My dad was a social drinker, enjoying an occasional beer with family and friends, during Lions games on TV, relaxing in the pool during summer or on holidays. His drink of choice never faltered – Budweiser, King of beers. He was happy to provide other brands of beer to guests but rarely would you see anything other than a Budweiser in his hand. A marketing person’s dream- his loyalty to the Budweiser brand was unfailing (I was a bit partial to the brand because of the horses!).
When my sister’s and I turned 21, Dad would kindly ensure beer and wine was available for us – knowing I was constantly conscious of my health and weight, he indulged me with Bud Light, rather than Budweiser. I was fine drinking this, not really knowing anything else.
Then one day I went to visit some new friends I’d made during a recent cancer survivors conference in Montana. We went to a wonderful pizza place in Missoula with jazz music, views of the mountains and pitchers of Widmer Hefeweizen. And I was hooked on wheat beer. Kudos to my dad for trying the new beer when I returned home. But Budweiser was his beer of choice. But it was no longer mine. While I enjoy Bud Light Lime when I’m looking for a lighter beer or that’s what is available, over the years I’ve discovered more craft beers and local breweries. Granted these aren’t always pleasing to my still constant consciousness of my health and weight, nor always pleasing to my wallet, but definitely pleasing to my palate.
I personally like that most breweries offer a flight, paddle, sampler, whatever they want to call it – an opportunity to taste a sample of several beers. It provides variety and lets me try something I’m uncertain of (but sounds interesting) without ordering a pint. Nothing bums me out more than ordering a pint and not liking it (thankfully I now have a fiance’ who often ‘saves’ the beer by drinking what I don’t like. So sweet of him!). There are some great breweries and brews available, for every taste and texture.
Kuhnhenn, Warren: “Beer with distinct personality.” A friend recently described the White Devil beer from Kuhnhenn as “da&% good beer” which really sums up most of the liquids brewed by this local company. The brewery has an interesting history – the site was originally a family owned hardware store that started losing money when a big-box hardware store opened a short distance away. Avid home brewers, the family transformed the building in a micro-brewery and brew-on premise shop. They expanded a few years ago to provide much more seating. Food options are minimal but still fill you up if you crave a snack. A paddle invites you to try five different beers, which is a great idea since there are so many great ones to choose from. You shouldn’t miss out on their wine choices either. You will always find Kuhnhenn crowded during the Solstices, St. Patrick Day and other fun holidays. You can also brew your own beer and wine on site at Kuhnhenn. And there is always the option of picking up a growler of your favorite flavor for a party, barbecue or just because. Yum!
Black Lotus Brewing, Clawson: Located in the small but growing downtown Clawson, Black Lotus was one of the first bars/restaurants to open as smoke-free when it wasn’t quite hip to be smoke-free (although I’ve always thought it was the best option). Business kept growing, food was provided and now it’s tough to get a seat on evenings and weekends. Their philosophy is “Think Global, Drink Local.” Black Lotus brews their own beer and also serves wines produced in Michigan. When it first opened, I loved their Wheat Mimosa beer – my best friend described it as a “beer that could almost convince you to become an alcoholic” (no worries, we’re far from it). That’s not a regular on the menu so I now have a tough time moving away from the Funkin’ A Apricot wheat beer (this is considered one of their staples, which I completely agree). No worries if you’re not a wheat beer lover – the taps usually also include Detroit Hip Hops, Black Bottom Oatmeal Stout, Red Tao Amber and some changing “experimental and seasonal.” An updated menu includes delicious BBQ chicken nachos (my favorite!), turkey burgers, pulled pork sandwich and spinach artichoke dip.
Saugatuck Brewing Company, Saugatuck: There was a brewing party happening when we visited this brewery and Irish pub on Blue Star Highway in April. As the only brew on site facility in West Michigan, Saugatuck Brewing Company lets you choose from more than 100 brew recipes or customize your own. There are many beers on tap, from the Delilah DeWylde-Berry Wheat (raspberry) to Neapolitan Milk Stout (blend of chocolate, vanilla beans, strawberries and milk sugar) to their classic Oval Beach Blond Ale. A flight of six tasters is available so you can sample several. There is a full menu available for lunch and dinner.
Jolly Pumpkin, Traverse City & Ann Arbor: While the menu differs slightly at each location, the beer remains smooth and fine. The Ann Arbor location is in the midst of downtown, while the Traverse City spot is located on Old Mission Peninsula overlooking the water. The food is fantastic and the beer won’t bore you. There is a golden ale, pale ale, and more. The ambiance of both locations help make dining with friends and family a fun, filling experience. I heard rumors that Jolly Pumpkin may be coming to nearby downtown Royal Oak, which would be great!
Club BFD, Rochester Hills: Technically this isn’t an actual brewery but I’m listing it because of the number of craft beers they offer. There are at least 40 draft choices, always changing to provide a variety and something new each time you visit. Still can’t find something you like? There are 135 bottles and 14 can choices available. If you still can’t find something, then beer may not be your forte’! The craft beer choices are from across the U.S., such as Moose Drool, Goose Island, Mackinac Brewing and Brooklyn. We like that you can order a pint or a ‘paddle’ with several samples. Many of the beers carry high ABV (alcohol by volume) so beware of drinking too fast or too much (these are strong alcohol content). The food is pretty good too, especially the Bavarian pretzel sticks, shrimp tacos and bread pudding.
There are SO many more great breweries scattered throughout Michigan (and of course the U.S.). What are your favorites?
(This post is in honor of my dad, who I miss daily. Hard to believe it’s been eight years.)