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bay tour

bay tour

“Up north is sacred,” a phrase uttered quite a few times throughout the day. Indeed, a Michigander grows up well-conditioned to survive and thrive on road trips. Children learn at a young age that rest stops (bathroom opportunities) can be fifty miles apart and parents learn to ignore the violence that occurs in the backseat between siblings. It is a sacred tradition, and with the rising craft industry in the state, the art of the road trip has evolved into something even more special.

Wintertime in Michigan is glorious. And although the winter dangers can hinder some, it should not take away from visiting some of the best regions in the state. With this in mind, MittenBrew decided to go on a day trip with friends and family through the northern bays of Michigan to explore the craft universe.

Petoskey, a lovely year-round town neighboring Little Traverse Bay, hails as the starting point for our adventure. I go into town alone (my crew was still waking up) and grab a cozy booth at Dripworks Coffee, beginning my adventure with one of their delicious frittatas. Also famous for their pastries—the owner is a classically trained French pastry chef—I grab a myriad of breakfast treats for my group back home.

With our snacks packed and our winter boots equipped, the group heads out, enjoying the scenic drive on southbound US-31 to Traverse City. The group includes my younger brother, my best friend and her sister, and my friend Kaitlyn, our Traverse City guide. To review our game plan, we duck into Brew, a coffeehouse and tap room located in the heart of downtown.

“There are almost too many!” Sami exclaims, pointing at all of the things she wants to order.

Too many coffees. Too many beers. Too many ridiculously delicious-looking muffins. Clearly, there are no bad choices here. For my brother, the hot chocolate with the homemade whipped cream and chocolate sauce is the obvious winner, perfectly suitable for today’s chilly weather.

On a sidenote for new Brew-goers, they do a super-cool dollar coffee stand inside with a pay-by-honesty policy. A great tidbit to know if someone’s on the run and needs coffee fast!

A light snow starts to fall as we head further north, our next destination puts us at Hop Lot Brewing Company in Suttons Bay. Opened last summer, HLBC boasts an indoor pub as well as an outdoor beer garden. A beautiful green space (that is currently snowy white) framed by a towering forest surrounds the pub. Large, Viking-style tables frame cozy bonfires and make for an excellent drinking atmosphere.

We grab our sampler flights and brave the crisp weather for a seat outside. Some beer highlights include: the Trail’s Edge Brown IPA, a nicely bitter brew with an excellent roasty aroma, and the Leelanau Exchange, a Bourbon Espresso Stout that is gloriously smooth and creamy with just the right amount of espresso kick at the end. Paired with perfectly melted grilled cheese sandwiches and steaming bowls of tomato bisque, we are all in a winter wonderland craft heaven.

On our way out, we run into a group of people emerging from the woods dressed in cold weather gear, looking like winter explorers.

“We’re hitting the trails around here, but beer first!” says one of the group.

I file that idea away for the next adventure as we all pile into the car, onwards to the next stop: Northport.

Nestled in Northport Bay, Northport Brewing operates in the center of town—a perfect drinking beacon for the surrounding community. The pub space is cozy rather than small, and they have a lovely outdoor space centered around a beautiful stone fireplace. A true definition of a quiet small town, Northport has become a destination on the trail north through the bays, inviting friends and family into a welcoming atmosphere.

In the middle of our flights, one of the owners, Scott Cain makes an appearance with his son. Alongside the pubtender, we all discuss the merits of microbreweries in Michigan.

“They are small spaces, but the beer still has big flavor and aroma,” said Kaitlyn.

“Our goal is to feed the thirsty!” said the pubtender.

The majority winner at Northport Brewing is their Northern Queen Stout, an easy-drinking pour that does not compromise in flavor, aroma, or mouthfeel.

With the sudden snowstorm rolling across Northport Bay, we head back towards our home base in Petoskey. Ending the day at Beards Brewery with imperial pints of Serendipity Porter and fresh, delicatessen charcuterie from Symon’s General Store on the corner, we toast the day and reflect on our adventures. Our bellies are full of quality beer and food, and we can’t help but plot the next trip around the state.

