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.

For the Love of the Brew: An Inside Look at Brewing Michigan Craft Beer

Today is National Beer Day! To celebrate, we asked Frankenmuth Brewery‘s own Brewmaster, Jeff Coon, to give us the inside scoop on brewing Michigan craft beer. If you’re a Michigan craft beer connoisseur, see how you can learn to brew your own! 

Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Brewery

Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Brewery

If you’ve always wanted to see what it’s like to be a baseball player, you can go to a fantasy camp and hit pitches from an old-timer. If you ever felt the need for speed, you can go to NASCAR events and drive around the track a few times. What if your passion is Michigan craft beer? How do you get started in brewing? With some help from Frankenmuth Brewery and myself, it may not be as hard as you think.

As a lifelong homebrewer, I’ve always loved the science of brewing beer but I never had the ability to go into an actual brewery and see how they work. Once I became the Brewmaster at Frankenmuth Brewery, we sat down and talked about ways to get people further interested in the brewing process. Then it hit me, “Why not have a program where you can be a Brewmaster For A Day?”

Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Brewery

Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Brewery

With that in mind, we decided to create our own class that would teach the basics of beer at the oldest brewery in Michigan. After walking through the brewing process, participants get to sit down with me and sample some of the brews we have on tap. It’s a time to reflect on what went right during the creation of the beer and see how they pair with some of the delicious menu items we have at Frankenmuth Brewery.

If you’re a homebrewer like me, your mouth is probably salivating at this point and, even if you aren’t, we hope to inspire you to try brewing a Michigan craft beer of your own.

If you’re already brewing your own beer at home, here are a few tips that can make the process much easier:

Take A Copious Amount Of Notes: The only way to insure that you are creating great, quality beer every single time you brew is to keep track of ingredients and important specifics. By doing so, you’ll be able to recreate what has made your beer good and avoid prior brewing mistakes.

Test Your Raw Ingredients: Find out what makes each ingredient the proper fit for your brew and test them before adding them into the process. If you’re using something that doesn’t taste right to begin with, you’ll likely be the bearer of a bad final brew.

Don’t Feel Limited In What You Can Brew: Most amateurs feel that they can only do the most basic brewing at home, but if you keep an open mind, you can easily create many different kinds of Michigan craft beer. If you come to the Brewmaster For A Day course, I’ll show you how to do a more complicated lager brew with only a shallow pan and beach towel.

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Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Brewery

Brewing beer is a process that takes time, patience and a good set of senses. It isn’t as simple as just heading to the tap and pouring a brew. From sampling raw ingredients to adding yeast during the fermentation process, it’s the small details that can truly make beers from Michigan breweries something special.

So what’s it like to be a Brewmaster? Well, aside from being the best job in the world, it provides a unique experience for learning everything about beer. As a student in the Brewmaster For A Day program at Frankenmuth Brewery, you can be a part of that experience too.

Frankenmuth Brewery is giving fans a chance to win a free spot in their next Brewmaster for a Day class. For details, visit their Facebook page here!

Happy National Beer Day! What are you doing to celebrate in Pure Michigan?

gQV1Kwc99eTgyLTNIRhbeSfAZG_rGNu0PzazD8BiGlgAs an avid homebrewer since he was a teenager, Jeff Coon has helped to successfully revitalize the craft beer selection at Frankenmuth Brewery, the oldest brewery in Michigan. Following the rules of German Beer Purity Law, he has kept the brewery’s German heritage in tact while also exploring other kinds of new beers.  Follow him on Twitter @BrewingPastor.

The Ultimate List of Upper Peninsula Breweries

National Beer Day is Sunday, April 7! In celebration, we asked Jesse Land of the travel site “Things to do in the U.P.” to share a roundup of Upper Peninsula-based breweries. Let us know in the comments section below if you have a favorite U.P. brewery!

Did you know that the Upper Peninsula has thirteen breweries? From Brickside Brewery at the tip of the Keweenaw to Soo Brewing in the eastern U.P., breweries have been opening up (and sticking around) regularly over the past few years.

Following is a full list of all the fully operational breweries in the U.P., as well as one bonus location I don’t want you to miss.

Brickside Brewery
64 Gratiot St.
Copper Harbor, MI 49918
(906) 289-4772

Funded in part by a successful Kickstarter campaign, Brickside opened its doors in 2012 and makes a terrific addition to Michigan’s northernmost town.

