Laura and I don't get to the Upper Peninsula often, and our last trip served as a reminder for how much of a disservice the lack of visits does to us. Michigan's UP is beautiful to the point where I had a hard time believing such sights exist so close to home; Laughing Whitefish Falls, the Pictured Rocks, and the Black Rocks of Presque Isle serve to really cement the Upper Peninsula as home to some of the most inspiring views this side of a National Geographic special. I won't bore you with more exposition, though; the beer is what we're all interested in, anyway.
The Jasper Ridge Brewery in Ishpeming, MI, is an unassuming building located in a boring plaza on the side of a highway. It's not the first brewery I've been to that's not much to see from the outside; Schmohz is in what looks like an old factory, and the New Holland Brewery is smack dab in the center of the most touristy part of town, yet that does nothing to diminish the quality of their beers.
Laura, on left, pictured with her sister, Sarah
On tap, Jasper Ridge offered the following selections while we were there:
Rope's Golden Wheat
Red Earth Pale Ale
Jasper Brown Ale
Gallagher's Irish Stout
Rockin' Raspberry Wheat
Blastin' Blueberry Wheat
Jasper Ridge Iron Red
Pictured from left: Jasper Ridge Iron Red, Rockin' Raspberry Wheat, Blastin' Blueberry Wheat, and Rope's Golden Wheat
The blueberry wheat was excellent; the fruit taste wasn't overpowering but was still front and center. It begins with a strong yeast flavor, almost like a Belgian, with a gentle malty undercurrent to the blueberry finish. These types of fruity summer beers always ride that edge of sweetness for me; I would not be able to drink more than a couple in a given night. However, the addition of adding fresh blueberries to the beer to watch travel up and down the inside of the glass was very entertaining.
Their Raspberry Wheat had such a strong raspberry flavor I forgot I was even drinking beer. Much too strong for me to recommend, save possibly for that slice of America trying to switch to beer from those frightful flavored malt beverages marketed to college girls.
The Red Earth Pale Ale was their strongest contender; it was well hopped for a Pale Ale but didn't lose the smoothness I wanted; if I were to spend many hours here, with the promise of a cab ride home, the Pale Ale would be my longterm beer of choice.
Finally, the Jasper Brown Ale was a perfectly respectable brown. It was a sweet, malty beer with a caramel and light nutty undertone. It was well balanced but I have come to expect more in the traditional brown ales from Michigan.
Seth in front of the brewery
For being buried in the frozen north of the UP, tucked away in a building that looks more like a Ponderosa than a brewery, I was surprised and impressed by the offerings the Jasper Ridge Brewery displayed. That said, given their remote location and the fact that many breweries have superior options in many categories, I can't list Jasper Ridge as a brewery every beer connoisseur must visit.
Considering all these things equally, I rank the Jasper Ridge Brewery as a 20 mile brewery; it's worth driving 20 miles out of your way to visit.