Friday, 29 July 2016 10:08

Northern Exposure: Craft brewery wanderings in NW Michigan

Written by  Joe Boomgaard
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A few beers we sampled at Fetch Brewing Co. in Whitehall A few beers we sampled at Fetch Brewing Co. in Whitehall Joe Boomgaard

Since this is Revue’s road trip edition and it is summer in Michigan, we decided to head north on a meandering of our own, in search of what the area’s nascent craft beverage scene has to offer. Here’s what we found:

 

Ridge Cider Co.

351 W. 136th Street, Grant / Facebook page, (231) 674-2040 

After just more than a year in operation, Ridge Cider in Grant is ramping up its packaging business with the addition of a new bottling line. The cidery hopes to get six-packs of mainstay and seasonal ciders into the market later this year. Until then, co-owner and cidermaker Matt DeLong remains focused on experimenting with new recipes and concoctions. He’s a fan of dry ciders, which allow the locally-sourced apples to take center stage in the beverages. A relaunched full-service kitchen is also in the works for later this year. 

We tried the range of ciders — as well as some off-the-list offerings — and found them all to be entirely quaffable. Memorable standouts included: Porch Sittin’, a vanilla cinnamon apple cider; Raschberry, an effervescent cider with raspberries added; and RHAC, a hopped cider. 

 

Newaygo Brewing Co. 

19 State Road, Newaygo / newaygobrewing.com, (231) 452-6551

The expansive taplist at Newaygo Brewing Co.’s one-year anniversary party in May allowed brewer and co-owner Nick Looman to show off — and to test-market some new beers. In all, the brewery made 78 different recipes in its first year. Now that he’s locked in a few standbys and specialties, the plan is to be more intentional in “serving the huge palate spread” that patrons have. The company will start bottling some of its specialty beers in 22-ounce bottles this summer, and looks to expand its newly launched sour beer program. “I had no idea Newaygo would be ready for this,” Looman said of the sours, some of which (including a Gose) will be included in the bottling program.

When Revue stopped in, two of us ordered (and loved) one of those new sours — the Sour SMaSH Saison, a dry kettle sour made with Munich malt, Galena hops and saison yeast. Other standouts included the BBA Belgian Double on Cask, which featured rich molasses and dark fruit flavors, as well as the North York English Ale, an ESB-style beer featuring toasted malts. Also, we fully recommend the Four Meat and Seared Veggie pizzas — two opposite sides of the spectrum, but both very delicious. 

 

Brew Works of Fremont

5909 S. Warner Ave., Fremont / brewworksoffremont.com, (231) 924-6855

Astute readers might have noticed a theme here: Brew Works of Fremont will celebrate its one-year anniversary on July 9. The brewpub, which is located in a newly built industrial-style building and sandwiched between a bowling alley and a golf course, offers an inviting vibe. Fremont may not have an established hive of craft beer drinkers, so the restaurant focuses on its food menu, and offers options like beer-based cocktails. 

The staff, led by taproom manager Jordan Fitzgerald, were incredibly friendly and hospitable during our brief stop. The beers seemed to be going for true-to-style offerings. Non-hoppy styles will be your best bet here. 

 

Fetch Brewing Co.

100 W. Colby St., Whitehall / fetchbrewing.com, (231) 292-1048

Fetch is the oldest of the breweries of our roadtrip, having opened in September 2014 in a renovated bank building along the main drag in Whitehall. The welcoming space, with its tall ceilings, brick walls, wood floors and bank vault lounge, make for a great place to grab a pint and converse with your fellow humans. Owner and brewer Dan Hain specializes in an eclectic range of very clean, well-made beers, many of them featuring Michigan ingredients. Fetch recently started offering 32-ounce Crowlers for patrons looking for a more portable way than glass growlers to take beer with them on their northern adventures. If you come hungry, there’s often a food truck available and outside food is welcome. Hain said he wants to stick to what he knows best — the beer — and leave the food to others. The brewery is limited by its space, but has started a small barrel-aging program and looks to increase production and distribution this year. “We want to have more flavor experiments. People want new stuff,” Hain said. 

Revue tackled a foursome of beers during our stop, and we’d recommend all of them: Tree Stump, a coffee stout; Angry Sky, a hop-heavy Midwest IPA with a dry finish; White Lake Sunshine, a Belgian saison packed with fruity esters and a slightly tart finish; and the Ryptide, a rye-based IPA.

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