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Monday, June 6, 2016

Traverse City and Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan / Breweries, Wineries, downtown, area information

May and June 2016

L. Mawby Winery
Following is information about some of the breweries and wineries around Traverse City and Leelanau Peninsula. We visited these locations during our stay at Traverse City State Park in May, and during our stay at the new Hotel Indigo in June.

How do you decide which wineries and breweries to visit?

There are so many choices in the Grand Traverse Bay area, that it is difficult to decide which wineries and breweries to visit. Especially, in only four or five days time. We made our decisions based on value, prior visit experience (if any), and proximity to where we were staying or traveling.

Michigan Brewvine Passports and TC Ale Trail Atlases
Factors that impacted our value perception were the Michigan Brewvine Passports, Traverse City Ale Trail Atlases, and I had won free tastings for four at L. Mawby Winery via Michigan by the Bottle.

Traverse City and Leelanau Breweries

We visited Rare Bird Brew Pub by bicycle from Traverse City State Park. It was pretty easy to get to the pub, other than the ride down Eighth Street with traffic. There was a bicycle rack on the sidewalk in front of the brewery. The atmosphere inside was pleasant and comfortable. They had many brews on tap, although only a few of them were their brews. This location is listed on the Traverse City Ale Trail, and they have discounts in the Brewvine Passport. After this stop, we had planned to stop at Big Toe Brewery next door, for the extra credit stamp on the Traverse City Ale Trail; however, that brewery has gone out of business.

Our next stop by bicycle was Brewery Ferment, located just a couple of blocks southwest of Rare Bird Brew Pub on Union Street. There was no bicycle rack at Brewery Ferment, although there was room to park our four bikes out front. This location has picnic tables on the sidewalk. There is inside seating, and a dart board inside. Brewery Ferment is listed on the Traverse City Ale Trail, and they have discounts in the Brewvine Passport. This is the only location we visited that would not stamp our Ale Trail Atlas, if we used a coupon from the Brewvine Passport. The Ale Trail Atlas is not a discount, and it does not say it cannot be stamped with a discount purchase. We pointed this out to the bartender; however, she would not give in. And, we had paid $25 for the passports! She also did not tell us she was not going to give us an Ale Trail Stamp until after we had already paid with the discount coupons (we had all four books on the bar when we ordered and paid). The beers in this brewery were not great enough to make us want to visit again for an Ale Trail stamp; therefore, our almost completed Ale Trail Atlases were now useless. Because of this experience, I will never visit this brewery again. She could have at least told us she was not going to stamp our Ale Trail books before applying the discount and processing our payment.

Sampler at North Peak Brewing Company
North Peak Brewing Company on W. Front Street downtown Traverse City has some great discounts in the Brewvine Passport (½ off beer sampler, ½ off growler refill, ½ off pint of beer), and they have many beers on tap. The prices were good, and they were even better during Happy Hour. We visited this brewery by bicycle from the state park, and on foot from Hotel Indigo. We had also been to this brewery during a previous visit to Traverse City. North Peak Brewing Company honored our passport coupons and gave us Ale Trail stamps for our purchases. We have always sat at the bar when visiting this location. The bartender is knowledgeable about brewing facts, and I would recommend this location. Seating is also available at tables inside and outside.

Workshop Brewing is located about 1½ blocks away from North Peak Brewing, behind Hotel Indigo. Workshop Brewing had many beers on tap, inside and outside seating, and live music when we visited on Friday evening. We used the Happy Hour discounts ($1 off a pint) in our Brewvine passports, and we received Ale Trail stamps.

Sampler at Right Brain Brewery
Right Brain Brewery is located on the south side of Traverse City, not too far from Boardman Lake Trail. I was surprised they did not have a bicycle rack next to their outside patio, as I observed many bicycles locked to the outside fencing and light post. This brewery is spacious inside with many seats and games. This was our second visit, and they had many beers on tap both times we visited. We used a sampler discount from our Brewvine passports, and we received Ale Trail stamps. We liked the beers at this brewery; however, I doubt we will visit again, as it is expensive. The [base] sampler cost at Right Brain Brewery was $15, before premium up-charges and discounts, compared to $10 or less at other breweries we have visited. According to my blog post from our last visit to this brewery, their samples are larger than some we have purchased, although they did not seem like they were any larger. If you want to try a sampler at Right Brain, and you are concerned about the cost, I suggest inquiring about the exact details before making your selections. We had two up-charges on our sampler, which we were not aware of until the bartender presented the check. The sampler cost was $19 before applying our $5 Brewvine Passport discount.

