17 Best Michigan Craft Beers, Ranked

Correction 4/25/23: A previous version of this article indicated that Keweenaw Brewing Company is located in the center of northern Michigan. It is in the Upper Peninsula.  

When it comes to the top beer-producing states in the country, locations like California, Colorado, and Oregon likely materialize in your mind. And yet, one of the very best beer-producing states in the country goes under the radar. Perhaps it's because the Great Lakes State of Michigan isn't even a fly-over state. It is a state that you are 100% inside because you either live there, or you're visiting someone. Of course, to help make it through the cold winters, you better believe the state has some of the best beers around. It also has some of the oldest craft breweries in the country, pumping out quality beer month after month.

Founders and Bells are by far the most well-known and largest of the breweries in the state, but there are loads of other fantastic beer producers scattered throughout both peninsulas. So, whether you're a resident of the great state of Michigan, or you're just looking for a new brew to sample, here are several of the very best beers you'll find, ranked.

17. Wizard Burial Ground by Brewery Vivant

We always love when American craft breweries experiment with less popular Belgian styles. We've noticed that Belgian craft beer styles have seen a drop in production popularity in the states in recent years (although with how the pendulum swings, we wouldn't be shocked if that changed). But for fans of Belgian beers, this Quad beer is well worth sampling and can go toe-to-toe with most other craft breweries in the U.S. making Belgian beer.

Wizard Burial Ground just barely missed out on tipping the scales as the highest ABV beer on the list, as it clocks in at 14.3% ABV. Now, this particular number might change, as every year there is a slightly different release of the beer. But don't worry, if you are fans of higher ABVs, the Grand Rapids brewery tends to keep the alcohol content right around the same thing with each annual release (although the 2022 release did push that ABV to the highest level ever, so there is no telling what the 2023 release will have in store).

16. Cinna-Mom on French Toast by Pigeon Hill Brewing Company

Sure, the cans look like someone brewed the beer in their garage and slapped a bumper sticker label on them, but the taste is out of this world. Cinnamon is such an underrated flavor for an imperial stout, we wished others took notice of this Pigeon Hill beer.

Pigeon Hill Brewing Company is based out of Muskegon, Michigan, and the Russian Imperial Stout comes with a 10% ABV. Unlike most other imperial stouts, though, this particular beer really leans heavily into its cinnamon taste, which can often become lost in the flood of other flavors found in similar beers. It also has a nice hint of vanilla. You might not confuse drinking this beer with consuming a slice of French toast, but it's not a bad alternative. Especially if you are at a sporting tailgate and you'd rather drink your breakfast instead of eat it (although, you should probably still eat something. It'll be a long day).

15. Imperial Soft Parade by Short's Brewing Company

If you are ever up around Traverse City for holiday, take the short drive out to Short's Brewing Company. There are some fine beers produced by this brewery, which, in terms of quality, can compete with any other brewery in the state, but the Imperial Soft Parade is up there for us.

Soft Parade is one of Short's fruit-infused rye ales. It is not a sour, nor is it a lambic, but instead it is a high gravity ale that takes advantage of raspberries and strawberries, to give a traditional imperial ale a softer (pun intended), flavorful taste. It almost tastes like one of those raspberry wheat beers from 15 to 20 years ago, but it has a higher ABV of 7.5%, and a lower IBU at 15. We like it enough to include it on this list but aren't quite enamored with it (yet).

14. Lay This Body Down by Wax Wings Brewing Company

There are breweries all around the state of Michigan, but there's no denying the west coast of the state dominates the beer scene. Both Founders and Bells are located on that side of the state, and several other breweries we've listed can also be found there. One of the more recent additions to the beer scene includes Wax Wings Brewing Company, which just happens to produce Lay This Body Down.

This is a bourbon barrel-aged stout that clocks in at 11% ABV. It is a pretty low-key operation, and distribution is limited to you driving to the brewery and picking up the beer. However, with Lay This Body Down, you will absolutely need to order and reserve it in advance. Otherwise, it will probably be sold out by the time you show up. If you want to support one of the smallest breweries on this list, check out Wax Wings Brewing Company.

13. Hipster Brunch Stout by Odd Side Ales

Aged in bourbon barrels along with maple, coffee, bacon, and syrup, Hipster Brunch Stout has all the breakfast pick-me-up you might want. We wouldn't say you should start your day off with it... but we're not telling you to either (perhaps pairing it with maple-cinnamon bacon would work).

Whatever time of day you decide to check this beer out, it does come with a robust 11% ABV. Are you more of a fan of the oak-aged beers populating store shelves these days? There's a Double Oaked Hipster Brunch Stout that adds a smokey, roasted taste with hints of vanilla on top of the non-oak beer offers, at the same 11% ABV. Still not your thing? Why not consider the Molasses Rum Hipster Brunch, which uses the same base Hipster Brunch beer, but ages it in a rum barrel with hints of molasses? This makes it a sweeter variation of the three beer offerings (with both the maple and the molasses hitting your taste buds at different points of the drinking process). And yet, somehow it finds a way to keep it at an 11% ABV.

