The local artisanal beverage culture is going strong! Whether you prefer an intriguing IPA or a luxurious latte, you can find it here. We’ve gathered a list of craft coffee and beer businesses to give you a taste.
432 S. Saginaw St, Flint
Five years ago, Owner Josh Spencer realized his goal of offering a high-caliber coffee shop unique to Downtown Flint. The European-inspired café specializes in craft coffee and espresso. With its Roaring 20s, “Great Gatsby” theme and cozy atmosphere, it has become more than a Downtown coffee shop to its patrons. It’s not only a place to relax and enjoy a really good cup of coffee and some high-quality food, it’s a space to meet, study and socialize.
According to Spencer, Café Rhema’s biggest draw is the high-quality coffee, and the café is one of only a few “third wave” coffee shops in mid-Michigan. Third wave coffee is a movement to produce high-quality coffee with improvements at all stages of production – from plant-growing, harvesting and processing, to stronger relationships between growers, traders and roasters. “We know our roasters personally,” Spencer reports, adding that that he does business with local roasters in Goodrich and Owosso. “Coffee-roasting has become an artform.”
Manager Tiff Sommers says lattes are a customer favorite. “The lavender lattes have been flying out the door!” she reports, adding that the lavender syrup is made in-house. The mocha lattes are made with delicious, house-made chocolate. “The nitro cold brew coffee is also really popular,” she adds. Nitro cold brew is cold-brewed for 24 hours, kegged in-house and infused with nitrogen. “It’s really good!” she exclaims.
Chill Coffee Café
3426 Beecher Rd, Flint
Wanting to do something good for the Flint community, Pastor Martez Warren and his wife, Natasha, opened Chill Coffee Café in Flint Township in May 2018. The Warrens are educated professionals and lifelong Greater Flint residents. “We wanted to pursue our passion for coffee by inviting area professionals and local residents to a casual and friendly gathering place designed for relaxing with friends, conducting small business meetings or socializing over a nice cup of fresh coffee,” Natasha says.
Chill Coffee Café features coffee selections from a local roaster, Fireside Coffee Co. “We are committed to delivering the ultimate coffee experience to all of our patrons,” Natasha adds. In addition to exceptional coffee, Chill Café offers both hot and iced specialty espresso beverages and teas, blended coffees, smoothies, flavored lemonade and slushies, along with a variety of fresh pastries and bagels from local bakeries. The menu will soon be expanded to include soups and sandwiches.
The atmosphere at Chill Coffee Café is very cozy, with areas to sit and do homework, and a bar where you can plug in a laptop. “There is also a room with a TV and comfy chairs,” Natasha says, “and a small conference room that can be used for meetings.”
The Warrens enjoy operating their shop and recently became members of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce. “We are excited to connect with other businesses!” Natasha exclaims. Even though they just opened, the Café already has a stream of steady customers. “Come chill out with us at Chill Coffee Café!”
Fireside Coffee Co.
3239 Elms Rd, Swartz Creek
Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Fireside is all about family, coffee and good customer service. According to Angie Root, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, the business was started by her mom, Carol Davis, in 1988. Angie’s husband, Rob Root, is the head roaster and product manager. “The atmosphere is bright and upbeat,” says Root. “Our team of baristas is really good at engaging with customers and explaining where the coffee comes from,” she adds. “It’s important to interact with our customers.”
When it first opened, Fireside Coffee Co. only sold hot cocoa, chai tea and mocha mixes. It has since expanded to include the coffee shop, roasting, and a wholesale and retail coffee bean business, with distribution across the United States and Europe. “Our coffee is made from beans from all around the world and then roasted on site,” Root reports. “We are really excited about our partnership with Daterra Coffee in Brazil.”
At Fireside, you will find a variety of drinks including: pourover coffee (brewed in a variety of ways), cold brew coffee, a variety of lattés, cappuccinos, espressos, teas, cocoa (which can be served hot, over ice or blended), as well as refreshing beverages like lavender lemonade and sodas. Root says their most popular drinks are pourover coffees and the Salted Caramel Hot Cocoa. “They are both really good.” Also on the menu are baked goods from CRUST, the bake shop in Fenton. And even though Fireside Coffee Co. is hidden, tucked in a spot off Elms Road, they have a strong customer base. “New people are coming in every day!”
