ROAD TRIP: Chicago

When our rag-tag trio of brewing and drinking compatriots split up and mostly departed Ann Arbor, MI (Nathan moved to Vail, CO, Paul to Chicago), it didn’t mean that our exploits in the beer world had come to an end. On the contrary, it opened new doors for our exploration.

The Route

The Route

I recently strode through one of those doors, taking a road trip from Ann Arbor to Chicago to visit Paul. The travel itself was about 5 hours worth of Interstate 94, but I had other plans. As you can see on the right, I planned to stop at nearly every brewery within a reasonable distance from the highway on my route – with detailed instructions written out (it’s always risky to put too much trust in cell phone navigation apps).

So, shortly after 11AM on one fine Wednesday, I left town heading West on the highway, hoping to make it to Dark Horse Brewery in Marshall, MI around noon. I got there shortly after my target time, and grabbed a Reserve Special Black Ale. I (quite foolishly) forgot to take any notes on it, or if I did, they’re long-lost by this point. It was back the the road.

Dark Horse Brewing

Dark Horse Brewing

From Marshall, it was a relatively quick trip to Battle Creek, where I stopped for lunch at Arcadia Brewing Company. Though I’d been there before, it had been a couple years, and much longer since I’d gotten food there. I was surprised then, that a place priding itself on the brewing of authentic Britsh-style ales would also have semi-authentic barbecue comprising a big part of their food menu (along with wood-fired pizzas). I ordered a pulled pork sandwich that came with a choice of several sauces, including chipotle BBQ, Carolina, and Kansas City.

Arcadia Nut Brown Ale

Arcadia Nut Brown Ale

Unfortunately, their beer selection was limited on that day, and I was unable to try something new, having to settle for a brew I’d tried on previous occasions. I went with the Nut Brown (fall seasonal), which was solid as always, but a disappointment because I was looking to expand my horizons.

After taking my time with the meal (and ordering water instead of a second beer, of course), it was back to the road, and I passed up the highway in order to take a back route to Kalamazoo, where I’d stop at Bell’s Brewing and the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange – which, while not a brewery, has “beer” right in the name, so I couldn’t pass it up.

In my effort to stay sober, I decided to make Bell’s a carry-out only stop, and I popped into their general store for a 6-pack of their Batch 10,000 – the last in their numbered batch series. The store itself was pretty cool as well, with Bell’s souvenirs such as T-shirts and hats, along with a cooler stocked with Bell’s beers, and even a homebrew section. I regret not walking around the corner to visit the Eccentric Cafe, but I didn’t have the time.

Going around the corner the other way led to the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange, which had opened just a couple days earlier. Without really knowing what it was (you should really have made it a bit more clear on that since-updated website, folks) I was pleasantly surprised to find a really cool setup for a multi-story restaurant and bar inside what was otherwise an office building.

Kalamazoo Beer Exchange

Kalamazoo Beer Exchange Entrance

Kalamazoo Beer ExchangeKalamazoo Beer Exchange Interior

Since I would be unable to stop into The Livery in Benton Harbor (which didn’t open until 4PM), I planned to get my fix of one of their beers at KBE, but some sort of snafu led to ending up with something else – it tasted like a Belgian Dubbel or Tripel – that didn’t meet the description of anything that The Livery brews. I had no problem, as it was delicious, but I’ll never know which beer I actually ended up drinking there.

From Kalamazoo, it was a long trip before another stop, which I finally made a mere 6 miles from the Indiana border at a tasting room for the Round Barn Winery and Brewery. Not wanting to do any tasting of my own, I was intrigued by their house-made spirits, and since they didn’t have a great beer selection available for purchase, I picked up a half-pint of their Whiskey.

Shoreline Brewery Setting

Tommy used to work on the docks...

From there, it was on the Michigan City, Indiana, where I would eventually end up at a brewery that looked like it was set in a Bon Jovi song. With lakeside factories pumping out exhaust in the background, Shoreline Brewery sits near the banks of Lake Michigan. The building itself seems to be some sort of defunct factory, and it was tricky getting to the taproom area.

Shoreline Brewery

Shoreline Brewery

My intention was to pick up a growler from Shoreline, but since I didn’t know what they had available, I inquired with the kind young lady tending bar what was available. Once she told me they had a barrel-aged series on special, I was hooked. That one of the choices was a barleywine only sealed the deal. I purchased a growler of the beer, and got back on the road.

After an ill-fated stop in Indiana to visit a brewery that had shuttered its windows for good (thanks for mentioning it on your website, guys, or at least disconnecting your phone), I made my way to the final brewery stop of the day: Three Floyds in Munster, Indiana.

Three Floyds

Three Floyds

Three Floyds

Three Floyds

By this time, I has grown pretty weary of my travels (and as you can see, night had fallen since the ast time I stepped foot inside a building), so I made quick work of purchasing a 6-pack of Robert the Bruce, a Scotch Ale that I’d never had, despite it being one of the more popular offerings of Three Floyds. With a couple quick pictures of the pub area and one of the brewery, I was ready to finally get on to my destination: Chicago.

In all, it was a good time, and though I had planned it well, there were some hiccups along the road. If I were to to it again, I’d certainly try to ensure I wouldn’t be flying solo the whole time.

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2 thoughts on “ROAD TRIP: Chicago

  1. You might have had Agent 99, a Belgian Trippel from The Livery, my hometown brewery.

    Make sure you stop in sometime on your way from Chicago to GR or vice versa. Open at noon on Friday/Saturday, 2 on Sunday, 4 on Monday through Thursday.

  2. I was planning to stop in at the Livery, but it didn’t fit in with my schedule. I definitely want to try it out sometime this summer.