Destination Drinking: St. Joseph, Michigan

Written by on July 26, 2016 in Beer, Destination Drinking - 1 Comment

St. Joseph, Michigan sits on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan across the lake from Chicago, an easy five-hour drive from Columbus. St. Joe is a beautiful vacation town with an excellent beach; great for families. Within 20 minutes of town, you can find more than a dozen wineries that are well worth visiting. And in just the last few years, the craft brewing industry has exploded in the area. There are now at least a dozen breweries within a 30-minute drive, and I got to visit half a dozen last week during some Destination Drinking.

Silver Harbor Brewing Company

silver harbor 1
Located in downtown St. Joe, Silver Harbor is the first and only brewpub in the town itself. It opened in April 2016 in a building that dates to 1900. An interesting note is that this building served as the town’s fallout shelter in the 1960’s. (For you millennials, that is where you went in the event of an A-bomb attack. So, basically, you all died together.) This almost seems like a restaurant that includes a brewery, rather than a brewery that serves food. They have a very large menu ranging from snacks, pizzas, and burgers to full meals. Thirteen beers are on tap, all house brews. They covered the gamut from blonde and Hefeweizen to Stout, IPA, and Belgian Golden Strong. I sampled five and they were all good. Even though they have only been open for three months, they are already attracting crowds.

North Pier Brewing

North Pier
Located on the outskirts of Benton Harbor, North Pier Brewing opened on Memorial Day of this year. They are still in the early stages of brewing, but have a very European focus, with a special emphasis on Belgian beers. I tried the Belgian Golden Strong, the Belgian Dubbel, and the Saison. All were very good. This place has potential. The taproom is filled with handmade picnic tables that are topped with reclaimed barn wood from the owner’s family farm. The bar is made from polished concrete and lined with die cut North Pier metal stools. They have free snacks including popcorn beer nuts, and pretzels. Food trucks come in on the weekend. The taproom is filled with lots of natural light from the glass garage doors that open to a nice patio. The brewery is visible from the taproom and consists of a 7 bbl. brewing system. They also have plastic howlers so the golfers on the adjacent golf course can enjoy fresh beer while they play a round. Great concept.

Cultivate Brewing

Opened in July 2015, this brewery seems to sit in the middle of nowhere, basically surrounded by open fields, and yet it is only minutes away from many other breweries and wineries. The first thing you notice are the hop bines growing next to the brewery. There are six hop varieties under cultivation. In the fall, they will be used for a special dry hopped Harvest Ale. The taproom has large glass garage doors that open to their patio. You might notice the clear plastic sandwich bags hanging from the eaves of the patio. They are filled with water and contain tinfoil and pennies. This allegedly helps ward off flies. (Have another beer if you are a bit skeptical.) There are 12 tap handles that serve at least eight house brews, plus some one-offs. The head brewer, Hanna, manages a 5 bbl. brewing system and also has a couple of wine barrels with some sours patiently aging. There is also a small bottler filling bombers with their standard beers.

Tapistry Brewing

Tapistry is one of the area’s older breweries, having opened in July 2013. A particularly good place to get a good meal with your beer. Their 30 bbl. brewing system feeds 19 taps with a very wide range of house beers. The large brewing system is viewable through the windows behind the bar. The art work on the walls is for sale, and their t-shirts are cooler than average. You can also take home some house beers in 22 oz bombers. I didn’t love their Dunkelweiss, but the American IPA, the Belgian Golden Strong, and the Heart Full of Napalm Double IPA were all good. Another new brewery, Transient Artisan Ales is directly across the street. I’ll check it out next year.

The Livery

The Livery  1
Probably the granddaddy of craft breweries in this area, The Livery has been opened since 2005. 100 years ago, it was actually a livery stable. The ground floor is the main bar area and includes a stage for weekly live music. The basement, which was formerly the stables, is now a second bar, and more seating. The second floor which used to be the hay loft, now provides additional seating overlooking the music stage.

Their 10 bbl. brewing system is in the adjacent building, just across the patio. The main bar has 18 tap handles with 14 standard handles, two nitro handles, and two beer engines. The open elevator that carried the hay from the loft to the basement stable area is still in place. This is a nice venue with the open area and the old hand hewn beams. They have done a great job of restoring the livery to preserve its original character.

Open for lunch and dinner with a fair menu of pizza and sandwiches. The Yardbird, a spicy chicken sandwich was particularly good. I had a nice Helles lager, Silver Queen, to wash it down. Thoroughly enjoyable outing.

Arclight Brewing

A large, open beer hall format with picnic tables, plus doors in the front and back that open up to give it an open air feel. The patio in the back includes hop bines growing up the wall and a couple of bocce courts. Arclight opened in July 2014, with an oversized 7 bbl. system that typically serves up 10 – 12 house beers. They also have six house sodas on tap. Put these together, and you can have a custom shandy. They mix 80% beer (a cream ale or Belgian Blonde) with 20% house soda. I tried the orange shandy, and have to admit I really liked it. I wasn’t crazy about the When Worlds Collide IPA or the Ventura Blonde, but was pleasantly surprised by their Cherry Wit. This is not something that I would normally drink, but it was light, tasty, and very refreshing. If you want something to eat, you can BYO. Otherwise there is only frozen pizza or bar snacks. Try a shandy for sure.

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About the Author

Bill Babbitt is a retired engineer, beer lover, and freelance writer for Beer Advocate Magazine.

One Comment on "Destination Drinking: St. Joseph, Michigan"

  1. Bob Groody August 3, 2016 at 2:54 PM · Reply

    I would be sure to add Greenbush Brewing to the list. Best beer in the area!

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