As we all know, Michigan is overflowing with fantastic beer to be explored in every corner of the state. Today we’re going to be exploring the German side of Michigan, from single bottles to breweries who focus on German-style brews.
You’re sure to find Germany’s influence all over this fine peninsula, from the shelves at your favorite beer store to your local brewery. There are countless taproom only German-style brews to explore, from the smoky Rauchbier to the wonderfully simple and refreshing Hefeweizen, so we’re going to be focusing on beers that you can find on the shelf at your local bottle shop.
And since today, April 23, is apparently “German Beer Day” we thought we’d offer some insights into where to find German-style beers right here in the Great Lakes State!
Firstly, there are a few breweries across this great state that place a heavy emphasis on German-style beers, so we’ll start there.
425 S. Main St., Frankenmuth
Established in 1862, the Frankenmuth Brewery sits right downtown in the beautifully idyllic Frankenmuth, Michigan. Featuring a full restaurant and taproom, it makes for the perfect stop while exploring Frankenmuth, and offers a wide range of German-style beers supported by some American styles. Grab a seat in their large, open taproom, which overlooks the Cass River.
- The Hef (Hefeweizen)
- Brown Hound Dunkel (Dunkelweizen)
- Little Bavaria (German Pilsner)
95 N. Main St., Cedar Springs
Opening in 2015, Cedar Springs Brewing brought a new and exciting angle to West Michigan – a German Style brewery. With a full restaurant featuring classic German eats, the brewery offers classic German styles with a supporting cast of American styles, and is only a small jaunt north of Grand Rapids and Rockford, while remaining easily accessible from the freeway and the White Pine Trail. Grab a seat at the bar or the large, open taproom, grab an order of Schnitzel and enjoy a variety of their classic German brews. For those wondering, the phrase “Küsterer” refers to Christoph Küsterer, the first German Brewer in West Michigan who started producing around 1844.
- Küsterer Original Weissbier – 2016 GABF Bronze Medal for German Wheat (Historical Bavarian Wheat)
- Küsterer Heller Weissbier (Modern Bavarian Wheat)
- Küsterer Bohemian Pilsner
- Küsterer Salzburger Marzen
Cedar Springs also offers a variety of traditional seasonal offerings:
- Küsterer Dunkelweizen
- Küsterer Weizenbock (Bock style wheat beer)
- Küsterer Pale Bock
- Küsterer Munich Dunkel
- Küsterer Schwartzbier (Bohemian Style Black Lager)
- Küsterer Rauchbier (Bamberg Style Smoked Lager)
Now, let’s move into some of the great German beer styles and pair them with an excellent Michigan-brewed example.
Olde Number 22 by Arbor Brewing Company, Ann Arbor & Ypsilanti (Seasonal)
A surprisingly easy-drinking dark ale. Smooth, malty, and well-balanced; dry without being too bitter; and full-flavored without being too heavy. Very subtle smoky hints. (5.5% ABV | 37IBUs)
Oarsman by Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo (Year-Round)
A flavorful session beer, Oarsman Ale uses a classic German brewing technique to impart a light, refreshing tartness. The grain bill includes a healthy portion of wheat, while light hopping lend citrus and herbal notes to the aroma. Fermented with Bell’s house ale yeast, Oarsman comes in at 4.0% alcohol by volume. Rather than being the dominant flavor note, the tartness in Oarsman takes on more of a palate-cleansing role, making it perfect with meals or purely on its own. (4% ABV | 10IBUs)
Bockefeller, Strong Winter Bock by Atwater Brewing Co., Detroit, Grosse Point Park & Grand Rapids (Seasonal)
Brewed with respect to the season, Atwater’s Winter Bock boasts the body and deep malt flavors matched with a warming, but well blended hint of alcohol. Extended aging reduces the sharpness and acidity typically apparent in strong ales. The aroma and flavor is malty and lightly roasty, with only enough hop character to clear the finish. (7% ABV | 25IBUs)
Uncle Krunkle’s Dunkelweizen by Cellar Brewing Company, Sparta (Seasonal)
A drinkable, dynamic dark wheat ale dipping into dark malty tones. (6.3% ABV | 17IBUs)
Consecrator Doppelbock by Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo (Seasonal)
