It’s been one heck of a year for us! We’ve had a great time drinking our way across Michigan, meeting so many of you, raising some money for charity, and making lots of new friends. We couldn’t cover everything we loved, but here’s a look back at the very best of what we got to experience in 2012. (Note: the numbers aren’t a ranking, but for organization. Everything on this list is pretty cool in different ways, and we loved them all!)
Leave some of your highlights in the comments! Here we go…
Our Top 25 drinks, events, bars, and more of 2012
1) Winter Beer Festival 2012 – We had an awesome time! We might have mistaken a hop for an artichoke and spilled beer down our white snow pants, but we drank a LOT of awesome Michigan beer outside in Grand Rapids! We’re looking forward to the 2013 event!
2) Valentine Vodka – We visited this place a LOT this year. Rifino Valentine used reclaimed materials to build out his lounge in Ferndale, and we fell in love with it. The atmosphere, the staff, and of course, the drinks are all amazing!
3) Leelenau Peninsula Media Weekend – This is one of our favorite weekends of the year. We take our friends, head north, and tour the Leelenau Peninsula wineries. This year’s stops included Black Star Farms, Verterra, Gill’s Pier, and Boathouse Vineyards. Then we headed to the media reception, where we learned a lot more about what’s going on in the region, and the winemakers were pouring a wide selection of LPVA wines.
4) Black Star Farms – This is hands down the best tasting experience in Michigan wine. Chris, the tasting room manager, is the perfect person to pour for you – he’s knowledgeable, funny, and takes you through the gamut of Black Star wines. We always leave having learned something new (and with a lot of wine!).
5) Verterra Winery – They’re newer to the Michigan wine scene, but boy, have they come in with a bang! Their Unoaked Chardonnay is my favorite Michigan white wine out there, and Paul and his family are among the nicest we’ve met.
6) L. Mawby – Everything really is better with bubbles! What can we say that we haven’t said about Larry Mawby and his wines before? He makes world class sparkling wines that we can’t get enough of. I’ve never left the tasting room without at least 3 bottles, and it’s always on our tasting itinerary.
7) Chateau Chantal – I had the opportunity to take my family to Michigan wine country for a special visit. Marie at Chateau Chantal blew us away with her hospitality. We got to take a private tour at the peak of the harvest season, and see how the grapes go from the vineyard to the bottle. Their Proprietor’s Reserve wines are unbeatable.
8) Founder’s Brewing KBS – This by far the most coveted Michigan beer, and for good reason. We scrambled along with you to get our hands on a bottle this year, and it was worth it. Rich, dark, and delicious!
9) Founder’s Brewing Devil Dancer – This was the first year I really got into this beer. This Triple IPA is surprisingly well-balanced with a heavy dose of malt to balance out the hops. I drank a lot of it (a LOT) this summer, and can’t wait for it to return to store shelves!
10) Short’s Brewing Ginger In The Rye – We both fell in love with this beer. The spicy ginger flavor was refreshing and different. We drank a lot of it, but also cooked with it. Check out our Ginger Beer Cheesecake and Spicy Chipotle Ginger Tacos.
11) New Holland Pilgrim’s Dole – This was the first year I tried this beer, and I fell in love. It’s a rich, caramel-y (yes, I know that isn’t a word) barrel-aged wheat wine. It’s on the pricey side, and hard to find, but totally worth it. Look for it next fall!
12) Dark Horse Brewing Reserve Special Black Ale – Holy moly is this beer good. It’s on shelves year-round, so I don’t know why it didn’t register on our radars sooner, but boy did it this summer!
13) Right Brain Brewing – Their CEO Stout was the big winner of our International Stout Day poll, and it’s a well deserved title. Beyond their rich stout, they have quite a lineup of beers – from Mangalista Pig Porter and Firestarter Chipotle Porter to Vanilla Cream Ale and Satisfaction ESB, they have a unique beer to satisfy any palate. When you’re in Traverse City, be sure to stop by their new brewpub!
