on these four types of Detroit tour experiences:

Historical Tours

The American Revolution. The Underground Railroad. Birthplace of the automobile. The Civil Rights movement. If you didn’t already realize it, these Detroit tours are a goldmine for history geeks.

Historians adore The Henry Ford Museum mainly because of its popular artifacts which include Abraham Lincoln’s rocking chair (from the night of his assassination) and the bus where Detroiter Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger, sparking the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Historical Society | Detroit Tours

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Historical Society

Also a must-stop location on your Detroit tour itinerary, the Detroit Historical Museum is one of the oldest and largest museums dedicated to metropolitan history in the U.S., encompassing more than three centuries of metro Detroit history. A self-guided Detroit tour is the best way to soak up just the right amount of history without a factual overload.

Musical Tours

Every Detroit tour must include a visit to Motown Museum where you will literally walk the hallways once frequented by Motown legends Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, The Temptations and The Supremes, to name a few. Enter Studio A and relive the humming, snapping, and foot-tapping that swept the nation.

FREE Tours

Detroit Riverfront and GM Renaissance Center | Detroit Tours

Detroit Riverfront and GM Renaissance Center

Did You Know? The “Mo” in Motown was derived from “Motor City” which pays homage to the ultra-obvious notion that Detroit is the car capital of the world! Detroit and its metro area are world headquarters to all three major US automakers: Ford, Chrysler, and GM. Every tour of Detroit should stop at the world headquarters and the iconic building in Detroit’s skyline, the General Motors Renaissance Center. Free tours of the GM Renaissance Center take visitors through the automaker’s showroom, highlighting vintage, new and concept vehicles. The grand finale is a glass elevator ride to the 72nd floor of the Detroit Marriott Hotel and tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere.

Keeping on the architecture trail, Detroit Experience Factory offers a free weekly Art & Architecture Walking Tour on Fridays from 12:00-1:00 P.M.. On the tour, you’ll discover the city’s rich history, grand buildings and vibrant art in public places. Stand on Detroit’s Point of Origin in Campus Martius, pose with the Spirit of Detroit and adore the art deco in the ceiling of the majestic Guardian Building, a National Historic Landmark.

Outdoor Tours

Detroit has been called the Paris of the Midwest because of its attention to fine architecture; it is one of the only cities in the country so faithfully emblematic of this architectural style. A Detroit tour focused on architecture should include visiting works from Albert Kahn, George D. Mason and Wirt C. Rowland. Minoru Yamasaki, who later designed the World Trade Center, also got his start in Detroit, where he designed buildings including One Woodward Avenue.

Must-sees should include the historic Westin Book Cadillac Detroit hotel, built in the 1900s; the Chicago style-influenced Penobscot Building, designed by Rowland and Detroit sculptor Corrado Parducci; the art deco Guardian Building; and the Fisher and General Motors Building (Cadillac Place), both designed by Kahn and located in Detroit’s New Center area.

Have you gotten the opportunity to tour Detroit? Let us know what you saw during your visit!

Dan Fuoco_2014_portraitDan Fuoco is the Interactive Marketing Manager for the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau (VisitDetroit) and is responsible for building and engaging with VisitDetroit’s social media and blog communities.  You can find him geeking out over: social media infographics, muscle cars and Detroit. Follow him on TwitterInstagram and periodically on Pinterest.

Two of a Feather: Great Birding, Sights in Traverse City

Many things signal the start of warm weather in Michigan, but maybe none more iconic than the chirping of birds during a gentle spring morning. From chickadees to eagles, and many species in between, Michigan offers birding enthusiasts a view of stunning feathered-fowl unlike anywhere else. Read more on birding in the Traverse City area, as told by guest blogger Mike Norton.

Spring must be here. I heard my first loon of the season this morning, that funny little hiccup of laughter echoing back from the harbor. And when the birds return, can the borders be far behind?

Each year, hundreds of people make their way to Traverse City with binoculars and notebooks to enjoy its many birding opportunities.

Some come for the annual spring migration (between mid-April and mid-May) when all kinds of migratory birds congregate along the nearby islands and peninsulas on their way north. Others wait until the end of May for nesting season.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

The Traverse City area hasn’t been numbered among the world’s traditional birding hotspots; it’s not on any of the main migratory flyways, and until recently it hasn’t really known what to make of visiting birders. But it has an amazing amount of bird-friendly habitats within a short distance — almost all on public land to which birders have easy access. And birders are paying attention, thanks to the new Sleeping Bear Birding Trail, a 123-mile online guide to over 27 birding sites.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

At the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, for instance, birders will not only find a large variety of warblers and other songbirds, but a chance to spot the Great Lakes piping plover – a tiny shorebird whose habitat has been wiped out in much of its range. An hour’s drive to the east, in the jackpine plains near Grayling and Mio, is the home of the Kirtland’s warbler, a reclusive songbird that requires frequent wildfires to germinate the gnarled pines on which its survival depends.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

But Traverse City itself is a year-round birding area, thanks to its location on Grand Traverse Bay and a significant number of parklands, preserves and greenways.

The city’s bayshore, for example, is rich with waterfowl. In winter and spring there are White-Winged Scoters, Horned Grebes, Red-Breasted Mergansers, and Goldeneyes. Terns can be found on the nearby beaches, and loons are often seen out beyond the breakwater, and in winter large rafts of redheads and scaup can be seen, sometimes numbering in the thousands.

About 20 minutes away, Lighthouse Park at the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula is a fantastic place to find shorebirds during spring migration, when exposed mudflats attract a spectacular variety of sandpipers and plovers. The trails in the park’s interior are home to large numbers of forest birds, including pewees, phoebes, Red-Headed Woodpeckers, Black-Throated Green Warblers, and both Warbling and Red-Eyed Vireos.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

The Boardman River, which empties into the Bay near the city’s downtown, is a particularly rich area for birds. Upstream, it broadens into Boardman Lake, whose southern end is probably the city’s best birding area. Over 160 species of birds have been logged here, and there’s good birding in every season. (During the spring migration, the number of different of warbler species found here can be fantastic.)

On the city’s west side, the most productive birding is on the 500-acre campus of the Grand Traverse Commons. Its miles of trails offer redpolls, grosbeaks and waxwings in winter, a huge selection of migrating warblers in spring, and summer nesters like flycatchers, warblers, vireos, cuckoos, hummers, and several species of woodpeckers. The campus is also home to herons, hawks and the occasional owl, and is one of the area’s best spots for viewing orioles and Indigo Buntings.

Even casual birdwatchers will enjoy a chance to see some of the many lovely birds that make their own “spring break” stops in Traverse City!

Blogger Bio:

Mike Norton spent 25 years as a newspaper writer and columnist before starting a second career as media relations manager at Traverse City Tourism. An avid cyclist, kayaker and hiker, he lives in the village of Old Mission.