A traditional Doppelbock fermented with an old-world yeast. Reddish brown in color with a mild hop profile, Consecrator is a well-balanced, full-bodied lager with hints of caramel and molasses in its smooth, malty finish after spending 3 months maturing in our fermentation tanks. (8% ABV)
Raspberry Eisbock by Kuhnhenn Brewing Company, Warren & Clinton Twp. (Taproom only release, 375ml and Draft Only)
Consistently rated as one of the top beers in the world by beer ratings websites, this beer has developed a cult following since its first release in 2004. After a very, very long boil, fresh raspberries and raspberry juice is infused into this intense lager, bringing about fresh berry notes with a hint of chocolate, like a chocolate truffle. A wonderful balance of sweet malt and tart fruit lends to the drinkability, while a long aging period mellows the alcohol, making for a great sipper with a long finish. (15.5% ABV)
Classic Pilsner by Blackrocks Brewery, Marquette (Year-Round)
The finest German malt, American hops and Lake Superior water collide to create our take on the world’s most popular style. As crisp and refreshing as the Great Lakes, this beer is a nod to European Tradition with a distinct American disobedience. (5.5% ABV | 30IBUs)
Hell’s Half Mile by Tri City Brewing Company, Bay City (Year-Round)
Hell’s Half Mile is a German-style Helles Lager that is pale gold with a creamy white head. Helles is German for bright. Hell’s Half Mile has an appealing grainy aroma with a slightly sweet malty flavor yet perfectly balanced with traditional noble hop characteristics. Don’t let the light color fool you! This full-bodied beer is complex and refreshing. (5.8% ABV | 20IBUs)
Bliss Wheat by Arbor Brewing Company, Ann Arbor & Ypsilanti (Year-Round)
U.S. Open Beer Champion – named “Best Hefeweizen in America” by the Craft Beer News Service. Classic aromas of banana, clove and floral citrus blossom. Fruity, spicy aromas show a rich yeasty character that follows through on a smooth, medium-bodied palate with a delicately spicy finish. (5.5% ABV | 15IBUs)
Full Circle by New Holland Brewing, Holland & Grand Rapids (Year-Round)
Full Circle is a crisp, refreshing celebration of New Holland’s belief in balance. Biscuity malt character with a low hop profile and slight sweetness. (4.9% ABV | 26IBUs)
Drag Me to Helles Maibock by Wolverine State Brewing Co., Ann Arbor (Seasonal)
A take on the Maibock, a traditional spring beer in Germany. This beer is characterized by its spicy hop aroma and rich malt flavors that are both refreshing and perfect for the onset of spring. We brew our Maibock to hit the top end of color and hoppiness for the style, bringing you a complex and yet easy drinking German-style lager. We use all German malt and 100% German Hallertau hops. (7.4% ABV | 29IBUs)
Ah, Octoberfest. A beautiful, refreshing and complex beer that never ceases to please the palate. There are many local taproom options for this seasonal fall favorite, and you’ll find many Michigan examples on the shelves, including options from Atwater Brewing Co., Bell’s Brewery, Dark Horse Brewing Co., Frankenmuth Brewing Company and Rochester Mills Beer Co.
Sustenence Black Beer by Short’s Brewing Co., Bellaire (Seasonal)
Sustenance Black Beer, classically referred to as a Schwartzbier, is a dark German Lager brewed in the spring. Soft and sweet on the palate, the roasted, dark caramel grains lend to a satisfying drinking experience, while Lager yeast creates a refreshing thirst-quenching sensation. This combination provides a rich, full-flavored, light-bodied brew. (7.3% ABV | 25IBUs)
Some German beer styles don’t have readily available Michigan brewed examples, like the deliciously complex, smoky Rauchbier, and the supremely drinkable Dortumunder Lager and Kellerbier. That doesn’t mean that they won’t appear in your local brewery or brewpub, so keep your eyes peeled!
Michigan offers a wonderful expanse of beer exploration, and as for the German styles, we are certainly not lacking, and they all pair excellently with friends.
Cheers and Prost! Let’s raise a glass to Michigan Beer!
Ben Darcie is based out of Grand Rapids Michigan and is a veteran beer writer, a 12-year homebrewer, public and private beer educator, and is stationed out of Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery & Supply in Ada, MI, just out side of GR.