With rolling hills traversing the 45th parallel between the insulating waters of Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay, the pinkie finger of Michigan is a natural site for thriving vineyards that dot the countryside.
But wine isn’t the only libation specialty in the Traverse City area. It’s also home to a growing collection of craft breweries, from the Leelanau Peninsula south along the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and inland to the heart of Traverse City itself.
Leelanau, Benzie and Grand Traverse counties all rank among the top five in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula for number of breweries per capita. Plus, neighboring Antrim County, home of Short’s Brewing in Bellaire, produces the most beer per capita of any county in Michigan.
While you can find great craft brews all over the state, the Traverse City area has emerged as a must-visit destination for beer lovers. And fall is a great time to experience the flavors of northern Michigan craft beer, especially during Traverse City Beer Week, Nov. 8-15.
“Beer Week is a really cool time of year where it’s transitioning from fall to winter and you get to be outside still and really experience an Up North feel, and the breweries just enhance that,” said Troy Daily, a beer entrepreneur who partners with the area’s burgeoning beer scene to run events and services including Paddle for Pints, TC Brew Bus, TC Cycle Pub, TC Ale Trail and the Kayak, Bike & Brew.
“It creates a winning combination.”
The Traverse City area is home to 20 microbreweries including Short’s Brewing, which is the largest microbrewer in Michigan. (Only Bell’s Brewing in Kalamazoo and Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids produce more beer, so much that they no longer qualify as microbrewers.)
The region also features Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City and Stormcloud Brewing in Frankfort, both among the 50 largest microbrewers in the state. There’s also Mitten Brewing in Northport, Hop Lot Brewing in Suttons Bay, Lake Ann Brewing in Lake Ann and North Peak Brewing, Monkey Fist Brewing and Mackinaw Brewing in Traverse City. The list goes on.
You can try to visit them all this fall or check a few off your list during an upcoming weekend. Traverse City Beer Week offers a great opportunity to get a broad sampling.
“Beer Week really showcases that Traverse City is a beer destination with a lot of good breweries, not just one,” Daily said. “A lot of the breweries up here aren’t in distribution, so you have to come here in order to get their beer.”
Traverse City Beer Week features several events. Here’s the full schedule, with several highlights:
- 6th Annual TC Ale Trail IPA Challenge – Who brews the best IPA in Traverse City? This blind taste test from 5:30-10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, at The Little Fleet will decide. The competition will be judged by 200 beer lovers, and you could be one of them!
- TCBW Kick Off Pub Crawl – Get Traverse City Beer Week off to a fast start from 6-10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, by visiting a bunch of breweries right off the bat in downtown Traverse City. Walk your way from one brewery to the next and earn an official Pub Crawl t-shirt by visiting at
least six of the participating locations.
- 6th Annual Great Beerd Run 5K – Grow a beard (or tie one on) and enjoy on-course beer tastings during an untimed fun run 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. After the race there will be live music and a Best Beard Costume.
- 2019 Flapjack & Flannel Festival – Wear your flannels and enjoy more than 30 beers from a dozen Traverse City breweries paired with live music, games and, of course, pancakes! Each ticket is good for a couple drinks, one pancake and live music from local bands from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at The Little Fleet.
When you go visit any of the Traverse City area’s breweries, go ahead and make a weekend out of it. Or sneak away in the middle of the week to enjoy the beauty of a northern Michigan fall before winter comes.
From scenic drives and roadside markets to incredible trails for hiking and biking, the Traverse City area has tons to do this time of year. Several places to stay are offering special Beer Week lodging packages with discounted rates, and they include a Traverse City logoed fanny pack stuffed with coupons, a Brew Tour Guide and package of pretzels to go with your beer.
Come taste for yourself why the Traverse City area is Michigan’s No. 1 region for craft brewing!
Nick Behling finds the best way to end a beautiful fall day of paddling the Grand River in Grand Rapids, MI is a pint of New Holland’s Ichabod Pumpkin Ale.