Drinking In Da UP – Keweenaw Brewing Company

In Chicagoans Guide by Ryan

“It’s pronounced Kee-wah-naw,” the woman seated next to me said for the third time.  I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the name of the brewery or how a gem of a brewpub could be hidden away in a quaint town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

from the outside, looking in

from the inside, looking out

For you geography buffs, Keweenaw Brewing is located in Houghton, Michigan.  Which, ironically, is NOT located in Keweenaw county – but is on the Keweenaw Peninsula.  The area is damn near as far west as you can go in the eastern time zone.  Which means the sun does not set there until around 10 p.m. in the summer.  I can attest to this fact.

Keweenaw could double as a mining history museum if you glance in the front windows.  Houghton is steeped in mining history and Keweenaw pays tribute to that before you even walk in the bar with an array of old helmets and equipment on display.  Once you do walk in you’ll find a number of tables in the front, a bar in the middle and some of the brewing equipment in the back.

keweenawinsideIf the front bar is too crowded, which it very well could be, there is a second bar off to the left.  Also, there are no waitstaff so don’t sit at a table and wait for a few minutes for someone to come.  They won’t.  Not that I did this — just a helpful piece of advise.

Beer prices here were great. $2.50 to $3 for a pint, $10 for a growler fill and $5.25 for a sampler of five beers.  I chose to start my night with this unknown brewery — at least to me — with the aforementioned sampler.


  • Empress Hefeweizen – Banana bread, bananas and cloves on the nose.  Similar taste.  A little on the thick side for a hefeweizen but very tasty.  I ordered a full pint of this later in the episode.
  • Quick Link Lager – I liked this one.  Very bright and sharp.  A good bitterness to it.  That bitterness, though, hangs around a little longer than I would like it too.
  • Urban IPA – The nose is just bursting with piney hops.  Slight, malt profile to start before the floral and piney hops beat it off with a stick.  Not a bad take on the West Coast IPA.
  • 36 Schilling Scotch Ale – This beer was very malty and sweet.  A little light on the palate with some bittering hops in the finish.  I’m not sure if this is quite a scotch ale.  BUT, I liked it so I really don’t care.
  • Abbey Special Ale – This is the only beer I thought Keweenaw fell a little short on.  It was pitched as a more robust porter than their standard offering.  The nose was overtly sweet, smelling of butterscotch hard candies.  The taste was similar; very sweet with a Werthers Oringal(esque) taste to it.  I respect the effort but this was my least favorite of the beers I tried.

Before I finished off my visit with another Empress Hefeweizen I wanted to sample one of their distributed offerings.  I settled on the Red Jacket Amber Ale.

keweenawredjacketThe brewery described it as kind of a year-round Oktoberfest beer.  I’m going to have to agree with that.  It was fairly light and easy to drink.  Somewhat sweet, like a fall offering should be.  I did pick up the aroma and flavor of candy corn.  I’m not saying that’s good or bad – I’m just saying it’s there.

All-in-all it was a great experience at Keweenaw.  The people, staff and fellow beer drinkers, were welcoming and friendly and the beer itself was good.  It also doesn’t hurt that I walked out the door paying $14 for the aforementioned beers and one for my friend who helped me pronounce the name of the brewpub.

The one downside of Keweenaw is they don’t sell food.  Although, you can order in whatever you please, I would suggest taking in everything Houghton has to offer and that means heading around the corner to The Library.

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About the Author



Equal parts beer nerd and policy geek, Ryan is now the curator of the Guys Drinking Beer cellar. The skills he once used to dig through the annals of state government as a political reporter are now put to use offering unique takes on barrel-aged stouts, years-old barleywines and 10 + year verticals.

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