Michigan’s Wackiest Beers: Here’s What’s Inside

Michigan’s beer scene is one of the best in the country. With more than 200 breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs across the state, Michigan is truly a dream destination for both beer enthusiasts and those just looking to explore craft beer for the first time.

Read more on some of the more unique flavors that pop up at various breweries in the Great Lakes state, courtesy of guest blogger Chad Cramblet of the Awesome Mitten.

Take a minute to think about your favorite beer. Is it a stout, sweet and malty with just a subtle hop bitterness? Is it a hoppy IPA that is perfectly balanced with a slight sweetness? Can you taste the hops, the malt, the smoked pig’s head, the watermelon candy or maybe the freshly picked jalapeno peppers?

At its core, beer is simply a combination of water, grain, hops and yeast. It is the different combinations and varieties of these ingredients that create most of the beers that we know and love. However, we are lucky enough to live in a time (now) and place (Michigan) where breweries are taking a more artistic approach to beer, not afraid to play with unique ingredients to create something unique and, in some cases, flat out weird.

With the ever-growing number of small breweries in Michigan, there is no shortage of unique brews being served in taprooms and beer festivals throughout the state. Brewing beer in smaller batches than some of the bigger names in beer, many Michigan brewers have more wiggle room when it comes to incorporating unusual ingredients in their recipes. Whether the goal is for the ingredient to be the focal point or simply a supporting character, nothing is off limits when it comes to experimentation.

Photo Courtesy of Shorts Brewing

Photo Courtesy of Short’s Brewing

But what is it that makes a beer using strange ingredients a success and not just a novelty? For head brewer Tony Hansen of Short’s Brewing Company in Bellaire, that is pretty simple:

“Whether you are trying to single out and highlight the ingredient or make it work with other elements to create something complex, it has to be something that leaves the customer wanting more,” Hansen said. “I’ve tasted a lot of strange beers that were made with weird ingredients that sounded interesting but were undrinkable.

“In my opinion, these beers may have attracted or created a long line (at a beer festival), but they were not a success.”

Though some brewers may start with a traditional recipe and figure out how to add a unique ingredient into the mix, for Hansen the creative process starts with the the ingredient itself.

“I start with the weird or unique ingredients first (and then) figure out if I want it to be the dominant flavor or complemented with other flavors to create a broader concept,” Hansen said.

After he has an idea of what the ingredient will contribute to his vision, he chooses a base beer that has the right characteristics to complete the puzzle.

“Of course, the base beer might have to be manipulated a bit from traditional style to fit just right, but that’s what makes it fun.”

While many beer drinkers prefer to stick with beer-flavored beer, for those who prefer to take a drink on the wild side here are a list of a few of the strange beers that Michigan breweries have produced. Since most of these are produced in limited quantities and served exclusively in tap rooms or at beer festivals, make sure to check out breweries’ websites to see what’s available before making a pilgrimage to check out any of the beers listed below.

Spicy

Peter Piper Pepper Pale Ale
Rockford Brewing Company, Rockford

Also a part of RBC’s Permaculture Series, this pale ale utilizes serrano, jalapeno, banana and hungarian wax peppers from Heidi’s Farmstand in Lowell. You can expect a finish of fresh peppers without an overwhelmingly spicy bite. Also try Hot Peter; Peter Piper Pepper Pale Ale cask conditioned on a blend of peppers.

ABV: 5%

Photo Courtesty of Rockford Brewing

Photo Courtesy of Rockford Brewing

440 Pepper Smoker
Original Gravity Brewing CompanyMilan

Description: This Amber Ale uses a German smoked malt that adds a balanced smoky flavor that works well with the heat from the fresh jalapenos that are added during several stages of the brewing process.

ABV: 5.6%

Sweet

Watermelon Weizen
Hideout Brewery, Grand Rapids

This wheat beer’s green color might come as a bit of a surprise, but that is because it is brewed with over one thousand watermelon candies which makes it a little tart, a little sweet and a lot refreshing.

