Craft beer is a huge industry in Michigan, and Northern Michigan is capitalizing on the expertise and passion in the area. Do you want to check out a brewery in or around Traverse City, but avoid some of the crowds?
I recommend visiting some of the “unknown” breweries that have a lot to offer and it won’t be long before they’re busy all the time. Here are 5 great recommendations from a TC local for an “out of the way” brewery experience near Traverse City.
1. Lake Ann Brewing Co. | Lake Ann
It seems like everyone is brewing their own beers these days, and Matt Therrien the brewer of Lake Ann Brewing Company, is no different. Therrien has been brewing beer in his parents’ basement and then in his own garage for the past 20 years.
The Lake Ann Brewing Company sits in what was once the Lake Ann Cafe, right in the heart of the little town just west of Traverse City.
The friendly staff and welcoming decor create an environment that feels like your uncle’s fishing cabin. There is a portrait of George Washington, fishing poles hanging from the walls, and, just as no up north cabin would be complete without one, there is a hornet’s nest on the wall.
On tap, they have eight of their own beers along with other local ciders and wines (free refills on Northwoods Soda for those in your party not drinking), and a number of snacks.
If you’re looking for a full meal feel, free to order from nearby spots, like The Stone Oven Restaurant, and they will deliver right to your table. But, the beer is what you’ll really be visiting for, of course, and my favorite is the Lake Ann Amber.
2. Rare Bird Brewpub | Traverse City
When entering the pub, the visitor’s eye is first drawn to the glass wall and the giant kegs of beer behind it. These are connected to the taps behind the bar where the house brews come from.
The rest of the walls are paneled in hardwood, and the top of the bar and tables are silver metal. There is a stage next to the fireplace and couches for those looking for a more relaxed drinking experience. When I visited, I tried all of the house brews that they had on tap, and my favorite was the Schmamber Amber.
I also enjoyed Nuts to Butter, which was brewed with chocolate and half a pound of peanut butter for every gallon! The food menu is absolutely delicious, and I recommend the Black Bean and Quinoa Burger because it was easily the best veggie burger I’ve ever had.
3. Five Shores Brewery | Beulah
This delectable brewery is tucked away on the shores of Crystal Lake- just 30 minutes from Traverse City. Five Shores Brewery has a prime location just off the bike trail and adjacent to the adorable downtown area.
The building is stunning- painted with vibrant blues that echo the shades of Crystal Lake and Lake Michigan. The taproom has plenty of tables, full of old-school games to play and space for kids to enjoy themselves.
Outdoors, picnic tables line the yard, creating a cozy and casual environment. The beers are truly some of the absolute best- with their hazy IPAs and unique sours being kept in heavy rotation, for a good reason. The flavors used in their beers are fresh, blended in a way that is always refreshing.
In addition, their food is fantastic and offers more than just your usual bar fare. Don’t miss out on their huge hot pretzel- it is baked to pillowy perfection, coated in “everything but the bagel” seasoning, and dunked in hot cheese.
Pro tip: Check out the adorable handcrafted shops in downtown Beulah, or the stunning nearby trails of Baldy or Green Point Dunes to work up a sweat before stopping in for a crisp ale to round out your day.
4. The Mitten Brewing Company | Northport
Although the original Mitten is in the heart of Grand Rapids, this location is a stand-out. At the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, nestled by the shores of Lake Michigan, it’s a stop you need to make.
The Mitten Brewing Company has beer from cream ales to a mouthwatering brown, to a refreshing and traditional IPA. It’s always hard to know what to choose, as each beer deserves a taste.
There is a wall of games that lines the front alcove of the cozy pub, and in the summer, a beer garden complete with a food truck welcomes you after a day in the sun.
Pro tip- Before heading to the brewery, visit the state park’s lighthouse, take a dip at Christmas Cove, hike to the shoreline at Mud Lakes, or stop at the gorgeous Peterson Park to rock hunt and swing with the kids.
5. Loco Boys | Traverse City
New to the scene in early 2023, Loco Boys opened its doors in the Slabtown Neighborhood of Traverse City. Tucked away from the main drag, it’s the perfect spot to stop in for a pint and some authentic Mexican cuisine.
Loco Boys has seating both indoors and out, with a unique view of their brewing equipment in the middle of the taproom. They use experimental ingredients, and it’s always hard to decide what beer to try.
I highly recommend a flight of beers, so you can try it all. Gose, Mexican stouts, and a mango IPA are just a few you can choose from. Their salsa trio is a must, as well as a variety of tacos and seafood options. Believe me, you won’t be let down!
What are your favorite lesser-known breweries in Northern Michigan? Let us know in the comments!