Friends Matt Roy and Trevor Thrall were headed north on I-75 in their Jeep for a weekend of snowmobiling when the snow decided to stop them in their tracks. As they waited for the weather to clear, the pair discussed their stock of European and Midwest microbrews, and quickly realized their home state, Michigan, wasn't represented. They vowed to right that wrong, and the idea for Wolverine State Brewing Co. was born. The friends soon brewed their first beer, which they dubbed Wolverine Premium Lager, a brew to honor their state and the carnivorous mammals that secretly control its government. Within a few years, they had established their brick and mortar location—a dedicated brewery and taproom.
Today, local brewer Oliver Roberts helps to oversee the brewery, which only brews lagers—which range from ambers, IPLs, and imperial darks to pilsners and unique seasonals. Wolverine is also defined by its image, cultivated with the help of the Beer Wench—the traveling, blogging identity of friend E.T. Crowe—and the edgy label art of longtime partner Brian Walline. All these elements come together in the brewery's tasting room, where visitors can sample brews at a 40-foot L-shaped bar before playing darts and foosball.
Master distiller Jon Dyer leaves nothing to chance, tasting every batch of vodka before it goes into bottling. With Ugly Dog Distillery’s ever-expanding distribution market, he recognizes it’s a potentially daunting responsibility—but he wouldn’t want it any other way. Along with his partner Dewey Winkle, Jon follows in the tradition of early American moonshiners, distilling one potent, handcrafted batch at a time. Jon processes the Michigan winter wheat with his handmade grinder, transmuting the wheat into the slow, clear drops of the distillery’s near-final product through copper tubing into a large vat. Originally starting with vodka, Jon and the gang have expanded into rum and a unique brand of bacon-flavored vodka, with more flavors in the works. The small but thriving distillery sometimes works round the clock, with Jon juggling the duties of company accountant, salesman, marketer, dishwasher, and occasional graphic designer. Visitors can tour the bubbling copper workshop during the day, and share beauty tips with Ruger, the German wirehaired pointer who gave the company its name.
Arbor Brewing Company serves organic pub fare that incorporates local farmers’ and growers’ fresh, seasonal meats and produce. The dinner menu showcases Lake Superior whitefish ($13) and the Ar-burger ($13), a 1/3 pound patty of beef from McLaughlin Farm, a local producer of grass-fed, hormone-free cattle. Vegetarians rejoice when served the beer-battered tempeh sandwich ($8) from the lunch menu. Night owls can nosh hearty bar fare from the late-night menu, such as pierogies ($8) or a half pound of chicken strips ($7).
Selecting a wine at The Earle Restaurant isn't as simple as choosing between a red and a white. A recipient of Wine Spectator's Best of Award of Excellence for 20-plus years, The Earle's wine list heaves under the weight of its more than 1,200 listed bottles and from all those bricks weighing it down. Some of those varietals are even available by the glass at The Earle's wine bar, where the menu of light bites includes handmade pizzas crowned with pesto and shrimp.
In the main dining room, wines likewise complement dinners of award-winning French and Italian cuisine, from linguini tossed with crumbled garlic sausage to sautéed duck breast in apple brandy and cider. Those feasts unfold amid the room's romantic lighting and the historic building's exposed brick walls. Once the home of a jazz club, the Earle now spotlights jazz five nights a week with trios on weekends and solo guitarists or pianists on select weekdays.
The ingredient list to make wines at DeAngelis Cantina del Vino Winery reads something like this: Grapes. That's it. The facility's refusal to use other additives–such as sulfites, preservatives, and glitter–means its bottles are filled with only all-natural flavors. Vintners who create all-natural wines believe good wine comes simply from healthy grapes aged in a vat. DeAngelis operates under that notion, all while producing the freshest, perhaps fruitier-than-usual varietals of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel, and more.
At the northwestern tip of the Diag, students, teachers, and hungry pedestrians of all sorts can find Diag Pizza & Subs. Chefs whip up baked classics such as calzones, specialty pizza pies, and bone-in or boneless wings. They also stack up 14 different kinds of subs, including the Cajun turkey with provolone, the steak-and-cheese with Swiss cheese and Italian dressing, and the Italian sub with ham and hard salami.