Root feels that just as important as the coffee is having a strong community connection. Fireside offers classes in coffee-tasting and different brewing methods. Their coffee mugs are made by a master potter at the Flint Institute of Arts. Fireside is looking forward to hosting the upcoming Orange U Glad (national coffee brand) Brew Fest and their 30th anniversary celebration on September 29. They will also be giving warehouse roasting tours that day. “Come out and see us!” Root exclaims. “It’s a big community day.”
Foster Coffee Company
615 S. Saginaw St, Flint
Located in the Ferris Wheel building, this shop has been a gathering place for coffee lovers in Downtown Flint since November 2017. “Foster Coffee Company is all about fostering community through coffee,” says Nicholas Pidek who co-owns the place with Jon Moore. To reach that goal, they have partnerships with local vendors, nonprofit organizations and the Flint Farmers’ Market. They formed a partnership with Blueline Donuts, a bakery business and workforce training program based out of Carriage Town Ministries. “We buy their doughnuts, which are made fresh every day,” says Pidek,” It’s our way to support a nonprofit.”
Coffee is the primary beverage on the menu at Foster, along with teas, smoothies, milkshakes and baked goods; but it’s much more than a cup of coffee. “Our goal was to create a place people can come to study, relax, or have a meeting,” says Pidek.
Their most popular beverages are the specialty lattes. The coffee syrups are made in-house and they also make their own chai. “We only use high-quality ingredients,” says the co-owner, adding that pour-over coffees are also a customer favorite – hot water is poured over the fresh-roasted coffee grounds and each cup is brewed individually. “We pay a high level of attention to the details when making our craft coffees,” Pidek shares. “We use a lot of science to back up our brewing methods.” However, what makes Foster Coffee Company unique is that they roast their own beans which are obtained from different countries, at their Owosso location. They also feature a different guest roaster every month.
Pidek says the businesses in the Ferris Wheel work very well together and look out for each other. “It has been exciting to see all the new businesses that are coming to town,” he states. “We’re the new kids on the block, but we’re very happy to be part of the downtown culture.”
The Good Beans Cafe
328 N. Grand Traverse St, Flint
Open since 2000, this specialty coffee house is one of the first to become a local favorite. “We love to serve authentic, European-style coffee,” says Co-owner and barista, Ken Van Wagoner. “I wanted to introduce the community to high-end cappuccinos, lattes and espresso – it took a while to catch on.” The café’s menu is focused on coffee beverages, but also includes light food options.
Van Wagoner says every coffee drink is carefully prepared and created from specialty coffee beans. “Every beverage is a craft,” he shares. The GBC’s signature drink is the Old Flannel Shirt, a mocha latte made with white chocolate, caramel, steamed milk and coffee. “It’s our best-seller!” Van Wagoner exclaims. It can be served in a variety of ways: hot, cold, iced, blended, or the “proper” way with half and half. The cafe only serves LavAzza coffee from Italy but they also sell packaged coffees from other roasters, Higher Grounds (Traverse City), Stauf’s Coffee (Ohio) Flint City Coffee and blends from guest roasters. “Roasters are very passionate about their coffee,” he says with a smile. “I love to sell their coffee.”
The Good Beans building has a separate room, which Van Wagoner calls the anteroom. It’s used for hosting plays, poetry readings, poetry slams, parties and even weddings. “It’s perfect for a small crowd,” he adds. Artists are encouraged to display their works at the cafe. “Our tagline is: ‘Constantly supporting the community, culture and the arts,’” says the barista. “I am so happy to have been here for 18 years. I hope to be here another 18.”
