imperial beverage

Michigan — As of March 10, 2018, Imperial Beverage acquired beer distribution rights from Highland Park based Great Lakes Wine & Spirits. The purchase of Bayside Beverage in Marquette, Great Lakes’ Upper Peninsula beer division, includes all beer brands in U.P. counties, which will be added to Imperial’s current portfolio of beer, wine and spirits.

In the Upper Peninsula, Great Lakes distributes products in the MillerCoors family of brands, as does Imperial in the Kalamazoo area. “We are excited to be able to represent MillerCoors in the Upper Peninsula, and see it as a great opportunity to expand our partnership with them,” says Larry Cekola, VP of Sales and Marketing at Imperial. Imperial has been working with MillerCoors since 1985, and prior to this addition of the U.P. territory has distributed Coors, Keystone, Blue Moon, Molson and Killians in Kalamazoo, Branch, St. Joseph, and part of Allegan Counties.

In addition to the MillerCoors portfolio, Great Lakes serves as a wholesaler for Crown Imports (Corona, Modelo) and Boston Beer (Sam Adams, Angry Orchard) as well as a range of craft beer brands in the Upper Peninsula, including Michigan brands Griffin Claw, Latitude 42 Brewing Co., Cheboygan and Petoskey Brewing Co., as well as national brands like Alaskan Brewing Co. and Uinta.

Under the agreement, Imperial has acquired a warehouse facility in Ishpeming and will be expanding their presence with the addition of new brands. Imperial has recently filled 15 new positions to staff the Marquette County facility including sales, warehouse, drivers and management.

March 12 marks the first day of operations for Imperial Beverage in their new Ishpeming facility. The 18,000-square-foot warehouse will be the fourth base of operations for the Kalamazoo-based Imperial Beverage, whose other facilities include a warehouse in Livonia and cross-docking facility in Traverse City.


Images courtesy of Imperial Beverage


upper hand brewery

ESCANABA, Mich. – Upper Hand Brewery is excited to announce the upcoming release of its newest specialty beer, Double Ringer, a Double India Pale Ale (IPA).

Meant to celebrate the spring thaw in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Double Ringer is the ninth beer to be released since Upper Hand opened its doors in November 2014, including four year-round offerings.

“You’ll find few places where spring is more vibrant than northern Michigan. With its intense aromas and flavors, Double Ringer will stir up your senses, just like the perfect spring day,” commented Larry Bell, President and Founder of Upper Hand Brewery and Bell’s Brewery, Inc. (Upper Hand is a division of Bell’s).

Brewed solely with Equinox hops, Double Ringer is robust and hop-forward, coming in with an ABV of 10.0 %. Offering a blend of pine and tropical fruit aromas, with a bit of malt backbone, this Double IPA is a beer that should be enjoyed fresh.

It is named for that elusive, perfect throw made while enjoying a friendly game of horseshoes in the backyard.

Double Ringer will be available in limited quantities on draught and in bottles throughout the U.P. and Northern Wisconsin beginning in early April, just in time for spring.

upper hand brewery

It has been nearly 30 years since the idea and construction of The Vierling came to be. It lends its history to an already historic downtown Marquette, MI, a known destination in the Upper Peninsula for road trips and brewery tours.

“We were sitting on Presque Isle when I realized there were great views and a great opportunity,” said Terry Doyle, one-half of the ownership behind The Vierling.

His other half, Kristi Doyle,  grew up in the Upper Peninsula, with generations of her family leading the way.

“My wife landed me here. I wanted to originally stake my grounds in Florida, but that didn’t last long so we quickly came back up here.”

Wanting to break into the restaurant business, the pair bought an old café on the corner of Marquette’s downtown that featured great Lake Superior views. Nine months and a lot of elbow grease later, The Vierling Saloon and Sample Room opened its doors, showcasing an exquisite menu while providing a beautiful atmosphere to enjoy.

The space gives homage to the original owners, Martin and his son Louis Vierling, with original artwork and stained glass as the primary accents. With the additions of floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the water and a unique collection of international beer bottles, the Doyles made the space their own, combining history with personal style.

“This space has been a saloon, café, and even a Maytag refrigerator store, but it has always been a place where people come to meet, relax, and enjoy each other’s company,” said Doyle.

When it comes to the menu, the Doyles pride themselves on the whitefish that they get right from the harbor outside their window.

“When we went to Italy and visited Rome, I asked for their best whitefish. But it wasn’t even close to Lake Superior whitefish—the fish we serve here is the best.”

In 1995, The Vierling became famous not only for its whitefish, but also for being one of the first brew pubs in Michigan. They added a five-barrel brewing system, with beautiful equipment manufactured in Budapest, Hungary. Derek Anderson, aka Chumly, has been the brewer since the beginning in 1995 and has crafted a broad spectrum of beers for all different palates.

With craft beer being on the upward swing, Doyle said the best thing about having their own brewery was not having to worry about keeping up with all of the thousands of other beers on the market.

“We sell and make our beer here, and only here. People know what they want when they come here, and we provide it.”

The most sought-after brew featured here seems to be the Blueberry Wheat, a lovely American Wheat topped off with fresh, local blueberries. The Vierling offers many other styles, ensuring great flavors and aromas while keeping the ABVs reasonable.

