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Huddle Over Hops

Meet up and grab a cold one at breweries across the state

By Kathy Gibbons

You can hardly walk a block in the state these days without getting an opportunity to enjoy a new craft beer, as the Pure Michigan website notes. According to the Michigan Brewers Guild, the state—with its nearly 400 breweries—ranks sixth in the nation in breweries, microbreweries, and brewpubs.

In other words, if you seek a brewery setting for your next event, consider taking a chapter from the state of Michigan’s motto: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.” From the Upper Peninsula to the southern corners of the mitten, look about you to find breweries with the space to accommodate a group and a pure passion for beer—and food.

Mike Castiglione, operating owner of Stiggs Brewery & Kitchen in Boyne City. May 16, 2023
Mike Castiglione is the operating owner at Stiggs Brewery & Kitchen in Boyne City. CREDIT Stiggs/Michigan Barefoot Memories Photography

Upper Peninsula

Marquette’s Ore Dock Brewing Co. offers 3,400 square feet of community space above its taproom and brewery. It’s available for private rentals to host between 200 and 250 guests, as well as semiprivate options for smaller groups of 20 to 80, says Events Manager Kelly Shaughnessy. While catering isn’t available on-site, groups can seek their own vendors for food. Ore Dock provides the beverages, of course, and is glad to create a hands-on beer experience when possible.

Northern Michigan

The beer garden at Austin Brothers Beer Co. in Alpena provides a large outdoor seating area from spring through fall. As Director of Sales Chris Heikkuri puts it, “In the warmer months, you really can’t beat sitting outdoors in northern Michigan.” The company does tastings and tours for groups that come in from visiting cruise ships.

Also in Alpena, HopSide Brewery (which is also the city’s first distillery) can accommodate about 95 people. “We don’t normally close for a private event, but if somebody had something like that, we could reserve all of the tables,” says Selina Heussner, office manager. “We don’t have catering equipment, but what we’ve done is group things [together] where they order pizzas, and we put it out buffet style.”

Outdoor seating at Jamesport Brewing Co. May 16, 2023
Jamesport Brewing Co. in Ludington has a reservable beer garden. CREDIT Jamesport Brewing Co.

Stiggs Brewery & Kitchen in Boyne City offers options for groups, says Mike Castiglione, operating owner. Castiglione rebuilt two 1966 trucks for carrying kegs to serve beer outside of the brewery and partners with local entities including a lavender farm and barn to stage off-site events.

Castiglione says occupancy of the dining room, which can be rented out, is about 86. They’re glad to put up a tent for groups of about 100. On the food side, the specialty is barbecue. “That’s kind of been our bread and butter,” Castiglione says. Stiggs’ “Brewing Up Business” program enables businesses to create their own beer. “They have a little party with us in the brewhouse and see their beer on tap here,” Castiglione says.

Yoga at Ore Dock Brewing Co. May 16, 2023
Ore Dock Brewing Co. hosts Yoga & Hops in its Community Space. CREDIT Ore Dock Brewing Co.

In Ludington, Jamesport Brewing Co.’s Red’s Room is available for groups of up to 50 people. Its newer Portside Garden, a reservable beer garden with picnic tables and an outdoor bar, also accommodates 50, and its Backyard Harbor Front Venue can support larger gatherings. The nearby Ludington Bay Brewing Co. also has an event room available on its second floor called The Landing with capacity for up to 34.

Central Michigan 

In 2022, Grand Rapids celebrated its 10-year anniversary of being designated “Beer City,” now with some 40 craft breweries within a 30-minute drive of downtown Grand Rapids. Among them is LEED-certified Brewery Vivant, which is as interesting for its building—a 1920s-built funeral chapel—as for its beers and food. “It’s the kind of space that makes people realize this city has a bit of history,” says General Manager Marco Ruiz. 

Ruiz notes that the beer garden is best for groups of 20 to 70. Some indoor space is also available, with the Walloon Room for up to 40 guests—sometimes more when it’s workable with regular operations. The group menu offers buffet-style service. 

A burger and beer from Bell's Kitchen in Kalamazoo. May 16, 2023
Bell’s in Kalamazoo offers food from its full kitchen. CREDIT Bell’s

Kalamazoo is another town that loves its craft beer. Bell’s Eccentric Cafe may lead the pack, opening the doors of its brewpub in 1993. Today, it includes a full-service restaurant, expansive beer garden, patio, and entertainment venue. Savannah Klein, Bell’s hospitality and retail marketing manager, says the Back Room can accommodate parties of up to 150 guests seated or 370 standing. “Amenities include all of our beers on tap, in-house catering, audio and visual capabilities, and an on-site venue representative,” she says. “You can also book one of our lofts for smaller gatherings of 30 people or fewer.”

Southern Michigan

In Ann Arbor, Wolverine State Brewing Co.’s private Gulo Room can seat up to 60 people. Wolverine is especially known for its barbecue-style buffet, says Nathan Fritz, general manager and head chef. 

“We do barbecue here every day,” he says. “We’re here at five or six in the morning, if not earlier, and smoke everything in house seven days a week. So, the average [menu]
I do is pulled pork, barbecue chicken, coleslaw, baked beans, and mac and cheese, and people usually get chips and salsa, pretzels, and beer cheese as everybody arrives. We can do brisket and ribs as well.” 

Stargazing activities at Austin Brothers Beer Co. May 16, 2023
Austin Brothers Beer Co. in Alpena hosted a Dark Sky Soiree. CREDIT Alpena Area CVB

Toward Michigan’s Thumb, Frankenmuth Brewery (established in 1862) offers seating for up to 180; however, the space can be divided to allow for smaller gatherings. Event Manager Michelle Stone says it’s a central location. “It’s pretty close to a lot of major cities,” she says. “A lot of people like to stay and explore the town afterward.”

The company has brewery tours and audiovisual capabilities. The extensive food menu means lots of options, although Stone says pizza, pasta, and salad spreads or two-entree buffets tend to be popular for groups. A variety of Detroit breweries provide event spaces with food offerings as well. For example, the Barrel Room at Founders Brewing Co. offers a full catering menu with capacity for 42. The Game Room at Atwater Brewery can accommodate up to 60, with its Brewery Room also available for larger parties of up to 150.