Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Drinker's Paradise

Sorry Asheville, I love you as a town but you're behind Traverse City again (and you're wrong).

First a little background...

Traverse City residents are familiar with our town perennially appearing on "up and coming" foodie town lists.

But the bigger story might be how the area is becoming known for adult beverages.

For example, in the Spring of 2011 I met a gentleman from Pennsylvania who read about Michigan and decided to drive out to experience the solitude of a cabin on Beaver Island. But first he was taking a tour of North Peak, Mackinaw Brewing Company, and Right Brain Brewery and stocking up on growlers.

And the Grand Traverse Resort offers walking Traverse City Craft Brewery Tours downtown with shuttle service back to the resort.

Now Draft Magazine puts Traverse City with OKC and St Louis as three emerging beer towns.

That's not fair to those other towns though. Like the Food Town lists that say Traverse City is "up and coming" I'd argue that Traverse City is the firmly established capital of the adult beverage aficionado.

Here's why...

Several years ago I took a trip to Ithaca, NY. Loved their Farmer's Market but was annoyed by signs proclaiming the highest restaurant density in the world - "even higher than New York City!" they said. It didn't feel right to me. When I got home I looked up the numbers and calculated that in fact Traverse City has a higher restaurant density than Ithaca.

What I found is Ithaca had 1.84 restaurants per 1000 people; Traverse City had 2.27 per 1000 people. I suppose I could infer from that that Traverse City has the highest restaurant density in the United States (but won't).

And that takes me to beer.

Asheville, NC proclaims itself as Beer City USA and boasts the "highest craft beer per capita in the world".

So I wanted to find the numbers and see if that was true.

Asheville, NC population = 83,393 (417,012 in the metro area)

Traverse City, MI population = 14,674

Craft breweries in Asheville = 10

Craft breweries in TC = 4 (I include Jolly Pumpkin on Old Mission but not the soon to open Brewery Terra Firma nor the rumors of 2 more coming)

14674/4 = 3668 people per brewery in Traverse City (dropping to 2935:1 once Brewery Terra Firma opens)

83,393/10 = 8339 people per brewery in Asheville.

So I could say Traverse City has more than twice the craft breweries per capita than Asheville.

I can then make it look worse.

Take into account the Old Mission Wineries, Left Foot Charley, Civilized Spirits, and the Grand Traverse Distillery.

And you get 1 drinking destination per 917 people.

Asheville. Beer Town USA.
-10 breweries
-5 wineries within an hours drive
-2 distilleries

Which gives 1 drinking destination for 4905 people.

In other words, the density of breweries, wineries, and distilleries is 5 times higher in Traverse City than Asheville.

And that does not even include Black Star Farms and the wineries of the Leelanu appellation; Acoustic Mead; Shorts Brewing; or Tandem Ciders.

Nor does it include other destinations such as 7 Monks Taproom, Brew, Uncorked, or the fact that Blue Tractor has beer from every microbrewery in Michigan.

Add it all up and it is not a fair competition to any other region. This is a paradise.