Red Jacket Brewing Co.
300 Sixth St.
Calumet, MI 49913
(906) 337-1910

Part of the Michigan House Café, Red Jacket Brewing serves several beers at the Michigan House as well as a wide variety of other beer. Historic charm and excellent food make this a great stop for lunch or dinner.

The Library Brew Pub
62 Isle Royale St.
Houghton, MI 49931
(906) 487-5882

Known for their killer pizza, the Library Brew Pub also boasts a nice selection of excellent beer and a great view of the Portage Canal waterway.

Keweenaw Brewing Company
408 Shelden Ave.
Houghton, MI 49931
(906) 482-5596

The U.P.’s largest brewer by far, “KBC” beer is distributed across Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The KCBC tap room in downtown Houghton features two bars, a lounge area, fireplace, free wifi and outdoor seating.

Jasper Ridge Brewery
1075 Country Lane
Ishpeming, MI 49849
(906) 485-6017

Jasper Ridge in Ishpeming is a sports friendly brewpub and restaurant. I wouldn’t call it a sports bar, but their lounge area is definitely a good spot to have a burger and a craft beer while watching “the game.”

The Vierling
No. 119 South Front
Marquette, MI 49855
(906) 228-3533

The Veirling is a fixture in Marquette. It’s known as much for its excellent food and cool, historic atmosphere as it is for is beer. And it’s also just two blocks away from the equally historic Landmark Inn.

Blackrocks Brewery
424 N 3rd St.
Marquette, MI 49855
(906) 273-1333

Just a short walk away from The Vierling, Blackrocks is located in a converted house. The owners have done an excellent job with the space and it’s become one of Marquette’s most popular watering holes for good reason. Blackrocks also features live music Sunday through Thursday.

Ore Dock Brewing Co.
114 Spring St.
Marquette, MI 49855
(906) 228-8888

Marquette’s newest brewery is another wonderful addition to the town. With a sharp focus on sustainable building materials, local community, and Belgian beers, Ore Dock is loved by locals and tourists alike. The Ore Dock is within easy walking distance of both Blackrocks and The Vierling.

Hereford & Hops
624 Ludington St.
Escanaba, MI 49829
(906) 789-1945

Hereford and Hops is “grill your own steak” type restaurant and brewery in Escanaba. They always have a variety of beer on tap and feature seasonal favorites throughout the year.

Shooters Firehouse Restaurant & Lounge
408 Mill St.
Munising, MI 49862
(906) 387-3540

Shooters is an established restaurant and bar in Munising that just started serving their own craft beer a few weeks ago.  They have five different types of beer on tap and many more varieties ready to serve. 

Lake Superior Brewing Co.
N14283 Lake Ave.
Grand Marais, MI 49839
(906) 494-2337

Lake Superior Brewing in Grand Marais is an idyllic little place in an idyllic little town. With much talked about pizza and favorites like their garlic parmesan popcorn or scotch eggs, this establishment could get by just fine without it’s own beer. But add a nice selection of craft brews to the mix and this definitely becomes a must try brewery.

Tahquamenon Falls Brewery
Upper Tahquamenon Falls
Newberry, MI 49868
(906) 492-3300

Built to resemble an old logging camp, the food here is widely accepted as being better than average and the beer is some of the best I’ve had in the U.P. I’ve yet to hear anything other than great things about this brewery from anyone, and I’ve asked a lot of people! It’s located just off the parking area for upper Tahquamenon Falls.

Soo Brewing
223 W Portage Ave
Sault, MI 49783
(906) 632-4400

Another fairly recent addition to the list of Upper Peninsula breweries, Soo Brewing brought craft beer back to the Soo. I haven’t been here yet myself, but the feedback I’ve heard is that the beer is good and the space is comfortable.

The Fitz
5033 Front St.
Eagle River, MI 49950
(906) 337-0666

I’m giving The Fitz in Eagle River an honorable mention here, and if you visit the place I’m sure you’ll agree with me. With over 100 different beers available, most only found in bigger cities, The Fitz should be on any beer lover’s radar. These guys know their beer.

That’s it for now, folks. I hope to see an Upper Peninsula beer tour in your future!

A native Yooper, Jesse Land lives in Iron Mountain and enjoys hiking, biking, skiing, and camping with his family. He runs the U.P. travel site “Things to do in the U.P.” (www.thingstodointheup.com).