When planning a wine and beer tour in Northern Michigan, choosing which establishments to visit can be nearly impossible. First, there’s the quantity of wineries and breweries to choose from in downtown Traverse City, the Old Mission Peninsula, and the Leelanau Peninsula. You’d need two complete days to hit all of the venues! Secondly, there’s the quality of these wineries and breweries to consider. It seems like each of these places win a new award every other week – so narrowing down your tour based on the quality of establishments is extremely difficult, as there’s little to separate them all.
On the Old Mission Peninsula, these difficulties are doubly evident. However, there is one venue that is very much unique from the wineries that dominate that gorgeous slice of land between our bays. At first glance, Jolly Pumpkin seems to have the characteristics of many other places on the OMP: Amazing view of the water – check. Incredible interior decor – check. But Jolly Pumpkin is the only venue on the Old Mission Peninsula that is a brewery and distillery. Now, this distinction is important, because on every one of our wine tours, there are a few people who, if they’re being honest, would rather be drinking a beer or a whiskey. Adding Jolly Pumpkin to your tour will make sure that silent minority (or majority?) gets a chance to wet their whistle on their preferred libations.
The opportunities to wet said whistle are abundant at Jolly Pumpkin. The restaurant has fourteen Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales on draft, plus a cider and a root beer. You may have heard of one of the more popular ales, the Oro de Calabaza. It’s won multiple awards, including a silver medal at the Australian International Beer Awards, and an impressive bronze at the Great American Beer Festival. What separates Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales from most other craft breweries is their unique brewing method. Jolly Pumpkin brews their ales with 100% wild yeast, using wooden wine barrels. Your typical ales and lagers take 2-3 weeks to brew. This Old World, Belgian-style method’s shortest maturation process is a month, with most ales taking six months or more.
If you’re more of a spirits fan, Jolly Pumpkin has you covered there as well. Their brands of spirits, Civilized and Old Mission, are brewed on Old Mission Peninsula and available for tasting year round. Whether you’re into vodka, whiskey, rum, or gin, Civilized is made to be a no-nonsense spirit of choice. If you’re a tourist in Traverse City looking to bring home a souvenir to share, skip the fudge and consider picking up Sakura. It’s Civilized’s all-natural, cherry-distilled vodka. You’re in Traverse City – of course they had to include cherries somehow! If you’re stuck on wine, Jolly Pumpkin offers all of your favorite whites and reds, all from the Old Mission Peninsula.
We need to also make mention of Jolly Pumpkin’s menu. More specifically, we need to mention the slow smoked pulled-pork nachos. My words will not adequately do this meal justice, but suffice it to say that one taste of this pork will make not just the tour worthwhile, but quite possibly your trip to Traverse City worthwhile as well.
Jolly Pumpkin is the only brewery and distillery on Old Mission Peninsula, and would be an excellent addition to your tour if you’re looking to mix in award winning brews and spirits into your time on the OMP. You should also consider making this one of your stops around lunch or dinner time to sample what can only be described as the “Heaven on tortilla chips” that are the pulled pork nachos.
A huge thank you goes out to Jimmy McKenna, the Manager at Jolly Pumpkin, for hosting us to ask him a few questions about his joint. We look forward to taking you to see Jimmy and his crew on a wine and beer tour very soon!