July 13, 2015
Okay, you probably don’t expect a guy from Ohio to be raving about anything from “that state up north” – but I had one of my best weekends ever up in Michigan, enjoying some incredible views, gawking at awesome high-performance powerboats, and sampling some of the great beers that state has to offer.

As a brief note of explanation, I have vacationed in this area since about 1962, when my father started bringing the family up to stay on the chain-of-lakes just north of Traverse City, with beautiful Torch Lake being the most notable. Over the years, we’ve visited spots up-and down the coast, including Charlevoix, Petoskey and on up to Mackinac.

I think the last time we were in Bellaire, it was a Sunday morning; we were on our way back home and I believe Short’s Brewing Company was not open at the time. So I was determined to get there on this trip.

Our destination was Boyne City; for the third time, the wife and I decided to check out Boyne Thunder, which is a fund-raising Poker Run for high-performance offshore powerboats. There were over 100 boats registered this year, and not only can you check them out on the docks, there’s also a big street party on Friday night, right on the shores of Lake Charlevoix—featuring both hot boats and hot rods.

Before that, however, our first stop was at one of our old haunts, the Alden Bar & Grille, just steps from Torch Lake. The place was recently remodeled, and I have to say—while it is larger and brighter, it lost some of its “up north” character when they replaced the original knotty-pine wall paneling with new stuff. I’m sure it will look just fine in about 30-50 years, but for now, it just seems too “new.” Still, that didn’t stop us from enjoying a couple cold ones; I went for a traditional Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale (what else would you drink in Hemingway Country?) and having done that, we headed north along the east coast of Torch Lake to Clam River.

Clam River, where Clam Lake flows into Torch Lake, is home to The Dockside, one of the most popular spots on the chain-of-lakes. It’s right on Torch, so you have spectacular views and lots of action, as boats go back-and-forth down the channel. The place was crowded as you might expect, but the service was prompt and friendly—and my smoked chicken quesadilla was perfect. I washed that down with a delicious Short’s Bellaire Brown, not something I normally drink on a hot day when I’m sitting in the sun, but it’s smooth and light enough to go down easy and quench any thirst.

We spent about an hour or so enjoying the lake, then headed off to Bellaire to check out Short’s Brewery in person. Just as expected, the place was packed on the middle of a Friday afternoon, and I went with a flight of five beers, including Paper Thin Walls (which my wife really liked) Locals, Magician, Village Reserve and a Badankadank. All of them were great, and I grabbed a six pack of Locals and Bellaire Brown to take home with me.

The Brewery and restaurant are really first class, it’s easy to see why this place is a top regional tourist attraction. From the physical facilities to the beer packaging, it’s clear that there’s a solid, consistent line of philosophy and creativity running across the whole operation. Their success is a real tribute to the commitment and care that everyone demonstrates from top to bottom.
That’s all for Part One of our Michigan Beer Journey. Part 2 to follow.


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