ABV: 5.3%

Hipster Brunch Stout
Odd Side Ales, Grand Haven

This dark, boozy stout was aged in bourbon barrels along with coffee, maple syrup and bacon. While made with breakfast ingredients, the sweet and complex flavors present in this beer would also be great for dessert.

ABV: 10%

Barrel Aged Sweet Potato Souffle
Odd Side Ales, Grand Haven

This boozy, spiced strong ale is brewed with sweet potatoes and aged in rye whiskey barrels. Skip the sweet potato casserole and make this the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving table.

ABV: 10%, IBU: 31

Cherry Pie Whole
Right Brain Brewery, Traverse City

Tapped annually in July, this amber ale is brewed with 80 entire cherry pies — crusts and all — from Grand Traverse Pie Company. Released just in time for the National Cherry Festival, you can expect the tart-sweet flavor of cherries and a crackery finish from the crusts.

ABV: 5.4%

Ain’t Jemima
Rockford Brewing Company, Rockford

As part of its ongoing Permaculture Series which seeks to utilize unique ingredients from local agriculture, Ain’t Jemima replaced the water in the brewing process with fresh sap from local maple trees. This series has also produced beers made with butternut squash, plums, rhubarb and several other unique ingredients. Keep an eye on their website to see what’s next!

ABV: 7.6%

Savory

Mangalista Pig Porter
Right Brain Brewery, Traverse City

A rich, chocolaty porter that is brewed with smoked pig heads and bones. While the vegetarians will want to steer clear, this is the beer that put the spotlight on Right Brain when it was named the 2011 Gold Medal Winner for Best Experimental Beer at the Great American Beer Festival.

ABV: 7%

Photo Courtesy of Great Lakes Prep

Photo Courtesy of Great Lakes Prep

OMGWTFBBQ
Short’s Brewing Company, Bellaire

This barbecue-themed experimental amber ale is brewed with tomatoes, brown sugar, molasses, spices and smoked hops. While it’s smokiness and slight spiciness harken to barbecue sauce, the malty backbone remind you that this is a surprisingly drinkable beer.

ABV: 6.7%

Spear Beer
Right Brain Brewery, Traverse City

A light-bodied ale with nutty, earthy and sweet notes from real asparagus! They also add real lemon zest to add a little brightness to the mix. Though it might sound weird, which is why it made this list, it is a must-try for asparagus fans.

ABV: 5.3%

This is simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the unique offerings that Michigan breweries have to offer. With well over 150 breweries and brewpubs across the state, you are never far from a beer infused with Michigan’s bountiful produce and creativity.

What are your favorite wacky Pure Michigan brews? Let us know in the comments below!

chad gambletMeet the Blogger: Chad Cramblet

Chad lives in Rockford with his wife and two dogs and enjoy to spend his time cooking and eating tasty vegetarian food, sampling craft beer, and listening to the Detroit Tigers play on the radio. After enjoying the Michigan craft beer scene for years as a consumer, he was recently employed as an assistant brewer at Newaygo Brewing Company. Since graduating from Cornerstone University in 2011, he’s also worked at Biggby Coffee, covered high school sports for MLive and contributed to The Awesome Mitten. With its natural beauty, craft beer and love for baseball, there’s no place he’d rather be, even with the frigid winters.

Explore Pure Michigan with these October 2016 Events

Fall is coming incredibly soon! The beautiful colorful foliage combined with all of the autumn festivities, the month of October great time to explore our beautiful state. From UPtoberfest to spooky walks, there are a ton of fun and exciting events happening around Pure Michigan.

Below is a roundup of October events to help you plan the upcoming month. Visit our events page to see everything going on all month long.

