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.
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.
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.
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 www.Etix.com .