12. Surface by Homes Brewery

Why not crank up the IBU as well as the ABV in one fell swoop? With the double imperial IPA Surface beer from Homes Brewery, you're doing both. All with a solid 9% ABV. It is nice to know that the brewing industry hasn't fully left behind what had previously been popular. The IPA era has come and is mostly gone, although you will still find some solid options out there (there will always be IPAs, but now you won't find 90% of a brew pub's available taps dedicated to the styles).

With Surface, the double IPA style takes advantage of copper, Cyra, Citra, and Simcoe hops, which help give this a very fruity, and even floral taste to it. Copper hops are grown in Michigan and, if you are an avid IPA fan, do bring subtle changes to the table. If you've never had a brew with Michigan copper hops before, you owe it to yourself to give this one a try.

11. No Rules by Perrin Brewing Company

No Rules is a 15% ABV imperial Vietnamese porter that gives you the familiar, barrel-aged taste mixed with hints of coconut. There's a nice, unique sweetness in this very strong Michigan beer you're not going to find elsewhere. The beer is absolutely the highest ABV on this list at 55, as it easily surpasses that of many wines out there. We're also giving this beer bonus points thanks to its nice name and label nod to Walter Sobchak of "The Big Lebowski."

Unlike other robust beers on this list, it is a porter and not a stout. It has a very strong, rich, and yet surprisingly smooth chocolate taste to it. And we do mean surprisingly because you don't expect a beer with this kind of ABV to have this kind of silky feel to it. And, thanks to the bourbon aging, it brings flavors like vanilla, cinnamon, and even coconut to the fold. Over the line.

10. Fourth Dementia Bourbon Barrel Aged by Kuhnhenn Brewing Company

Classified as an "old ale," this bourbon barrel beer shares more similarities with the other imperial stouts than most other styles. It also shares a higher ABV of 13.5%. The packaging itself of this beer is wonderful. Yes, don't buy a beer simply for its labeling, but the combination of the font, the label, and the designer glasses the beer is served in and it absolutely feels like you could be sitting in a Belgian pub, sipping away at this very strong beer.

This Warren, Michigan brewery is on the small side, but it is still packed with flavor. Distribution isn't all that much with this size of a brewery, but if you're on your way to Detroit, stop by. There are usually well over two dozen beers on tap at the brewer's pub, aside from our favorite called Fourth Dementia Bourbon Barrel Aged.

9. M-43 by Old Nation Brewing Company

Unless you're in the state of Michigan, you've likely missed out on this gem of an IPA. Named after Michigan state highway 43, it is one of the best "new age" IPAs to be brewed in the state. This particular IPA comes with a 6.8% ABV, as well as a 65 IBU. It very much is a cloudy mass of beer after you pour it, looking like thick apple cider (which, if you haven't had fresh Michigan apple cider before, you owe it to yourself to try should you visit during the autumn months).

If you know your hops, you can usually craft somewhat of a flavor profile for an IPA. And if not, that's okay, because that is part of the fun of experimenting. For this particular New England IPA, Old Nation Brewing Company uses Simcoe, Calypso, Citra, and Amarillo hops. And, on a side note, Old Nation Brewing Company still puts out one of our favorite styles of unpopular beers, the brut IPA, which is like an IPA with hints of wine. So if you want to take in a brut version of the M-43, make sure to grab the company's B-43.

8. Hopslam Ale by Bell's Brewing Company

While Founders made its name with its stouts, Bells truly made its name with its IPAs, and that includes the newer Hopslam Ale. It is an Imperial IPA with a 10% ABV. Hopslam really does live up to its name as it packs so many hope variations within the same beer. Most on the market might range from one to three kinds of hops, but Hopslam uses six variations added to the brew kettle, before finishing with a dry-hop addition of Simcoe hops.

This kind of beer is absolutely not for those who dislike bitter beer. And yet, despite having six kinds of hops used in the brewing process, it isn't overtly hoppy. With an IBU of 65, it slides right into a nice sweet spot for IPA lovers who do enjoy hoppy beers, but who aren't necessarily hopheads trying to push triple IBU digits. And to help smooth the entire beer out, it is also made with a hit of Michigan honey (which tracks, as Michigan is one of the top-honey producing states).

7. Imperial Neapolitan Milk Stout Bourbon Barrel-Aged by Saugatuck Brewing Company

Visit Saugatuck in the summer for the amazing beach-town vibes, and stay for the Imperial Neapolitan Milk Stout. Barrel aged, as is just about everything these days (noticing a trend?), this is a sweet milk stout, so there will be a hint of sweetened lactose in this 6% ABV beer.

This particular beer is designed to give you the same flavor experience you received as a kid when you dug into the Neapolitan ice cream box. However, unlike that box where two of the three flavors were almost always consumed first, you will experience all three flavors at the same time. Thankfully, the strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla blend amazingly well. In fact, it has taken home several awards, including most recently the 2017 Silver Medal at the Dublin Craft Beer Cup in Ireland. The beer is available year-round and has a 37 IBU rating.

