Monday, October 18, 2010

North Peak Brewing Company

Traverse City is beautiful any time of the year, all 8 months of it. Taking a color tour through the deciduous trees lining some of the streets really cements why people brave those other four months nobody really talks about in order to live here. The trip up to Traverse City showed a landscape where more than once I was convinced that the trees were actually on fire. The shades of crimson and saffron and burnt orange are breathtaking.

Nothing helps a person enjoy the colors more than a delicious Michigan beer, however. Traverse City is perfectly set up for a local brewlover, with all three of their famous breweries within walking distance of each other, and a stone's throw from the beach.

Located in a building a century old that originally housed a very successful candy company, the North Peak Brewing Company (and its related pub, Kilkenny's Irish Public House) take up a lot of space. This is one of the largest capacity breweries / brewpubs I have visited, with ample seating for a Clinton wedding, and a menu that would make the most judicious of anorexics take a break from their disorder. Indeed, one of my regrets was not sampling more of North Peak's food menu; their cheddar ale soup was thick and warm and salty and perfect.

North Peak has built a very well known and very well respected name for itself. Laura and I tried all the beer they had on tap, and were very impressed by the variety and flavor. North Peak is definitely a brewery that loses a bit of itself in the bottle, as all the beer I tried tasted superior to the bottled versions I've had before. One high point of their beer selection was certainly their nitrogen equipped Irish stout – a smooth and sweet stout that causes you to reflect on the autumn day as the malt notes brazenly elbow out the hops for more time with you. I also very much enjoyed their cask Red. I still think cask ales are a risk; after the first few days, their flavor changes too much for it really to be enjoyed in the same matter. Ocassionally, this can be a good thing but those times are few and far apart. The trick, of course, is to drink cask ale at an establishment that has no problem finishing the cask in that limited amount of time. North Peak's cask Red was the cask version of their Steelhead Red, the Irish ale. While Irish reds are not typically my preference, the freshness and warmth of the cask really let this little gem open up with some sweetness and toasted flavors I don't often expect in a Red ale.

The atmosphere of North Peak was family friendly and very inviting; this was a place where people took their kids to a delicious, well priced dinner that simultaneously offered some delicious beer. Unlike places like Odd Side Ales or Schmohz, the emphasis at North Peak was on the experience, melding food with friends and drink. The service was courteous without being obtrusive, and everyone, including the patrons, were polite and friendly. This is a fun and friendly, 60 mile brewery, well worth an hour trip out of your way. To be quite honest, while I really dig the “beer centered” atmosphere from Right Brain brewery, I would have to peg North Peak as my favorite brewery experience in Traverse City.

I feel your disappointment at having to leave, Laura.

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