October 1-9 

8th Annual Skitoberfest
October 1, Boyne Falls

Come to the eighth annual Skitoberfest, a fall extravaganza and homecoming taking place in the Boyne Mountain Village and surrounding area. Skitoberfest celebrates the best of fall’s family offerings in an Oktoberfest-style setting and the coming winter season with a Snowsports Expo hosted by Olympian Cary Adgate and special guest speaker. Skitoberfest highlights include gourmet foods from northern Michigan restaurants, markets and farms, Michigan beers, wines and spirits for tasting, plus music and endless family entertainment. It’s art, it’s drama, it’s entertainment plus food, beer, wine and fun for everyone! Admission is free, and tickets for food, brews and some activities are available.

Sleeping Bear Marathonsleeping bear mrathon
October 1, Empire

This scenic marathon starts in Empire and runs through the iconic Sleeping Bear Dune Climb, Little Glen Lake and Glen Arbor, all with gorgeous views of the Manitou Islands and the Sleeping Bear Dunes at the peak of the fall color season.

Big Lebowski Beer Tour
October 1, Kalamazoo

“But sometimes there’s a man. And I’m talking about The Dude here. Sometimes there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s The Dude.” We’re proud to announce the return of the Big Lebowski Beer Tour. This is a celebration of Michigan beer, bowling and the most quotable movie of all-time.

Tawas Point Haunted Lighthouse Weekend
October 7-8, East Tawas

Come to the Historic Tawas Point Lighthouse and visit with the ghosts and ghouls. On Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. get a rare opportunity to climb the tower at night. On Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., participate in a Halloween dance, hay rides, campsite decorating, games for all ages, pumpkin painting, lighthouse tours, concessions and corn husk doll making. In addition, registered campers can enjoy trick or treating through the campground from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and a monster dance will take place in the day-use pavillion from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Lake Huron Discovery Tour
October 7-10, Standish

If you’re looking for a unique event on Pure Michigan’s sunrise coast, look no further than the Lake Huron Discovery Tour in Standish. Here you can chart your own course for 200 miles of events, cities, villages, rivers, streams, and lakes from Standish to Mackinaw along Lake Huron on Columbus Day Weekend. Cycling, kayak/paddle tours, running events, dark sky events, exploration of Native American history, writers retreat and Octoberfest celebrations will also be taking place.

UPtoberfest
uptoberfestOctober 8, Escanaba

UPtoberfest is the U.P.’s largest wine and beer festival, held on the beautiful lakefront in downtown Escanaba, MI. 2016 marks the 11th year of the festival! This is the eighth year that the festival is being organized by Escanaba’s homebrew club, the Bay de Noc Brewers. They are bringing a wealth of knowledge about beer, homebrewing and festivals to the event as well as volunteering all of their time and efforts. This year the focus of UPtoberfest is to keep it local! All beer and wine will be from Michigan, with the majority of it being from the U.P. and northern Lower Peninsula. All proceeds from UPtoberfest benefit The United Way of Delta Count

October 10-16

Fresh Coast Film Fest & Adventure Summit
October 13-16, Marquette

The Fresh Coast Film Festival is the first of its kind: a documentary film festival celebrating the outdoor lifestyle, water-rich environment and resilient spirit of the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest. The festival will gather the best in adventure cinema from around the world while creating a venue for, and building a culture of, Great Lakes storytelling.

A key component of Fresh Coast will be guided outdoor activities to introduce visitors to the outdoor playground of the Marquette area. Rock climbing, fly fishing, sea kayaking, waterfall hikes fall color tours and mountain bike rides will all be offered as part of the Fresh Coast weekend.

Fall Fest at the Holland Farmers Marketholland farms market
October 14-15, Holland

Come to Fall Fest at the Holland Farmers Market and in downtown Holland! On Friday, professional pumpkin carvers will carve jack-o-lanterns like you’ve never seen before, right on 8th Street. That evening, everyone is invited to take a stroll once the sun sets to see the pumpkins glowing to perfection.

