Autumn is on the way and that means it's color tour season. Busy roads and leaf-gazing not your thing? Then warm up this autumn with a fall flavor tour when you Go Great Lakes Bay, when you can indulge in brewmasters' fuller, richer, darker brews fall creations. Here are 4 ways you can #GoGreat and trace the trails of malty, hoppy goodness from one bold brew-lover's excursion to the next!
1. Raise a glass at Michigan's oldest brewery
The historical Frankenmuth Brewery has been operating in the charming town of Frankenmuth for more than 150 years. Not content to rest on their historical laurels, Frankenmuth keeps creating interesting, new brews and winning awards for their efforts, including two gold and one bronze medal at the 2016 World Expo of Beer.
Get ready for a blast from the past when you enter this functional but attractive brewery. "The bar and the back bar look like an old-school German brewery with wood floors and dark wood booths," says Steve Buszka, Frankenmuth Brewery's Brewmaster.
The brewery may feel old school but the beer is what you want to drink right now. "We make everything from light Kölsh to oatmeal coffee stout and everything in between," says Buszka. Of our 20 beers on tap, 6 are German-style beers, but we're also a craft-centric Michigan brewery." That means that in addition to German beers, Frankenmuth serves their highly drinkable flagship brews, creative seasonal releases, and unique small batch brews.
This fall, they'll be brewing a chestnut brown ale made with toasted chestnuts, that's as-of-yet unnamed (just ask for it by description when you get there). "The toasted chestnuts impart a very autumn flavor to the beer," Buszka says.
They'll also be introducing two enticing IPAs, one of which, Ted Nugget, is made with 100% Michigan grown nugget hops. "The nugget hop is a hop varietal that's going to have an earthy bitterness but a very citrusy, light grapefruit flavor to it," says Buszka. If you're an IPA fan be sure to ask for Wicked Warlock, a west-coast style Double IPA that they'll have this fall. "I like to make beer that is balanced and smooth,'" Buszka says. "I know I've done my job right if you drink one, order another, and contemplate ordering a third!"
When you Go Great Lakes Bay this fall, you can also try their Oktoberfest beer and pumpkin beer. "We use all German hops, malts, and yeast in our Oktoberfest beer, which is going to be a very light amber beer with a nice, malty aroma," says Buszka.
Pumpkin Chucker, their pumpkin brew, will "taste like liquid pumpkin pie, but it's 8% alcohol," Buszka cautions. Although many breweries sell their pumpkin beer on the market, Frankenmuth only serves it in-house. "Ours is just at the brewery, so if you want to try it, you'll have to take a little trip to Frankenmuth."
Other stops in Frankenmuth:
If you're in the mood for traditional German food and want to try a few other Michigan beers (as well as a few from around the country), swing by Sullivan's Black Forest Brew Haus & Grill while you're in town.
2. Sample at one of Michigan's newest breweries
Oracle Brewing Company
Slated to open this fall at 122 N. Michigan Avenue in Old Town Saginaw, Oracle Brewing Company will feature pub-style service (you order your beer and take it back to your seat). Although they won't be serving food, you're welcome to bring your own or grab some za from Old Town Pizzeria which is conveniently located in the same building. You can expect a rustic, lounge type of feel from their brewery, with comfortable seating as well as more traditional tables.
As for beer, get ready to try something new. "We're ready to bring something completely different to the Great Lakes Region beer scene," says Chris Younk, who co-owns the new venture with partner Cody Smith. "Right now we're focused on creating beers that are light and easy drinking, like some very good pale ales."
For the fall and winter months, they're planning a few different beers to help keep you toasty. "Our efforts right now are a combination of making the beer we really like to enjoy for the fall and preparing for winter, when people when will want an imperial stout or nice double IPA," explains Younk.
"I like a good pumpkin beer, so we'll consider that, but we don't want to put anything out just to put it out," Younk says. "It still has to meet our expectations." Oracle Brewing is working with local suppliers to source various Michigan-grown ingredients. "We want to find opportunities to introduce non-traditional flavors into the beer in ways that will meet your expectations."
One beer you can expect to find when Oracle opens this fall is a very nice pale ale. "It will be pale to golden in color, probably around 4.5 - 5% ABV. It's going to have a nice, decently thick head on it and some tropical fruity notes with some pine and citrus, but it's going to be subdued. It will be a crisp beer that will make you want to take another sip."
If you're a fan of darker beer, they've got you covered. "We have a strong love for coffee, so another beer we'll have this fall is a chocolate coffee porter or stout," Younk says. It's going to be a bigger bodied beer, dark brown, almost chestnut in color, with a nice, rich, creamy mouth feel."
"Come in and see us when we open!" he says.
