LUDINGTON – A short drive to this lakeside resort town from Grand Rapids is well worth the trip for a nice weekend beer-oriented trip.
Anchored by the Aug. 18 Suds on the Shore Craft Beer and Wine Festival, it was a trip my friend Chuck and I were going to make either way, but the area has so much more to offer, including a brewpub and a bar devoted solely to Michigan libations. The great weather didn’t hurt, either, as it was a beautiful mid-70s Saturday afternoon, and downtown Ludington was as charming as it could be.
Heading up, we knew we’d have to stop in to Jamesport Brewing Co., the local brewpub. I was expecting a smaller place than the one we found — which included bar, restaurant, and outdoor seating areas — and was equally surprised by the fact that nearly all the tables were full at 1:30 in the afternoon.
The beers, which arrived a few minutes later, made it well worth the trip. The Blueberry Wheat Ale — complete with fresh blueberries in the glass — was refreshing and crisp, with the pleasant taste of a full blueberry every few sips.
Next we made our way the half mile or so to Ludington City Park, where Suds on the Shore was being held. The event, held to benefit United Way of Mason County, was surprisingly large: Hundreds of people migrated around more than 25 booths, which included major players in the Michigan brewing industry such as Founders, Bell’s, and Short’s, and even a smoking tent with a nice selection of fine cigars.
Most impressive though, was that this small Northern Michigan town was able to attract breweries from out of state, including Great Lakes Brewing Company and Crispin Cider.
I ultimately tried about six beers, including a few standards of which I’m a big fan, like Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale, but I also experienced some beers I’m not so fond of: Short’s summer seasonal Nicie Spicie, for example. I also tried New Holland Brewing’s Dragon’s Milk and Brewery Vivant’s Contemplation — an ale brewed with honey that was recently released in cans.
Following a few hours at Suds on the Shore, we headed back downtown to The Mitten Bar, an establishment I’ve wanted to visit since I learned about it a few months ago. The interior was surprisingly simplistic: All wood with just casks serving as the tables. There were no substantial decorations apart from two blackboards that announced an incredible selection of Michigan beers. That selection, along with some of the friendliest service I’ve ever had, made my visit one of the best bar experiences I can remember.
Ludington has a great thing going, between The Mitten Bar, Jamesport Brewing Co. and Suds on the Shore. The beautiful lakeshore location offers a great experience for craft beer enthusiasts, and is certainly one I won’t forget.