Michigan’s quaint lakeside towns are more beer-soaked than you might expect. Summer is the perfect time to grab a friend, split the driving duties and enjoy a post-brewery dip in Lake Michigan.
After about a 90-minute morning drive east on I-90/94, you’ll start your Michigan trip in the charming town of Three Oaks … and you’ll need some sustenance. Grab lunch at Journeyman Distillery, housed in a sunlit former corset factory. The distillery opened in 2011, and added a full restaurant, called Staymaker, less than a year ago. Sip cocktails that highlight housemade spirits while snacking on small plates and substantive entrees made with ingredients from local farms and charcuterie artisans. (Don’t forget to pick up a bottle of Bilberry Black Hearts Gin or Featherbone Bourbon as a souvenir.) You’ll find another awesome souvenir in nearby New Buffalo at P. & E. Mullins Local, a husband-and-wife-run butcher store that sells jars of its homemade, near-legendary bacon jam (available only on Sundays—it’s that much in demand). Next, drive 10 minutes north to Sawyer for an obligatory stop at the casual, seemingly always-busy Greenbush Brewing Co. brewpub. Order a pint of Sunspot, a summer seasonal German hef, and snack on dishes including salads, pizzas, barbecue and warm sandwiches. If it’s sun you seek, head across the street to the brewery’s Annex, a smaller taproom with a beer garden offering bocce and cornhole. Ready to call it a day? Harbour County has no shortage of cozy inns, as well as a few chain hotels, for overnight lodging.
Rise and shine with coffee and treats from Harbert, Michigan’s Harbert Swedish Bakery, which operates an adjacent full-service breakfast and lunch spot called Luisa’s Cafe; just try to choose from doughnuts, spiced coffee cake and kolaczkis (fruit-filled cookies). Another Michigan must: If you’ve never seen a sand dune, detour to Warren Dunes State Park, a quick six-mile drive away. After a refreshing climb up the dunes, head north to Bridgman for a flight at Tapistry Brewing Co., whose 20 taps pour both mainstays and seasonals; take your glass of Blood Orange Wit (brewed with blood orange, chamomile and rose hips) to the beer garden to soak up some sun. Make the 25-minute drive along Red Arrow Highway to The Livery in Benton Harbor, a rustic tavern in a 100-year-old former stable. You’ll find house beers, including barrel-aged and specialty drafts, as well as a menu of pizzas, sammies and bar snacks (don’t miss the spent grain pretzel bites with beer cheese). From there, you’ll reach your trip’s northernmost point at Arclight Brewing Co.’s taproom in Watervliet. Founded by a former Chicago homebrewer, the brewery is famous for its sours, like Opus Kriek (available in bottles). On your way back to Chicago, make an easy detour through Gary, Indiana, to visit 18th Street Brewery and its wild beer side project, Sour Note. Can’t handle more beer at the moment? Snag one of the frequently rotating 750mL bottles to take home.