The thrill of the hunt awaits as you pursue your passion for art and taste in Traverse City with our one-of-a-kind vinyl and beer guide.
Traverse City: Vinyl and Beers, Oh My!
Peanut Butter and Jelly? Check. Bacon and Eggs? Check. Batman and Robin? Check. But what about Vinyl and Beer? Absolutely! There’s something extraordinary about pairing a record with a fine Michigan craft beer. Whether it’s savoring a tasty riff with a funky IPA or feeling a tear well up when you hear that one lovely chord while enjoying a velvety stout, vinyl and beer were meant to be together.
Some of the magic with vinyl and beer is the hunt. The glorious rush of endorphins when you find that perfect album to add to your collection or being gobsmacked while visiting a brewery and tasting their delicious beer. Just as vinyl and beer should be enjoyed together with friends, it only makes sense that while you are out hunting for records or seeking out a brewery, you should combine the two.
In Search of Vinyl
As we’ve done for my birthday and recently in suburban Detroit (a fresh post on that coming soon!), we headed up to Traverse City before our Grand Traverse Lighthouse adventure in search of vinyl and beer. Traverse City is known for having great beer, but would we find awesome vinyl, too? We set out to explore, and here is what we found.
RPM Records is located at 1015 Hannah Ave, just west of Garfield. The fun and funky orange cinderblock building is easy to see from the road. You can pedal or walk over via the TART (Traverse Area Recreation Trail). If you ride or walk, don’t forget your backpack to carry home your haul.
Inside, you will find thousands of albums in this huge store. Rows and rows and rows of albums provide for endless browsing. The labeled dividers by band make it easy to seek that gem you’ve been searching for. New arrivals are right up front to get your vinyl quest off to a running start. RPM Records covers all genres, with rock and pop taking center stage. If you are a metalhead like me, they’ve got some heavy gems mixed into the works. If 45s are your gig, RPM has a hefty assortment.
On top of a ton of vinyl, RPM also has a big selection of super cool collectibles. If you need an upgrade to your listening rig or are just getting started, they’ve got you covered with turntables, receivers/amps, and speakers. The real bonus to a visit to RPM Records is the extremely friendly store dog who loves a good pet.
Eugene’s Record Co-op
Eugene’s Record Co-op is a little bit off the beaten path but definitely worth the visit. You’ll find them at 1036 Barlow St (on the corner of Carver). We talked with Brian Chamberlain, who owns Eugene’s, and learned that they had originally been located downtown along with their studio space called Studio Anatomy. The building was sold, and Eugene’s moved in March of 2023 to its current home.
Curious about the name, we asked Brian, who said, “The person that helped us get it going initially, that space, his name was Eugene. And so, when I opened the record store, I kind of wanted to have the record store have its own name. As opposed to just Studio Anatomy.”
Eugene’s has an eclectic mix of new and used vinyl. If you have albums to sell, Eugene’s will buy them or put them on consignment, hence the “co-op.” The space at Eugene’s invites you to browse and have a listen. If you need speakers or turntables, they have those available to get you up and spinning. If you need repairs, Eugene’s is there to help.
The Quest for Beers
Before, in between, or after, shopping for vinyl requires a stop for a tasty brew. Traverse City is loaded with options. You can’t go wrong with any of the excellent breweries in town. However, here are a few that we’ve recently enjoyed and look forward to visiting again.
Loco Boys Brewing Co.
Loco Boys Brewing is located at 901 West Front Street. They have incredible Mexican food, and the beers are spectacular. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Mike and Andy from Loco Boys. Take a moment to check that out. If you are looking for suggestions when you visit, you can’t go wrong with the barbacoa burrito. The beer menu can change, but get one if you see the ESP or the dark Mexican Lager on tap. What am I saying? Get both and thank me later.
Brewery Terra Firma
If you want to kick back and relax on the farm with a damn fine beer, head south of downtown to Brewery Terra Firma at 2959 Hartman Rd. Set on 10 acres, this is a little slice of heaven not far from the bustle of town. Their tap room is a large open space that welcomes you with wide open arms. The sunlight pours in here, even on a cloudy day. When we visited, the sun was bright and wonderful, perfect for browsing the glorious artwork on the walls. Evidently, these pieces were created by local artist Kris Love. This same art adorns the cans used for Brewery Terra Firms’s delicious beers.
