Go for the Beer: a research project in Bridgman, Michigan

Submitted by: Matthew A. Werner

Curt and I sat on our bar stools at our local tavern, a cramped dive bar specializing in macro beers made by the largest breweries in the world, but our thoughts were elsewhere. “When I’m at home, I like to drink really hoppy beers,” Curt said. I agreed and pointed out there were more than 20 craft breweries in Northwest Indiana and Southwest Michigan making a lot of different beers with a lot of flavor packed in them. “Say, somebody should find out which one makes the best beer and write about it,” he said.

I said I’d do it, but I needed someone to go along and provide a second opinion. “I’m in!” Curt said. “When we going?” Sunday matched his schedule and what better day to go on a beer drinking adventure? We chose Bridgman, Michigan, home to Tapistry, Transient, and Haymarket—all within a half-mile of each other. Now we needed a driver. I called our friend, Moon. It’s going to be an epic adventure, I told her. She agreed to go.

We got off to a shaky start. Moon hadn’t slept well and was a little groggy. Curt, a human bowling ball stuffed into bib overalls, lumbered into the car and gave us a troubled look. He was nursing a bit of a hangover. We drove north.

“So, what exactly are we doing?” Moon asked. “You’re doing research for a story, right?”

“Yes,” Curt answered. “We’re doing research.”

“And it involves drinking beer?”

“Yes. But it’s research. Important research.”

“And I’m driving so you can do research. Got it.”

We were all on the same page, but the trip nearly got sidetracked. Twenty miles into our adventure, Moon spotted something. “Oh, look—a bouncy house! Can we stop? I think we should stop.” It was tempting, but we had a mission. It was a glorious summer day and distractions kept popping up along our route—an expansive yard sale with a big giraffe, a flea market, a fun park with go-carts whizzing around a track. Each one tempted us, but the group stayed focused and we arrived in Bridgman. We took a right turn off the old Red Arrow Highway onto Lake Street and reached our destination. First stop: Tapistry.

It was an earth tone room with a couple couches in one corner and tables through the middle. Patrons filled the bar in the back corner, but we found a high top table nearby. On the wall was a large painting with lots of pink and dark colors in it. For $3,500 it could have been ours. Out of my price range, but beautiful nonetheless. The room had a touch of an upscale feel. They had 19 beers on tap. Curt and I each ordered a flight (five five-ounce glasses) of beers and commenced our research. Curt tried his first Hefeweizen beer. “Mm, this would go great with fish,” he said. After drinking another beer, Curt winced. “Ack! That’s how I feel about that one.” Too subtle for his tastes, but I thought it was good and drained the glass. That’s part of the beauty of craft beer—one man’s poison is another man’s pleasure. Moon had a pita plate with beer cheese. “Would anybody care for a pita to cleanse the palet?”

A flight at Tapistry


“Nah,” Curt said with his arms crossed in front of his bibs. I helped myself. Pretty good. A short time later, Curt had a change of heart and tried some.

Back to the beer, Curt found one he liked. “I could see me having five or ten of these, but that’s not what we’re after today.” That was a glowing endorsement, but he was right. We had more research to conduct. We ordered a third flight.

Moon checked with the locals at the bar, made some new friends, and got some tips about the area. We met a man from 3 Sheeps Brewing in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He was traveling around the lake, sampling beers, meeting people. He gave us a bottle of 3 Sheeps beer to enjoy later and headed out the door, conducting his own research, no doubt. I liked the Northern Trippin’. Curt liked Rockford and Heart Full of Napalm. We agreed that Burn the Witch was really good too. Our bartender, David, was great and we could have stayed much longer, but we had two more stops. We crossed Lake Street and walked into Transient Artisen Ales.

Checking out Transient. Photo by Melissa Mullins-Migschke (Moon).


Transient had a casual vibe. There’s no kitchen. Dogs rest here and there with their owners. It’s like sitting in a cool garage with your friends. Curt felt at home. Transient had seven beers on tap available in five, ten, and 16 ounce pours. The Mutual Aberration, a wild rice saison, had a great flavor. I don’t know what makes a biere de garde a biere de garde, but I tend to like them. So, I got one without sampling it first. Curt went with the Mosaic hopped extra pale ale, Refraction. A garage door opened onto a sidewalk café where patrons soaked up the sun. We sipped our beers, enjoying the hip music and the cool summer breeze that floated in. We felt very relaxed, but had to continue our journey. A half-mile away, back on the old Red Arrow Highway, we saw the sign for Haymarket Brewing.

The building was unlike any other brewery. Was it a former credit union, or dentist office? Nope. It was a former state police post. Stainless steel tanks filled with fermenting beer stood where the jail cells once were. Curt cringed at the thought. Jail cells make him queasy.We bellied up to the bar. It’s a large open space and 3 overhead doors opened onto a patio where people played bags. White subway tiles adorned several walls. The list of beers on the wall ran from left to right, light beers to dark beers, 16 in total. It’s a simple design that makes it easy to choose a beer. We ordered three flights plus an extra five ouncer, giving us a taste of each and every one.

Behind the bar was a turntable and a collection of vinyl records—Foo Fighters, Sublime, Traffic. Traffic, yes! We put in a request and our bartender spun a record for us. Moon ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and fell in love with the broccolini that came with it. There is no tipping allowed, but they gladly accept donations to local charity. Most of their beers were hop heavy, putting Curt in heaven. He favored The Defender, a hoppy imperial stout, and I really liked Mathias, a hoppy citrusy beer. They were among the strongest beers on tap there, weighing in at 9% and 8% alcohol by volume. Our research had grown hazy, but we enjoyed every drop. It was time to go and we were lucky we had Moon to drive us.

On the ride back home, we sized up our adventure. It had been a good day. It’s hard to beat drinking good beer with good friends, enjoying life. We had a lot of delicious beers. Tapistry, Transient, and Haymarket are all unique and you can have a good time at each place. We sure did. Did we discover the best beer? “I think we need to conduct further research,” Curt said, “in the name of science, of course.”

Of course.

The crew: Moon, Matt and Curt


 

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Feature photo by: Melissa Mullins-Mischke.

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