During a time of year when the skies are grey and the temperatures are sub-zero, the Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival provides the reprieve so many need. The sixth rendition of this winter festival was held on Saturday and recreated the fun, vibrant and supportive atmosphere that Traverse City has become known for.

While similar to the Summer Microbrew & Music Festival also hosted by Porterhouse Productions, the winter version carries a different connotation, atmosphere and character.

“Winter has a different soul. Folks come out of hibernation and it is a much needed community-energizing cultural medicine for all,” said Sam Porter, owner of Porterhouse Productions.

This “cultural medicine” is light-hearted, energetic and inspiring. It contains more “up north” spirit and spunk. Over 50 breweries were present at the festival, most of which were Michigan based; a majority of the wide range of musical acts also come from Michigan.

Four tents were set up, each containing a different set of breweries and performers. Festival goers could also enjoy food from local food trucks on site, follow the rare brew tour and participate in a homebrewing contest.

“Education is at the front of the craft beer movement and we aim to specialize in building a diverse audience with the different genres of music and market that gathers and grows the market. Craft beer fans are intelligent, curious and ready to learn more about something they love,” said Porter.

Opportunities to learn more and experience something new were aplenty at the festival.The rare brew tour, for instance, created an excitement for new experimental brews. A new brew was tapped each half hour, which led to lines and “tap that keg” chants. And many of the rare beers — including a coffee infused Dragon’s Milk from New Holland — were gone in about 15 minutes.

Breweries large and small were present, which gave festival-goers a chance to find their favorite breweries, while also learning about newer breweries that are also doing amazing things. Short’s once again created their fun ski-bar and brought a wide range brews, including a bourbon-aged Evil Urges and Smugglin’ Plums, a dark stout with a surprisingly tart-fruit twist.

Northport Brewing, which opened less than a year ago, found the festival to be a great opportunity to bring its brews to a wider audience.

“We’ve had a long line all night. It’s been nonstop!” said co-owner Pamela Cain.

Brewery Ferment, another small brewery in the area, had festival goers excited about its unique brews. One of the only breweries in the area known for its sour beers, Ferment featured TC Black, a sour black cherry brew that was tart and refreshing. For those with a sweeter palate, they also had Fluffer Nutter, a stout brewed with marshmallows and peanuts.

While education about and experiencing the craft beer market may be at the forefront of the festival, this event also raises money for the local community. 100 percent of all alcohol net proceeds are donated to the festival’s partner non-profits. The Porterhouse team holds multiple events throughout the state each year, all of which help our state in numerous ways.

“It is a great pairing behind the celebration. We have hosted over 35 festivals in Michigan, including 14 Microbrew & Music Festivals, and raised over $100,000 for nonprofits,” said Porter.

Porter hopes to continue to expand the Porterhouse Production team as well at the Microbrew & Music Festivals, creating new and dynamic experiences along the way. The next brewfest will be the Summer Microbrew & Music Festival, a two-day event held in late August.

Follow Microbrew & Music Festival on Facebook for updates on future festivals.

