Monday, 30 April 2018 09:42

Southwest Michigan Craft Beer Scene Beckons with Chill Vibes

Written by  Joe Boomgaard
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 Watermark Brewing Co. Watermark Brewing Co.

The southwest corner of Michigan has long been the playground for Chicagoans looking to escape the concrete jungle for a slice of natural beauty. At the same time, that region of the Mitten has developed a craft beverage scene that fights well above its weight — or what its local population might suggest. Enticed by this notion, the Revue team rallied for a road trip to Southwest Michigan — specifically, Berrien County — to sample the wares. Here’s what we found out.

The Livery
190 5th St., Benton Harbor
(269) 925-8760, liverybrew.com

When you’re in the mood for a badass 17-percent ABV weizenbock aged in Four Roses bourbon barrels, The Livery has you covered. Luckily for your liver — and your ability to operate the rest of the day — they also have you covered when you’re in the mood for well-made IPAs, pale ales, sours and stouts. The inviting taproom and friendly bartenders will coax you in and convince you to pull up a stool at the bar, and maybe stay for a show at the sizeable stage. The Livery is the O.G. of breweries in this part of the state, and that shows in the diversity and quality of its offerings.

Watermark Brewing Co.
5781 St. Joseph Ave., Stevensville
(269) 281-0872, watermarkbrewing.com

Chill vibes abound at Watermark. Maybe it’s the taproom’s dog-friendly beer garden or its spacious patio. Or it could just be a reflection of the brewery’s co-founders, who all lived together in a house next door as they got the company up and running. Whatever their secret, they have a knack for crafting delicious beers. Standouts from our visit included King Prawn, Burt’s Breakfast Stout and Chromatophore — a collaboration with Speciation Artisan Ales. If you’re just in the mood for drinkin’, order a Leisure Ale and enjoy the vibes. (Food trucks also usually are on hand to sate your sushi and taco cravings, too.)

Silver Harbor Brewing Co.
721 Pleasant St., Saint Joseph
(269) 281-7100, silverharborbrewing.com

The founders of Silver Harbor wanted to open a brewery that had something for everyone — including families with children — and to offer a “serious food menu,” according to brewmaster Christian Cook. “We cater to everybody.” The food and appetizers were top-notch, and the beers we tried were solid as well. Go for the Psychedelic Pils, Planks Dank Dockside IPA or the Dunkelweisser. Silver Harbor will also “smoke” any of your beers for $2, but none of us burned one on our visit. Some people go to Silver Harbor just to get Shipfaced, but we missed the release of that big English-style barleywine by a couple of days.

Transient Artisan Ales
4229 Lake St., Bridgman
transientartisanales.com

This former gypsy brewer has amassed a cult following for two very different styles of beer. While Chris Betts started out brewing sours and saisons, he eventually added juicy pale ales and IPAs to the mix, and the world is better for it. Since customers have an unending thirst for all the juice, Transient is in the process of opening a new brewhouse to increase capacity of its “clean” beers, while leaving most of the current capacity for the brewery’s sour program, Betts said. The move will also free up space in the taproom for more patrons. Just don’t expect Transient to get much bigger. “This is the end of our growth,” Betts said. “Any more investment or distribution would just take things out of our hands.”

Journeyman Distillery
109 Generation Dr., Three Oaks
(269) 820-2050, journeymandistillery.com

While it’s not a brewery, Journeyman Distillery does make some fine hooch in Southwest Michigan. Since the last time Revue visited in 2015, the physical space has changed dramatically, with a huge still now taking center stage in the main entrance and the dining area. Speaking of food, the Staymaker kitchen’s Detroit-style pizzas feature spent grain from the distillery’s Last Feather Rye or Featherbone Bourbon. It paired well with a Wake ’N’ Jake cocktail, or a whiskey flight. For shareables, you can’t go wrong with the crisp pork belly. In short, Journeyman has that enviable mix of handcrafted spirits and food that make for a nice break from the well-worn pizza-and-beer combo.

Haymarket Brewery & Taproom
9301 Red Arrow Highway, Bridgman
(269) 266-5050, haymarketbeer.com

Haymarket was already an established Chicago brewery when it opened a Michigan location in Bridgman in 2017. Based in a former Michigan State Police post, the brewery offers a charming environment that celebrates workers of all stripes, including its own. As such, Haymarket is a non-tipping restaurant, meaning the company aims to pay all workers a living wage. Haymarket’s mission aside, the company also strikes a chord with quality Belgian and American beers and delicious ’za. We thoroughly enjoyed Hazy is Lazy, a New England IPA, as well as the Speakerswagon, a super-crushable German-style pilsner.

 

OTHERS WE RECOMMEND (AND VISITED IN THE PAST):

Arclight Brewing Co. 
544 N. Main St., Watervliet
(269) 332-0718, arclightbrewing.com

Greenbush Brewing Co.
5885 Sawyer Road, Sawyer
(269) 405-1076, greenbushbrewing.com

Tapistry Brewing Co.
4236 Lake St., Bridgman
(269) 266-7349, tapistrybrewing.com

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