In 2017 Emily Bennett, also known as Mitten Beer Girl, visited every brewery in Michigan. Here, she shares a mini Northern Michigan beer tour, ideal for a winter weekend Up North, with stops at some of the coziest, snow-loving breweries in Northern Michigan.

Driving hours for a beer, on its surface, seems foolish. In 2017, I drove more than 12,000 miles, sometimes in questionable weather for many hours, in an attempt to complete a personal quest to visit every brewery in Michigan in one year. Now, at almost 500 breweries, the state is beginning to reflect communities of the pre-prohibition era, punctuated by locally owned, small-scale locations that serve as jovial gathering places. At its outset, my quest was arguably a somewhat frivolous adventure, but it was a winter trip that year, touring Harbor Springs, through Petoskey and on to Boyne City, in which I learned one of many lessons: traditionally warmer weather destinations are even more incredible when visited during the snowy season. And it was that 2017 trip that inspired this shorter craft beer tour to some of my favorite breweries in the state. Cheers!

Tour Stop 1 | Pond Hill Farm in Harbor Springs

5699 S. Lake Shore Dr., Harbor Springs | 231.526.3276 | IG: @pondhillfarm | Pond Hill Farm Website

Next-Level Beer: Farmhand Saison
Food: Wood-fired pizzas and a highly recommended parmesan-crusted grilled cheese

Without question, driving along M-119’s storybook Tunnel of Trees (designated by the state of Michigan as a “Scenic Heritage Route”) when it’s blanketed in snow is unforgettable. The arched entry to Pond Hill Farm sits nestled at a 90-degree bend on M-119, between Harbor Springs and Cross Village. After a fresh snowfall, the farm is an ideal vision of Michigan in winter.

Marci and Jimmy Spencer are second-generation owners with a pervasive love for Northern Michigan and the land which they share with thousands of visitors throughout the year. Jimmy’s family purchased the farm more than 20 years ago, and what once began as a roadside stand is now a destination in its own right. Although not common, Marci describes their decision to open a farm brewery as a substantial part of diversification; simply providing produce for area residents was not a sustainable business model for their family. With this outside-the-box approach, they utilize the working farm as a platform to provide educational programs for children and give families a safe space to explore and enjoy the outdoors 360 days of the year while also welcoming visitors to their tasting room.

The importance of local, sustainably grown products is not only evident in their cafe menu, but also the beer menu, which features a variety of rotating styles. Head Brewer Trace Redmond creates traditional American beer styles as well as seasonal winter ales and imperial stouts packaged for purchase in Pond Hill’s Farm Store.

Pond Hill Farm in Northern Michigan

Photo by Michael Murphy IV

BEER HIGHLIGHT: Taking advantage of seasonality, Trace spent three years perfecting the strain of yeast used in fermenting the farm’s saison line of beer. Saisons originated in the French-speaking area of Belgium, and were brewed by farmers with whatever ingredients were available, made to be consumed and not sold. In keeping with the spirit of the style, Trace offers his own interpretation by utilizing malt, hops, fruit and other ingredients sourced from the farm and neighboring businesses. Look for it on tap or bottled and beautifully wax-dipped for purchase in the Farm Store.

Don’t Miss:
• Biergarten tent
• The view of Lake Michigan from the peak of the sledding hill
• Gnome house scavenger hunt
• Snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails

Winter Event Highlights:
• Pizza on the Farm
• President’s Weekend Celebration
• Trail-Side Tasting Event

People standing around bonfire

Photo by Michael Murphy IV

Pizza coming out of oven

Photo by Michael Murphy IV

Related Read: Searching for more local brews? Visit our Northern Michigan Beer & Breweries page.

Stop 2 | Burnt Marshmallow Brewstillery & Rudbeckia Winery in Petoskey

3379 Lake Grove Rd., Petoskey | 231.622.4173 | IG: @burntmarshbrew | Burnt Marshmallow Website

Next-Level Beer: S’more Porter
Food: Small plates and snacks

Traveling south, back through Petoskey, over another beautiful rolling hill, sits (what I feel is) the best-named brewery in all of Michigan. Vickie Wysokinski and her husband, John, purchased the land for Burnt Marshmallow Brewstillery and Rudbeckia Winery more than 10 years ago. With John’s experience in beer and her experience in wine, the area was ideal for their vision of a brewery, winery and distillery. Creating the business, also a family endeavor, was the easy part, the name, not so much. Per Vickie, after much contemplation and family discussion, her preteen granddaughter grew tired of the conversation topic stating: “Why don’t you just name it Burnt Marshmallow?” The name stuck.

Today, the small business has grown into an expansive vineyard overlooking an outdoor patio with a seating area perfect for a winter afternoon. Vickie credits the success of their growing libation portfolio to Matt Hopf who came to the brewing, distilling and winemaking industry with extensive culinary experience as a chef. This is reflected in the unconventional twists he puts on traditional beer styles. Although the beer menu rotates frequently, two beers stand out and continue to be well received: “S’more Porter” and “Maybe I’ll Catch Fire”—a spicy citrus ale made with ghost peppers.

Some beer traditionalists may balk at the addition of peppers or graham crackers (much less a marshmallow) to a beer, but this is where Matt’s culinary background shines. The foundational nature of the beer styles, porter and amber respectively, provide balance to potentially overpowering ingredients, marrying them into enjoyable, and most importantly, not overwhelming flavor profiles. They simply taste good, which is what beer should do.

When visiting, be sure to dress for the weather as it only seems right to enjoy a porter while standing next to one of the bonfires located on the grounds or trekking the property in snowshoes. To ease the minds of their

customers during the pandemic, Vickie and John have created a welcoming outdoor space over the past two and a half years that includes two private, heated igloos and multiple fire pit seating areas available by reservation. The beautifully landscaped igloos are 16 feet across, complete with electric and internet ac- cess and worth preplanning for reservations.

