If you enjoy craft beer, Michigan is a great place to be. The Great Lakes State has become known as “The Great Beer State,” with 159 craft breweries operating statewide. From Detroit and Dexter to Menominee and Marquette, craft beer drinkers in Michigan have access to some of the best beer in the country.
I’ve been known to enjoy a brew or two on occasion, and I always enjoy sampling local brews while traveling, so on my recent #MittenTrip to Mount Pleasant, I naturally planned on checking out the craft beer scene in town.
Taverns and Taprooms
Things got off to a great start at my first stop, The Brass Café & Saloon. “The Brass,” as its known to locals, offers an extensive beer list with 80 bottled selections and six rotating taps. I was pleased to find multiple selections from Short’s, New Holland, and a number of other Michigan breweries, and I went with the classic hop flavor of a Short’s Huma.
Every place I went, people recommended Hunter’s Ale House, located on Bluegrass Road near Central Michigan University. Hunter’s offers 24 draft selections and tasty pizzas with a fun atmosphere and an outdoor patio. Hunter’s recently began brewing as well, offering beers under the name, “Hunter’s Handmade.” Learn more about what they’re up to on their blog.
Of course, in a college town, you’ll find plenty of other establishments serving craft brews from Michigan and beyond. The Bird is a downtown classic with a nice beer selection, and O’Kelly’s – also near CMU – is popular with the college crowd.
In 1996, Jim Holton opened Mountain Town Station Restaurant and Brewpub in downtown Mt. Pleasant. Located in a former railroad depot on Broadway, a small brewing system produced brews like Cow Catcher Red and Steam Engine Stout to be served on premise along with the restaurant menu.
In 2008, Holton opened a production facility nearby and began bottling Mountain Town’s core beers for distribution under the name Mt. Pleasant Brewing Company, later changed to Mountain Town Brewing Company. Mountain Town’s taproom at the new facility was on my list, so I stopped in Friday evening to try a few brews.
I immediately recognized favorites like Train Wreck Ale and Iron Horse IPA, but was pleased to see a diverse lineup of varying beer styles pouring from Mountain Town’s 16 taps. I had to try the “Season of the Sap,” brewed with sap from birch trees. The American wheat beer had a subtle sweetness that followed a crisp, yet flavorful body. An interesting and enjoyable brew.
I also really liked the Impervious Imperial Stout. The dark and toasty brew was quite a contrast to the IPAs and wheat beers in my tasting flight, and I found myself going back to it. In fact, I ordered a second taster of it.
We were lucky enough to visit on a night when Skye was pouring the beers for taproom guests. She knew her beer and was happy to share insights about the brewery and each draught offering, in addition to a few that weren’t available. As things quieted down a bit, she offered to give us a tour, which of course, we accepted.
If you enjoy a quality craft brew, a stop at Mountain Town’s taproom should be at the top of your to-do list when you visit Mt. Pleasant. Tell Skye I sent you!
About a half mile down Pickard Road from Mountain Town you’ll find Cranker’s Restaurant & Brewery. The beers at Cranker’s are brewed at their Big Rapids brewery, but they offer 6-8 draught selections at the Mt. Pleasant location.
I went with a tasting flight of six beers, and enjoyed the citrusy, hop-forward flavor of the Session IPA. The Coconut Porter was an interesting change of pace that I’d order again. The Cherry Wheat wasn’t overly fruity or sweet, which I’m always concerned about with fruit beers.
Our bartender, Sarah, recommended a blend of the two that she enjoys during her off hours, and poured us a sample of a “Coco Cherry.” I’m not sure I’d drink a full pint, but a small pour provided a unique mix of flavors.
Since I was in town on Father’s Day, I took my dad to Mountain Town Station for dinner and a brew or two. The small brewhouse is on display behind tall glass windows, representing a common design style for brewpubs built in the 90s.
With eight draught selections to choose from, I went with an Iron Horse IPA, a well-balanced IPA that paired nicely with the ribs and beef brisket.
Mountain Town Station’s bar area and dining room are spacious enough to handle weekend crowds, and an outdoor patio is a great place for lunch or an evening brew. It’s a popular place with locals as well as visitors, and one I’d recommend for anyone visiting Mt. Pleasant.
Bottle Shops and Craft Beer Retailers
If you’re looking for bottled or can beer on the go, Old Mission Wine Cellar has one of the best selections in Mid-Michigan. Known to locals as “The Underground Store” for its unique architecture, the selection of craft beers from Michigan and throughout the country is sure to impress even the most diehard craft beer geek.
Longtime Mt. Pleasant grocer Ric’s Food Center has embraced the Michigan craft beer revolution in a big way. We stopped at Ric’s on our way to our kayak outing on the Chippewa River and discovered a huge selection of Michigan brews available for mix-and-match six-packs.
It’s a great way to give new beers a try while mixing in a few favorites, which definitely came in handy on the river.
In 2014, the Mt. Pleasant Jaycees hosted the first Mt. Pleasant Craft Beer Festival, featuring 19 Michigan breweries. This year’s event, held downtown on June 6, featured 23 breweries and welcomed over 1,500 guests served by over 100 community volunteers. There’s no shortage of large-scale beer events in Michigan, but it’s great to see the Mt. Pleasant community introducing craft beer to locals while inviting Michiganders to the Mountain Town to taste what’s new in the Michigan brewing industry. This festival is definitely on my list for 2016, and if you enjoy Michigan beer, you’ll feel right at home in Mt. Pleasant.
~Nick Nerbonne, Contributing Writer.