Planning your next craft beer city tour? Give Detroit and Ann Arbor a try

Detroit Skyline — Photo courtesy of Vito Palmisano

Once known as the fourth-largest city in the United States, modern-day Detroit is a far cry from the auto industry juggernaut that dominated the nation in the mid-20th century. While its signature industry may not be quite what it once was, Motor City has certainly made a step forward in the wide world of craft beer. From avant-garde taprooms to rustic breweries, Detroit might just be the nation’s most underrated craft beer itinerary.

Located on the aptly named Detroit River, downtown Detroit is best known for its spectacular architecture, ranging from the 1920s Guardian Building to the ornate Wayne County Building — and there’s no shortage of craft beer just steps from those Icons removed structures.

A popular destination for over a century, A Ort was founded in 1904 by Luxembourgish immigrant Albert Jacoby. In the modern era, Jacoby’s offers a mix of local and European flavors, outfitted with a huge list of German, Belgian, and Wolverine State Brews, both on tap and in the bottle, each served alongside classic German dishes like Jägerschnitzel and potato pancakes.

After a few German beers at Jacoby’s – and a quick stop at the impressive 1880s Roman Catholic Church of St Mary – it’s time for something else entirely. Enter the Detroit Beer Exchange, a sleek downtown venue that brings a decidedly Wall Street-esque twist to your signature craft beer bar. The beers here are not sold at a fixed price but fluctuate based on supply and demand, with popular beers increasing in price as more patrons order them. Add in calculated “market crashes” and decadent comfort food, and you have a seriously fun way to spend your afternoon in Motor City.

The Eastern Market Brewing Company barThe Eastern Market Brewing Company Bar — Photo courtesy Eastern Market Brewing Company

Of course, no craft beer trip would be complete without sampling a handful of curated beers straight from the source, and luckily, Detroit is brimming with breweries dotted throughout the city limits. Just northeast of downtown, the Eastern Market neighborhood currently serves as the nation’s largest historic public market district, offering visitors an abundance of bars, restaurants and giant murals.

One special place – Eastern Market Brewing Company – keeps the brewery’s rich heritage alive in the 21st century, with a diverse portfolio of pints including Detroit Diesel Stout, Same Old Lager and their flagship Elephant Juice IPA.

Down by the river, visitors can take a leisurely stroll along Canada’s bordering West RiverWalk, then head east to find the Atwater Brewery & Tap House, a rustic red brick eatery that has been a fixture of Detroit’s Rivertown since 1997. Style lager, and there’s no better place to enjoy a refreshing Atwater lager than the open-air rooftop—at least in the warmer months. For those looking for a little more punch in their beer, the Vanilla Java Porter and the POG-O-LICIOUS IPA are two particularly delicious options.

The bar at the Cultivate Coffee and Tap HouseThe Bar at the Cultivate Coffee and Tap House — Photo courtesy of Destination Ann Arbor

While Detroit is home to a pretty spectacular beer scene, there’s a lot more to discover if you head west of the city limits to the cozy college town of Ann Arbor. There’s a plethora of new beers to discover here, but don’t miss out on some of the highlights along the way.

Once you leave Detroit, the city of Dearborn offers a truly incredible Arab-American food scene, along with the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, an iconic institution housing some truly monumental vehicles used throughout American history.

Before heading to Ann Arbor, be sure to make a quick stop at Ypsilanti, where Cultivate Coffee & Tap House awaits weary travellers. This idyllic spot beside the Huron River offers a wide range of drinks, from caffeinated to alcoholic, coffee, wine, cocktails and beer. The expansive draft menu focuses heavily on Midwestern breweries—diners can snag a Premium Wolverine lager to enjoy al fresco in the courtyard, or sip indoors when the weather isn’t cooperating.

The HOMES brewery barThe HOMES Brewery Bar — Photo courtesy of Destination Ann Arbor

Once you get to Ann Arbor, there are quite a variety of options. Around downtown, Grizzly Peak Brewing Company and Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery are two particularly popular haunts for professionals and UMich students alike, but for true craft beer mastery, don’t leave town without visiting HOMES Brewery. This elegant and sophisticated spot is home to some truly intriguing beers, including the Metaform Key Lime Sour IPA and the Soaker Kolsch. To sweeten the deal, there’s a plethora of hearty, Asian street food-inspired dishes to pair with your pint.

Rural Michigan is best known for its lush natural beauty, but the craft beer scene surrounding its largest city certainly makes a good case for visiting the urban parts of the state as well. While Detroit and Ann Arbor both boast spectacular breweries, these two only barely scratch the surface of what Michigan has to offer.

After your first beer-filled trip to Motor City, a return trip is definitely in order—and maybe with some extra itinerary for Lansing, Grand Rapids, or Kalamazoo to spice things up.

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