Food & Drink

The 18 Best Beer Bars in Michigan

Published On 04/23/2015 Published On 04/23/2015
Courtesy of Lance Hill

Let's just get this right out in the open: you're going to hate this list. You're going to be mad as hell and not going to take it anymore because X place was included, and equally mad as hell and unwilling to take it anymore because X place wasn't. Why? Because there are damn near innumerable worthy beer bars in the state of Michigan to choose from, and whittling a list down to under 30 is nigh-impossible. And that's kind of a fantastic problem to have, don't you think? So let's proceed! If your favorite is missing, shout it out in the comments.

7 Monks Tap Room

7 Monks Taproom

Traverse City
Remember that time we named 7 Monks one of the 33 best beer bars in America? See also DRAFT magazine's "100 Best Beer Bars in America" list for 2014 and 2015. There is a lot of talk about Traverse City as a major craft beer destination, but truth be told, this is still very much wine country -- the beer scene here is still a nascent one, with a LOT of room to grow (and we're pretty confident that it will). There are great breweries like Right Brain, Brewery Ferment, the Filling Station, and the jolliest Jolly Pumpkin that ever there was (the view of West Grand Traverse Bay from the patio is enough to plan your vacation around), but beer bars are still in relatively short supply. Thankfully there's 7 Monks Taproom, which, when it opened back in 2011, filled a need for a multi-tap that still has yet to be replicated in Cherry Country, with 46 handles total that span Michigan favorites and rarities, as well as Belgian and Belgian-American brews. They also serve exceptional gastropub fare and are stepping up TC's cocktail game (also lagging) with the recently-opened Low Bar in the basement next door. 

Ale Mary's

Ale Mary's

Royal Oak
Not taking its name lightly, Ale Mary's is a house of beer worship complete with communal seating, which is sort of like being in church, and a shrine to Michael Jackson, world-famous beer writer and one of the most significant players in pushing the craft beer movement forward since the 1970s. They have 28 beers on tap, another 80 by the bottle, and a menu full of beer-battered and beer-braised things, all of which you will want in your mouth. 

Flickr/dokas

Ashley's

Ann Arbor & Westland
Remember that time we also named Ashley's one of the 33 best beer bars in America? So yeah, most beerie types are already familiar with Ashley's. What most people don't seem quite so familiar with is its sister beer bar and restaurant in Westland. Yes, Westland. While the Downtown Ann Arbor location has much more character and the advantage of being in a walkable college town, the more spacious Westland locale is the home of Ashley's annual Belgian Beer Festival, the largest all-Belgian beer festival in the country, featuring 80 Belgian breweries, 70 Belgian taps, and over 200 Belgian beers in bottles.
 

Cadieux Café

Detroit
It's not the only feather bowling game in the state, but it is certainly the most well-known. It's important to note that feather bowling is actually a Belgian tradition, which brings us to our point: Cadieux Café is a Belgian bar and restaurant specializing in Belgian foods -- basically buckets of mussels for days -- and Belgian beers. The tap list alone won't knock your knickers off, but peep the bottle list and let your inner Belgian loose. It's also got a popular karaoke night on Wednesdays and is a long-time draw of the Detroit garage sound, with live music from bands that pre-date Jack White as a Stripe. 

NICOLE RUPERSBURG/THRILLIST

Clubhouse BFD

Rochester
Oh but it IS a BFD, rest assured. One of the best bars in the Metro Detroit suburbs (says we) and, a bit more BFD-ier, one of the best beer bars in the country (says DRAFT), Clubhouse calls itself a "craft beer shrine and juried gallery exhibit of the brewing arts," and there is probably no better or more accurate way to describe it. With 50 taps and another 150+ in bottles and cans, Clubhouse doesn't just aim at hitting a big flashy beer number; it focuses on building and curating a beer portfolio, loading up on labels you cannot find anywhere else. Period. The end. There are beers here that you will not find in any other beer bar in Michigan. HopCat Detroit might have the largest number of handles in the state of Michigan, but bigger isn't always better, you know? 

Nicole Rupersburg/Thrillist

Fitzgerald's, aka "The Fitz"

Eagle River
Get in your car. Get on I-75. Drive north then west then north again for 10 hours. You are now at the Fitz, "Northern Michigan's finest craft beer destination," and that ain't no joke. These guys have access to some of the most highly allocated and highly sought-after beers in the region, and they're all available at your leisure at this craft beer and barbecue oasis located directly on the shore of Lake Superior. Book a room at the attached Eagle River Inn so you don't have to worry about driving anywhere, then plan on hitting that beer bible hard and enjoying snifters of Bourbon County verticals on the patio watching the crashing waves of Lake Superior. 