If you are from Traverse City or a Michigan beer nerd, you may recognize the name of John Niedermaier. John is the brewer/owner of Brewery Terra Firma and started his brewing at Traverse City Brewing in Williamsburg. Sadly, Traverse City Brewing closed its doors just as Michigan craft beer fired up. On the plus side, John bought the recipes from Traverse City Brewing, which he keeps alive today with flagship beers such as Manitou Amber and Sleeping Bear Brown.
You can’t go wrong with any of the beers on tap. On our visit, I had the “Scottish Moor” heather ale, which had great balance between malt and hops with a dash of flora finish. Another gem was the “Pterodact Ale” IPA, a nice crisp beer with a wee piney nose and flavorful finish. Brewery Terra Firma doesn’t have a kitchen, but they offer a variety of local snacks to fill in the corners if you get hungry.
While in Traverse City, don’t miss Earthen Ales, located in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons (1371 Gray Dr., Suite 200). Our first visit was just before a guided historical tour of the Commons. They have a delightful communal space where you can enjoy a beer, chat with friends, or play board games. All of their beers are super, but I highly recommend the Juniper Rye. This IPA brewed with juniper is dry and nicely hopped with this amazing “earthy” quality. Don’t be scared of the juniper; it makes this beer come alive with the essence of being “Up North.” There isn’t a kitchen at Earthen Ales, but there are plenty of places to eat at the Commons, and they also have food trucks.
What about Cocktails?
There are times when you may have found that white whale of a record. Let’s say you love the late great blues guitarist Rory Gallagher and came across a copy of “Calling Card” in mint condition. Or perhaps you dig Rainbow and find that first pressing of “Rising” just sitting there smiling at you from the record bin. When you want to celebrate with a fine cocktail, then take a spin over to Ethanology in Elk Rapids (Old St, 127 Ames St, Elk Rapids).
Honestly, you don’t have to celebrate anything; just get over to Ethanology for one of their fabulous cocktails. They distill gin, vodka, whiskey, and something called Mel. The extremely friendly bartenders shared that Mel is distilled from honey, and very few places in the world make such a spirit. I was sold with the mention of honey and tried a “Sicilian Swill,” which is Mel, prosciutto, charred rosemary, pear, and bitters. It probably sounds weird, but it is outstanding, with the rosemary and pear revving up the honeyish liquor. The prosciutto acts as a savory snack between sips.
The rustic space at Ethanology is perfect for kicking back and relaxing. They even spin vinyl from a record player in the loft. I wondered if they would let me spin some Judas Priest, but I didn’t ask. If you want live music, you can get your fix at their outdoor stage starting in June and running through late October. With a comfortable space and welcoming staff, our visit to Ethanology was perfect and would make a super addition to your next visit to Traverse City.
While You are in Traverse City
As tempting as spending all day browsing records and drinking beers is, there is a boatload of stuff to do while you are in Traverse City. Here is a very short list to get you started.
Take a Ride on the TART
Bring your bike and ride all over this beautiful city and beyond on the TART (Traverse Area Recreation Trail). You can ride/walk/run/ski/snowshoe 10.5 miles east to west across the city. The trail connects with the Leelanau Trail to take you to the peninsula, where you could get even more beers at Hop Lot and Farm Club. We took the beautiful Boardman Lake Trail, connecting to the TART trail. It is about 4 miles long and very scenic.
Take a History tour of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons
Take the guided history tour at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons for a unique slice of Traverse City. You’ll learn about the former Traverse City State Hospital, which operated on these grounds for 100 years. The tour also takes you into the steam tunnels, which are a tad bit ominous and extremely fun.
Go for a Sail with Traverse Tall Ships
Carve out a brunch, a morning, an evening, or hell, a couple of days, and experience sailing on a tall ship with the super folks at Traverse Tall Ships. During the summer, they have evening and weekend brunch cruises. You can also charter a sail. If you really want to have an adventure, check out one of their overnight trips. We did a multi-day sailing adventure where we toured haunted lighthouses with author Dianna Stampfler. We slept on the boat, ate gourmet food, met inspiring people, listened to songs, and heard ghost stories all on a tall ship in Grand Traverse Bay.
Put Your Records On
Traverse City is more than just a destination; it’s an experience that resonates like your favorite song. From sweet vinyl records to the rich flavors of Michigan craft beer and spirits, every moment in Traverse City can be your own celebration of art and taste. So cue up your favorite record, grab a beer, and start making plans to visit Traverse City.
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