During a time of year when the skies are grey and the temperatures are sub-zero, the Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival provides the reprieve so many need. The sixth rendition of this winter festival was held on Saturday and recreated the fun, vibrant and supportive atmosphere that Traverse City has become known for.
While similar to the Summer Microbrew & Music Festival also hosted by Porterhouse Productions, the winter version carries a different connotation, atmosphere and character.
“Winter has a different soul. Folks come out of hibernation and it is a much needed community-energizing cultural medicine for all,” said Sam Porter, owner of Porterhouse Productions.
This “cultural medicine” is light-hearted, energetic and inspiring. It contains more “up north” spirit and spunk. Over 50 breweries were present at the festival, most of which were Michigan based; a majority of the wide range of musical acts also come from Michigan.
Four tents were set up, each containing a different set of breweries and performers. Festival goers could also enjoy food from local food trucks on site, follow the rare brew tour and participate in a homebrewing contest.
“Education is at the front of the craft beer movement and we aim to specialize in building a diverse audience with the different genres of music and market that gathers and grows the market. Craft beer fans are intelligent, curious and ready to learn more about something they love,” said Porter.
Opportunities to learn more and experience something new were aplenty at the festival.The rare brew tour, for instance, created an excitement for new experimental brews. A new brew was tapped each half hour, which led to lines and “tap that keg” chants. And many of the rare beers — including a coffee infused Dragon’s Milk from New Holland — were gone in about 15 minutes.
Breweries large and small were present, which gave festival-goers a chance to find their favorite breweries, while also learning about newer breweries that are also doing amazing things. Short’s once again created their fun ski-bar and brought a wide range brews, including a bourbon-aged Evil Urges and Smugglin’ Plums, a dark stout with a surprisingly tart-fruit twist.
Northport Brewing, which opened less than a year ago, found the festival to be a great opportunity to bring its brews to a wider audience.
“We’ve had a long line all night. It’s been nonstop!” said co-owner Pamela Cain.
Brewery Ferment, another small brewery in the area, had festival goers excited about its unique brews. One of the only breweries in the area known for its sour beers, Ferment featured TC Black, a sour black cherry brew that was tart and refreshing. For those with a sweeter palate, they also had Fluffer Nutter, a stout brewed with marshmallows and peanuts.
While education about and experiencing the craft beer market may be at the forefront of the festival, this event also raises money for the local community. 100 percent of all alcohol net proceeds are donated to the festival’s partner non-profits. The Porterhouse team holds multiple events throughout the state each year, all of which help our state in numerous ways.
“It is a great pairing behind the celebration. We have hosted over 35 festivals in Michigan, including 14 Microbrew & Music Festivals, and raised over $100,000 for nonprofits,” said Porter.
Porter hopes to continue to expand the Porterhouse Production team as well at the Microbrew & Music Festivals, creating new and dynamic experiences along the way. The next brewfest will be the Summer Microbrew & Music Festival, a two-day event held in late August.
Follow Microbrew & Music Festival on Facebook for updates on future festivals.

No longer is Northport just a quiet village at the tip of the pinky. Northport Brewing, the only microbrewery in Leelanau County, opened its doors on June 25. And, with Lake Michigan in the background, community members filling the outdoor patio and excitement pouring into the streets, Northport Brewing held its Grand Opening Celebration on Saturday.

Scott and Pamela Cain, along with Brewmaster Collin Gaudard founded Northport Brewing. “We are so lucky to have an incredible and talented team, an amazing location and the overwhelming support of the community,” explained Pamela Cain.

The team put in a lot of time and effort to get their business off the ground. Before they could open their doors, however, the team needed additional funding. And so, earlier this year, they launched a Kickstarter campaign.

“We would like to thank all our backers that donated through Kickstarter so we could expand our fermentation space to meet the demand for beer at the taproom so far,” expressed Cain.

“We also want to thank all the local contractors who helped us build our new brew house, taproom and patio,” Cain continued.

With such support, the first few months of business have been more successful than expected.

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Northport Brewing’s Grand Opening commemorated all of this hard work and support. The celebration featured six Northport taps, live music and a barbecue. Many local community members and fellow brewers came out to support the new brewery. Chris Contreras and John Kilgren, who formed the Northport Brewing Sailing Team earlier in the summer, were among those in attendance.

Kilgren was drinking the Walk in the Water Enkle, which he hopes becomes a staple of the brewery. The Enkle is light and crisp, with a balance of malt and bitterness. “I’m not a microbrew drinker, so when I find one I like, I hold onto it,” he stated.

I found myself enjoying the Metamora Cherry Saison, a specialty dark farmhand style beer brewed with tart Leelanau cherries. This particular brew won Specialty Brewer Scott Cain the Best Saison award in Right Brain Brewery’s 2013 Homebrew Competiton. While dark in color, it is light in taste with refreshing notes of cherry. Other favorites of the night included the Rising Sun Raspberry Wit and Odessa Double IPA.

Having grown up in Leelanau County, amidst the farms, sand dunes and cherry orchards, it is uplifting to see the region continue to evolve. It remains my favorite area to escape to for its breathtaking views and the supportive nature of the people. And now, the area has much more to share.

Cain said it perfectly when she stated, “Northport is back open for business! Come on up and check it out!”

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