Category: Food and Drink

How 1 Week in November Could Change What You Think About Beer Forever

So, you don’t like beer, huh? Then maybe you just haven’t tried the right one.

There are a lot of beers in the supermarket cooler and many of them do taste a lot alike. But there are dozens upon dozens of other kinds of beer you’ve probably never had. 

Like, for example, “Cakewalk,” a vanilla cream ale from Michigan’s Right Brain Brewery, or the “Harvest Moon Oatmeal Stout” from Mackinaw Brewing or the “Strong Brew Coffee Porter” from Rare Bird Brewpub.

There are more than 150 styles of beer recognized by the Brewers Association — from the American-style lagers at the grocery store to India Pale Ales (IPAs), porters, stouts and beers with notes of fruit, pumpkin, coffee or chocolate.

“Our goal is to find something for everyone,” said Joe Short, founder and CEO of Short’s Brewing in Bellaire, near Traverse City. “Our favorite customer who comes in is the person who doesn’t like beer. That’s where we get excited about the possibility of conversion.”

Short’s, Right Brain and other local Traverse City breweries are taking part in Traverse City Beer Week (TCBW), Nov. 9-16. TCBW features a variety of tastings and other events that make a great introduction to craft beer.

Even though the craft brewing industry is rapidly growing, it still makes up just a tiny fraction of the commercial beer market. That small scale is partly what defines craft beer — it’s the opposite of big industrial brewers.

But it’s also defined by the craft of brewing. While the predominant style of beer sold in the United States is a light lager that’s more or less the same all across the country, craft beer is as unique as the brewery that makes it. The Local’s Light classic American lager by Short’s is different from the Northern Light lager at North Peak Brewing, which is different from the Glen Light lager at Cherry Public House, and so on.

During Traverse City Beer Week you can also try hard ciders like “Cinnamon Girl” by Left Foot Charley, “Greenman” by Tandem Ciders and “Madagascar Vanilla Bean Bourbon Barrel Aged Cider” by Taproot.

That’s not even to mention the vast array of other beer styles that craft brewers create. They experiment with yeast, hops and malted barley ingredients to produce a variety of different colors and flavors of beer: the “Cherry Springer” cherry ale at Lake Ann Brewing, the “Pembroke Stout” at Earthen Ales, and the “Trail Ryeder” IPA at Hop Lot Brewing, for example.

“No one beer captures all consumers,” Short said.

But which kind of craft beer might capture you? Short offers three suggestions to help you discover craft beer that you’ll enjoy:

Start with a sample tray. Try a variety of styles so you can taste the difference between a sour beer and a hoppy beer, for example, or between a Belgian beer and an American ale.

Ask your server questions. When you taste one kind of beer, find out why it tastes the way it does. When you find a particular style of beer that you like, your server will be able to identify what you like in that beer, so you can try other kinds with similar characteristics.

Narrow down what you like best. If you discover that you like light lagers, then explore more lagers because you might also like an amber lager or a dark lager. Or, if you decide that you like the smell, flavor and bitterness of hops, then keep exploring IPAs and other beers within that window.

The key is to explore craft beer, because there’s so much more out there than the familiar beer that you might not even like. Traverse City Beer Week is a great time to do just that, with 19 breweries and tap rooms participating!

Events include the 5th annual TC Ale Trail IPA Challenge, a Flapjack and Flannel Festival, The Great Beerd Run and many activities hosted by individual breweries. For example, you can discover the creative magic behind Right Brain’s award-winning beer on a free brewery tour 5-9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, and sample special mini-flights of craft beer starting at $6.

Check out the full schedule of TCBW events here.

If you spend a couple days enjoying the festivities, you can take advantage of Fab Fall packages being offered by many Traverse City-area hotels, resorts and B&Bs now through Dec. 14. The packages include lodging deals as well as discounts on dining, shopping, breweries, wineries, spas and more.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

Fall Color Tour: 12 Must-Try Restaurants in Mid Michigan

The peak fall color season is almost here, and there’s no better time to experience Michigan than getting out and about now — except for when you combine noshing on some great food while taking in the explosion of red, yellow and orange.

And you can do exactly that in and around Mt. Pleasant, which is home to both the unique natural resources for sight-seeing and the locally owned and sourced restaurants that will be a bounty for your belly.

The Mt. Pleasant Area Convention and Visitors Bureau recently blogged about the best spots to take in colorful scenes by foot, by water and by wheels. The bureau pinpoints Oct. 17-21 for the bursting fall colors and the center is running its annual social media contest #FeelsLikeFall on Instagram. Enter by posting fun fall photos using the hashtag and tagging @mtpleasantcvb.

