Thursday, July 03, 2014

Marquette, The U.P.’s Beer City

Written by  Erik Smith
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Even though Marquette is the largest city in the Upper Peninsula, at a little under 22,000 people, it’s hardly a booming metropolis. Being home to Northern Michigan University helps give it a vibrancy unique to the U.P. It wasn’t a surprise to me that, on a trip up there a few weeks ago, I found the city’s microbreweries to really cool spaces doing some quality beer.
Ore Dock Brewing is the newcomer on the scene. They are located right down the street from the brewery’s namesake, in the heart of the downtown area. Set in an old garage, the main bar area is spacious and has a garage door onto Spring Street that can be opened on pleasant days. The upstairs is a spacious area with 2 bars where the brewery hosts live music on weekend evenings. I tried all of the beers on their menu in two separate flights, and stuck around after to have a pint of each of their amazing IPAs, the well-balanced Fresh Coast Belgian IPA and the beautifully hoppy Reclamation IPA, perfect for a hophead like me. I spent a long evening talking late in the night with Ore Dock’s enthusiastic assistant GM Anjila, and Joe, the knowledgeable bartender. One of the most exciting things I learned about the brewery from Anjila was the plan to start having a few of their beers available in 6 packs in the near future. While they won’t be distributed outside Marquette County, it will be easier for visitors to bring the beer back home- which will help get the word out about Ore Dock.

Earlier in the evening, my fist stop had been up the hill at Blackrocks, a well-reputed brewery close to Northern’s campus. Set in a house built in the 1910s, Blackrocks has been brewing up good beer since late 2010. This is a popular spot to sit outside in the garden area on the front and side of the house. The inside of the house has been opened up nicely, and the upstairs is a very relaxed atmosphere with lots of natural light spilling in.

Blackrocks has been extremely popular in the community, as would the more than 1,300 mugs belonging to mug club members and attest to. They’ve also started canning four of their main beers, and distributing to much of Western and Northern Michigan. Their tap list includes the four mainstays (51K IPA, Coconut Brown, Grand Rabbits Cream Ale, & Honey Lav Wheat), as well as some of the special beers they do on-site at the brewpub. The two that were available while I was there was the roasty Six Sprocket Black Ale, and the completely unique Nice Berries Imperial Blackberry Saison, which I could have stayed and drank all night.

The third of the breweries in Marquette is the oldest, The Vierling Restaurant and Marquette Harbor Brewery. The current restaurant has occupied this space since 1985, and has been brewing on-site since 1995. It is the only one of the three breweries that serves food, and it has developed quite a loyal following due to it’s reputation for good food. There are 10 of their own beers on tap, too, which includes their 6 main beers and four special beers. Of the mainstays I really enjoyed the Blueberry Wheat, which was light and refreshing, and the American Pilsner and El Dorado Imperial IPA were my favorites of the four special beers.

The interior of the building is beautiful space, with attractive glasswork and a dining room that overlooks the harbor. The building also contains quite a collection of historical paintings and photographs.

All three breweries are within easy walking distance of each other downtown, making for a nice mini-pub crawl.

Erik Smith

Erik Smith

Erik Smith is a relative newcomer to craft beer, having first been turned on to the scene by a chance encounter with "The End of The World" (Unibroue's La Fin du Monde) during the summer of 2011. Since then, he has increased that love of beer by serving as the 'un-official' photographer for the many beer events at Ashley's in Westland, MI. His goal is to visit every Michigan brewery. An avid traveler, beer tourism has played a prominent role in his travels since 2012. 

Find him on Untapped at eriksmithdotcom and at his blog at