Over and over again on our show, we've proven the Rule of the Exceptional: You'll find Craft in amazing places. Even in the middle of a 50,000 acre State Park in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
The Tahquamenon River's tannin-rich, tea colored water flows through the northeastern Upper Peninsula, old canoe/portage shortcut for the natives that were traveling along the southern shores of Lake Superior to trade in Sault Ste Marie to the west. And unbeknownst to many, in the midst of that river line is the second highest waterfall east of the Mississippi, beaten in height only by Niagara Falls. The entire park contains wonder after wonder - stunning views, hiking and cross-country ski trails, nature as varied as moose, martens, black bear, wolves, and... Craft Beer?
Jack Barrett of the Barrett Logging company purhased the land adjacent to the falls because he and his wife, Mimi, enjoyed the beauty of the area so deeply. In the 1950s, he built a road to the site near the falls and gifted most of the land to the State for use as a Park, with a detail in his instructions that the road must terminate 3/4 of a mile from the falls, near Camp 33. If you want to see the water, you've gotta walk.
"People come in the restaurant and say, 'Oh, I can't see the falls from the window here,' laughed Lark Ludlow, the Owner and 'Brewster' of Camp 33, or the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery. "And my answer always is, 'Nope. No, you can't.'" They want it that way.
Lark is Jack's granddaughter - the family set aside a 2 acre parcel at the termination of the road into the Park that they still own - a rare private property inside of a State Park - and perhaps the only one in the US that has a Craft Brewery on site. The structure was christened Camp 33 when originally built, as most logging camps are numbered instead of named, and it would be the 33rd logging camp of the Barrett Logging Company. The grandkids rebuilt it in 1990 to serve the Park, and in 1996 Lark had the idea that maybe this 'Craft Beer thing' might be a good addition. But who would brew? Well, she did. And still does.
She started brewing onsite with a 10 barrel system in 1996, making her only the 3rd Craft Brewer in the Upper Peninsula, after The Vierling Brewpub in Marquette and Lake Superior Brewing in Grand Marais (also a brewpub). She offers a rotating lineup of beers, and had 4 taps running the day we visited. Our favorite was a lovely Stout that leaned towards the sweeter side, with plenty of roasty/chocolate-y notes. A full restaurant with a menu of local items (get the whitefish!) offers plenty to pair with.
Camp 33 is an unusual and extremely welcoming part of a trip to a gorgeous area - The Happy Hour Guys recommend a beautiful drive, an even prettier walk to the thundering falls, and the capper (as always) a terrific pint to make the day even more memorable.
And we'll see you next time. Cheers!