You might want to visit Muskegon for its 26 miles of sandy, white beaches and dunes, but I preferred to spend my day there on a classic craft brewery tour, from one end of town to the other!
We started our crawl at the Unruly Brewing Company, anchoring one end of Western Avenue. It was one of those precious summer afternoons, not too hot to sit outside in a nice outdoor space. As we arrived, we met “Eazy E” (a.k.a. Eric Hoffman) the brew master, unloading a pallet outside. Easy E started out home brewing and is now living his dream by turning “professional.”
Although the weather was lovely, we opted for an inside spot to be closer to all of the inventive beer choices. The tasting room is a huge cavernous space with lots of tables. True to its name, Unruly Brewing Company has a feisty attitude that is captured in their mission statement, “Live life. Be unruly.” Embracing their motto, I ordered a Hoppy American Wheat, a mixture of three hops, Amarillo, Citra, and Mosaic; the blend had a citrus spin, and it was a perfect summer beverage.
Tucked in the corner of the brewery was Rebel Pizza. “Rock n’ Roll Fuel’d” pies were a natural compliment to the beer choices. I liked Teddy the Greek, with garlic, gyro meat, red onion, Tzatzki sauce and three cheeses with, of course, lots of feta.
It was hard to tear ourselves away, but the rest of the downtown…and our “pub crawl” beckoned.
As we walked down the street, we passed by the historic Moorish style Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts. Originally the Michigan Theatre, it opened in 1930, and is now home to the West Michigan Symphony and the Muskegon Civic Theater. Next time, I will plan my visit so I can take in a performance.
Housed on the lower level of the theatre with nice outdoor seating, was Smash Wine Bar and Bistro, a must-stop for my wine loving husband. This was a very hip place, featuring locally sourced small plates and offering 40 different wines by the glass and a 70-plus bottle list. Since this was a pub-crawl, however, we only had one small glass before heading down the street to our next stop, the Pigeon Hill Brewing Company.
Stepping into the Pigeon Hill Brewing Company, you can’t miss the 55-foot mural of historic downtown Muskegon showing a very different street than the one we had just walked down. Tradition is a big deal to these folks, as the taproom also features items from Muskegon’s original brewing company of the same name. The taproom was a community gathering space with a very easygoing vibe. Of course, the beer was the real star, and faced with another long list of choices, I opted for a Motorboatin’ Wheat. This beer was created as Pigeon Hill’s ode to Michigan summer. Again, lemon and citrus with a touch of lemongrass flavors created a wonderful summer brew.
There isn’t really a menu at Pigeon Hill, but they do have ice cream bars and salty snacks. They also encourage folks to bring in their own food or order a pizza from TopShelf Pizza across the hall. TopShelf will deliver right to your barstool! Muskegon’s only wood fired pizzeria, Whistle Punk, also delivers to their taproom.
It was a terrific summer afternoon, and we only made three short stops, not nearly enough to enjoy all that Muskegon has to offer. We are thinking of going back on August 29th, when 30 Michigan breweries host Burning Foot on the Beach, a celebration of local craft beer. The festival of suds, food and music takes place at Pere Marquette Park. The festival is brought to you by the Lakeshore Brewers Guild, folks who love craft beer and the lake and who wanted to have a really big bonfire. Tickets are $30. Hope to see you there.