Shed's Brewing Company - Jackson, Mich.

Jackson Added to the Great Beer State Map

Michigan has been dubbed the Great Beer State and for good reason. With so many breweries in Michigan, it can be quite overwhelming. Jackson has been added to that map with four new breweries to tour, each with their own unique atmosphere. The best way to get your bearings is to start with a beer tasting festival. The 4th Annual Southern Michigan Winter Beer Festival on Saturday, March 8th at the Jackson County Fairgrounds, will feature over 150 craft beers from Michigan and beyond, live music, food vendors and a corn hole tournament. While you’re here, book your hotel room  and extend your stay with the help of this Experience Jackson Beer Festival Itinerary.

Grand River Marketplace - Jackson, Mich.
Courtesy of Experience Jackson

Downtown Jackson is just the spot for the Grand River Marketplace. “Downtown Jackson is a place for rapid growth,”  says owner John Burtka,  “with new restaurants like Chilango’s (Burrito Bar) and Chase Sports Bar investing in downtown, more and more people are coming to Jackson and coming to stay.” Grand River includes a brewery, winery, restaurant and deli all in one 12,000 square foot facility. This unique venue incorporates a funky steampunk theme, lending itself well to the hip local and regional acts that perform there.  Sourcing local is important to Grand River. New England trained Chef Corey Bieber is proudly sourcing local ingredients for his one-of-a -kind dishes. Brewer Ben Tackett and Thomas Block, who man the state of the art 15-barrel brew system, get their hops from the Sleeping Bear area of Michigan. Finally winemaker Blake Kownacki is using only Michigan fruit for his award-winning wine.

Bifferhaus Brewing Company - Jackson, Mich.
Courtesy of Experience Jackson

Grand River isn’t the only micro-brewery in town; however micro might be too big to describe the next three locations. While Grandma used to bake love into her pies, local pico craft brewers brew love into their beers, one barrel at a time. For Terry Howard, owner of the Bifferhaus Brewing Company, this labor of love started about 15 years ago when a friend asked if he’d like to watch how it’s done. “I just loved it from the first time I saw it.” Howard said. “I love creating things with ingredients from the earth.” The smaller system allows for much more experimentation and new beers will rotate quicker.

That is the appeal of the new pico-brewery at Lone Oak Vineyard Estate. Tootsie’s Brewery, named after owner Kip Barber’s mother, brews 2 barrels at a time, allowing your experience to constantly change. Kip and his wife Denise know about crafting the perfect recipe. Lone Oak is the oldest vineyard of the Southeast Michigan Pioneer Wine Trail and the only estate wine, using only grapes grown on their property. Tootsie’s has also been perfecting “the most incredible pizza” recipe to go with their brews.

Shed's Brewing Company - Jackson, Mich.
Courtesy of Experience Jackson

The name for the final brewery came when owners, Jeff Tolonen and Blong Thao, were told all they need for a pico-brewery is a shed. Shed’s Brewing Company is more than that, with a pool table and big screen TVs. Much of the renovations to transform the former dance studio into a sports bar were done themselves, including building the bar from the dance studio floor boards.

Make sure to fit each of these unique locations into your craft beer weekend in Jackson this March. Tickets for the Southern Michigan Winter Beer Festival are $25 before the event or $30 at the gate includes 10 tasting tickets, admission and parking. Designated driver tickets will be available at the door for $5. Proceeds go to the Jackson County Fair Premium Program. You must be 21 or older to attend.  Get your tickets by calling the fair box office at 517-788-4405 or Etix at 800-514-3849 or online at .

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  1. Urgg. How much did G.R.B. have to pay to make themselves seem worth going to? Sheds & Bifferhaus are far superior.

