Michigan has become renowned for its accomplishments in craft brewing, but one industry that has quickly been taking Michigan, and the world, by storm is craft distilling. The creation of these spirits is nothing new, but dozens of West Michigan distillers are breathing new life into these classic drinks. Whiskey, vodka, gin and more are being created in our own backyards using local ingredients. These distilleries have received high honors for their craft and are local, West Michigan favorites for their attention to detail, uniqueness and overall quality.
FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek is offering a variety of local spirits that are perfect for you to sip and enjoy. Currently, there are several hotel bars that guests can visit to enjoy happy hour, spirits and more. Brand new spirits are coming to FireKeepers Casino Hotel this December, so keep a lookout for new offerings! These new spirits are part of a change turning Dacey’s Sports Bar into Dacey’s Taphouse. They’ll have 50 beers on tap and plenty of craft spirits for guests to enjoy.
For several decades, Southwest Michigan has been renowned as the Napa Valley of the Midwest for its award-winning wineries. But recently attention has switched to an increasing number of distilleries setting up stills within miles of Lake Michigan. How can you get a taste of some of West Michigan’s finest handcrafted whiskeys, vodkas, rums and other spirits? Follow the Makers Trail: a travel guide to wineries, breweries and distilleries in Berrien County. Each location is open year round for tastings and tours, and each stop is within a 45-minute drive of the others.
Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, is one of a few organic grain-to-glass distilleries in the U.S. and is certified by MOSA (Midwest Organic Services Association), as well as being kosher certified. It is located in the historic Featherbone Factory building where E.K. Warren once put Three Oaks on the map by revolutionizing corset manufacturing using softer turkey featherbones in place of stiffer whale bone. Within these walls, Journeyman now handcrafts then ages its whiskey, vodka, gin and rum in small barrels to intensify each batch’s flavor.
Round Barn Winery, Distillery & Brewery offers two sites for enjoying its handcrafted spirits. Its rural Baroda Tasting Room & Estate and its Brewery & Public House in downtown Baroda. The Tasting Room & Estate serves its selection of six spirits in a historic white round barn. Using a copper still, they produce high proof fruit brandies, cordials, bourbon, rum and vodka which can be sampled in flights for $15.
The Round Barn Brewery & Public House is a family-friendly, upscale pub featuring a full menu of made-from-scratch appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches and pizza. Here you can choose one, or sample a flight of Round Barn and Free Run Cellars spirits, as well as both wineries’ vintages and 20 beers on tap.
To get your printed copy of the Makers Trail guide, contact the Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council, 269.925.6301 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or for more information about the wineries, breweries and distilleries on the Makers Trail, visit makerstrail.org.
When your vacation leaves you thirsty, the Greater Lansing Area can help! Hit up the Makers & Shakers Trail and take a tasting tour of Lansing’s finest libations. The discerning whiskey, vodka and gin drinker can sample small-batch spirits in each of Lansing’s one-of-a-kind distilleries. Tours and tastings will take you all over the area with stops at Sanctuary Spirits in Grand Ledge, one of Lansing’s first ever distillery, a distillery in the heart of downtown and one in East Lansing!
South Haven/Van Buren County’s St. Julian is located in Paw Paw and is the oldest, largest and most awarded winery in Michigan. They also offer spirits with a unique twist. Their brandy, gin, rum and vodka are all made from fruit and unlike other spirits made from wheat, St. Julian’s spirits are gluten free. You may know them for their wine, but you’ll soon learn more about their extensive and delicious lineup of spirits!
More Southern West Michigan Spirits
Bier Distillery in Grand Rapids comes from a long line of bakers and brewers. Today, they are looking for a way to put their stamp on a family tradition with their distilled spirits. Now with a new production facility and tasting room located in Comstock Park, Bier Distillery offers handmade cocktails crafted to highlight each of their 12 spirits using herbs grown on-site and homemade syrups and mixers. Bier Distillery invites you in for a drink, but most importantly, they want you to take some time for yourself, shoot the breeze and share in this communal space.
Coppercaft Distillery in Holland is handcrafting premium spirits from grain to glass using authentic ingredients grown by local farmers. Every detail of their spirits is considered as they craft what you’ll be drinking and how you’ll experience it. They strive to create a legacy that embraces hard work and celebrates their community of family and friends.
SE4SONS Gastropub at Muskegon Country Club’s Chef Sean Marr’s current favorite drink is New Holland’s Beer Barrel Aged Bourbon. He loves it on the rocks with a splash of water creating a smooth and well rounded drink that has just the right amount of barrel wood flavor. The bourbon has been a great addition to SE4SONS’ already wonderful bar!
Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids has a lineup of handcrafted spirits that is quickly becoming some of the most sought after and highly acclaimed in the world. Both Long Road Gin and Long Road Aquavit have won “Best in the World” at numerous international spirits competitions, and the distillery was named as one of the “Best New Distilleries in the World” by TimeOut USA. Long Road’s no-shortcuts approach starts with 100% locally grown grain and fruit, with each product made start to finish in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Judge Long Road Distillers for yourself and see how they rank with the rest of this list!