On Saturday, the carvers will return to sculpt masterpieces at the Holland Farmers Market and in Downtown Holland. The entire family can enjoy a variety of fun fall-themed activities including pumpkin painting, a candy in the haystack hunt, pumpkin toss contest and much more! Take a hayride from Downtown Holland to the Holland Farmers Market (and back again) for more fall fun!

Apple Fest
October 14-16, Charlevoix

Fall is in the air and northern Michigan orchards are busy harvesting bushels of fresh, ripe apples in preparation for the 38th Annual Apple Festival taking place downtown Charlevoix. Apples are Michigan’s largest and most valuable fruit crop and our area apple trees are full to overflowing. More than 30 types of apples will be available as well as other fall harvest items including pumpkins, mums, squash, jam, maple syrup, pies, cider and so much more. Local non-profit organizations will be onsite to tempt you with hot food items such as chili, hot dogs, apple flappens, soup, and kielbasa. Pick up your fresh bagels, mustard, crepes, honey, meat, baked goods, granola, and fall veggies – all locally grown and produced.

Family Haunted Village and Spook Walk
October 15, Port Sanilac

Meet the unexpected residents of our creaky old buildings! See what’s in the Halloweeny Woods! Warm your cold Tootsies at the Bonfire and sample goodies at the Food Boooooth! Meet the “Wicked

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Witch and Snow White”, Dr. Loop, the Mad Hatter and others! Find the “Grim Reaper” and walk through the Cemetery in the woods.

Autumn Color Tour Cruises
October 15-16, Bay City

As the leaves begin to change and the temperature starts to cool, the Appledore IV changes course and we begin our popular two-hour Autumn Color Tour. Cruising upriver on the Saginaw, passengers will enjoy a warm lunch while keeping a sharp eye out for fall foliage and wildlife!

October 17-23

Fish with the Prosfish with the pros
October 14-17, Traverse City

Want to fish in the Traverse City area, but don’t have a boat, gear or knowledge of where to find the best spots? Participate in fall 2016′s Fish with the Pros. Fish with a pro for two full days, using their boat and gear! Both individual and team tournaments on Saturday and Sunday. Registration includes amazing food from Friday night through Monday breakfast.

Accommodations at the beautiful Spider Lake Retreat – Traverse City, MI. Double occupancy, private rooms feature patios or a balcony and private bath in each room.

Scarecrow Fest
October 15-23, Frankenmuth

Head to Frankenmuth for the Scarecrow Festival. Enjoy entertainment on stage, costume parade and Trick-or-Treating, view pumpkins with personality, pumpkin catapult, pumpkin bowling, pumpkin painting, face painting, children’s inflatables, rock & roll K-9′s, vote for your favorite scarecrow and more!

Conservation Cafe Great Lakes to Great Lakesconservation cafe
October 21, Grand Rapids

Join Dr. Patrick Doran from The Nature Conservancy for a lunch and lecture as he discusses Great Lakes conservation strategies shared on his travels to Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, Africa. Patrick will discuss how a whole system approach to conservation in the Great Lakes of Michigan and Africa can maximize results for both people and nature. Take a virtual tour of Mahale and the Serengeti as he shares beautiful photography and inspiring lessons learned.

Mackinac Island Great Turtle Trail Run
October 22, Mackinac Island

This year marks the 21st running of one of the most scenic trail events in the state. We have a capacity of 3,500 participants running and walking the inside trails of Mackinac Island during the last open weekend of the season. All who register will enjoy special race features commemorative medals, a race apparel in Great Turtle fashion, special Halloween events for adults and kids, great end-of-season sales plus the beauty of late fall on the island

Zoo Boo!Zoo Boo!
October 22-23, Saginaw

It’s time to put on your costumes and head to the Children’s Zoo for the annual Halloween bash!

