A late afternoon stop to experience Brewery Terra Firma was just what the doctor ordered. My brother was up visiting for spring break and I almost never get to spend time with just him. I am lucky to see him quite often despite living in different parts of the state, but I can’t remember the last time it was just he and I. So it was really nice to be able to stop in and have a beer with him for some one-on-one time. We went to Terra Firma because I had been there before, I knew right where it was and that the beer would be great.
The Terra Firma tasting room sits along side a country road just outside the Traverse City shopping district surrounding the mall area. It’s only a couple of miles out-of-town, but it feels like you are way out in the country when you’re there. Terra Firma (Latin for “solid earth”) is actually a farm, brewery and a tasting room. They grow everything they need to make beer right there on their own property.
The tasting room is in the big yellow barn with a big wall of windows overlooking the hops field which currently lies dormant as it is still early spring in Michigan. We were greeted by these two lovely ladies who gave us all the details.
Although we didn’t meet him today, John Niedermaier, who is a Traverse City native is the Brew Master. He has years of experience (some at Traverse Brewing Company and some at Right Brain Brewery) and supposedly to date, over 1,000 personal recipes for beer. It would take some time and dedication just to taste that many beers, let alone to actually be the one brewing them. While John has that many brews under his belt, you will find no more than forty to taste at the tap-room at any given time. Still, that’s quite a lot. Today there were twelve. I tasted three.
Here are descriptions from the Brewery Terra Firma website, along with my responses.
Old Mission Lighthouse Ale
A Traverse Brewing classic! A lovely balanced pale ale with “a double dip of cascade hops” including local, organic whole cone from New Mission Organics in Omena (Michigan).
I found all three to be as described. The Old Mission Lighthouse Ale was light and bright and pleasantly drinkable. This would be a good beer to tap from a keg if you had a big crowd to serve. Everyone would love it.
Ancho Chili Dutch Double Chocolate Porter
Chocolaty goodness, not too sweet, anchos bring subtle, gradual heat. Cocoa, chocolate malt, and spices are blended together to create a rich, sumptuous base. This fabulous porter then enjoys a long stay in conditioning along with a whole mess of dried ancho chilies. John keeps close watch on the brew, pulling it off the peppers the moment they have imparted the perfect amount of heat, flavor and aroma to the mix.
The Ancho Chili Dutch Double Chocolate Porter was of course rich and velvety because it is a porter. But the peppers bring it up to the top of your tongue and balance the slow mellowness with a nice level of heat at the finish. I would imagine that what they said is true, John would have to keep a close eye as the peppers could easily overtake the flavoring, but he has done a brilliant job with this one.
Scarborough Fair is an herb garden in a glass! Inspired by the Simon and Garfunkel song of the same name, our herb beer tribute uses California parsley, sage, rosemary and French thyme to create an immensely complex and malty offering. Enjoy some while working in the garden, add it to soups and stews, or use it in place of boring old water in your poultry brine.
The Scarborough Fair has a very strong herb flavor. While it was an enjoyable drink, I wouldn’t have wanted a tall glass, the flight taster was the perfect amount of herb flavor for me and I could definitely imagine using it for cooking. I think I would like to reduce it to a simmer and use it to make a cream sauce to pour over chicken. Or maybe use it to create a beer batter for fried chicken.
Over all the experience was great. The light bright atmosphere is casual and welcoming with lots of space. The bar is grand and the staff was very friendly. And the beer was definitely worth coming back for. When you’re in the area, I suggest you find a way to fit this stop into your itinerary.
Heading south on US 31 from downtown Traverse City you pass South Airport Road and then watch because you can miss it-turn left onto Hartman Road. Go past the historic Cadillac to Traverse City Old Indian Trail Marker, around a couple of sharp turns and when you start to come down the hill look for a big white barn on the right across from Arbor View Apartments.