Taste Tour to Discover Six Trendy Craft Brewers and Distillers
Photo Courtesy: Experience Grand Rapids
With countless varieties of styles and tastes, beer enthusiasts make pilgrimages to breweries across the state to discover the perfect pour.Trend: Barrel-Aged Beer
Former bourbon barrels are an increasingly popular vehicle for aging beer. The result? Slow sippers with alcohol content as high as 10–14 percent. New Holland Brewing Company’s Dragon’s Milk has become its No. 1 brand. It takes about 12 days for the beer to extract flavor from the oak barrel before being bottled.
What: Dragon’s Milk
Where: New Holland Brewing Company in Holland, Grand Rapids and Battle Creek
Trend: Sour Beer
Intentionally introducing wild yeast during open-top fermentation and the barrel-aging process creates beer with a sour, acidic or tart taste. Embrace the funk and try Bam Bière, a farmhouse ale with hints of citrus. Credit goes to Jolly Pumpkin for being the nation’s first all-sour oak brewery.
What: Bam Bière
Where: Jolly Pumpkin in Ann Arbor, Dexter, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Royal Oak and Traverse City
Trend: Specialty ingredients
Capitalizing on Michigan’s agricultural diversity, fruits, vegetables and maple syrup amp up the flavor profile of innovative craft beers. Other ingredients now guest-starring in brews include locally roasted coffee (Roaster Jack Coffee Co.), lavender and peppermint (Light of Day Organics), and tart cherry juice (King’s Orchards). Right Brain Brewery ranks among the state’s creative leaders. Its brewers draw inspiration from amazing culinary experiences and from its staff of inspired brewers and servers.
What: Cherry Pie Whole, Thai Peanut Brown Ale
Where: Right Brain Brewery, Traverse City
Trend: Homegrown Hops
Outside of the Pacific Northwest, Michigan ranks first for hop crops with about 45 farms growing 15 to 20 varieties. In Traverse City, Mike Moran of MI Local Hops sells about 30 percent of his crop to in-state brewers, including Brewery Vivant. It uses four hops (three native to Michigan) to create Hop Field Farmhouse IPA with fruity flavors similar to pineapple and pear.
What: Hop Field Farmhouse IPA
Where: Brewery Vivant, Grand Rapids
Speaking of trendy breweries, you’ll have a field day touring the hip brew houses around Grand Rapids, Beer City USA. The city’s ale trail boasts 80+ establishments and some of the most incredible craft beer you’ll ever experience.
Michigan spirits are gaining acclaim in their own right. Many of the state’s wine and beer trails also incorporate stops where travelers can sip samples of these hand-crafted Michigan spirits. Today, we’re shinning the spotlight on just a few of these spectacular spirits.Trend: 100% Michigan
More than 200 pounds of wild juniper berries hand-harvested on Beaver Island make up Long Road Distillers’ Michigin. The remaining botanicals come from small farms and fields around the state, including fennel and lemon verbena (Visser Farms, Zeeland), lemon balm (Creation Farm, Beulah), mint (Ham Family Farm, Allendale) and galena hops (Michigan Hop Alliance, Northport).
Where: Long Road Distillers, Grand Rapids
Trend: Sustainable Spirits
Iron Fish Distillery holds the title as Michigan’s first full-line (rum, whiskey, vodka, gin) farm distillery. Daily tours highlight every step of the soil-to-spirit process from growing and harvesting to milling, fermenting, distilling, bottling and tasting. The 1800s farm grows the Jupiter wheat and rye found in its spirits. Seasonal fruits and herbs and natural sweeteners like maple syrup and honey come from local orchards and farms.
What: Michigan Woodland Gin
Where: Iron Fish Distillery, Thompsonville
Across the Upper and Lower Peninsula, there are over 300 brewers, 3,000 acres of wine and grape vineyards, 830,000 gallons of cider production and 2 million pounds of grain and fruit used by craft distillers. From the Lake Michigan shore to the Sunrise Coast, from the Upper Peninsula to the state line, you can enjoy award-winning craft beverages. For a complete list of Michigan craft beverage producers, visit Michigan Craft Beverage Council.