Make your way through the merry-not-so-scary Zoo, exploring all of our spooktacular decorations! Meet some of our creepy, crawly animal friends, then take a ride on the Pirate Train. Even the Carousel horses get into costume! Stop by the many activity stations for a treat, a craft or a game. Take pictures next to the hauntingly adorable photo ops! Watch mad scientist Dr. Slime put on a mysterious, scientific show!

October 24-31

Feast & Fear Dinner
October 28, Grand Junction

Feast on a delicious appetizer, entree and dessert served by your favorite ghosts and goblins from Shadow Hollow Haunt! Sample locally crafted wine and beer from McIntosh Winery & Round Bar Winery during dinner. After dinner, if you dare, climb aboard wagons for a chilling end to your evening! They’ll take you through Shadow Hollow Haunt… a one-of-a-kind, live action haunted wagon ride! If you make it back alive, enjoy a free donut and apple cider!

The dinner menu for the haunted evening will be crafted using our in-season produce, meats from a local butcher shop and cheese from Evergreen Creamery in Fennville. The menu will be subject to change based on what foods are available locally. Reservations and payment required ahead of time.

Glow in the Park PartyGlow in the Park Party
October 28, Douglas

Glow in the Park is an annual, all-inclusive kick-off party for the Halloween weekend. In response to growing Halloween tourism and overall community enthusiasm, Glow in the Park is a family friendly event where “anything that glows goes.” There will be music, food and drink along with plenty of fun glow-in the-dark activities for the kids. Come in full glowing costume or get your glow on when you get there with face painting, black light areas and a merchandise booth selling glow sticks, necklaces, bracelets and our official T-shirts! Proceeds support the Douglas Halloween events.

The amazing face painter uses UV reactive face paint to turn you into a human glow stick under the black lights.

Halloween Bash
October 29, Gaylord

Head to Treetops for the annual Halloween Bash Saturday, October 29th! The party festivities will be from 8pm Midnight with a DJ, cash bar, light hors d’ oeuvres and a costume contest! Prizes for “Best Dressed” and “Best Couple”! Cash only event.

Shanghai NightsShanghai Nights
October 29, Clinton Township

Shanghai Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China present a magnificent blend of athleticism and theatrical expression with high-flying trapeze, aerial balance, flowing theatrical dance, juggling and mime-character comedy, showcasing an artistic world full of history and wonder. These amazing, multi-award-winning artists, direct from Beijing, give us a deeply aesthetic night of breathtaking beauty and physical daring, thrilling young and old alike.

Step Back In Time To the Life of a Fur Trapper
October 30, Monroe

River Raisin National Battlefield Park, welcomes you to a National Park Service Centennial Event: “Step Back in Time to the Life of a Fur Trapper” on Sunday, October 30 from 1:30-2:30 p.m.

Join Norbert DeWilde to learn all about the fur trade and the life of a fur trapper. Have fun exploring furs in this hands-on fun filled educational activity. This is open for all ages. The activity will be held outdoors with weather permitting.

Did we miss your favorite October event? Name it below!

Cheers for Charlevoix Beers: 5 Awesome Breweries

Calling craft beer drinkers! Northern Michigan is the perfect place to enjoy the lakes while sipping on a delicious Michigan craft beer. If you’re looking for an ideal spot to stay right in the middle of a fun Michigan brew tour, look no further than the Charlevoix area!

Read more on a few breweries to discover in Northern Michigan via the Charlevoix Convention and Visitors Bureau.

1. Lake Charlevoix Brewing Company
Charlevoix

Located in downtown Charlevoix, the Lake Charlevoix Brewing Company is an 8 tap brew-pub featuring four mainstays and four ever rotating tap handles of quality Michigan craft beer. During the warmer months make sure to get a seat in the beer garden overlooking Round Lake. They thoroughly enjoy the seasonality of different beer styles, drinking darker beers in the winter and lighter beers in the summer. One of the coolest beers on tap currently is Our-Levoix, a rhubarb red ale that is both tart and sweet brewed in collaboration with Our Brewing Co. Hopheads will love the El Trubador, a citrus noted Imperial IPA made from Michigan Cascade Hops. The food menu provides shareable apps and simple tacos and sandwiches that perfectly accompany the beer choices.