Flickr/ifmuth

Grand Trunk Pub

Detroit
This was the first bar in Detroit to shift to (almost) 100% Michigan beers -- there are a few macros still, this being Tiger territory and all -- back when it was still called "Foran's," and thus it was many a Detroiters' first introduction to local craft beer. Drink from the cup that is Michigan craft with a large selection of beers and meads and ciders from Jolly Pumpkin, New Holland, B. Nektar, Virtue Cider, and Short's -- 20 on draft and another 170 by the bottle throughout the year. They also host regular beer dinners and one of the best brunches in the city. 

The Beer Exchange

Kalamazoo Beer Exchange

Kalamazoo
One of our favorite not-Detroit Michigan bars, it's the stock market of beer, with prices changing based on supply and demand, which is an interesting gimmick for a 28-tap beer bar to have given that at no point in time is any drunk college student paying enough attention to market fluctuation to know how much he or she is paying for whatever beer and therefore will have a real hard time arguing with the server about the tab at the end of the night. Presumably some people are really into this, presumably because it's sort of like gambling, just with your beer money instead of your life savings. But the tap selection makes the math worthwhile. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

Logan's Alley

Logan's Alley

Grand Rapids
One does not simply open a bar or restaurant in Grand Rapids without having at minimum 20 taps. We're actually pretty sure this is stipulated in every area liquor license. So it's hard to pick a favorite multi-tap beer bar out of the many, many multi-tap beer bars (especially what with HopCat hogging the spotlight), but we're partial to the 23 taps and 200+ bottles at Logan's Alley, a totally chill neighborhood joint that also serves coated tots. Because coated tots. 
 

Oak Café

Wyandotte
Really the only bar on this list that could fairly be classified as a true dive bar, this little Downrivieria dive also has 40 beers on tap and another 100+/- by the bottle. It is by far one of the best bars in the 'burbs and, for both quality of selection and overall ambiance, in the whole state. Its also not too picky about pour sizes (you can get a whole pint of Dragon's Milk, because you are an adult) and is charmingly, stubbornly still cash-only. 

Neil Braybrook

HopCat(s)

Ann Arbor, Detroit, East Lansing, Grand Rapids
In its original incarnation in Grand Rapids, HopCat has consistently been named one of the best beer bars in the country by DRAFT and Beer Advocate and CraftBeer.com for forever (or at least since those lists started being produced, which was at some point after HopCat opened in 2008). When the owners decided to start replicating HopCats like Starbucks, they made sure to make each one bigger and better. The G-Rap original is no slouch with 48 taps, but then East Lansing came with 100 (and a world record-setting tap takeover with Short's), followed later by Ann Arbor with another 100. But the record-holder is the Midtown Detroit location. Boasting 130 taps, it has the largest number of taps in the state of Michigan, and has also given Detroiters a whole new understanding of "crack" (fries!).

One-Eyed Betty's

One-Eyed Betty's

Ferndale
In just a couple of very short years, Metro Detroit went from having only a handful of truly worthwhile "beer bars" to having so many that some of the older ones were displaced in relevance (bye-bye, Berkley Front). Betty's is one of those bigger, better beer bars, with 47 taps (plus one handle for root beer) and another 100+ by the bottle. It also hosts the annual Christmastime FestivALE, held around Thanksgiving, to celebrate the release of special Christmas beers from Michigan breweries like Bell's, Dark Horse, and Short's, as well as Belgian heavy-hitters, and live music from regional folk, Americana bands, and succulent holiday "roast beasts" for grazing. 
 

Palate

Milford
If you haven’t heard of Palate in Milford, that's probably because it's in Milford and you probably figured "why bother." But with 32 beers on draft with an emphasis on Michigan and almost always a white whale or two (like, for example, CBS this past January, the even MORE nerd-alert Founders stout than KBS), plus a pretty great patio out back, THAT's why bother.  

 NICOLE RUPERSBURG/Thrillist

Slows BAR BQ

Detroit
Slows in Corktown is known for its mac & cheese and also for jump-starting the Detroit food revolution. All of this is secondary to its bangin' beer list, which is one of the best anywhere, much less in Michigan, much much less in Detroit. These are the things that matter. 

Nicole Rupersburg/Thrillist

Ye Olde Tap Room

Detroit  
This bar, originally opened in 1915, pre-dates Prohibition, operated as a blind pig, and received liquor license #147 after the repeal (the same license number it still has today). Ye Olde offers a global selection of bottled beers -- 285-ish in total -- many of which you simply will not find elsewhere, plus a ton of Michigan brews because, well, you kind of have to. It's a dive bar, a locals joint, a living piece of history, and a singular Detroit experience.
 