The Palette Café
Flint Institute of Arts
1120 E. Kearsley St, Flint
Located inside the north entrance of the museum since 2009, The Palette Café was recently renovated, according to Sara Bostwick, FIA Food and Beverage Manager. “The cafe doubled in size and the patio is much bigger,” she adds. Located at the Flint Institute of Arts, The Palette Café offers gourmet coffee, signature sandwiches, salads, soups, desserts and a full bar. The café is proud to serve coffee from Illycaffé, an Italian roasting company that specializes in the production of espresso.
The beverage variety includes drip coffee, Americano, latte/cappuccino, caramel macchiato and chai latte, as well as tea, steamers and hot chocolate. The beverages can be served hot or iced. They also serve a lavender latte espresso, Earl Grey and rose tea lattes. “We serve soy as a dairy alternative,” Bostwick shares, adding that they also use whole, skim, soy and almond milks in their beverages. “Most popular right now is the iced caramel macchiato, and the lavender latte is a close second.”
In the fall, The Palette Café serves a delicious pumpkin spice latte and hot cider drinks. Hot chocolate is also a favorite fall treat made with your choice of chocolate including favorites like raspberry chocolate and white chocolate. For the evening crowd, The Palette Café serves beer, wine and spirits. “We always have a drink special,” Bostwick says. The Palette Café’s food menu also includes pizza, wraps, and some breakfast options. “There are so many possibilities!”
Fenton Winery & Brewery
1370 N. Long Lake Rd, Fenton
Owners Matt and Ginny Sherrow have been at it for a while now – since 2008, to be exact. “We started as a winery in a mall two miles south of our current location. In late 2009, we added the microbrewery license so we started brewing beer and making wine and in 2012, we bought our current property.” The current location houses a banquet facility used primarily for weddings and receptions, an acre and a half beer garden (one of Michigan’s biggest) and of course, the taproom for the general public.
The taproom features 14-15 beers on tap, 15 wines and a variety of sodas, all produced on site. “We serve great appetizers, baked sandwiches and specialty pizzas at the taproom,” Matt explains.
Currently, the Fenton Winery & Brewery is featuring a bevy of light beers for the summer. “We always have our Fenton Light on, which is one of our most popular,” says Matt. “We also have Summershine Wheat, a great honey amber brewed with local honey, three IPAs, a stout, and our unique Swinging Berries.” Swinging Berries is what Matt calls a “fusion” beer. “We ferment a wine and a beer, then blend them together and it creates a third fermentation. When it’s done, we keg it. The beer yeast is still active, it ferments the wine and vice versa. It’s very unique to our business.”
If you’ve never tasted a FWB wine or beer, Matt and Ginny invite you to come to the taproom and try a flavor. “Create your own flight of four wines, four beers, or mix and match between the two for seven bucks,” says Matt. “I would put a couple IPAs on there, the Staggering Bull imperial nut brown, and our Swinging Berries.” Ginny adds, “I would do an appetizer of lasagna rolls,” Ginny continues, “People love those, and our pizzas are really good. A lot of them have artisan cheeses and meats, and the pizza sauces include our beers and wines.”
Coming up for the fall months, Fenton Winery & Brewery will feature their Autumn Brown ale, the delicious Apple Pie Wine and a new Black Cherry Wine.
425 S. Main St, Frankenmuth
Michigan’s oldest Brewery has certainly seen its share of tragedy. “The brewery was built in 1862 and it’s been through a lot,” explains restaurant manager, Jaime Snapp. “It went through a fire that burned it to the ground, except for the beer cellar. Then, in 1996, a tornado leveled the building, except for the beer cellar. Our beer cellar is the only original part of the brewery that has survived.”
Frankenmuth Brewery features a full menu and 18 different beers on tap; two of which you can find at your local Kroger stores: The Hef, and Batch 69. The newest beer on tap is the Sweet Tooth Stout. “It’s a little bit sweeter than most stouts,” Snapp explains. “A lot of us like to mix it with our root beer that we make in house. It’s like drinking candy!” Snapp also recommends the Old Detroit amber ale and the Red Sky Irish Red.
