Monday, August 23, 2010

Say Yeah to Da U.P., Eh!

And Lo, for the Earth was empty of forms, and void.  And Darkness was all over the Face of the Deep.  And We said: Look at that guy drink some beer.  Yes, I'm back from Radio Silence (big ups to anyone that recognizes the Madame Psychosis intro there, which is probably no one, and I only thought about it because it's taken me about 3 weeks to get 200 pages into Infinite Jest and that was literally the last page I read and I thought it was apropos here.  Aren't I supposed to talk about drinking beer on this blog at some point in time?).  I've been away for over two weeks here on a whirlwind international (really!) tour of the north.  I was in Michigan for a little under two weeks, then back to NYC for a whopping one day, and then off to Montreal for the weekend for no discernible reason.  Over two weeks and ton of beer drinking and a lot to talk about.  I'm breaking this up into four to five posts.  Michigan breaks itself nicely into three.  I spent about 4 days in the Upper Peninsula, about 4 days in the Alpena area, and about 4 days in Ann Arbor.  Then I'll drop a post or two about Canada.  I'm not sure how I'll figure in the beers I drink this week, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.  I'll just try not to do too much interesting beer drinking on my last week of summer break I guess.  So with much more ado, on to the U.P.!

Glad to start this off with one of the dumbest visual puns I've ever made.  The trip began inauspiciously. Got in to Detroit around 10 pm, went to the hotel where my dad had a Mission Street Brown Ale from Trader Joe's waiting for me.  Drank that, went to sleep.  Woke up at 5:30 the next morning to begin the epic 8 hour drive to my grandma's farm in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

For those of you that don't know, Michigan has two peninsulas.  Also, for those of you who don't know, no one actually lives in the upper one.  For a little comparison, Manhattan has a population of about 1.7 million and is a total of 23 square miles.  The U.P. has a total population of about 300,000 and is about 17,000 square miles.  It's a little nuts.  My grandma's farm is located up near the Keweenaw Peninsula (Yo Dawg, I heard you like peninsulas so I put a peninsula in your peninsula...), pretty close to Lake Superior in a town called Baraga.  Baraga is so small that the farm is on a road literally named after my family.  It sits on about 300 square acres.  It's absolutely beautiful but there is no one and nothing (and I really, really mean that) around it.  We arrive at the farm around 5 at night, my grandma has a growler waiting from us filled with a beer which she can't name from a brewery in Houghton (a town about an hour away) she can't remember.  Using my deductive powers, I figure its from the Keweenaw Brewing Company and some kind of porter.  I have a glass of that, then its off to dinner and to do some grocery shopping.   At dinner I have a Keweenaw Lift Bridge Brown Ale.  You remember when I talked about the Hotel Hershey restaurant that didn't have any real selection of Pennsylvania brew?  Well we went to the Hilltop Diner in Lanse, literally just some small, quintessentially midwestern diner in a super small U.P. town.  Well guess what?  They had SIX different Michigan craft beers to choose from!  Michigan is insane!  We then go to the grocery store where I pick up a six pack of Keweenaw's Widow Maker, their black lager, and 30 pack of Blatz.  I am in the U.P. after all.  I have one of each back at the farm.

Here's where I'm going to go on a little mini-rant and then probably end this post.  Michigan somehow turned into a "The Town I Went To Grad School In Really, Really Sucked" Tour.  We all should know that Michigan is an excellent beer state.  Avery, Founders, Bells, you all know.  But it also has a million different excellent local breweries.  But let's put that aside for a moment while I do a comparison of Town A and Town B.

Town A has a total population of about 7,000 people.  It also has a "Tech" school with a total enrollment of about 7,000 students.  Town A has two different microbreweries.

Town B has a total population of about 40,000 people.  It also has a "Tech" school with a total enrollment of about 31,000 students.  Town B has no microbreweries.

Town A is Houghton, MI.  Town B is where I went to grad school.  You'll see another amazing snapshot like this when I get to Ann Arbor.  Spoiler alert.  Town A will be Ann Arbor.  Town B will be where I went to grad school.  I show you these comparisons to illustrate not just how much where I went to grad school sucked from a beer drinking perspective, but also to show you just how much Michigan loves craft beer.  Michigan has an unemployment rate of about 14.5% but somehow a town like Houghton can support not one but two craft breweries.  Amazing.

One of Houghton's microbreweries is the aforementioned Keweenaw Brewing Co.  They are great and actually have a pretty decent distribution of canned beers throughout the U.P.  I never actually made it to their brew pub but I did have many of their canned beers while I was up there.  I'll end this post now.  I know we're only two days in but I promise things will pick up.  Glad to be back and posting and you'll get some numbers from me in about a week!  See you chumps tomorrow!


  1. FACTS about Blatz:

    1. It was founded by John Braun in 1846 and was originally called the City Brewery. Braun died in 1851 and Blatz (an ex-employee who opened a competing brewery next door!) soon married his widow, thereby uniting the City Brewery and his own operation.

    2. Blatz was the first Milwaukee brewer to market beer nationally. He set up distribution centers throughout the US.

    3. By 1955 only six Milwaukee breweries remained open. Of these six, Miller, Pabst and Schlitz were the biggest and most successful. In 1958 the brewery was sold to Pabst and they relaunched the brand as a craft-style beer.

    4. At the local grocery store it was $14 for 30 cans.

  2. I just had # 684!/BUSCHBEER

  3. This isn't going to make a post, but we stopped in Marquette on the way up to pick up a cake for my Grandma's birthday party, and Marquette had two microbreweries that we just randomly passed on the way to picking up the cake. Marquette! The U.P. is nuts!

  4. My brother just moved out of Ann Arbor. I now dont want to visit him much anymore. What a great beer town.

  5. There has been a plan for a Munising Brewery for years. Munising! I mean, no foundation has been put down or anything but the idea is there.

  6. I live in Houghton michigan, home of professional hockey and one of the most accredited engineering universities in the United States. The U.P may not have wall to wall people, but that's how we like it. Also a wonderful place to raise a family.
    The local brewery mentioned above is called the Library Restaurant and Brewery.. Insanely good beer with a large selection. You wouldn't be disappointed. It's a type of restaurant that every single food item on their menu is crazy delicious.

  7. Did I mention that the U.P is crazy beautiful and the outdoor activities are endless.