BEER HIGHLIGHT: In creating the brewstillery’s flagship beer, “S’more Porter,” Matt adds 20 bags of marshmallows, two pounds of graham cracker crumbs and four pounds of cocoa to the backbone porter recipe. The American porter beer style is a dark beer, with British roots dating back to the 1700s, known for a roasty, sometimes chocolatey/ coffee character that supports this beer’s unique floating addition: a burnt marshmallow. Served up in specialty Riedel glassware.

Don’t Miss:
• Bonfires and heated igloos
• Wine, cider & spirits for non-beer friends (try the Sparkling Wine and “Chocuterie” Chocolate Tasting)
• Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing

Winter Event Highlights:
• Valentine’s Day Experience, Feb. 12-14
• President’s Weekend
• February’s release of Summer Music Schedule

Beer flight

Photo by Michael Murphy IV

People around bonfire at night in winter

Photo by Michael Murphy IV

People outside in winter

Photo by Michael Murphy IV

Stop 3 | Stiggs Brewery & Kitchen in Boyne City

112 S. Park St., Boyne City | 231.497.6100 | IG: @stiggsbrewery | Stiggs Brewery Website 

Next-Level Beer: Grandpa Cal’s Wagon Beer
Food: Full lunch/dinner menu with on-site smoked meat options

Another lesson learned during my year of travel: beer draws customers in, but the heart and commitment of the craft brewery owner is what builds communities. This is at the core of Stiggs Brewery & Kitchen, located in Boyne City. Mike Castiglione, founder and head brewer, embraces paying it forward and honoring the past.

In identifying a location for his business, Mike chose a building of significance—the 1899 White Timber Logging Company—investing heavily in maintaining the integrity of the historical designation. The brewery and restaurant’s decor speak to the 120+ years over which the lumber, railroad and newspaper industries of the area occupied the space.

As Thanksgiving approached in 2020, the year spent in hardship and isolation for many in the area inspired his business and staff to deliver more than 100 holiday meals to those living in local retirement communities. The idea took hold, and more than a year later, “Stiggs Feed-A- Friend” is now a 501(c)3 nonprofit providing meals from their menu every Sunday from 4-8 p.m. October through May to those in need.

BEER HIGHLIGHT: It was Mike’s traditional science education that led him to the hobby of home brewing. Today, his 2.5 bbl Psycho Brew system (built in Greenville, Michigan) turns out a variety of seasonal and experimental beers. Although Mike keeps a number of traditional ales on rotation, his love of brewing lagers is evident on the tap list.

Grandpa Cal’s Wagon Beer is an easy-drinking American Lager, made with corn and traditional malts. The yeast used to make lager beers is in a different classification than that of ales, requiring fermentation at much cooler temperatures. Once fermentation is complete, an ex- tended period of maturation (referred to as lagering) at or near freezing temperatures for weeks to months is required. Due to the longer time from brewhouse to glass and the accompanying cost and time considerations, lagers are less commonly seen in craft breweries—but luckily for us, Mike has made that commitment.

Don’t Miss:
• Private dining in The Vault Room
• The building’s rich history
• Smoke Shack weekday lunch additions

Winter Event Highlights:
• Outdoor ‘Stiggloo’ dining —igloos available by reservation
• Sunday celebrity bartenders benefiting Feed-a-Friend

Stiggs growler to go

Photo by Michael Murphy IV

Stiggs brewer with beers at bar

Photo by Michael Murphy IV

Man at Brewery in Northern Michigan

Photo by Michael Murphy IV

Many of us are fortunate enough to claim a Northern Michigan brewery as our own. It is a place of comfort and happiness, shared with friends and neighbors as part of the soul of our communities. The most profound lesson I embraced over the course of my beer year returned to mind while I stood gazing at a distant Lake Michigan from the top of Pond Hill Farm: Some of life’s most sincere moments of joy occur when we drive a few miles, walk through the door of a local brewery and ask what is on tap.

3 More Breweries for Your Weekend Beer Tour in Northern Michigan

Heading north for a longer weekend away? Add some, or all, of these nearby breweries to your tour.

Bier’s Inwood Brewery
17959 Ferry Rd., Charlevoix | 231.675.7632 | Bier’s Inwood Website
We love Bier’s location, tucked in a white Victorian house behind a bright red schoolhouse that’s home to Bier Art Gallery and Pottery Studio. The outdoor fire pit is cozy, too!

Beards Brewery
215 E. Lake St., Petoskey | 231.753.2221 | Beards Brewery Website
Beards is a must visit when enjoying downtown Petoskey. Feeling adventurous? Ask if the Serendipity Hot Chocolate is on tap and enjoy it on the outside patio.

Bieré de Mac
14277 Mackinaw Hwy., Mackinaw City | 231.427.7007 | Bieré de Mac Website
Just below the Mighty Mac sits the northernmost craft brewery in the Lower Peninsula. A recent partnership with Smelted Pizza Co. means you can order up a wood-fired pie to pair with a pint.

Beer tap at Beards Brewery

Photo by Michael Murphy IV

Emily Bennett writes from Hastings, Michigan. Her interest in the culture of fermented things and passion for telling stories leads to numerous adventures throughout her home state. She uses every new brewery opening as an excuse to travel, especially to head North.

Michael Murphy IV is a Northern Michigan wedding, portrait and commercial photographer based in Charlevoix who believes in the power of candid images and capturing real, authentic, unaltered moments.

Photo(s) by Michael Murphy IV