The most popular beer on tap, however, is The Hef. “It’s a traditional German hefeweizen,” explains Steve Buszka, Brewmaster. “We are one of the few Michigan breweries that brews a hefeweizen year-round. It’s by far our number one seller.” Along with The Hef, Buszka recommends Batch 69, the new Jalapeno Blonde, and their traditional German Pils. “That’s a great flight box right there,” Buszka smiles.
Frankenmuth Brewery never sits idle – they have a bevy of beers going on tap in the future. Buszka notes, “we have a session IPA called Just Cruisin’ coming out, and Old Detroit Muscle – an English ESB. In the fall, we have our Harvest Ale and Pumpkin Ale. On November 1, we release Christmas Town, which makes up 18% of the total quantity of beer we make. We have to make it and package it in six weeks. It’s crunch time!” laughs Buszka.
A visit to Frankenmuth Brewery is truly historic. “I mean, part of the beer cellar wall has been there since Abraham Lincoln was president, and that’s a cool thing,” states Snapp. “And, you can actually watch the brew master make his beer while you’re eating lunch and dinner.”
Exclusively at The Laundry
115 W. Shiawassee Ave, Fenton
Lynchpin Brewery is a small operation, but it doesn’t feel that way to head brewer, Scott Hayes. “It’s bigger than initially planned,” says Hayes. “It’s been hard to keep up – demand has been growing.” Everything at Lynchpin is fresh, because it has to be. With local favorite, Fellow Traveler New England IPA on tap, it’s easy to see why. “Everybody is loving it right now,” smiles Hayes. “I have to keep a barrel dedicated just for that one.”
Fellow Traveler may be the most popular beer, but Hayes offers up a distinct selection. “We usually have a light beer, three IPAs, a porter, and a brown or oatmeal stout,” says Hayes. “Right now, another good one we have on tap is our Spaceman Spiff pale ale.”
Lynchpin brews are served exclusively at The Laundry and Hayes is proud to be affiliated with the much-loved restaurant. “The Laundry just celebrated 21 years,” Hayes shares. “We have a huge cocktail selection, a huge whiskey selection, a craft wine selection, and Lynchpin brews.” The Laundry sources as many ingredients as possible from its own garden and Hayes does the same. If he needs honey for his process, he gets it from the restaurant’s beehive. “I try to be as local as I can. Our malt comes from Motor City Malt in Detroit and I get my hops from Top Hops in Goodrich,” he explains.
Hayes is especially excited about one of his favorite winter brews, the barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout. “We have a deal with our friends, Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky. They allow us to pick a barrel to take back with us to Michigan once a year.” Hayes continues, “once we pick that barrel, they bottle the bourbon, ship us all the bottles and the empty barrels. I fill those barrels with beer and six months later, we have a custom barrel-aged Imperial Stout.”
When asked about his job, Hayes’ joy is obvious. “I love to be creative with it and I love the challenge of making it better.”
If you want to see what Scott Hayes is up to, follow Lynchpin Brewery on Instagram or visit The Laundry Facebook page.
Northern Oak Brewery
806 N. Saginaw St, Holly
Located with a pleasant view of Bevins Lake in Holly, Northern Oak Brewery offers Mid-Michigan patrons an up-north ambiance. A proud spot for locals, The Brewery offers a robust menu and a large selection of 15 beers on tap. “The Taxman IPA has been the most popular,” explains part-time Brewer, Bill Wamby. “My all-time favorite has to be the Mustache Stout,” adds bartender, Leanne. “I also love the Ol’ Sipper, but you have to be careful with that one. They don’t call it the Ol’ Sipper for nothing!” Another customer favorite is the NorOak Fest, a unique German Amber Lager (or Märzen.) As of September, the brewery also offers a kolsch, the Oakland Amber, the Fighting Cock Red Irish Ale, a Belgian Dubbel, the Busty Porter, Storm (a spiced amber beer) and a strawberry milk stout.
The locals love the current selection, but change is coming. All new beer and drink recipes will replace the long-standing offerings and the excitement is evident.