Other stops in Saginaw:
At JB Meinburg & Woody's Draught House you'll find over 100+ beers on tap. It's a great place to stop for a flight and sample a few. Loggers Brewing Company is also scheduled to open this year - check their website for updates.
While you're in Saginaw, don't miss the The Taproom at Stardust Lanes, a unique venue with a fun bowling alley and taproom, where you're sure to find something you like: the Taproom boasts 41 taps that feature craft beer from Michigan and around the country.
3. Try the brewery whose beers have won a gold, silver, and bronze
Tri-City Brewing Company
If the summer Olympics has you dreaming of podium wins, Tri-City Brewing Company in Bay City is your next stop. Way back in 2007, the second beer they introduced after opening, Phelan, won a bronze medal at its first World Expo of Beer. Tri-City has continued turning out winners, including three golds and a silver at the 2016 World Expo of Beer.
If you visit this fall, you can still find Tri-City Brewing at its original location (3020 North Water Street), which is comfortable and inviting, with high ceilings and a bit of an industrial feel (it's located in a former warehouse). But this popular brewery is growing so they'll have new digs later this year (4170 Shrestha Drive). The new location will almost double their seating capacity giving them the capability to expand their tap line, which means they'll have more tasty brews for you to try.
You'll find several Belgian beers on tap at Tri-City, because they're a favorite of Brewmaster Paul Popa. "Belgian beers are different in the sense that they're very flavorful and the aroma profiles is dominated by the Belgium yeast," explains Popa. They often have floral or clove notes; you may pick up rose aroma or bubble gum notes or get a spiciness from a white or black pepper note."
You can also look forward to their seasonal beers, like Oktoberfest. "That's always a big one for us," says Popa. "Our Oktoberfest is a little darker than most, with darker gold notes and almost an orange color. It's a very malty, very clean lager, with about 6% alcohol. To me, it represents fall. I call it autumn in a glass."
Another seasonal beer you'll want to try is Tri-City's Brownhoist Ale, whose namesake, Industrial Brownhoist, was once a major manufacturer of industrial cranes in the area. "We've won several awards with that beer," Popa says. "It's an easy drinking English brown ale, not too hoppy, very earthy, with caramel to toffee notes and only about 4.8% alcohol. It's great in the fall when the weather starts to cool and leaves start to change."
As long as you're there, you should give their flagship beer, Hell's Half Mile a whirl. Named after a rougher part of town in the old lumbering days, it's a German lager with some malty, toasty notes. "It's a very easy drinking beer and it's the beer that we recommend people start with when they come here," Popa says. "It's very clean but has some flavor to it."
Other stops in Bay City:
Lumber Barons Brewery is housed in an old lumber mill. Try the BBQ at Rusty Saw Smokehouse, located inside the brewery. With delicious flatbreads and 54 rotating taps featuring beers from Michigan and around the country, Tavern 101 is also worth a stop! If you're in the mood for schnitzel, stop by Stein Haus and try theirs, while you sample the beers on tap.
For a unique group experience, schedule a ride to pedal your way along a Bay City pub tour on Sunrise Pedal Trolley (rides also available in Frankenmuth).
4. Give hard cider a whirl.
With more than 80 varieties of Michigan craft beer-40 on tap-WhichCraft Taproom in Midland doesn't disappoint beer aficionados. But for those of you who want to try something a little different, they also serve Michigan-made cider (in addition to mead and wine.) If you're unfamiliar with hard cider, think about the traditional fall drink made with apples, then imagine it fermented. And spiced. In lots of different ways. Just like craft beer, cider makers start with a base and tweak it to produce different flavors. Whichcraft has several different kinds in cans or bottles (not on tap) so you can get a feel for what you like.
Eastman's Forgotten Ciders
About half an hour southwest of Midland, in Wheeler, MI, you'll find, Eastman's Forgotten Ciders, an apple orchard that doesn't just grow and pick apples-they ferment and bottle cider, too. You can try the goods in their tasting room where they feature cider on tap.
Other stops in Midland:
The Great Lakes Bay Region has a lot of award-winning brews and Midland Brewing Company has won several, including a Bronze Medal at the World Expo of Beer for its Three Mile Marker Hefeweizen, which should be available this fall. Stop by and see what's on tap.
If you're in town on a Thursday or Friday, don't miss Larkin Beer Garden, a unique venue that's definitely worth a stop. This shipping container bar is sort of like a stationary food truck - it's the perfect place to grab a beer (occasionally they feature a cider), sit at a picnic table, and play board games with friends. They have bike racks for cyclists and actual food trucks nearby so you can nosh on something tasty while you enjoy their brews. Bring your leashed (friendly) pet and he can hang while you enjoy the day.