Here are 12 suggestions on where to grab a bite to eat whether you live in Mid-Michigan, are passing through or making Mt. Pleasant your destination. The ideas are broken out by breakfast, lunch and dinner so you can plan your dining stops based on your itinerary.

Breakfast

Roz’s Diner

In a strange off-the-beaten path, but not far away setting in Rosebush, a short drive from U.S. 127, Roz’s Diner is a one-of-a-kind find. The farm fresh ingredients are superb, the portions are generous and the environment inside a converted bank is unique. Roz’s is a microwave-free zone, meaning everything is timely prepared just before serving. The stuffed breakfast wrap, with eggs and a host of vegetables, is perfect with the side of salsa. Weekends are busy and the seating is relatively small, so be prepared for a short wait.

Ponder Coffee 

Ponder’s exposed brick walls and rustic wood give the downtown Mt. Pleasant coffee, breakfast and lunch shop a natural, earthy vibe. But we came here to talk about food, and Ponder excels with waffles that are available all day and are out of this world. There are multiple daily offerings and the menu expands on Sunday mornings. Since this is fall, you’re missing out if you don’t try the Caramel Apple waffle that is topped with Granny Smith apple slices, a baseball-sized scoop of house-made whipped cream and a side of syrup.

Stan’s

The quintessential downtown diner that earns its reputation as a destination for locals as well as college students and their visiting parents. The menu makes it clear Stan’s is a no-frills joint that prides itself on homecooking and solid service. Traditional egg and meat combos supplement omelets and the restaurant’s famous crispy hashbrowns.

The Diner

Another homestyle restaurant, The Diner, which feels old-school with its promise of good food, good friends and good times, delivers quality dishes at affordable prices while still routinely earning 5-star reviews from guests at TripAdvisor, Google and Yelp. There’s no wrong order on the menu, but the Stacker Skillet is original with its paring of a piece of Texas Toast, country friend steak, sausage gravy and two scrambled eggs. Might be a good idea to hit the color tour by walk after that feast.

Lunch

Adelaide’s Bistro 

“Hidden” inside the Ginko Tree Inn bed and breakfast on the edge of downtown, this comfort food favorite is a well-known in Mt. Pleasant. Chef Pete Lieber crafted a delectable menu that features innovative soups, salads and sandwiches. On a recent cold day, a cup of Chicken Pot Pie soup was followed by a toasted vegetarian panini. The sun came out just afterward, and it probably wasn’t a coincidence.

Max & Emily’s 

If you’re looking for a sandwich, Max & Emily’s will make your head spin with more than 60 concoctions that can make it hard to choose which one to settle on, whether it’s your first or 100th visit to the downtown shop. All the meats, or none of the meats, the authentic baked breads and hand-cut ingredients will hit the spot for a mid-day lunch break.

Pisanello’s

In the 49th year of making pizza fans happy, Pisanellos produces a perfect thin-crust pie that outshines anything a chain can offer. The full spread of a lunch buffet wows crowds on weekdays, but a weekend visit to the low-key downtown café also gives diners choices for subs, salads and what could be award-winning buffalo wings. The Detroit Free Press included Pisanellos among its top 27 pizza places in Michigan.

Dog Central

The legend of Dog Central is so vast that it attracted the Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food show to try conquering the DC Challenge — eating 3 foot-long chili dogs, a mountain of fries (more than 1 pound), onion rings, and a 20-oz. Drink — in under 25 minutes. If you’re not up for that, and how many really are, the counter service eatery has a long and creative menu of dogs. It’s an inexpensive and quick way to treat yourself to something new. There are also 50+ varieties of cold beer to help you wash those dogs down.

Dinner

Mountain Town Station and Camille’s on the River

The adjacent restaurants along the Chippewa River can be a night out for an upscale, intimate entrée-driven dining experience at Camille’s or a kick back in a come as you are craft brewery with a better than just bar food menu. Either way, guests of the eateries win. Camille’s is the spot to go for a glass of wine or a specialty cocktail to pair with seafood or steak. Mountain Town features special themes that include create your own pasta, taco and tequila, sushi and pint nights during the week. Chef specials take over on the weekend evenings.

Midori Sushi and Martini Lounge

The rustic-chic atmosphere sets the stage for a night of fresh sushi with environmentally friendly fish that is flown in daily from the West Coast. Whether you’re seeking a bit of heat or something light, Midori nails it with shared plates and specialty rolls for yourself or to pass around the table. The fire up! roll brings the spice with shrimp, tuna, serrano and a tasty eel sauce while the rainbow rolls cools it off with crab, cucumber and a selection of fresh fish. The creative martinis will top the night out downtown.