The change is not relegated to the beer – the food menu recently changed and is a big hit with customers. “Our new menu is delicious,” says bartender Leanne. “It’s been very popular.” She says the giant soft pretzel and the gorgonzola kettle chips are customer favorites but the fried brussel sprouts are starting to take off. The new menu offers all new entrees, burgers, sandwiches, salads and paninis.
Redline Brewing Company
5470 Lapeer Rd, Burton
If you are an adventurous drinker who’s up for trying something new, visit Redline Brewing Company in Burton. Owner and Head Brewer, Doug Grover, has never been one to sit idle. “I usually keep 20 beers on tap at all times and they change weekly,” he says.
Redline has been in operation since 2016 and has grown a large contingent of regulars. The two most popular beers – those that Grover tries to keep on tap at all times – are Broke Bastard Honey Wheat and Fire Man Dan. Besides those two, Grover likes to experiment with flavors and is known for his creativity. “I’ll get a random idea and just write it down,” he says, pulling his phone from his pocket. “I made a note about a jalapeno smoked pilsner. That sounds interesting, so I may or may not make it. I also have a note for a sea salt stout that I might make – my thoughts just kind of go in circles and I start making stuff,” he laughs.
His most creative surprise is called Taco Crusher. “It’s been one of my biggest hits!” Grover exclaims. “I soaked jalapenos in tequila with cilantro, limes and black peppercorns, and I made a blonde.” Last year, Redline hosted a Taco Crusher Party. “This year, I want to do the Taco Crusher, a Double Taco Crusher, and a Barrel Aged. It’s coming up,” he says with a smile.
Redline regulars will notice something new: The Northern Smoke BBQ food truck will have a permanent and exclusive residence there. “The BBQ is phenomenal!” exclaims Grover. “Until now, I had yet to find pulled pork in the state of Michigan that isn’t dry. It’s absolutely fantastic.”
Grover has recommendations for Redline newbies. “For an IPA drinker, I recommend a flight of Super Bee, Racing Fuel Double, Hatchback IPA, and Garage IPA,” Grover continues. If you want the creative Redline experience, he suggests Negotiable Affection (a brew of peaches and whiskey cinnamon), Honk if You’re Horn-ey (flavors of tart Michigan cherries and Jack Daniels-soaked oak chips), and Rub-n-tug Gose (brewed with local honey, grapefruit juice and a touch of sea salt).
“To all those who have supported me, I appreciate what everyone has done,” Grover admits. “I’ve met a lot of awesome friends and I have so many regulars – I just can’t thank everyone enough.”
Redwood Steakhouse Brewery & Grill
5304 Gateway Center, Flint
“We’re so well-established, sometimes I feel like people have forgotten about us,” laughs Head Brewer Konrad Connor. Beer has been brewed at Redwood since 1996 and it is one of the area’s largest brewery operations. “We are a 15-barrel brew house,” Connor explains. “To the average person, that’s just under 500 gallons. A barrel is 31 one gallons U.S., that’s about 250 pints or 13 cases. So, I like to move beer!” The Redwood Brewery is unique in that they brew both ales and lagers. “A lot of places tend not to do lagers, because they tie up your equipment,” he shares. “A lager needs time, and a month is not enough.”
Redwood typically has seven beers on tap – six ales and one lager. “Our lager is always Helles. We normally have one light, a kolsch, our English pale ale, our porter, IPA, and milk stout,” lists Connor. At Redwood, all of the beers are brewed the same except for the IPA: Connor changes the hops. It allows him to try different hops from all over the world. “For example, we were using an experimental hops from Slovenia for a while called Styrian Dragon.” Most recently, Connor has been very impressed with their Blue-Eyed Murder American Pilsner.
Beer lovers can enjoy unique experiences at Redwood. The Beer Appreciation Society or (B.A.S) meets on the second Monday of each month (except December) and is open to everybody. The B.A.S starts at 7pm and can cost anywhere between $20 and $25. “Every meeting has a different theme,” Connor explains. “This month, we have three lagers and three craft beers and the attendees have to guess which beer is which. In October, we always do harvest fest.” Customers at the meetings also get a pint of any beer that they have (except for barrel-aged and fruit craft), a meal, and samples of new beers. Redwood also now offers a pint to go and online keg ordering.
