With one of the top beer states in the U.S. just over the border, there’s no better time than now for a spring road trip.
Michigan beer blogger Andrew McLean really likes his suds. In fact, he just quit his day job to launch a “mobile canning truck” that brings canning machinery to the Great Lakes State’s 100-plus microbreweries, making him among the foremost experts on our neighbours’ stellar brew scene. (In a nationwide poll last year, Grand Rapids tied with Asheville, N.C. as “Beer City USA.”)
We asked McLean to design the ultimate Michigan road trip for us: pubs and breweries in three cities, three hours apart, in three days.
Bell’s Eccentric Café: 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave.
Serious beer nerds should tour this legendary brewery’s new facility on the city’s outskirts. Otherwise, the grassy beer garden at the original Kalamazoo Avenue downtown lcoation will do fine—and of course, there’s a retail store.
Kalamazoo Beer Exchange: 211 E. Water St.
This downtown bar stock-market pricing, says McLean, “where beers go up or down according to demand.” Every few hours there’s a “bucket crash,” when pint prices plummet.
Right Brain Brewery: 225 E. 16th St.
At the city’s biggest craft brewery, order a porter or try something different like a Pecan Pie Ale.
The Filling Station: 642 Railroad Pl.
Occupying an old train station, this place keeps things simple: a menu of nine wood-fired flatbreads and 13 rotating house ales. “It’s a very cool spot to just sit outside and relax,” says McLean.
Founders Brewing Co.: 235 Grandville Ave., SW.
In 2012, ratebeer.com ranked Founders the second-best brewery in the world, for the second year running. Taste 14 of its beers in the taproom or take a tour (Saturdays only).
Brewery Vivant: 925 Cherry St., SE.
Housed in an old funeral home, this is the most architecturally spectacular brewery in the state, says McLean. “They put out great food [from duck cassoulet to beer cheese], and make Belgian and French-style beers that you won’t find outside of Michigan.”
Can’t get out of town?
Founders Centennial IPA: $13.50/six
There are few Michigan brews at the LCBO, but this scotch-hued version of the American IPA is available locally. Boasting a big bouquet of pine, spicy nettles, and orange peel, it gives way to toasty malts and subdued bitterness building to a round,
lasting finish. It’s just lovely.