Union Woodshop/Fenton Fire Hall/Vinsetta Garage

Clarkston/Fenton/Berkley
Union Woodshop has made a name for itself as a craft beer destination and is widely recognized as having one of the best tap selections in the state, thanks in no small part to a spot on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Fenton Fire Hall is also a Union Joint, owned by the same folks behind the Woodshop and Vinsetta Garage (another great beer bar), but, with 48 taps of its own, the Fire Hall deserves its praises sung even if it isn't as well-known as its older siblings.

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1. 7 Monks Taproom 128 S Union St, Traverse City, MI 49684

Monk’s Kettle brings a little extra greatness to what’s already an idyllic Michigan town. Truth be told, Traverse City’s much more renowned for wine (and cherries) than its beer culture, but with 46 carefully curated taps on constant rotation, Monk's Kettle brings something different to the table. Both its taps and their its bottle selection lean heavily on mitten-based brews, though there’s also strong Belgian representation, as is obligatory whenever a bar has “monk” in the name. Talk up the bartender, because many of the taps will be draft-only Michigan releases that won’t be around long, then settle in for the long haul with one of their fantastic wood-fired pizzas to keep you company.

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2. Ale Mary's 318 S Main St, Royal Oak, MI 48067 (Royal Oak)

Designed for the beer aficionado, Ale Mary's is decorated with kegs, beer-related photography, a beer bottle cap wall, and even beer-infused food. Of course, there're also almost 100 kinds of beers in total you can enjoy with it, including generic and niche stouts, ales, IPAs, and porters to fit every palette. And while beer-battered fries and multi-taps are nothing new, a classy and upscale place to enjoy all your beer-related goods makes this spot a novel find.

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3. Ashley's Restaurant & Pub 338 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)

Few college bars boast the kind of beer cred this clubby Ann Arbor joint does, whose menu includes German and Belgian ales, Pacific Northwest representation, and, of course, hometown favorites like Founders and New Holland on its 70+ local and international taps. The appetizers and entree-size bites equally impress, with picks like bacon, cheddar, and chive fries, poutine, and a popular Build-Your-Own-Burger option.

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4. Grand Trunk Pub 612 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

Detroit's Grand Trunk Pub, sometimes referred to as Foran's, has a storied history as home to a variety of random local businesses. This place was once a jewelry store, a railway ticket office, and possibly the home of a Harry Houdini magic shop. Nowadays, it offers over 170 craft beers, killer deep-fried pub food platters, and an Irish pub good-time atmosphere. They also host regular beer dinners and one of the best brunches in the city.

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5. One-Eyed Betty's 175 W Troy St, Ferndale, MI 48220 (Ferndale)

Answering the prayers of those who crave craft brews and top-notch bar food at 12am on a Tuesday, O-EB's a raucous ale den loaded with communal picnic tables, spacious leather booths, a trifecta of classic pinball machines, a stocked jukebox, and an unfinished beer cap mural you can contribute to.

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6. Slows Bar BQ 2138 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48216 (Corktown)

From the award-winning and rightfully TV-famous Yardbird sandwich to the 100+ beer selection, this pork-packed mainstay has thoroughly earned all the attention it gets. The Cooley’s (who own the place) have done almost as fine a job boosting other businesses in Corktown as they have boosting the average local waist size.

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7. Ye Olde Tap Room 14915 Charlevoix St, Detroit, MI 48215

Some things have longevity, and a beer-and-shot combos are one of them: Ye Olde Tap Room on Grosse Pointe Park’s edge is proof. The place has been around since 1912, when it transformed from a trolley repair garage into the local favorite it is today. You can see relics of its duration in the decor, with a wall displaying vintage beer taps and booze adverts from eras past. The beer bar doesn’t rest on its laurels, however: some 285 suds are available bottled or on draft, in addition to a scotch menu, which make a perfect pair with free peanuts in their shells. Feel free to just toss the cracked shells on the floor, as long as you don’t end up on it too.

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8. Union Woodshop 18 S Main St, Clarkston, MI 48346 (Clarkston)

This BBQ stop in Clarkston has a reputation for delicious slow-smoked ribs, wood-fired pizzas, and Vermont cheddar mac and cheese. But there's no better way to explain their process, so we’ll let Union Woodshed do the talking: “It begins and ends in the backlot, with a green hickory smoker that's on a constant low-temp tear with an assortment of meats. It's a ritual that starts with a careful rub and ends only when we think its time to pull the meat from the bath of smoke we surround it with.” Nom. Their pizza is fired in an 800 degree inferno, made fresh daily.

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9. Vinsetta Garage 27799 Woodward Ave, Berkley, MI 48072 (Berkley)

Vinsetta Garage serves up deliciously up-ticked comfort food. The space's got a well-worn mechanical vibe from the former service station that'd been around since the Model T days.

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