119 N. Grand Traverse St, Flint
In their fourth year, Tenacity Brewing is hitting its stride. “We are definitely growing and going through the challenges that come with growth,” says owner Robb Klaty. “We brew multiple barrels every day to keep up.”
They are certainly doing something right, because expansion is on the horizon. Tenacity is looking to open new tap houses and Detroit would be a prime location. “We’re good at making good beer in a small batch, and creating a great community environment,” Klaty adds. “The Detroit location would be in the type of neighborhood that we could benefit in some way. It feels really good to make a space, like here, that people enjoy coming to.”
Tenacity is looking to expand, but the beer will always be brewed in Flint. “The Second Shift IPA is my favorite,” Klaty continues. “It has some bite and a good hop character to it. Our most popular beer is the Farmer’s Daughter, a Midwest IPA that is a bit more full-bodied than Second Shift. He says their most popular drink is the Honey Blue Blue. “The Honey Blue Blue is a cider with Michigan apples, blueberries, and honey. It’s like adult soda pop – people can’t get enough of it. It’s wonderful,” he laughs.
Tenacity offers two coffee products along with their beer and ciders. “We offer a cold brew and a draft latte and we roast the coffee right here,” informs Klaty. Tenacity Brewing also supplies all of the coffee (Heyday Coffee) to Flint Crepe Company. Klaty goes to Costa Rica every year to live on the coffee farm for a month, and brings the coffee back to Flint for roasting. Heyday Coffee will exist throughout the expansion, but the brand name will change. Klaty explains, “The Heyday brand is going to die, pretty much. It will become Tenacity Craft and will be roasted at the new location in Detroit.”
For Tenacity newcomers, Klaty recommends a flight consisting of the blonde ale Basic Binch, the Farmer’s Daughter IPA, the award-winning Sassy Lassy Scotch Ale, and Honey Blue Blue – enjoyed with food provided by Vehicle City Tacos.
Flint’s hometown brewery puts an emphasis on community. “Our commitment is what sets us apart,” says Klaty. “We are making a place in this community that welcomes people here and allows us to give back. We are Flint’s only brewery since prohibition and we take that seriously. I mean, our hashtag is ‘Beer for Flint’.”
Tilted Axis Brewing Company
303 W. Nepessing St, Lapeer
Nestled quietly in downtown Lapeer sits a small gem of a brewery. Located in the Historical DE Holland building, Tilted Axis Brewing Company embraces history. Lining the walls are pictures of the building in times past and on the coffee table in the upstairs Axis Lounge is a picture book with more historic photos and the building restoration process. “We are a huge sponsor of downtown Lapeer,” states Angie Turner, Manager. “People take graduation photos in our lounge because it provides the best view of the historic buildings downtown.”
Anyone who visits Tilted Axis will be delighted with everything it has to offer. “Our pizza is the best in the city,” Turner shares. “Our dough is fresh from Alma Hills Breads and all of our toppings are sourced locally. But, the best part is our cheese! We use Wisconsin Grande and it’s absolutely delicious.”
Tilted Axis has a delightful craft beer selection – all 13 on tap are worth trying. The best, according to locals, is the Leafy Hopper IPA. “It’s so popular, we had t-shirts made for it!” Turner laughs. Besides the Leafy Hopper, Turner says that every customer must try her favorite: Tilted Cow. “And don’t forget our recent 2018 World Beer Cup gold winner, Dark O’ the Moon!” she exclaims. “It’s a perfect American-style wheat.”
In addition to craft beers, Tilted Axis offers a selection of wines, ciders and meads. Examples include their Harvest Moon Cider and a Peach Apricot white wine.
A visit to Tilted Axis Brewing Company will not disappoint. “You know, we are the first brewery in Lapeer since prohibition,” smiles Turner. “Stop by and be a part of history.”
Photography by Jennifer Hodney