Mecosta County has a lot to offer when it comes to distilleries. They have plenty of places where you can get a great meal with the perfect cocktail or craft spirit. Enjoy a hole-in-the-wall location, someplace more elegant, and everything in between. Some meals just deserve the perfect pairing of craft spirits to reach that next level dining experience!
Muskegon County (CVB) will soon have their very own distillery. Repealed in 1933, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution established the prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the United States by declaring the production, transport and sale of alcohol illegal. 83 years later, Downtown Muskegon will become home to what used to be considered highly illegal activity. Lucky for us, we’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of their labors when the distillery opens soon.
Michigan is a one of the top states for producing distilled spirits, and a renewed interest in classic and custom cocktails throughout the region means that things are really shaking up at the 9th Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival on November 18th and 19th at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.
New this year is the Mixology Mezzanine which will be held in the Secchia Lobby, running along the western edge of the Steelcase Ballroom, overlooking the Grand River. Here, industry leaders and master mixologists offer samples and workshops focused specifically on crafted spirits like rum, gin, whiskey, vodka and more. Local and global distilleries will also be featured here, along with producers of mixers, garnishes and other cocktail accessories.
More Central West Michigan Distilleries
Mammoth Distilling on Central Lake in Bellaire County distills craft spirits that capture the essence of their Northern Michigan home. Overlooking the glacial waters of Torch Lake, they are inspired by the beauty that surrounds them in every season. Their 650 liter copper pot still from Goppingen, Germany, produces vodka, gin, rum whiskey, bourbon and brandy. They use locally grown grains and botanicals, including corn and rye from Harbor Springs, lavender from Petoskey, apples and pears from Bellaire, cherries from Traverse City and white pine from Central Lake, so you know what you’re drinking comes from wonderful Northern Michigan.
The Traverse City Area has several local distilleries waiting for you to try their craft spirits. Grand Traverse Distillery is Michigan’s largest microdistillery. They pride themselves on their locally sourced ingredients. Their True North Vodka is distilled from locally grown rye and the region’s sweet glacial water. A flavored version of True North has a hint of Traverse City cherries, and their wheat vodka is made from Michigan wheat. It doesn’t get more Michigan than that!
From their signature Ice Dunes Vodka, made from 100% Michigan grains, to a luscious limoncello aptly named Limoncello di Leelanau, Northern Latitudes Distillery on Lake Leelanau is always experimenting to find the next addition to their line of spirits. They use locally grown corn, rye, wheat, sugar beets and even horseradish. The tasting room is open seven days a week for you to stop in and get a “Latitude Adjustment.”
Little known fact: Chateau Chantal has their own distillery! They don’t distribute their spirits, so they are all winery exclusives. They distill fresh whole tart cherries from Northern Michigan for their Eau de Vie, which is similar to a cherry vodka. In addition, they distill grapes from their winemaking process and barrel age the spirit for five years in French oak, calling it Cinq a Sept (French Canadian for “Happy Hour”). These spirits are available to taste at their winery, which is open daily.
Other Traverse City vintners and brewers are also getting in on spirits. Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay has their own distillery where they create fruit-based brandies that capture the essence of northern Michigan fruit. They are generally known as eau de vie-style spirits which is French for “water of life.” Try one of these uniques spirits and see how it fares against some of the other area distilleries!
The Arnold Mackinac Island Ferry has their Sip n’ Sail cruises throughout September. Cruises are approximately 90 minutes long, navigate under the Mackinac Bridge and return to the same dock as they depart from, unless otherwise noted. Sip a cocktail as you enjoy a romantic sunset cruise with your special someone, take in the sights with family aboard a sightseeing tour or celebrate a special occasion under the starry summer sky.
The Michigan Craft Distillers Association was formed in 2014 to organize the growing number of spirit producers in the state, to serve as a united voice on legislative, promotional and business levels. Currently, this non-profit organization represents 24 individual craft distilleries (with a collective 37 tasting room locations), four companies in various “planning” stages and nearly 40 allied members representing retail outlets, educators, suppliers and service providers.
The craft spirits industry supports countless others in Michigan as well. Many distilleries utilize locally-grown grains and fruits in their products, making them an important partner in the $102 billion agricultural industry. Public tasting rooms operating around the state make distilleries a part of the $22 billion Pure Michigan tourism industry – offering a quality, visitor experience while also providing a growing number of jobs.
The Michigan Craft Distillers Association has recently published 20,000 copies of its annual directory and map, which identifies all its members. The document can be downloaded in PDF format by visiting MiCraftSpirits.com. Hard copies are also available at all member distilleries, state Welcome Centers, select retail outlets and other locations around the state.
A Unique Spin
Remember when we mentioned craft brewing? Well, they’re getting in on the spirits action by aging beers in bourbon barrels. Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids has their Kentucky Bourbon Stout which quickly sells out every year. Arcadia Brewing Company in Kalamazoo has their Shipwreck Porter coming out on September 19th, which is aged in bourbon oak barrels in abandoned mines in Central Michigan. Dark Horse Brewing Company in Marshall also has a seasonal bourbon barrel aged beer that comes out in the winter. Spirits and beer come together with these unique brews!