Although Michigan is known as “The Great Beer State,” beer enthusiasts often focus on the many craft breweries, pubs and producers south of the Mackinac Bridge.
Upper Peninsula residents are equally thirsty, and it’s time to look north – above the bridge – where the number of breweries continue to grow and others, already well established, are expanding to accommodate consumer demand.
Recently, Five Sons Brewing opened in Marenisco, a small community in the far western end of the Upper Peninsula. In Marquette County, Negaunee welcomed its first craft brewery – the Upper Peninsula Brewing Co. – just before summer kicked in.
“Negaunee has so many wonderful outdoor events and festivals and being able to better serve the community by being a social district vendor is very exciting for us,” said Erica Tieppo, head brewer. “Our beer and location stand out in the area. Our brewers have crafted a fine line of products and our space is so versatile that it’s able to accommodate many types of events and entertainment.”
The brewery has 14 taps with six of them reserved for flagship beers. “The next six taps are rotating beer selections and seasonals. We always have a gluten free seltzer and a house made craft soda on draft. We're getting close on our wine, cider licensing, and hope to have both of those products by the holidays,” she said.
The brewery is housed in a 10,000-square-foot century-old structure, the site of a former slaughterhouse and furniture store, which sat empty for years.
Jim and Ann Kantola purchased the building and began its restoration in 2017. The couple are no strangers to remodeling buildings in the Negaunee area. Past projects have included the refurbishment of a 100-year-old train depot, which was turned into a vacation and event venue; a historic hotel, made into a private residence; the restoration of the Negaunee City Mall; and development of Jackson’s Pit, a popular bar and restaurant.
The namesake of Negaunee’s only brewery derives from another of the same name that first opened pre-Prohibition era in Marquette. While the brewery was torn down, the home and office of former brewer and owner Charles Meeske remains. The building resembles an old castle along Meeske Avenue and U.S. 41. and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
In Marenisco, owner Bruce Mahler, a retired police officer with a passion for brewing, transformed a former medical clinic building into a brewery. Its beers are heavily influenced by Austrian and German ales.
Blackrocks Brewing in Marquette.
In Marquette, Blackrocks Brewery, responding to growing business, expanded its West Third Street location to include the building next door. More seating and live performance space was needed. And Ishpeming-based Cognition Brewing Company is opening another store front also along Third Street in Marquette, at the former Valle’s Village Supermarket, which closed in 2018.
Those aren’t the only exciting craft-beer-related things happening in Marquette.
The Ore Dock Brewing Company – located at 114 W. Spring St. – has received a $3.9 million state grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Revitalization and Placemaking program. The plan is to renovate a vacant building in the 200 block of South Front Street to include a patio and create a walking path. The building will connect with the original brewery along Spring Street.
The Michigan Brewers Guild – which is celebrating 25 years of advocating and supporting local breweries this year – recently reported that the craft beer industry contributes more than $144 million in wages and an economic contribution of over $600 million annually. As a member-based trade association that represents hundreds of breweries throughout the state, the guild hosts well-attended events like the Upper Peninsula Fall Beer Festival in Marquette.
With around 400 breweries scattered across the state and more than 20 located in the U.P., nearly 100 of them poured craft beverages at the annual celebration last month at Ellwood A Mattson Lower Harbor Park.
“It rained most of the day, but it didn’t seem to dampen peoples’ spirits,” said Scott Graham, the guild’s executive director. “The festival brings a lot of people to town - brewers, staff, attendees, with many of them sticking around for a few days.”
Local breweries are often thought of as neighborhood hangouts or community spaces, but they’ve also become destinations, attracting people from all over the country and the globe.
“Beer tourism is huge,” Graham said. “You now have people vacationing or traveling for weddings or conventions that are researching breweries in the area to check out and they typically visit more than one.”
The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a popular year-round destination near Munising – a city of under 2,000 residents with two breweries. The national park draws hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, with attendance topping 1 million in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Tourists are not only flocking to the national lakeshore but they’re also seeking local experiences, which include breweries.
"The shift over the last several years with area visitors to have authentic and local experiences has been heavily supported by our food and beer culture,” said Cori-Ann Cearley, president of the Munising Visitors Bureau. “Munising has been blessed to have two great local breweries pop up in the area along with a variety of locally-owned restaurants and delis, which people consistently seek out. Both breweries have also worked together to support local initiatives and events, which has been amazing to see.”
Interior of the Red Jacket Brewing Co./Michigan House Cafe in Calumet.
After being drawn to the area by the mining boom in the 1800s, German immigrants were the first to open breweries throughout the U.P. Remnants of the old Bosch Brewing can be discovered at the Michigan House Café and Brewpub in Calumet where it was located. The Red Jacket Brewing Company is also located within the building where a beautiful mural that was painted in 1906 can be seen above the bar.
One of the first U.P. breweries opened in Sault Ste. Marie in 1850, according to Marquette-based historian and author, Dr. Russell M. Magnaghi. Soon after, every major town throughout the peninsula had a brewery or saloon with most of them shuttering their doors during Prohibition.
Decades later, the first craft brewery to open in the area was Hereford and Hops in Escanaba in 1994, followed by Grand Marais’ Lake Superior Brewing Company that same year. The Vierling opened its doors in Marquette in 1995, and Tahquamenon Falls Brewery began pouring near Paradise in 1996.
For more information on U.P. breweries, visit www.mibeer.com