    1. Kaiju, All three establishments are worth visiting. All three owners took a chance on something they believe in, and put A LOT of time and effort and money into their vision. I am a mug club member at all three breweries, I am friends with all of the owners, and I am also part of the Brewing industry. I have to ask; Do you honestly believe that GRB is far inferior to the others? Do you really think that’s a fair statement? Have you been to GRB recently? I have, and in my opinion… GRB has some of the best pub fare in southern Michigan. and I can’t think of a nicer interior space in the surrounding Jackson area. I love that they book first class regional, and national acts performing ORIGINAL music on their stage on a weekly basis. As for their brewers, they have an impressive history that includes brewing, consulting, installing brew systems, etc… at Arcadia, Corner Brewery, and Grand Rapids Brewery, among others. And one of GRB’s brewers teaches Fermentation Science at MSU. So, I can assure you that lack of brewing experience does not make them inferior.
      I am in my fifties, and have been a beer connoisseur for MANY years. I not only appreciate, but CHERISH, an honest, well balanced, well carbonated, and properly clarified ale. I appreciate the fact that balance and flavor comes first with GRB brews, rather than high ABV (which has become such a ridiculous American trend). If it’s IPA that you crave, any brewery in the nation would be thrilled to call GRB’s “Monkey Mouth” their own. And don’t just take my word for it, ask the brewers at Dark Horse and Arcadia who recently shared several pints of it, among several other GRB brews with me last week.

      1. I only now saw the notice of your response so my apologies in my delayed response.

        To answer your question,

        Short Answer: I do not care for GRB beer. Despite the many reassurances often told, I consistently am poured a flat beer being told that particular tap is “Having issues but is being fixed”. I also find that each of thier beers carries an overpower copper tang to it from the pipes used in thier pour station. This may look good but I feel it spoils the beer. on one occasion they had a tap set up at the wine bar in standard aluminium and the taste was gone.

        Long Answer: I do not care for thier business practices, and the fact that they do not care. Going back one year I was overjoyed to hear that a brewery was planned at the Bell Tower, I signed up for membership immedietly, and was such an early adopter I was able to request special paints on my mug. Friends and I were planning regular visits to support this business. However the experience has proven lacking. As of the start of 2014 the “Founding members plaque” was still not in place.

        The opening day which was advertised to founders as being a special event to be held before opening was an open doors grand opening for all. Similiarly when the Founders event was held, despite advertisments online it was again a standard day of business with the “Food to be served” an hor dourves table that was set once, cleaned out within 3 minutes and never restocked. with the ‘event’ amounting to picking up a hat and growler months after opening.

        Many other tales I could tell, but I will recount only my final visit. New years eve was advertised as being a reservation only event, at $45 a table. Myself, my wife and another couple attended. When we arrived we found that walk ins were being accepted as well, so our reservation was meaningless. $45 got us a card table and folding chairs. One of our party is heavier set and when they asked for a proper chair they were treated very rudely. Of the five beers on tap that evening only 2 could be served in a members mug, due to the other three having high ABV, so even that night GRB emphasized ABV over flavor. Of the meal, one appetizer of shellfish was spoiled, another unable to be served due to the kitchen running out of salad mix, and two main courses inedible due to being served rare to an unsafe degree, despite one of those meals being ordered, qoute: “Hockey puck”. The time was so bad that we were not even charged for one of the meals and left well before Midnight, I attempted to speak to the owner, but each time he made eye contact with me, he would move away.
        I instead tried to address these issues on thier Facebook page. Thier response? The comments were deleted and the ability to make further comments were disabled for all users.

        Since they opened the Chelsea Alehouse has redoracted at least 3 times based on Customer Feedback and sent out an email survey on what people would like to see improved.

        Sheds has re-arranged thier hours and worked to increase production to meet the communities demands.

        Bifferhaus has created menus to allow people to bring food in or order it directly while learning the faces of thier regular clientele’

        GRB? GRB is the same today as it was when it opened its doors, they have ignored and removed any feedback or criticism be it constructive or otherwise.

        As a result articles like these which paint GRB as the premier Jackson brewery when I feel that nothing could be further from the truth annoy me. Annoying me even more because I know that I am viewed as a minority, the business community of Jackson has embraced the location as a eating destination and that success relagates any dissenting voice to a minority to be ignored. However this does not change my opinion and the opinion of many more whom I know that the Grand has earned itself a reputation of being mediocure and snooty.

        My initial post was made from a cell phone so was trite and without explanation. I hope this more in depth explanation helps you to understand my stance on this establishment.

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