What’s Brewing In Michigan: A Winter Road Trip To Three Western Michigan Breweries!

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Image from Latitude 42′s Facebook Page

The beer industry has a lot on tap in Michigan. Many small cities are home to wonderfully chic craft brew houses. Their tasting rooms range from full restaurants to large open tasting spaces.

Last Friday night we decided to visit three breweries. Our impromptu beer tour was a lot of fun, and gave us a flavor for what’s brewing in Michigan. With the help of a designated driver, I’d recommend piling in the car and sampling a few local brews. To plan your own beer tour with family or friends, click here to create your own map and list.

As I’ve told people about our brewery field trip, I’ve learned of a few more breweries and tasting rooms I need to visit. Brewing beer is big business in Michigan.

The Michigan Brewer’s Guild “conservatively estimates Michigan’s thriving brewing industry contributes more than $24 million in wages with a total economic contribution of more than $133 million to Michigan’s economy.”

Wow!

Beer is big business in Michigan. If you haven’t had one of the state’s great beers yet, it’s time to get hopping!

(I promise to stop with the beer puns.)

Throughout the year, I’ll be reviewing Michigan beers and sharing reviews of the breweries I visit. Good things are brewing in Michigan, and I look forward to sharing them with you. My brother is a beer expert, and made recommendations based on beers he has sampled at these breweries. You can follow him on Twitter for more tasting notes, or to ask specific questions. He is well-educated in the details of a good beer and its tasting notes.

If you have brewery have recommendations, please share them with me. I’d love to feature them in an upcoming post. Michigan is fifth in the nation for the number of breweries. In an already beautiful state, beer tour and tastings are fun tourism adventures for foodies.
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Latitude 42 Brewing Company, Portage, Michigan  
When we started out on our beer tour, we weren’t planning to go to Latitude 42. In fact, no one in the car had ever even heard of it. My brother absently typed the word, “beer” into his phone on Yelp, and the brewery popped up. Having never heard of the brewery we weren’t expecting much.

It turns out, we hadn’t heard of Latitude 42, because the restaurant and brewery is relatively new. Latitude 42 opened in Portage, late in the summer of 2013. The brewmaster left a comfortable job in Hawaii to come to Portage, and help open its first microbrewery.

My dad and brother, Dave, crawled up to the bar and immediately made friends with Brad, the GM. Brad made a few beer suggestions and compared tasting notes with Dave. Brad mentioned that Latitude 42 has been very well received by the community of Portage, and that its beers were soon going to be canned and sold at Meijer grocery stores. My brother always takes craft beer back to the east coast, and was thrilled to hear that he could add Latitude 42 to his list.

 



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From Latitude 42′s Twitter Page

 

The restaurant was a nice, large space. With large booths, a massive bar, a large dining room and an area to view its beautiful stainless steel vats, the brewery appeared to a popular place for dinner, drinks and catch up cocktails. If I’m in the area, I’ll return to try something from its restaurant. In the summer the restaurant has a large outdoor patio–perfect for drinking beer with friends. I looked at it, and its menu has a variety of cuisine. On our visit, the wait was a little longer than an hour and a half, so we chose to visit two other breweries, versus waiting. Still, I plan to return for dinner this summer and will refresh this post after eating in the restaurant and dining on the patio.

Latitude 42′s Facebook page is much more up-to-date than its website. If you’re interested in information, start there. They recently launched a Mug Club, and for $50 you get a shirt, empty growler, pint glass (also empty), and a card. Club members receive free dessert on their birthdays, invitations to VIP events, and discounts on beer, growlers and merchandise at the store. You can call the brewery or visit a bartender or hostess for more information.

Here are Dave’s recommendations from Latitude 42
I.P.E.H.
Lil’ Sunshine Golden Ale

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Image from the Bell’s Eccentric Cafe Facebook Page

 
Bell’s Eccentric Cafe (Bell’s Brewery), Kalamazoo, Michigan 
Bell’s brews one of Michigan’s most famous beers. It’s popular and it’s amazing. And, it’s the one beer I drink an awful lot of.

Our beer expert had visited Bell’s flagship brewery and store, Bell’s Eccentric Cafe in the summer with my parents. According to them, in the summer, there’s a lovely outdoor patio that’s perfect for families and beer enthusiasts alike. Dave likes to visit Bell’s Eccentric Cafe because the brewery features beers at the store/brewery that are only available on-site.

The set-up at this stop was much more of a large tasting room format. While you could order food, and a lot of it was coming from a small but busy kitchen, tables were at a premium.

I was partial to Bell’s because I was carded at the door.

After the men who carded me realized I was closer to the grave than the cradle, they went above and beyond to be nice to me. Every staffer at Bell’s seemed enthusiastic and friendly. Feel free to ask the staff about the beer, they’re both passionate, and opinionated!

Next time we do our beer tour, I’d make this a first not a second or last stop. Bell’s Eccentric Cafe is better designed for beer tasting and sampling/sipping. This is not a good place, in my opinion, to sit and relax or order food. There’s no table service, and I found it to be popular, crowded and chaotic. Still, my family assured me that in the summer, the beer garden is a nice place to visit–if you can get a table.

Bell’s doesn’t sell Growler’s, but they do offer tours of their brewery on the weekends.



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There are many tasting-room only selections here.

Here are Dave’s recommendations from Bell’s Brewery
Christmas Ale
Roundhouse IRA

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Image from Arcadia Ales Facebook page

 
Arcadia Brewing Company
Located in the heart of downtown Battle Creek, Arcadia Brewing Company is a true restaurant brew pub. Its menu features sandwiches, pizzas and burgers.

Opened in 1996, Arcadia Ales is a microbrewery specializing in handcrafted British-style ales. They produce their beers in small batches using British brewing methods and British equipment. The brewery’s website also has a wonderful calendar featuring the variety of beer releases.



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The dining room was large, the staff was relaxed and friendly.

 

We ordered the ahi tuna and were pleasantly surprised. I did not expect to enjoy such incredible tuna at a brew house. I was pretty impressed by the restaurant. It has a garden and harvests many of the items from the menu from it.

Arcadia is committed to sourcing ingredients from local farms and offering gluten-free menu options. The robust restaurant offering and tasty menu (everyone liked their dinner) made me glad that we stopped at Arcadia last. The staff was easy-going, the restaurant was spacious and the food was great. We enjoyed flights of beer with dinner (though I was not crazy about the Cereal Killer beer).
 



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The chalkboard notes the available beers.

 
Arcadia brewery offers brewery tours by appointment.  The brewery only asks that you make arrangements prior to touring. They charge a fee of $5  per person, but each tour includes a sample and an Arcadia glass. To make reservations, call the restaurant at: 269-963-9690.
 
If you visit, be sure to walk toward the restroom and place a pin on their visitors map! 
 



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We added our home locations to their visitor map!

 
Here are Dave’s recommendations from Arcadia
17th Anniversary
Cereal Killer (he liked it, I didn’t)
Hopmouth Double IPA
 
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