5 Beers To Try From Michigan

Besides cars and great music, Michigan is home to stellar breweries

photo by Kevin Gibson

photo by Kevin Gibson

Whether you’re up near the Upper Peninsula (or simply “UP” if you’re a native) or down near “Michiana” (the areas along the Indiana border), there’s plenty to like about the Mitten State, so named because its shape sort of resembles a mitten.

Michigan is home to tough cities like Detroit, which gave us Motown and long has served as the heart of the U.S. automotive industry, not to mention Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids. A whoooole lot of lakefront on the shores of Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, plus more than 11,000 inland lakes, help make it a tourist destination all year round. As you would imagine, there are a lot of houseboats and plenty of fishing to be done.

To make it even better, the state is home to more than 325 breweries that dot the landscape from corner to corner—in short, the hearty folks of Michigan do enjoy their craft beer. While there are too many beers to rank (my liver would revolt), there are several breweries and beers that well represent what’s going on in the land between the lakes.

That said, here are five that are worth seeking out, especially if you’re new to what Michigan’s brewers have to offer:

Dragon’s Milk, New Holland Brewing Co. (Holland): This big beer is named for a 17th century term for a strong beer that typically would have been served to royalty. The modern, Michigan version is an 11 percent alcohol-by-volume beast that, frankly, would probably be fit for a king. This imperial stout is brewed with vanilla beans and then aged in oak. While many breweries would reserve a beer like this for a seasonal or even annual release, you can get Dragon’s Milk all year long. Worth drinking to.

Two Hearted Ale, Bell’s Brewery (Kalamazoo): This ubiquitous IPA is, quite simply, the beer for people who like beer. Sure, the “IPA” designation may scare a craft beer newbie, and the beer certainly has the qualities of a classic American IPA, but the balance between malts and hops, and the bright, fruity elements of the beer make it a go-to for beer lovers all over. Even people who don’t necessarily like beer seem to like Two Hearted, which is so Michigan that it was even named after a northern Michigan river. Pair it with spicy food or just enjoy it alone, and there’s really no chance of being disappointed. Forget the frills, this one’s just a classic and hearty beer.

photo by Kevin Gibson

photo by Kevin Gibson

Solid Gold, Founders Brewing Company (Grand Rapids): Founders is a Michigan favorite, in part because of its wildly popular Kentucky Breakfast Stout, a bourbon-barrel imperial stout, and Canadian Breakfast Stout, which is the same base beer aged in maple syrup barrels. Solid Gold, a relatively recent addition to the brewery’s core lineup (and also a gold medal winner in the 2019 NY International Beer Competition), is a throwback to a time when light lagers were just about all you’d see at your local liquor store. The difference? This one is brewed in smaller batches with higher-quality ingredients, resulting in an easy-drinking, light lager with plenty of flavor. So good, even your grandfather would like it.

La Roja, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales (Dexter): This one might be a bit of a style outlier, but never sleep on Jolly Pumpkin. La Roja is a take on traditional Flanders-style sour ales. This red ale is brewed with a variety of malts, from Crystal 150 to Black, then aged in oak casks for 2 to 15 months. Once it’s ready, it is then bottle conditioned. The result is a rich, earthy and fruity brew that features hints of spice and a satisfying tartness. Sure, it might have originated in Belgium, but it’s true Michigan, and a double gold medal winner in the 2018 New York International Beer Competition.

Boffo Brown Ale, Dark Horse Brewing Co. (Marshall): “Making bad-ass beer in Marshall.” You gotta like a tagline that leaves modesty at the door. An in-house favorite (per the brewery’s website), this brown ale is bolder than you might first thing, with a soft, creamy body and multiple levels of flavor that assert themselves in every drink. The malt-heavy beer offers notes of caramel and toffee to go with a nutty, earthiness. And, at 7% ABV, it’s nobody’s underdog. Available all year round, Boffo Brown is a beer for a wide audience.