14) Sip of Michigan – Our big summer party at The Rattlesnake Club was bigger and better than ever this year! We poured our blood, sweat, and tears into putting on the best party of the summer – with Michigan beer, wine and spirits from all over the state, great food, and live-band karaoke, it was definitely the highlight of our year. We were honored to donate all profit from the party to First Step, a Wayne County-based organization that supports victims of domestic violence. With your help, we raised over $20,000 to help them continue their mission to provide housing, food, counseling, and support to those who need it.
15) Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room – We are HUGE fans of Cort and Shannon Casey of Michigan By The Bottle. We read their blog religiously to stay up-to-date on the Michigan wine scene. So when they announced that they were opening their own tasting room in southeast Michigan, we were thrilled! We can’t wait for them to open their doors – we’ll be first in line to do some tasting!
16) Two Birds Artisan Spirits – Modern Greyling Gin – I’m the gin lover of our duo, and when I tried Two Birds Greyling at Sip of Michigan, I knew I had found a favorite. Keep a close eye on this company – their distribution footprint is growing! In fact, you can now find them at The Oakland in Ferndale.
17) The Oakland Art Novelty Company – Wow, is this place good. The dark interior with the giant purple chair evokes a very Alice in Wonderland feeling. But even better than the décor are the drinks. Sandy Levine and his crew have brought art back to cocktails. Their concoctions range from classics to funky new drinks, each one carefully balanced to deliver beauty and flavor.
18) Arcadia Ales – 15th Anniversary Beer – Or should we say beers? I don’t know how this one was kept so quiet, but I’m glad it was, because that meant there was some left when I stopped in to buy it! I drove from Detroit out to Arcadia just to get my hands on some, and I wasn’t disappointed. They released 2 versions, 1 aged in bourbon barrels, and 1 aged in wine barrels. While both were delicious, the wine-barrel aged version was our favorite. These beers are 2 of the best we drank all year.
19) New Holland Artisan Spirits – Beer Barrel Bourbon – We’ve all heard of bourbon-barrel aged beer, but New Holland decided to mix it up and create bourbon aged in beer barrels. You have to try this to understand how good it is – so get out there and grab a bottle!
20) Brewery Vivant Wood Aged Beer Festival – This was absolutely the best beer event of the year for us, and the most surprising. From the brewery that’s mastered farmhouse-style beers, the last thing we expected was the incredible lineup of 18 super-rare, barrel aged beers that they put out. This is going on our must-attend list from now on, and we’re pretty sure it should go on yours too!
21) Greenbush Brewing – They were the hit of the Detroit Fall Beer Festival. With 33 beers, not even we could drink all the way through their lineup (although we did give it our best effort). Our favorite from that lineup was the Pain Imperial Cream Stout. We’ve put Greenbush on our list to visit in 2013!
22) One Eyed Betty’s – We discovered and have visited many times this past year. With over 100 amazing beers to choose from, and great food, we’re happy to add this to our favorites list. We especially are fond of the Bacon with a Side of Bacon plate, and the weekend brunch with bottomless mimosas!
23) 7Monks – It’s become tradition that every time we head up to Traverse City, we have to stop at 7Monks before we do anything else. We know we’ll find amazing craft beer, and usually some good friends. A stop at the nearby House of Dogs is also required for fourth meal.
24) Taste the Passion – Is there anything better than wine, chocolate and love? This was one of my favorite events from last year. I took the ladies in my family on a tour of Leelanau Peninsula wineries, and each winery had Valentine themed food pairing. I think my favorite was the bacon fudge at L. Mawby. Yum!
25) Bell’s Brewery Black Note Stout – This was our other favorite beer of 2012. We were lucky enough to have some at our Sip of Michigan summer bash, and definitely made several trips over to the Bell’s table to enjoy some samples. We got lucky again and found a bottle of it at Bell’s General Store on the Sunday before Christmas!