The Brass Café 

Long considered the gold-standard of fine dining in Mt. Pleasant, the Brass Café shows no signs of losing the title with perfectly prepared steak, seafood and pastas. Using locally sourced in-season meats and produce, the ever-changing menu is reliably inventive. The loaded Big Brassy stuffed burger will redefine the Angus beef you toss on the grill at home.

Hunter’s Ale House

Craft beer may be a primary draw for this bar and restaurant at the edge of CMU’s campus and an abundance of student housing, but it’s the variety on the menu that will satisfy the appetites of all who hop in to the popular hot spot. There’s tavern fare, pizzas and entrees in addition to 10+ sandwiches and build your own burgers. The hop-growing patio offers outdoor dining option on a crisp fall night.

Here’s how to learn more about dining options in Mt. Pleasant, and while you’re here, stay at these overnight accommodations.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

Northern Michigan Winery Earns High Ratings from Top International Wine Critic

One of the world’s foremost wine experts and two of his trusted taste-testers recently decided to decamp from reviewing wines from the U.S. coastlines, focusing instead on what is being made and consumed in America’s heartland.

James Suckling, who spent 29 years as a columnist and senior editor at Wine Spectator magazine, discovered what people in Michigan have known for years, writing that “outstanding wines are now available from just about every state and for every taste. And they deserve your attention.”

Two of the wines that Suckling praised were made at Shady Lane Cellars, a pastoral 52-acre vineyard and winery positioned on the Leelanau Peninsula between Lake Michigan’s West Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Leelanau’s south end.

Suckling awarded Shady Lane’s Blaufränkisch a 91-point score and the winery’s Dry Riesling an 89 on his 100-point scale, which he has used for more than 25 years. Suckling, who published his reviews on his subscription-based website, tells readers that a wine rated 90 points or more is outstanding. He also notes that wines that achieve high scores and are priced between $15 and $40, as Shady Lane Cellars’ are, offer great value.

“Positive feedback and reviews of our wines are always important to our business, but when we can get critical feedback from industry leaders like James Suckling, this levels the playing field,” said Rick DeBlasio, the general manager of Shady Lane Cellars. “Our scores are based on the same system they use to score wines from all over the world, France, Italy, California, so it’s a big vote of confidence both from a wine making standpoint, but also a market standpoint.”

On Shady Lane’s Blaufränkisch, Suckling wrote:

  • “This is really delicious with cracked black pepper and hints of almonds with blue fruit. Medium body, light tannins and a fresh finish.”

And on the Dry Riesling, he opined:

  • “This is a very harmonious and round dry riesling with some peaches and pears, plus a hint of smoke.”

DeBlasio said the reviews help Shady Lane reach wine consumers who may be new to Shady Lane and reinforce the perspective of those who have already experienced and enjoyed the winery’s catalog.

“Our guests want to know they are purchasing something of value and quality, and these types of tools allow us to communicate that, and being from a respected 3rd party, they lend credibility and legitimacy to our craft,” DeBlasio said.

The tasting review sampled 800 wines, showing “the diversity of these American wines reflects the vast climatic and geological range across America. It is a wine continent just like Australia or Europe.” Suckling, in fact, calls out to the grape-growing and wine-producing region of Northern Michigan in his text, saying:

“In France, the taste of the place is called terroir, and the best wines (come) from places as diverse as the High Plains around Lubbock, Texas, and the Old Mission Peninsula, which extends into Lake Michigan near Traverse City, Michigan, and have that.”

Shady Lane Cellars grows its Blaufränkisch grapes on a 3-acre plot, producing a dark red wine with a big personality. Layers of blueberry, blackberry and mulberry fruit along with a hint of black pepper and cedar spice finish this wine with aged, lush tannins and big mouthfeel.

The Dry Riesling grapes, meanwhile, are grown at the highest elevation of Shady Lane’s estate, creating a fantastic, balanced fruit that is remarkably dependable and consistent. Kasey Wierzba, Shady Lane’s lead winemaker, intentionally selected a yeast to produce intense flavors of apricot, melon, lime zest and honeysuckle.

Wierzba says Shady Lane takes advantage of the region’s cool climate to create varieties that achieve a world-class balance of acidity, aroma and flavors.

Shady Lane Cellars was one of Leelanau County’s first wineries and sits on rolling hills while featuring breathtaking panoramic views. Positioned a short distance from Grand Traverse West Bay and M-22, Shady Lane’s grounds are a destination with a comfortable state-of-the-art tasting room.

The winery maintains a regular tasting room schedule in the off-season, opening from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays, and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. The winery is also open by appointment by calling 231-947-8865.

Discover, learn and shop Shady Lane Cellars today.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.