This past summer we decided to take the drive up to Marquette, Michigan to tour the craft breweries. Marquette is really a hidden gem on the edge of Lake Superior with a population of 20,000 and home to Northern Michigan University which adds about another 10,000 students to the city. With a hilly terrain and average snowfalls over 100 inches per year, its a great place for four seasons activity. Frankly, it culturally feels like a mini-version of Asheville, NC, partially due to the prevalence of craft breweries calling Marquette home.
The shores of Lake Superior were an ancient home of indigenous populations in the Great Lakes and a critical source of fish in the summer months. We’ve covered some of those tribes in this post and we’ll dive deeper specifically into the whitefish of Lake Superior in a subsequent post. More recent history has included French traders (thus the Marquette name) and we covered that many generational process in this post. And even more recently, Marquette was and is a key port for the export of the mined ore across this area called the Iron Range. The giant ore dock is one of the first sites you see upon coming into town.
And it is also the inspiration for the name of the Ore Dock Brewing Company just a few blocks away, where I enjoyed a Skull Duggery – a Kviek Stout aged in Two James Bourbon barrels for 8 months. I also picked up 6 packs of their Munich Dunkel called Six Pointer and their Belgian Blond. The stout was big, bold, and beautifully balanced between caramel sweetness and the kick of alcohol. The Dunkel and Blond were right on style, when we enjoyed them the next day with our whitefish. The whitefish came from Thill’s Fish House and we’ll go into more detail on our next post.
As we walked around Marquette, trying beers, eating lunch, shopping, you get the feel of a vibrant, quirky city. Bike riding and trail hiking in summers, then snowboarding and skiing in winters, it’s a city teaming with a surprising amount of activity. There are music festivals, art festivals, and obviously, craft beer festivals.
We walked up the hill to Blackrocks Brewery, named for one of the area attractions, and enjoyed a flight of beers on the back patio, with a DJ spinning tunes, surrounded by a fence made of discarded skis.
They do a really nice job with IPAs and the MYKISS and 51K did not disappoint. The Common Place was a nice take on an English Ale. And the setting is just fantastic; a lot of fun. There was a couple places we would have loved to hit while in town including Barrel & Beam, which is a highly decorated brewery located a few miles out of town, but we didn’t have the time to hit them all. Here is a decent list of options in and around Marquette.
After a stop at Thill’s Fish House to get the coveted whitefish filets (and an unexpected treat!) we hopped back in the car for the drive home. Just out of town, the car ahead of us suddenly slows as a dark shape moves across the highway.
First one, then a second. Once roaming the Upper Peninsula in great numbers, moose were all but wiped out in the 19th and 20th century. In 1980, the Michigan DNR made an effort to re-establish a population by moving 59 animals from Ontario. They have grown to over 400 animals in the Marquette area, but they are still a somewhat rare sight.
Love to see the population rebound to the level where we could sustainably hunt moose in the area, basically because I’d like to try variations on this stew. Apparently the population in Canada may exceed 1,000,000 animals, but they have been progressively pushed northward, well above their historic range around the Great Lakes region, where they once figured prominently in the indigenous diet. We will have to restrain our culinary impulses to the farmed elk. Nevertheless, a unique sight and fitting end to our trip to the unique city of Marquette, Michigan.
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