Before visiting Michigan’s Upper Peninsula recently I knew four things about it.
- It was easier to get there, from Chicago, by driving up through Wisconsin than through central Michigan.
- Locals are called “Yoopers.”
- The local cuisine is a pasty.
- My wife spent the first 29 years of her life in Michigan and has never been to the U.P.
What I did not know is that, while they are few and far between, the region has some impressive microbreweries. The first brewpub we’re going to highlight in our “Drinking in da U.P.” series is the Marquette Harbor Brewery.
Nestled along Main St and Front St in downtown Marquette, MI, and just a block away from the scenic Marquette Bay, sits The Vierling Restaurant and Marquette Harbor Brewery. The Restaurant has been a fixture in the town for over 100 years. The brewery has been in place for just 15 years.
The restaurant isn’t much to look at from the outside. In fact, I walked right past it without noticing on the way there for dinner. Inside, though, is a completely different story. The Vierling, named after it’s original owner Martin, was restored in 1985 to look just as it did in the late 1800’s — complete with vintage stained glass.
The tap list was, surprisingly, fairly aggressive with a good mix of standard offerings (Blonde Ale & Pale Ale) and some more experimental ones (Coffee Porter & Blueberry Wheat). Their prices were pretty spot on too with a pint running $4.25 and a growler fill for $10.
The beer flight paddle, plus one that didn’t fit, arrived with a piece of paper listing the beers. Neither the beers nor the rundown were in any particular order, i.e. style, color, etc. Below are the beers and some brief thoughts on each.
- Honey Wheat – sweet and lemony on the nose and an intriguing mix of honey and citrus on the palate. The beer is a little thick but finishes light. The carbonation is just right and really helps balance things out.
- Blueberry Wheat – smells of fresh picked blueberries. Crisp and refreshing taste. Not too sweet. About a half-dozen blueberries were dropped in to my tasting glass — which added a nice touch.
- Red Ale – loads of hops in the nose. Grassy hops and a bit of caramel make for a well balanced red ale.
- Stout – served at cask conditioned temperatures and poured from a nitro tap…doing it right. Roasted malts in the nose carry over to the palate along with coffee and chocolate. Light in body. In-line with the Irish Dry Stout style and a very good one at that.
- Blonde Ale – very easy drinking, great carbonation, light and refreshing. I could have easily downed a few full pints of this.
- Pale Ale – grapefruit and citrus on the nose and in the taste. A little too bitter in the aftertaste for my liking — but still a good beer.
Those were the standard offerings from Marquette Harbor. The blonde ale, stout and blueberry wheat were definite winners. And how could the latter not be? It came with honest-to-goodness blueberries, which I actually saved til the very end — it made for a nice dessert.
- Amarillo Ale – A pale ale brewed with Amarillo hops, this beer just bursts with grapefruit and citrus hops. There is a touch of malty sweetness to balance things out before finishing with a citrusy pop. Despite the hop explosion this beer is quite refreshing. I took a growler of this back Chicago.
- Lager – this was the only offering I was a little disappointed in. Don’t get me wrong, the lager was good, but nothing really stood out. The carbonation was good and it had a good flavor profile but with so many lagers available this one could easily get lost in the shuffle.
- Coffee Porter – The brewery teamed up with a local coffee shop to make this one and it was outstanding. Robust, coffee aromas in the nose — espresso and chocolate on the palate — finishes with a bit of bitter, dark chocolate. If I thought I could finish off a growler of this on my own I would have taken this back to. I am a sucker for coffee beers and this one is a great one.
When you drink nine beers, even thought they were 4 oz samples, it is usually wise to eat something too. I opted for the salmon burger – which was just killer. And the menu ran the gamut with everything from filet mignon and prime rib for $25 or a burger for $7.
Overall I was very impressed with the food at the Vierling and the brews churned out by the Marquette Harbor Brewery. The food was very good, the beers were top notch and the staff was very friendly and knowledgeable. If I ever find myself near Marquette again I will happily stop in.