Traverse City is my favorite place to escape to at any time of the year. And it just so happens to have a Great Ale Trail. I can’t tell you about just one brewery in the TC area, because there are so many to choose from. That’s why I am going to tell you about my Top 5 Breweries in Traverse City.
I have included lots of links for you throughout the post to help you plan a visit.
First of all, if you want to explore the trail, there are plenty of ways you can do it.
- Paddling for Pints
- On Foot
- Kayak Bike and Brew
- Brew Bus
- Enlist a Designated Driver
Here are my Top 5 Traverse City Breweries
#5 Brewery Terra Firma
Brewery Terra Firma, strives to run their business Responsibly with a focus on Conservation and treating the environment with respect. They reuse byproducts from production and reclaim water from the brewing process plus utilize many ingredients that they have grown on their MEAP Certified farm. They even produce their own honey.
Their current beer selection includes both Coconut and Vanilla bean Porters, Session and Triple IPA’S, Honey Basil and Honey Ginger IPA’s, a Lemon Wheat, and a Cider. They also offer a variety of Ales. Plenty to choose from here. Best to do some sampling!
Stop into the Tap Room for a tasting of some of their masterfully crafted beers. Maybe grab a growler for the road. Terra Firma concentrates on brewing the highest quality of beer and have elected to forgo getting into the food business. But you are in TC, so there are 100 restaurants nearby if you need a bite to eat.
#4 Hop Lot Brewing Company
Hop Lot is a family run microbrewery that is actually located just south of Suttons Bay, only a short drive from Traverse City Proper. They are a brewery that focuses on making mostly traditional style beers.
They currently have a great selection on tap. Blond Ale, Amber Ale and Brown Ale, 2 IPA’s, Oatmeal and Imperial Stout, Sparkling Rose and Riesling as well as Cherry and Sweet Ciders. That should be enough variety to please everyone in your group!
They have a menu of sandwiches and share plates that changes with whats available that season. Hop Lot also boasts a large beer garden with fire pits to keep you toasty even in the colder weather. (We do get a lot of that in Michigan.) And in the nicer weather you can enjoy live music or play some yard games, or just hang out with friends.
#3 The Workshop Brewing Company
The Workshop is located in TC’s Warehouse District and creates a wide variety of traditional style beers. Their motto “Nature, Community and Craft” illustrates their respect for their environment while making their high quality beer. Their focus is on making a great product without engaging in quirky trends.
The Pub boasts a Workshop style with furnishings like table saws covered with plexiglass and metal garage stools. They also have reclaimed church pews and other furnishings that give the place a super casual and very comfortable vibe. For your entertainment there are pinball machines, board games and a stage for their regular musical entertainment.
The Workshop’s food menu consists of pizza, sandwiches and snacks. They make their food like their beer with a focus on taste and quality. I am a huge fan of their house made guacamole. The Workshop is just a chill place to hang out with some friends, maybe play a game and drink a few pints of real craft beer.
#2 Jolly Pumpkin Brewery & Restaurant
The Jolly Pumpkin is a Restaurant on the Mission Peninsula’s West Side. They feature both Jolly Pumpkin and North Peak beers. North Peak also has it’s own Pub location in Downtown Traverse City. Both beers are created in a facility in Dexter Michigan (right next door to where my husband works).
The Jolly Pumpkin line consists of several Artisan Ales, a Sour Amber Ale and a Sour Stout. Sours began to trend in the beer industry a few years ago and have become quite popular.
Sour beer is beer which has an intentionally acidic, tart or sour taste.
Even though the Jolly Pumpkin Restaurant is about 2/3 of the way up the Mission Peninsula it is well worth the drive. I really enjoy the coastal views as we wind drive along the edge of the bay. This is one of my favorite places to eat with my daughter when we are in Traverse City. Their Pulled Pork Nachos or a Gourmet Pizza and a Diabolical IPA are go to choices for me. When I am there with my husband, we get one of their hearty dinner entrees like ribs or ale battered fish and chips. Whatever you order from the Jolly Pumpkin Menu, you can’t go wrong. It is a great place for both food and beer.
#1 Right Brain Brewing
The Right Brain Brewing motto is “Keep Beer Curious.” They are all about experimentation and putting things together to make their beer that most places would not. I always enjoy a visit to their funky pub for a pint or two. The staff are always friendly and very helpful.
Some of my favorite beer varieties here are the Spear Beer made with asparagus and lemon rind….it’s so weird yet I really enjoy it. Since Traverse City is the Cherry Capital, it makes sense that they also make Cherry Pie Whole. For this beer they crush whole Traverse City Pie Company cherry crumb pies into the beer. It’s an intense rush of amazing cherry flavor. But the hands down winner and one of my all time favorite beers in Michigan (or anywhere) is the Thai Peanut. It’s an exotic brown ale with layers of peanut, spice and cilantro. Like eating a bowl of Pad Thai. Mind blowing….delish!
If you are really brave, you can try their Mangalitsa Pig Porter. A porter brewed with real, cold smoked, Mangalitsa pig heads and bones. Just a little TOO scary for me!
You can order food from their Food Truck Menu. When we leave from home around 8 in the morning and head to TC, we can make our first stop lunch at Right Brain for a Waffle Sandwich and a pint. Their beer batter waffle sandwiches are to die for.
They are a stop on both Traverse City’s Paddling for Pints and Kayak, Bike and Brew tours.
Favorite Cider: Tandem Ciders
In addition to great breweries, Traverse City is host to several distilleries and cider houses. I wish I could tell you how many times I have gotten lost making the trek out to Tandem Ciders. It is located amid the country roads of the Leelanau Peninsula. They have a smallish cider house set amid their apple orchard. Tandem uses their own apples as well as those of other local growers to make their hard ciders. You can do a tasting, sip a pint or grab a growler for the road. Favorite cider here: Smackentosh.
If you are looking for a Beer-Venture, get a Traverse City Visitors Guide plan your visit to hit the Ale Trail. It doesn’t matter what season you go, because Traverse City has activities year round. The Visitors Guide is a handy tool packed with information about dining, breweries, shopping, wineries and happenings. While there, be sure to take in the spectacular scenery, and enjoy some of the outstanding food options that TC has to offer. This is more than a day trip. Make it a long weekend or a mini vacation.
Leave a Comment If you have been to Traverse City, telling us about your favorite Beer or Brewery!