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(2016 - Fall/Winter Issue)


At the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange, one of the craft beers, an Imperial Porter called “Perrin No Rules,” sells for US$15.50 a pint.  

The unique atmosphere in this highly popular restaurant and craft beer emporium resembles a stock exchange. A large illuminated board lists the 28 featured beers for the evening along with the current “market” price for each. Every few minutes, the prices are raised or lowered to add some fun to savouring familiar craft beers and trying new ones. And then without warning, the market crashes. The board flashes warnings along with a countdown clock and prices are slashed by as much as 50 per cent for the next minute.

And that’s how we tasted Perrin No Rules for only US$7.50. Made with a touch of turbinado sugar, this superb craft beer has strong coconut and coffee undertones, but it’s not overwhelming. The taste is more like a caress on the taste buds. When we expressed our love for the taste of the Porter, Eric Fulkerson, the beverage manager, smiled: “That’s what makes the hair on my arms stand up—when people discover and appreciate the beers.” And we, in turn, discovered Eric’s comment was typical of the creativity, complexity and passion that define Michigan’s craft beer industry. 

In Grand Rapids, voted Beer City USA for the past two years, visitors can collect stamps in a passport and become a “brewsader,” similar to a “crusader,” but denoting an enthusiastic imbiber of great beers—and one who is willing to travel for the experience. In Kalamazoo, we chatted with cicerones, also known as beer sommeliers, who perfect the pairing of craft beer with food, and finally we journeyed to the incredibly revitalized downtown area of Detroit to experience the amazing food and drink scene.


As we explored the Pumpkin Ale and the Frosted Harbour Dark Raspberry Wheat fruit beer at Kalamazoo’s Boatyard Brewery, chief executive officer Brian Steele spoke about the growing popularity of craft beer (a.k.a. artisanal beer), especially for wine and whisky connoisseurs. He noted the variety of beers, each catering to specific tastes; the “nose” of the beer that defines the aroma and bouquet; and the complexity of the beer that challenges the drinker to detect the ingredients, from the type of malt and hops used, to the quality of water and the esters (fruity flavours) produced during the fermentation process. Brian added, “There’s a huge growing legitimacy in drinking craft beer,” a statement backed up by the fact that in Michigan the brewing industry employs upward of 7,000 people and has a US$600- million impact on the economy. 

Hop Head Farms in Hickory Corners grows a wide variety of hops and has an international customer base. With the hops providing the flavours and aromas for artisanal beers, Bonnie and Jeff Steinman are continually seeking additional acreage to grow hops to fulfill the increasing demand. However Bonnie became very philosophical when we visited the chamber where the hop cones (seeds) are dried. She noted there are no manuals to perfect the drying process, just the sound of the cones rustling against each other, and she revealed that her favourite way to release stress was to sneak up to the drying room, close her eyes and listen to the peaceful cascade of tumbling hop cones as she inhaled the aromas. 

The rationale for drinking beer ranges from the ultra-serious connoisseurs who collect brewery visits and record the number of beers tasted, while listing the ABV (Alcohol By Volume) and the IBU (International Bitterness Units) in each sample, to those who humorously make their selections based on the quirkiness of the beer’s name. And in that vein we tasted Dogfish Head Namaste, Fearless The Idiot, Right Brain Chubby Squirrel, Big Sky Moose Drool and Son of a Batch. 


However aside from beer, Michigan is hopping with culinary delights. In Grand Rapids’ Brewery Vivant, we devoured Duck Confit Nachos, a mellifluous concoction of brie cream, duck confit, tomato concasse, caramelized onions, duck cracklin’ and citrus. In Kalamazoo’s Arcadia Brewing Company, we savoured the perfectly smoked brisket that came with a side of tender tasty collard greens, and at the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange, we indulged in crunchy beer-battered fried pickles and the special college homecoming burger. A visit to Sweetwater’s Donut Mill, rated as the fourth best donut shop in the country, is de rigeur for those who love their super-sized treats.

At Selden Standard in Detroit, executive chef Andy Hollyday’s menus are inspired by the changing seasons, as they source locally grown foods and present truly delectable works of culinary art including beef tartare with quail egg, pork shank with cornbread crumble, rabbit ragu with ricotta and pistachio, and grilled lamb chops with eggplant, sweet peppers and yoghurt.

During breakfast at the Townhouse we practically swooned over the ultra-creamy grits, blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs and house-made bacon and sausage, while at the Motor City Brewing Works, the hot, fresh, flavoursome pizzas were perfectly complemented by a cold pint of Ghettoblaster (“the beer you can hear”).


A number of outstanding attractions tempt travellers along the craft beer route. The Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners showcases the artistry of automobiles from 1899 to the present.

Detroit’s sprawling Eastern Market, home to the Detroit Fall Beer Festival featuring 675 craft beers from 83 brewing companies, is also a great venue for buying fresh produce and listening to local blues buskers, while the nearby Motown Museum celebrates the sound that inspired the global music scene. Detroit’s downtown features the art-deco Guardian Building, the iconic statue of the Spirit of Detroit, the impact of the Joe Louis Fist, the sculpture of the Gateway to Freedom and the meandering Detroit RiverWalk.

Crafting the perfect experience is the ideal for all travellers, with each adventure incorporating personal interests, culinary curiosities, engagement with the locals and a touch of serendipity along the way. Michigan definitely responds to this ideal.

Travel Planner

Air Canada (aircanada.com) and United Airlines (united.com) offer scheduled air service to Detroit from various Canadian gateways. A full list of breweries and sites to see in the state of Michigan is found online under michigan.org (click on Play and Attractions).

For more information on what to see and do in Detroit, log onto visitdetroit.com.

For accommodation, consider:

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Grand Rapids: amwaygrand.com

Marriott Residence Inn, Kalamazoo East: marriott.com

Westin Book Cadillac Hotel: bookcadillacwestin.com

Best Western
Crane's Beach House
Fort Myers
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