By MIKE NORTON
In most places the season of rebirth and renewal usually takes place in the spring, not the fall. Autumn, with its hectic colors and shortening days, has more somber associations as a rule.
But if you’re a fan of awesome craft beer (and Lord knows, I surely am) there’s one major resurrection taking place in Traverse City this fall – the long-awaited reopening of Right Brain Brewery.
True brew lovers in this part of the world can argue incessantly over the question of Right Brain’s place in the local craft-beer pantheon. (Some give them the number-one spot, others rank them just behind Short’s Brewing of Bellaire. It’s kind of a Ginger vs. Mary Ann thing….) But nobody can deny that barber/brewer Russ Springsteen and his crew have had a lot to do with Traverse City’s emergence as one of the country’s major craft-brewing hotbeds. Draft magazine named us one of Americas’ three newest Emerging Beer Towns (along with St. Louis and Oklahoma City), and the Travel Channel says we’re one of the top seven beer destinations in North America.
I’ve always loved their beer – and their astonishingly low happy hour prices. But what I especially love about Right Brain is its “family pub” atmosphere, where you could have an after-work chat with friends, play board games with your kids or just have a little quiet time without a lot of TV or music blasting in your ear. (And it was also cool that they had a window through which you could watch people getting their hair cut and styled at the Saloon Salon next door.)
Just after Memorial Day, Russ and his crew packed up their equipment and closed their astonishingly popular brewpub on Garland Street in Traverse City’s Warehouse District for what was supposed to be a brief hiatus before reopening in new digs in a former factory on 16th Street – on the west side of Boardman Lake between Cass Street and the railroad tracks. They were supposed to reopen on June 15.
What followed was a bureaucratic nightmare of such depressing predictability that I haven’t the heart to go into it here. Suffice it to say that Right Brain remained closed for the entire summer, missing the most profitable season of the tourism year (and a particularly hot, thirst-producing year it was, too) and causing great disappointment to its many fans.
Finally, the long wait is over. And although I miss having Right Brain a few handy yards away from my office, the new Sixteenth Street digs will give them ten times the space they had down here by the Bay, which will allow them to bottle and can their brews for distribution around the state. And it’ll make the pub a lot bigger, too.
Anyway, the brewery is back up and running (the address is 225 E. 16th St.), with new brews like Chubby Squirrel – a tasty autumn ale – and a dark IPA they’re calling Concrete Dinosaur that I haven’t tried yet. Even better, they’re planning a huge grand opening celebration on Saturday, October 20. From 2 p.m. to closing you can enjoy an all-day street fair and flea market-themed event with more than 50 local artists, vendors and street performers — plus a raffle, clothing exchange, live models from Salon Saloon, caricature drawings, a special menu of beer-inspired street food from the Roaming Harvest food truck, and live acoustic street performers like E Minor, Jimmy Olson, and Billy Strings.
(Bring the kids, too; face painting games and prizes are included.) Free entertainment from three northern Michigan bands – The Accidentals, K.Jones & The Benzie Playboys, and The Fundubmentals — starts at 8 p.m.