If you enjoy small-batch, hand-crafted beers, you’ve come to the right place! Mount Pleasant is home to several craft breweries, each with a commitment to the production of beers that offer both traditional tastes and some exciting new approaches to brewing. This area has become home to the art of craft brewing, not only with resident breweries, but also with an annual Mt. Pleasant Craft Beer Festival, held every June. Central Michigan has become a regional hot spot for beer lovers, and we have the proof!
The Great Beer Revival
In the late 19th century, there were more than 4,000 breweries in the United States. Every city, and most smaller towns, had a local brand (or two or three). Then came Prohibition – also known as the Volstead Act – which shut down the great majority of them, and relegated the survivors to produce weak 3.2% brews. Even when Prohibition was repealed in 1933 with the passage of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, the beer industry never returned to the levels seen during its former heyday. With company mergers and the growth of national brands, the number of companies making beer had dropped to as few as 50 by 1982.
Dissatisfied with such a thin selection of beers from which to choose, some American beer drinkers began to make their own hand-crafted beers in their basements and garages, using the legal exception that allowed home brewing for private consumption. From this homebrewing movement emerged new, small beer companies, dubbed “microbreweries.” Their number has grown dramatically over the past 30 years. It is now estimated that over 8,700 craft breweries exist across the United States.
Michigan craft breweries haven’t let this success go to their heads, however. Each style and each batch are still carefully made using the finest ingredients and time-honored methods. If you want to sample some of the results of their efforts, take the Mount Pleasant craft brewery trail and discover a taste of Central Michigan. Each local brewery we mention in this guide also operates a restaurant, so you can enjoy a great meal while you explore the variety of craft beers.
RELATED: Taste the Wines of Southwest Michigan
Established in 2005, Cranker’s Brewery has made a name for itself for producing a wide range of beers, from traditional to exciting new flavors. If your tastes trend to Old World classics, try their Professor IPA, Ambrosia (a German kolsch) or Torchlight Munich Blonde. For deeper, stronger flavors, they offer the Strongarm Stout, Bulldog Red Irish Ale, Irish Breakfast Oatmeal Stout and the seasonal Old Siberian. Sample Fifth Voyage porter, with coconut and chocolate flavors, or The Local Cal Common for their take on more modern brews.
Not all of their beers are available on tap at any one time, but they always have a good selection ready for you to try. Explore their range of flavors while you treat yourself to a rack of St. Louis-style ribs, a Carolina pulled pork sandwich, BBQ beef brisket or a pizza at their restaurant.
1207 E. Pickard Road
Hunter’s Handmade Brewery
Although Hunter’s Ale House has for many years been serving craft beers, along with their signature pizzas and other pub grub offerings, it was only in 2015 that they decided to get into brewing. Using a state-of-the-art craft-scale system designed and built by Saugatuck Brewing Company (another brewery from the Kalamazoo area), Hunter’s beers are carefully made under the watchful eye of brewmaster Wendell Banks. Produced in batches of just 10 barrels at a time, their formulas use Michigan and other Midwestern ingredients to give the beers a true local flavor.
Be sure to try their barrel-aged Leap of Faith saison beer. Using the same techniques developed by farmer-brewers in the French-speaking area of Belgium, the result is a light, pleasing ale. Or, sample Hunter’s Handmade Fare Thee Well, Rough Draft IPA or the Spring Fling. While you enjoy your meal and beer, you can watch beermaking in action through the large windows that look out over the brewery floor.
4855 E. Blue Grass Road
Mountain Town Brewing Company
From its founding in 1996, Mountain Town has been operating as a combination of craft brewery, wine cellar and restaurant. The restaurant offers American cuisine, with a great selection of barbecue and steaks, plus 18 beers on tap. Come for the food, but stay to play cards, board games or darts (league play happens on Wednesday nights). Their brewing operation became so successful that they opened a separate brewery and bottling operation in another part of town, but you can still enjoy their brews by the glass, growler or table keg.
The selection of Mountain Town beers is wide and varied. Classic tastes include the Iron Horse IPA, Old Dog Tavern, Harvest Ale, Gambler’s Golden Ale, River Bend Bock and Freight Train, a double IPA. If you want to try something darker, try the Maple Leaf Porter, Steam Engine Stout, Crazy Train Black IPA or Imperial Crazy Train. If you’re feeling adventurous, sample some of their herbed, spiced and fruit beers, such as Coal Stoker’s Blackberry, Saving 2nd Base (an ancient herbed Scottish gruit ale), Railyard Raspberry Wheat or Peach Gruit.
(Mountain Town Station)
506 West Broadway Street
Mt. Pleasant Craft Beer Festival
Celebrate the modern reemergence of traditional beermaking at the Mt. Pleasant Craft Beer Festival! Held every June in downtown Mount Pleasant, more than two dozen small breweries from all corners of Michigan come to offer the best of their hand-crafted beers, hard ciders and even mead. Come sample these outstanding beverages, meet fellow craft beer enthusiasts and learn more about the process of beer making from representatives from these breweries.
Sponsored by the Mount Pleasant Jaycees, the festival is open to adults 21 and older (a state-issued driver’s license or identification card is required). General admission tickets are $20.00, for an official sample glass and six drink tickets. Additional tickets can be purchased for $1.00 each. You can upgrade to a VIP ticket for $35.00, which gives you early admission into the festival grounds.
In addition to the pleasure and camaraderie you’ll experience, the festival also benefits local Mount Pleasant charities. Proceeds are donated to such organizations as the Listening Ear Crisis Center, New Hope Family Services and the Mount Pleasant United Way.
For details on dates, location and attending breweries, check the festival website. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!
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