As I rounded the last bend on US41 heading in to Copper Harbor, Michigan, I saw the scant service I’d seen on my cell phone change from one bar to the ominous “No Service”. I might not just have driven to the end of the world, but it sure felt like it.
In June of 2014, I’d headed to Michigan’s rugged and remote Upper Peninsula. I was looking for some beautiful places to photograph, an area to ‘unplug’ from the stresses found back home, and to continue my goal of visiting every Michigan brewery.
Copper Harbor has a permanent population of barely over 100 (108 in the 2015 census). It lies over 600 miles from Detroit, and almost 2000 miles from Miami, at the other terminus of US41.
As far as I could tell, the U.P. contained the two breweries in the smallest cities population-wise in the state. Tahquamenon Falls BC wasn’t even really in a city, as it was located in a State Park of the same name almost 300 miles east of Copper Harbor.
I rolled into Copper Harbor after a productive day of sightseeing on the Keewenaw Peninsula, on which the tiny hamlet lies. The evening had turned cloudy and there was a slight drizzle, thwarting my hopes for a brilliant sunset over Lake Superior. The mile walk in the rain from my motel on Copper Harbor’s southern end didn’t put me in the best mood, and I fully expected to grab a quick flight, check this brewery off my list and head back to the hotel for an early evening.
What happened instead was one of those delightful evenings of travel serendipity. I found the bar crowded, so I ordered my flight and retired to one of the brewpub’s cozy corners. Once a stool opened up at the bar, I moved there and was treated to some really interesting conversations, both with locals and those who were making Copper Harbor their home for the summer. I had one local lady who lamented how commercialized Copper Harbor had become. She was being completely serious, which gave me a few good laughs.
Another long-time UP resident introduced me to the term ‘troll’- not being the mythical creature associated with the term, instead someone from the lower peninsula, as in someone who lives below the bridge. My Facebook status from shortly before 9pm reads “They just explained to me what a troll is- I seriously love the U.P.”
The brewery had opened back in 2012, after a successful Kickstarter campaign by owner/brewer Jason Robinson. As part of the fundraising campaign, donors had their names placed on a brick on a prominent wall in the brewpub. I was able to locate a number of bricks for friends who hadn’t yet made the journey to the end of the world to visit the brewery.
I enjoyed the beer as well. All of the mainstays I tried- Mosquito Lake Pale Ale, UP IPA, Park Bench Porter & Stone Ship Stout, were all quite good. I brought home bottles of the IPA and the porter. My favorite beer of the evening, however, was the seasonal Thimbleberry Ale, made with the rare berry that grows only in this part of the country. It has a delicious tartness to it.
I only stayed one evening in Copper Harbor as vacation time dictated moving on to visit more of the Upper Peninsula. I did visit nearby Fort Wilkins State Park and the Copper Harbor Lighthouse, two attractions which speak to the history-rich appeal of the area. As I left town I also drove up Brockaway Mountain for some fabulous views of the town and the end of the peninsula.
Although it takes some effort (and time) to get there, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone being disappointed with a visit to Brickside Brewery and Copper Harbor. I can’t wait to return someday.