Being a resident of Grand Rapids, I often make the mental shorthand of dividing our state's small, touristy coastal towns into two categories: easily accessible (Holland, Grand Haven, South Haven) and summer vacation spots (Marquette, Traverse City). I never really think about Ludington, and to that end I do myself a disservice. It lacks the tulips and wooden shoes of Holland. It doesn't have the “doncha know” charm and isolation of Marquette. But nonetheless, it has an adorable downtown filled with good natured, charitable people and one notable brewery. That's one more than South Haven has, after all.
Tucked away on a side road right off the “main drag” of the touristy shops of downtown, the Jamesport Brewing company is a classy looking pub from the outside with the big, inviting glass window showing off their restaurant area (and giving me a great view to people watch). To the left of the entrance, I found the much less formal pub area (clearly designed without a smoking ban in mind) – packed with a huge, well stocked bar and your typical compliment of flat screen televisions blaring an ensemble of sports and news. It reminded me slightly of the New Holland brewery: classy without being stuffy.
[stock photo. If this is yours, please notify me.]
Jamesport has a robust selection of Michigan's standby beer varieties. Because I must constantly balance my urge to try every beer at a given location with my urge not to die of alcohol poisoning, I enjoyed a very generous flight of Jamesport's select beers. Here, look at them (handwriting compliments of our very attentive waitress):
Handwritten note says: Altbier, Nitro Stout, Weizenbock, Amber Steam, English Mild
The beers were good – well balanced and exactly what I expected, from the easy to drink altbier to the thick and smooth Nitro Stout. However, I want to be completely honest. Brewing a beer should be an art, and the result should be selections that are noticeably different: every beer from a given brewer should have its own personality. While I loved the experience and food and service at the Jamesport Brewing Company, I would not put the beers that I tried into competition against Michigan's finest. They are great standby beers, excellent session beers. . . but other than a slight difference in the levels of hops and malt, I was hard pressed to tell one beer from another.
Now, that aside, the food was fantastic. I'm a sucker for onion rings. I also love crab meat. Usually, nothing of much import comes from this, but Jamesport served me a volcano of onion rings. . .stuffed with crab meat. Spice that up with some ginger and blue cheese and you have one hell of a counterpart to a beer.
This should happen to everyone. Top notch.
The food, atmosphere, and service are all excellent at this boutique pub tucked away in a beautiful summer town. And truth be told, sometimes exactly what I want is a locally brewed Michigan beer that lacks ego; that just lets me sit and consider my food without having to engage in an epic discussion of the tastebud. The Jamesport Brewing Company provides exactly that; if you're anywhere within 20 miles of this place – perhaps on your way to Wisconsin, heading “Up North,” or just stopping to see some Ludington Lighthouses and sample some fudge – do yourself a favor and check it out.