Alcona Brew Haus, just north of Harrisville on US-23, brings fabulous craft beers and food to the sunny side of Michigan.
Alcona Brew Haus
During our trip to Tawas Point State Park to explore the sunnyside of Michigan, we took a drive up the coast on US-23. Thanks to the Better On Draft Michigan Brewery map, we discovered Alcona Brew Haus. This brewery and kitchen turned out to be a gem sparkling near the shores of Lake Huron.
Alcona Brew Haus is easy to find. You’d be hard-pressed to miss the huge black sign with “BREW HAUS” in glowing orange letters located just a mile north of Harrisville on US-23. The moment you see it, you can’t help but feel a pull of nostalgia. That feeling that you are now “Up North.”
Up North Nostalgia
That feeling of being “Up North” grew stronger when we walked inside Alcona Brew Haus. As you enter, you are greeted by a large horseshoe bar. The vaulted ceiling’s rustic timbers accent the bar’s dark wood. My mind conjured up the old-time photographs of dinner resorts and lodges you would see in the AAA magazine back in the day. The rustic vibe is both comforting and nostalgic.
Alcona Brew Haus has plenty of seating at the bar, or the host is happy to show you to a table. If you want to watch a game, the bar area and adjoining room have got you covered. The large backroom has a marvelous stone fireplace with plenty of light. Outback, you’ll find a covered patio to enjoy the weather.
We sat at the bar and spun around to see this fantastic mural of a German beer stein. As I took a photo, a friendly woman with a big smile approached, saying she had a story behind this mural. It turns out the woman is Sandy Arens, the owner of Alcona Brew Haus.
Sandy shared, “It (the stein mural) was done by a gentleman in town, John Ashford, back in the 1970s. And it was for the old German restaurant that was here called Muehlbeck’s. And it says “Drink a lot, drink all the time” in German. When I bought the restaurant, this was one of the first things I took down so that it wouldn’t get damaged, and I did whatever renovations and preservation to it that I could. And then we put it back up. I love it.”
Sandy took me on a little tour of Alcona Brew Haus. Sandy and her husband spent over a year and a half renovating the building, which had started life as the Alcona Beach Resort in 1938. In 1974, the building was leased and sold to Alfons and Hermine Muehbeck, who renamed it Muehlbeck’s Bavarian Village. The name changed several times after 1997 from Fieldstone’s, The Black Forest Inn, and finally, Muehlbeck’s Biergarten before closing in 2008. The Arens purchased the building in 2017 and renovated it while seeking to retain its heritage. Alcona Brew Haus opened for business in May 2019.
“This is a really cool door,” Sandy mentioned as we headed toward the brewhouse. We were facing a big and burly wooden door with a portal looking into the brewhouse. Sandy continued, “It was in the basement, and it was the walk-in freezer door. It was all rotted on the bottom. So we redid it, we re-chromed all the hardware, we added the portal, and put it up here.”
As we walked around Alcona Brew Haus, Sandy pointed out various heirlooms from the building’s past, which they kept and restored, such as the barrel-themed wall sconces on the walls and barrel lights over the bar.
Unfortunately, we ate before we arrived at the Alcona Brew Haus. That was a mistake from the looks of various plates as they made their way to hungry guests. What stands out about the food here is their great care to address food allergens. We asked if Sandy could share more about this.
“We do a whole lot of stuff with vegans. And are allergy-free. We have no peanuts, no shellfish, and no sesame. And then we cater to allergens.” Sandy began. She grabbed a menu to show us, “So when you see something in orange, it has substitutions. So we have a whole little section of substitutions and things. And we have a lot of vegan offering substitutes.”
Brenda and I were shocked that a little place up north would be so flexible with their food options. Brenda asked Sandy what motivated her to provide so many options.
Sandy smiled and explained, “So I have ten kids, but three of my kids have food allergies. And I’m originally an engineer. I went back to school for culinary, and it was just my passion to open a place where everybody can safely eat. So we have all kinds of stuff, and we do a brunch on Saturday and Sunday, and there’s all those offerings for those. We have dessert offerings for everybody. So it’s just kind of huge. I have kids with peanuts, dairy, egg, and sesame allergies, and it’s just hard if you have any kind of dietary preferences or restrictions. It’s hard. So here we cater to anybody. Somebody comes in here, and they tell me they can’t have salt, they can’t have sugar. It’s okay. We’re going to cook for you; we’re going make it.”
For a deeper dive into the food at Alcona Brew Haus, check out an article by Dianna Stampfler in Rural Innovation Exchange posted in February of 2023.
Alcona Brew Haus had 14 of their beers on tap when we arrived. They have the spectrum of beer styles well covered. I ordered a flight since it was too hard to pick just one (well, maybe two).
I started off with “The Springport” saison. This is a fantastic beer. It is delicious, light, and slightly floral with a dry finish. Next up is the “Sour Patch Berliner,” another great beer that is perfect for the thrilling blue skies along Lake Huron. I could see this one being the go-to for summer fun on the sunny side of Michigan.
The “Cedar Lake” IPA is superb. There is an intriguing and refreshing taste of citrus with the perfect amount of hops in this beer. The final spot on my flight was the marvelous “Total Eclipse” stout. It sports a nice roasted coffee to chocolate taste. The ABV runs on the high side at 7.3, but it doesn’t come off as boozy or overly sweet. Stouts are good any time of year, and this one is a winner.
We’ve got a few more photos from our visit to Alcona Brew Haus in the gallery. This is a great little brewery and definitely worth a visit. Take a peek at the pictures and let us know what you think.
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