Lake Charlevoix Brewing Company is your stop for delicious craft beer

Photo Courtesy of the Charlevoix Convention and Visitors Bureau

2. Petoskey Brewing Company
Petoskey

It’s hard to miss the Petoskey Brewing building on M-119, which was built in 1898 and brewed until 1915. In 2012, the brewery was restored and reopened. The seasonal Cranium Crush Waffle Cone Raspberry Cream Ale is a great blend of fresh raspberries and actual waffle cones. This unique brew is a great seasonal beer that’s smooth and great for summer. If you are a IPA fan, Hopsessed Double I.P.A. is a bold blend of citrus and Simcoe dry hop. This beer’s high bitterness is somewhat toned down by the caramel used in the malted barley. Petoskey Brewing also offers a full menu with delicious burgers and sandwiches.

The Petoskey Brewing company hails from a historic northern Michigan location

Photo Courtesy of the Charlevoix Convention and Visitors Bureau

3. Beards Brewing Company
Petoskey

Nestled in downtown Petoskey, Beards has a unique concealed backroom location. With a vibe like your neighborhood coffee shop, the low key feeling is ever present with the offering of Wed-Sat food truck Happy’s Tacos. Looking for a good summer beer? Look no further than the Luna, this beer is a classic brewery staple that is a saison-styled American wheat ale that has amazing undertones of citrus. The Serendipity Porter offers a smooth chocolatey flavor with a perfect blend of sweetness. There are also subtle undertones of sherry and smoke that makes this a great class of beer.

Beards Brewing is a can't-miss when visiting Petoskey

Photo Courtesy of the Charlevoix Convention and Visitors Bureau

4. Shorts Brewing Company
Bellaire

Shorts is a Northern Michigan staple. This local brewery has gained state and national recognition for their innovative beer names. Known for its Soft Parade, Bellaire Brown, and Huma Lupa Licious, the brew pub also offers numerous unique beers that cannot be found in stores. Try their Chocolate Wheat ale, an amazingly smooth and drinkable porter style beer. Gitchy Gitchy Ooh La La is brewed with nontraditional ingredients such as cucumber, lemon and lilac. This tasty blend creates a fun tasting experience. Shorts always has tons of new beers being added to their tap list. Make sure to save room for food, as their menu does not disappoint (our fav is the White Pepper sammy).

Shorts is known as one of the most recognizable breweries in Michigan

Photo Courtesy of the Charlevoix Convention and Visitors Bureau

Up & Coming

Stiggs will be a great addition to the Michigan brewery family

Photo Courtesy of the Charlevoix Convention and Visitors Bureau

5. Stiggs Brewing Company
Boyne City

We were very lucky to get a sneak peek! Located downtown Boyne City, Stiggs Brewing Company can be found in the historical Alpena Railroad building. This once bustling railroad depot promises to be the next great addition to the Michigan craft beer scene. The Screaming Tree IPA is an American hops and barley ale that’s well balanced and smooth. The Boyne Logger is a Vienna Style Lager that is lightly hopped and visitors a chance unwind after a busy day.  The Swoopy Swallow is a Weizenbier that has a wheaty malt flavor with an extremely crisp finish. Stiggs serves pub food with a twist derived from local farmers and vendors paired with Stiggs hand crafted beers and other Michigan wines and spirits. Don’t miss your chance to visit the newest addition to Northern Michigan. Stiggs Brewing Company will be opening in October of 2016!

Tap Rooms You can never go wrong with Michigan craft beer. Check out each of these locations to find more awesome Michigan beer.

Which of these breweries have you visited? Share with us by commenting below!