“Paddle For Pints is a Brewery Pub
crawl Paddle on Traverse City’s beautiful Boardman Lake, River and West Bay.”
I should start with the fact that I don’t like beer. In fact I don’t like any beverage with carbonation. When Jayne shared an article on Facebook with me about Paddle For Pints she wrote, “Too bad you don’t like beer.” I still went ahead, read the article and was hooked. Who cares if I don’t drink beer, this sounds awesome! We were planning on visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on our trip to Michigan and Traverse City was near by. Exploring Traverse City by kayak sounded amazing. So within 2 hours of reading the article I had booked us for the 3rd Wave on Monday, July 6.
The morning of July 6th we got up, hopped in the car, and set out on the 3 hour drive to Northern Michigan. First stop was check-in at The Filling Station Microbrewery. We got there early enough to enjoy some pizza and beer before heading out. I had decided that I needed to try some beers on this adventure so we picked two that Jayne and I could share. One was the special Paddle for Pints beermosa, beer and orange juice. It might sound odd, but it was very popular, especially with the waves that started earlier in the morning. After getting our fill we walked across the railroad tracks to Hull Park where our rental kayaks were waiting for launch.
As 1:00PM rolled around there were over 125 of us heading out into Boardman Lake to get to Right Brain. The wind and river flow were working against us. Choppy water led to lake spray and us getting soaked. The rental kayaks were sit on top that didn’t have drain holes. By the time we reached our docking buoys our boats weighed at least 20 pounds more from all of the lake water that collect in the cockpit. Luckily, it was an 80 degree day. Docking for Right Brain involved a bunch of buoys with rope and small carabiners to connect each boat. From the lakeshore we had a steep uphill climb to reach Right Brain. I was testing my luck and decided to try a half pint of beer. I went with the Smokey CEO Stoud because it included espresso, chocolate, and smoked malts. Half way through my half pint the “I’m not a beer drinker” really kicked in and I ended up giving a fellow paddler the rest. And thus my beer drinking on my Pud Paddle was over.
After leaving Right Brain the paddle was much more enjoyable. We had the wind and the river current pushing us out of the lake and into Boardman River. One of the kayakers had speakers playing music so we decided to stay near him. It was very fitting when Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” came on since it is about summertime in Northern Michigan. Jayne also started chatting with a local realtor who was telling us about all of the buildings we were paddling past. We made our way up to the Union Street Dam were we had to get out and portage our kayaks. One of the first things I noticed was that there were two EMTs there helping out. What a brilliant safety measure! Have EMTs on hand to check on us boaters to make sure we were safe to be on the water.
We left our kayaks by the dam and headed to Brewery Ferment. I took this opportunity to drink water and relax out on the sunny sidewalk. Jayne had a half pint and we decided to head to our next brewery. There was a lot of buzz about Rare Bird Brewpud and we were getting hungry. The two breweries are only a few blocks apart so we took a leisurely walk. We went inside Rare Bird and found a seat so that we could get food. They were having a Paddle For Pints special of fried cheese curds and french fries. Rare Bird also had local wine on the menu. You really can’t go wrong with wine and cheese after all. It was nice to be out of the sun, sitting down, and eating. This was also my first taste of local, Michigan wine. I had read that the Traverse City area had many wineries and the Left Foot Charley wine lived up to my expectations. The grapes were from right up the road at Seventh Hill Farm on Old Mission Peninsula.
Heading back to our kayaks at the dam we were ready for a long, slow paddle out to the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay. The friendly EMTs were there again talking to people and gauging safety. We hit the water and floated up stream. The river eventually parallels Front Street where we had views of some of the shopping areas. We also reached the part of the river that is deep enough to allow boats with motors to come in and dock. Most of those boats were docked since it was a Monday and our sightseeing paddle continued. Eventually we made our way into the bay. Unfortunately, smoke from wildfires in Canada had made it’s way down and caused the day to be somewhat hazy. This cut down on the views a bit.
Upon docking at Clinch Park we were greeted with the National Cherry Festival. Part of me just wanted to stay here at the park, but we continued on to North Peak. With our large number of participants we had Kilkenny’s, North Peak’s downstairs Irish Pub, all to ourselves. I declared myself done for the day and had water. Jayne had one last beer. Our three hour morning drive was catching up to us. Kilkenny’s was a pretty fun place, but I wanted to check out the National Cherry Festival. The forecast was also calling for evening rain and we were worried about getting our campsite set up before that happened so we skipped Workshop Brewing.
The National Cherry Festival is a really big deal for Traverse City. Even though it was a Monday there was still a lot going on. We visited a few booths and took in a cherry pit spitting competition. With all of the food and drink options we decided to get ice cream sundaes. I got a chocolate sundae and Jayne got the cherry. Both were delicious. From Clinch Park we had a 20 minute walk back to our car at The Filling Station. By the time we got to our car we were spent!
Paddle For Pints was a fantastic experience. Even if you don’t drink beer it is a fun way to see Traverse City and make new friends along the way. The popularity of the event has soared this summer and all of the rest of the 2015 dates are sold out. I highly recommend a trip to the Traverse City area and am planning on going back again. Perhaps a cycling winery tour next year…