“Some beers are so high in ABV, and we want to allow for the chance that people can enjoy different beers without overdoing it,” said Doyle. We have our Laid Back IPA, a Session Pale Ale that offers a refreshing amount of hops without going overboard.”

The Vierling is recognized as a historic marker for beer in Marquette, and have been long since joined by other craft breweries in the area. As others opened, such as Blackrocks Brewery and Ore Dock Brewing Company, the brewers have all come to know each other and collaborate on new recipes.

“All the brewers up here talk all the time. For the U.P. Fall Festival—one of our most challenging and busy days of the year—they like to collaborate,” said Doyle.

The fall festival is one of the many activities that keeps Marquette an up north destination year round. Alongside seasonal recreational activities such as fat tire biking, sled dog racing, and hunting, the Northern Michigan University presence means constant visitors and dinner reservations at The Vierling.

And while 30 years of successful business can be considered a remarkable triumph, Terry and Kristi Doyle recognize the craft beer trend and the universal crowd it attracts.

“We hope, this fall, to break into some new things. Maybe be more of a brewpub. Get things geared around the beer, because the beer is absolutely fabulous.”

With an emphasis on special events and tastings in their sample room, they hope to keep the historically elegant atmosphere while maintaining an affordable product for customers of all ages and means.

“We will be celebrating our 30th anniversary this October. We have been in the same spot for 30 years and not too many businesses can say that.”

MARQUETTE — Beer news has been abuzzing throughout the Upper Peninsula lately; from the Upper Hand Brewing announcement to Blackrocks’ notable expansion and canning project.

Everything came together Saturday, for the fifth annual Michigan Brewers Guild U.P. Fall Beer Festival, held at Riverside Park.

And despite some colder-than-expected temperatures and a slight mist in the air, 3,500 festival-goers were treated to beers from across the state.

Several breweries brought everything from staple, well-recognized beers to the exploratory kiwi, ice cream, pumpkin and coconut brews.

One of the brews I had been wanting to try for a while was out of Petoskey Brewing. While its Brain Freeze (6.9% ABV) was available at the Summer Beer Festival in Ypsilanti, it sold out within a matter of minutes, and I wasn’t able to try any. Petoskey was one of my first stops during the enthusiast hour on Saturday, and sure enough, the brew was sold out when I went back a few hours later. The brew was sweet and tart raspberry, with somewhat of a cream aspect. Believe it or not, this hit the mark and reminded me just of a waffle cone and raspberry ice cream.

Switching it up, Dark Horse brought a stout that was right out of the candy aisle. I’ll Have More Stout (8.6% ABV)— themed after a 100 Grand candy bar — was sweet, bold and rich. Lots of chocolate, vanilla and some toffee flavors help to offset the alcohol feel of this brew. This is certainly a worthy option for adults looking for a bit of a twist on the famous candy dessert.

For those looking for somewhat of a less intense stout offering, Hereford & Hops out of Escanaba brought its Schwartzbier (4.9% ABV) — a stout brewed as a lager. The light body made this enjoyable, yet still contained the flavor profile that many come to expect with a stout — chocolate, malt and caramel with a hint of bitterness.

Southern Michigan heavyweight Greenbush Brewery made the long trek north, bringing some of its best and brightest, including Memento Mori (6.3% ABV). This Oktoberfest ale contains some citrus, spice, roasted malt and a slight bitterness — making for a very easy-drinking fall brew.

But one of my favorites of the day was an old favorite, given a rebirthing process at Griffin Claw Brewing Company out of Birmingham. Screamin’ Pumpkin (5% ABV), the popular pumpkin-flavored beer originally brewed at the now-defunct Michigan Brewing Company, was given a second life when the original brewer, Dan Rogers, decided to revitalize it at Griffin Claw. The result? A brew that couldn’t have represented the original any better — and on tap, the flavors were even more present. While this won’t be available in your local grocery or beer stores (yet), it’s definitely one to make the trip for this fall.

Other beers that impressed included White Flame’s Cookie Monster, Short’s Kiwi Destroy Mission, Soo Brewing’s Barbaric Saftig Reserve and Blackrocks’ Coconut Brown.

The next Michigan Brewers Guild festival takes place Oct. 25 and 26, at Eastern Market in Detroit. Saturday is sold out, but tickets are still available for Friday at

The Upper Peninsula’s first-ever Craft Beer Week will be held September 3-8, culminating in the Michigan Brewers Guild’s U.P. Fall Beer Festival in Marquette’s Lower Harbor.

U.P. Craft Beer Week is organized by A Pint Above, LLC.  A Pint Above was founded by Jamie Strand of White’s Party Store in Marquette and Josh Marenger of Bay de Noc Brewers, the Upper Peninsula’s largest homebrew club.  “We looked at some of the great craft beer weeks happening downstate and around the country, and thought that we could easily do something like that in the U.P.  There is a lot of great craft beer to be had up here, including four new breweries that have opened within the last two years,” said Marenger.

Since the event venues are not being charged to host events or for promotion, donations are being accepted via its website to help cover costs.  “While researching some other craft beer weeks around the country, we found some of them were charging up to a couple hundred dollars for each venue to participate in the event.  Because this is a new event for all of us, and we didn’t want to exclude venues that fit the bill, we decided not to go that route,” said Strand.

Events are being held in almost every area of the Upper Peninsula, from Sault Ste Marie all the way up to Copper Harbor.  A calendar of events and other details are available at

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