Milestones in Motown

Our friend, fellow beer traveler and guest contributor
Matt Venzke joins us in the 500 brewery club

Just a few months after Chris and Merideth both visited their 500th breweries, Michelle and I recently reached major beer-hunting milestones of our own.  In late January, Michelle tallied her 400th brewery!  And just a few days later, I recorded my 500th!  (By “my rules”). And, of all places, it happened … in Detroit!

It was sort of an accident.  I had a week of work ahead in southeast Michigan, so Michelle and I made a weekend getaway out of it.   Of course, we always seek out the local beer scene when we travel, but didn’t realize we were close to such momentous occasions.

We actually started our weekend with a Friday night in Toledo, just south of the Michigan frontier.  The riverfront Maumee Bay Brewing Company was a welcome respite from the January cold.  Having rejuvenated the old Buckeye Beer brand, the brewpub is also home to a pretty cool collection of memorabilia from Toledo’s historic breweries.

On a frigid Saturday morning, we made our way into Detroit.  After enjoying a very interesting few hours at The Henry Ford Museum, we set out to find some savory beverages at Detroit’s four brewpubs.

Atwater Block was our first brewery in Michigan -- the 40th state in which we've visited breweries.

Our first Michigan brewery was the Atwater Block Brewery.  Despite its warehouse-like environs in an almost industrial area near the riverfront, Atwater has a nicely laid-out pub area (complete with a fireplace) overlooking a cavernous brewery.   And our midday snack was delicious!

After we checked into our hotel, we took a cab to two side-by-side beer destinations in midtown Detroit.  Traffic Jam and Snug bills itself as Michigan’s first brewpub.  With a family restaurant feel and a retro 70s groove at the bar, Traffic Jam offered three house beers.  Directly across the street, Motor City Brewing Works is a cozy, earthy place with wood-fired pizzas, a nice selection of artisanal cheese, and some house-made wines along with their lineup of at least a half dozen quality brews.

Michelle celebrated her 400th brewery with a Steam Tunnel Stout at Detroit Beer Company

Finally, we headed back downtown to the Detroit Beer Company – Michelle’s 400th brewery! An All-American brewpub nestled in the heart of the city, DBC had a bustling crowd on our Saturday night, and there wasn’t even a game on in the local arenas.

On Sunday, we caught the last day of the North America International Auto Show before Michelle flew home and I found my way to my work site for the week in suburbia.

Scoping out my options for the week, I was amazed by the number of area choices – at least 27 brewpubs within a 30-mile radius of Detroit!  But they are quite spread out.  One potential option for dedicated beer travelers in the area is Motor City Brew Tours, which offers transportation and tours to brewpubs and beer festivals.  Otherwise, like me, beer hunters are without the benefit of efficient public transportation outside downtown.  So without a designated driver to cart me around, I had to settle on one or two brewpubs each night, but still managed to sample several Detroit-area purveyors:

The Detroit area has a ton of beer choices -- the beer menu at Kuhnhenn Brewing Company alone would make any weary beer traveler giddy!

Big Rock Chophouse and Brewery is an upscale steakhouse that also happens to make a few of it’s own house beers.  On the opposite end of the dining spectrum, Kuhnhenn Brewing Company doesn’t offer much in the way of food (bring your own!), but has an amazing array of beer choices, and each I had was a work of art.  Black Lotus Brewing Company is a cozy and friendly neighborhood hangout, with a solid lineup of brews.  The hummus was good too!  Farther north, Great Baraboo Brewing Company has the feel of an American sports bar, with a half dozen of its own beers.  My longest drive was to Rochester Mills Beer Company.  Situated in an awesome historic building, RMBC adds quality guest taps to an impressive lineup of its own brews, and free pool tables add to the friendly, beery environment.  A little closer to Detroit, Dragonmeade Brewery immediately impresses the first-time visitor with a dizzying array of FORTY different offerings on tap!  I capped my week in Michigan with my 500th brewerythe Royal Oak Brewery, where my fish and chips and IPA served as the perfect celebratory meal.

All told, we were pleasantly surprised by the Wolverine State’s beer scene.  According to the Michigan Beer Guide, there are 76 craft breweries in Michigan, which ranks as the fifth highest total for any state!  Unfortunately, we barely scratched the surface.  We can’t wait to get back to check out more of what Michigan has to offer!