DRAFT PICKS: A visit to the great North for a cool glass of beer

OK, class. Let’s all pile in our vehicles and take a road trip.

I’ve written a lot about beer and all things related.

I’ve written very little about where to sit and drink a good, well respected and properly served glass of beer.

It’s time to do so.

First, let me note that in writing this column I am not belittling or disparaging any of the other great beer drinking areas, communities, or locations in West Michigan.

Lord, knows there are plenty.

I just love to get my dearly beloved settled comfortably in the car and head for Traverse City.

One of our favorite restaurants in the world is in T.C., (that’s another story). Also, there is a great hat store on Front Street.

In addition, Traverse City is simply ... cool. It really is becoming a leader in the brewing arts.

I’d like to suggest a few of my favorite places to have a cool brew in Traverse City — and this list is by no means complete.

• Right across the street from one of my favorite antiques malls on Union Street, just mid-block off Front Street is the 7 Monks Taproom, located at 128 S. Union.

Traverse City is packed with breweries — lots of them within walking distance one from the other. This is not one of them!

7 Monks Taproom is a very cool pub with great atmosphere and a stunning line-up of brews on tap, (and in the fridge.)

At any given time, the 7 Monks team claim there are more than 45 individual taps ready to distribute some of the best examples of local beer, (and offerings from further afield as well.) They have beers from all over the globe.

I have never walked in this place without being surprised and excited by the selection.

This is THE place to go when you are about half through your shopping excursion to the T.C. area. And there is a super used bookstore right next door as well.

• Brewery Terra Firma is a very, very interesting taproom located at 2959 Hartman Road which is just south of the big mall complex, (off Division.)

This is one of the newer breweries/taprooms in the T.C area. I wouldn’t call it a restaurant by any stretch, but they do allow you to bring in food from outside to eat with your beer. That’s cool.

Brewery Terra Firma is turning out some nice brews. I’ve tasted and can recommend the Brown Donkey Smasher, the Once Upon a Tyne Brown Ale, and the Black Orchid Vanilla Bean Porter.

The Gladstone American Pale Ale is supposedly making a real name for itself, but to be honest I haven’t tried it just yet.

Maybe next time.

• The Jolly Pumpkin Restaurant, Brewery, and Distillery out on Old Mission Peninsula is a fun place to visit and a great place to eat.

They are located behind the old Bowers Harbor Inn, and have great views, great food, and an impressive beer and wine list.

The beers available include Bam Bière, La Roja, Calabaza Blanca, Oro de Calabaza amongst many other regualr and seasonal offerings, (which can, by the way, be picked up in bottles locally.)

The atmosphere is great. This is simply a fun place to visit with quality food and drink.

• The Mackinac Brewing Company is in many ways the “older brother” of brew operations — at least those with a presence on Front Street.

A great brewpub atmosphere with excellent food and an exceptional list of brews including G.T. Golden, Peninsula Pale Ale, Red 8 Ale, Harvest Moon Oatmeal Stout, Belgian Whitecap, and more.

Centrally located, this brewery and restaurant is a great place to take a break — summer or winter.

We often stop in after taking in a movie at the renovated State Theater just down the street.

And there are more including North Peak Brewing Company, Right Brain Brewery, and others all turning out any number of inspiring beers.

Folks used to head for Traverse City and the peninsula for the wine tour. That is still a popular trek, but there are many more visitors coming to Traverse City for the brewery tour these days.

T.C is getting quite a name for itself in the brewing world.


Tramp Stamp

Clown Shoes

Ipswich, Mass.

Tramp Stamp is a delicious Belgian IPA that hits you with a shot of peppery spiciness right from the get go.

This Clown Shoes offering pours a nice amber color — a light bronze - that is pretty hazy. There is a good amount of head that is maintained by moderate carbonation for a decent while. There is quite of bit of lacing right up until the last sip.

There is a nice, almost pungent aroma rich with hops and mild earth tones. There is a good scent of orange peel, and some caramel tucked away in the background. I enjoyed the spicy notes and a strong sense of florals as well.

There is a hefty layer of yeast holding up the other flavors. Tramp comes off a touch tart or bitter, but the florals balance things off well.

There is a very refreshing feel to this beer. Just enough tartness to make things interesting, not enough bitterness to be off-putting.

For those explorers who have tasted Retsina wine in Greece — there is a sense of that piney earthiness. Maybe not as ‘in your face’ but certainly there.

Personally, I like this blend. Tramp does not offer up much beery sweetness or boozy aftertaste, but that’s OK.

It was fun.

I find the “Belgian IPA” designation a little odd. I don’t think this falls into that category too comfortably. But I’m not a brewer or a judge, so ...

Whatever the case, I liked Tramp Stamp just fine. It’s sometimes hard to find Clown Shoe brew in this area. I was glad to see them on the shelves.

Steamy Windows

Liberty Street Brewing Company


Sipping a bottle of Steamy Windows was an interesting experience. It is touted as a California Common Ale or a Steam Beer but honestly, it’s not like any “steam beer” I’ve had before. That doesn’t mean to say there was anything wrong with Steamy. Quite the contrary.

It was good.

This brew pours a rich, golden yellow — a classic glass of beer.

There was just under a finger of sharp, bright white head that lingered making this a good brewing for scenting.

Steamy has a very mild nose. Just the most muted hints of grains and very little maltiness at all. There really is nothing that pops or tickles the nose. There is a very slight grassy background, and just a touch of malty citrus.

As with the aroma, the taste of Steamy is quiet and unassuming. There is a touch of grain taste at the start, but the hops move in to balance the scales. There really is a fine balance between quite sweetness, and muted hoppiness.


The finish is very much like the rest of the experience — subtle and controlled. Maybe just a touch of citrusy aftertaste — and that’s OK.

I quite enjoyed Steamy Windows.

It was a pleasant glass of beer out on the deck, and I can heartily recommend this as a beer that not only might you enjoy, but most visitors will find it reasonable and acceptable as well.

Light. Balanced. Gently flavorful. Refreshing.