6. Widow Maker by Keewanaw Brewing Company

This black ale out of a small brewery in the Upper Peninsula probably doesn't receive the kind of credit it should, but we're putting a spotlight on it now. If you're in the state, make sure to grab one (and, in case you're not from the state, "Northern Michigan" is the northern portion of the lower peninsula. Anything above the Mackinac Bridge is the "U.P.").

The Widow Maker Black Ale from Keweenaw Brewing Company brings with it a comfortable 5.2% ABV, which is actually the lowest ABV on this entire list. However, despite being a dark, black beer, it doesn't taste like a stout. It is a very smooth, easy-to-drink beer. Because of its color, it has a way of playing tricks on the mind, because you're probably expecting a stout or a porter. But it's closer to a dark lager than anything else, and we love everything about it.

5. Backwoods Bastard by Founders Brewing Company

A variation of the company's Dirty Bastard brew, this is a scotch ale with a higher 11% ABV. It is hard to rank a variant of an original beer higher than the original beer, but in this instance, Backwoods Bastard absolutely is a fine example (fine enough to make the top five of our list here). It's basically the Godfather 2 to Dirty Bastard's Godfather. It is mad year-round, so you're always able to grab this bourbon barrel-aged scotch ale, which is music to our ears.

Of course, we probably could have included Dirty Bastard on this list of top Michigan beers as well, but we don't want the entire list to be swamped with Founders and Bells beers, so we capped it at a maximum of two per brewery. That way, you could discover top beers from some of the other breweries in the state; some of which you sadly may not have been familiar with (at least until now).

4. Dragon's Milk Reserve Coconut Rum Barrel Stout by New Holland Brewing Company

New Holland once focused most of its brewing efforts on IPAs, but it has turned its attention to producing some of the finest barrel-aged stouts, including this variation of Dragon's Milk. This is a limited-release beer, so make sure you grab a bottle when you find it. Every year New Holland Brewing Company puts out a slight variation on its Dragon's Milk Reserve, so the tastes will be subtle and different. Thankfully this is a fine beer to cellar (or basement) age, and the beer only improves in flavor as it ages.

This particular release features an 11% ABV as well as a 30 IBU. The lower bitterness levels allow you to fully embrace the coffee and chocolate notes that were left to age within the bourbon barrels. Dragon's Milk Reserve has been released annually since 2015 and there are no signs of slowing down, which we appreciate.

3. Plead the 5th Bourbon Barrel-Aged by Dark Horse Brewing Company

Not to be confused with the comic book company, Dark Horse produces some pretty hefty beers, including Please the 5th. This Russian Imperial Stout has a solid 11% ABV. There is plenty of complex mouthfeel going on with this beer, and the 41 IBU will give you a malty hoppiness that rubs along the side of your tongue like a burnt biscuit coated in caramel molasses.

This is one of those beers that doesn't hide its true-tasting colors. You can smell what it is all about as soon as you put your nose to the lip of the glass. Sometimes, beers have a way of hiding their aroma almost completely. Not Plead the 5th Bourbon Barrel-Aged stout out of Dark Horse Brewing Company. If you want a beer that swings for the fences and makes sure you know exactly what kind of beer you're drinking from the moment it is poured, grab yourself one of these Russian imperial stouts.

2. Two-Hearted IPA by Bell's Brewery

Let's face it. It is clinically impossible to create a "best of" beer list for the state of Michigan without including Two-Hearted. And, no, we're not talking about some of the spin-off beers that have been rolled out in recent years (to mixed results). Two-Hearted is about as classic of an American IPA as you're going to get, and, in a pinch, this is still one of our favorite IPAs to grab when nothing stands out on a menu.

If you were to ask any long-time craft beer drinker, as in someone who was drinking craft beer before the craft beer fanatics settled in, they likely would tell you Two-Hearted was one of the major reasons why they turned away from macro beer and gravitated toward micro beers. Two-Hearted IPA is a true legend in the craft beer world. In 20 years, many of these other beers may no longer be made (especially if barrel aging falls out of vogue), but we'd bet you a box of Vernors that this 7% ABV and 60 IBU IPA will still be in production.

1. Kentucky Bourbon Stout by Founders Brewing Company

This beer is one that helped launch the bourbon-aging frenzy currently running rampant through the American craft beer scene. It also has a near-wine ABV of 12%. KBS for short (that is generally what it goes by now), the beer is produced throughout the year, so you don't have to worry about missing it during a small release window. There is a nice malty bitterness, and IBU levels hit 45. This beer is also pumped full of flavor, as it is produced with both large quantities of coffee but also chocolate, before being finished off in bourbon barrels.

Basically, if you ever had a Guinness (or a personal favorite of ours, Young's Double Chocolate Stout), and decided you liked the beer, but wished it would "grow up," this is absolutely that beer for you. It is full of flavor, and it is one of those beers that will taste a little different with every sip as it warms. Of course, with its higher alcohol content, this is a beer you absolutely will take your time drinking.