The Filling Station Microbrewery has a couple of great coupons in the Brewvine Passport, and they are listed in Traverse City Ale Trail Atlas, as well. This is where completed Ale Trail Atlases are redeemed. We were able to redeem one of our Atlases for the prize by showing the employee at The Filling Station our purchase receipt for the beers at Brewery Ferment (where the employee would not stamp our booklet). The prize is a silicone pint glass, which we have not used yet.
TC Ale Trail prize - available in several colors
This was our second visit to The Filling Station. We had a beer sampler and pizza our first visit, and just pizza this time. Pizza and beer photos from our previous visit can be seen in that blog post.

Sampler at Hop Lot Brewing Co.
We stopped at Hop Lot Brewing Co. in Suttons Bay, as they had a discount in the Brewvine Passport. The atmosphere was great; inside and outside seating with tables, and a fire pit outside. We thought the atmosphere was better than the brew flavors.

Winery visits on Leelanau Peninsula, and surrounding areas

We visited L. Mawby Winery to redeem my prize for four. We had been to Mawby Winery several times prior to this visit. The service was excellent, as usual. Mawby offers two tastings for no charge, and then we enjoyed our prize tasting and snack outside overlooking the hills. The photo at the top of this blog post is of my beverages and snack. We each also received a Mawby/Leelanau peninsula champagne glass like the ones pictured below. Mawby has a discount in the Brewvine Passport, which we did not use, as my prize package also included 15% off purchases. I enjoy sparkling wines, so I hope to make it back to this winery again before the end of the year.
L. Mawby glasses

There are discounts for Black Star Farms in the Brewvine Passport. The Suttons Bay tasting room was very busy when we visited. This location also has an Inn, and Terrace restaurant. This one of my favorite Black Star Farms locations.

View from Knot Just a Bar -
photo taken when we visited by boat in 2014
Leelanau Wine Cellars is in a great location overlooking Omena Bay. There is no charge for five tastings. After visiting the winery, we sat at a table by the water for a while and enjoyed the view. Another couple had purchased a bottle of wine, which they were enjoying outside in the same area. The wine tasting room is located in the same building as Knot Just a Bar.

Forty-Five North
Forty-Five North inside

This was our first visit to Forty-Five North Vineyard and Winery, and it was one of my favorite stops. The atmosphere was great, with seating inside and outside, the service was excellent, and the quality and flavor of everything we tried was excellent. We sampled a variety of their wine offerings, including meads and cider. We redeemed the tasting discount coupons in our Brewvine Passports. Howlers and growlers were available for purchase, along with bottles of wine.

Boathouse Vineyards and Northern Latitudes Distillery are located at the bridge on M204 in Lake Leelanau. Boathouse Vineyards charged $1 per taste, which I thought was expensive for what we got. There were seats outside overlooking the lake, where you could sit to enjoy a beverage or lunch. Northern Latitudes Distillery offered free tastes. Their products were some of the smoothest I have tasted, although the purchase price was high. The cost for most items was $29.95 per bottle. I did not get a good look at the bottle to see if it was 750 ml or 1 liter. We had lunch at Thunderbird Cafe, which is located in the same building as the distillery. The service was great, and the food was good.

We also visited Bel Lago Vineyards and Winery and St. Ambrose Cellars. Both of these locations have a coupon in the Brewvine Passbook for 50 cent tastings; however, neither location actually charged for tastings. They both offered five complimentary tastes. Bel Lago is in Cedar on Leelanau Peninsula, and St. Ambrose Cellars is in Buelah. If you "check-in" on Facebook while visiting St. Ambrose Cellars, you can receive a complimentary logo wine glass.

Michigan Brewvine Passport and Traverse City Ale Trail Atlases 

Michigan Brewvine Passports cost $25 each, and expire one year from date of purchase. The cost is a bit expensive, unless you are able to use the book often. We do not live in the area, which would make it easier to get more value from the book. We had a couple of northern Michigan trips planned, so we purchased the books during a BOGO free promotion January 2016. Traverse City Ale Trail Atlases are complimentary, and you can get one at any of the participating breweries.

If you have are planning your trip with either of these booklets, be aware that the following locations are no longer in business: Big Toe Brewery in Traverse City, Bravo Zula Brewery in Acme, and Motovino Cellars in Northport. 

Please let me know if you have any questions, and always remember to drink responsibly. Feel free to share this post!