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Right Brain Brewery

Not Rated.
Right Brain BreweryRight Brain Brewery
BEER AVG
3.74/5
Based on:
94 Beers
1,248 Ratings
Place Score: 90
Ratings: 105
Reviews: 48
rAvg: 4
pDev: n/a
Taps: 15
Bottles: --
Cask: Y
Beer-to-Go: Y
[ Brewery, Bar, Eatery ]

225 E Sixteenth St Ste E
Traverse City, Michigan, 49684-4181
United States
phone: (231) 944-1239

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap @rightbrainbrew

Notes:
Place added by: Mitchster on 12-15-2007

No notes at this time.
Place: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 105 | Reviews: 48
Reviews by jmich24:
More User Reviews:
Photo of Segnem5
3.58/5  rDev -10.5%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.25 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5 | food: 3.75

Enjoy certain beers within the signature series but more recent offerings at brew pub have not appealed to my personal preference.

Photo of Bobsbigbeershow
4.95/5  rDev +23.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

A real gem in Northern Michigan. Right Brain distributes throughout the state, so be sure to grab a bottle (or can!). If you're touring Traverse City, it's a must visit brewery, without question.

Photo of EricTKole
4.06/5  rDev +1.5%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.25 | service: 3.75 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.75

Ok I'm gonna just check these off the list as they go...

Atmosphere-
First off pulling up to Right Brain is strange in and of itself as there is very little signage and lets face it anything to acknowledge that you're in the right place as parking is to the side. Once you make your way inside you'll find a reasonably large open space with picnic and high top tables as well as a bar. Mid day on a Saturday will find you in her with little to no light(hey somebody turn on the damn lights!!). I been to breweries at hot tub rental places and some weird shit but this was strange and by the placement of their coffee mug-mug club and artwork that's what they are going for.

Quality-
Both food and drink were very good. No complaints here.

Service-
Once we got served at our table(we opted for a picnic table as we had a group of 8) it was good. Took a while to get a feel if we had to go to the bar or someone was going to come out to us.

Selection-
Excellent here. 4-5 BA options and maybe another 12-16 after that. Everyone in our group was able to find something they liked.

Food-
This was a mixed review. I liked my waffle burgers(2/$9) only available on fri/sat but my wife did not care for her waffle sandwich. I like the originality her and enjoyed mine.

Value-
Lunch for 2, 2.5 pints and I think $35 after tip was good for me.

Photo of Anitrak
4.73/5  rDev +18.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.75 | service: 5 | selection: 4.75

I come to Traverse City a couple times a year and always make it a priority to come to Right Brain. Their beer ranges from traditional/textbook recipes to crazy and out of the box. I wish I could get their beer on tap in Indiana.

The bar is off the beaten path and is a few blocks out of town. However, when I go on a bar crawl, it's only about 8 blocks from Ferment. So it can be a nice little walk between the two. Inside it is wide open and spacious. Even though it can be packed, it's not hard to find a place to sit and have a nice conversation. They also have a few video game machines that you can play while you drink. Depending on what time of year it is, they often have artwork from local artists for sale on the walls.

If you're into beer, this is definitely a must if you're in Traverse City.

Photo of Mothergoose03
3.83/5  rDev -4.3%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.75 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

My wife and I stopped here as part of a pub crawl in northern Michigan and the UP to visit the newer brewpubs (plus several others) that have opened since our last trip ‘up north’. This place happens to be one of the ‘several others’. Although this is the first time I’ve reviewed this brewery, we’ve been here one other time after the move from their downtown location (we’ve been there a couple times too), and the only things that have changed since our last visit a year or so ago are that they now bottle/can some of their beers, plus they have a small selection of deli sandwiches that use small fresh-made waffles instead of bread.

This brewpub does not seem to get as much hype for their beers as they did at their former location, and there seems to be some lessening of the quality and selection from before that justifies that lack of hype. The brewery was not busy on a weekday evening so we were able to sit at the bar. We chose 4 different 6 oz. pours (21 beers were available) to drink while we ate our sandwiches. The beers were all good, however, none were very exciting, so we graded them in a range of B- to a C.

The waffle sandwiches were very original and very good. They are small, but that was okay because we already had a small meal at the last place we visited.

All in all, this place is still very worthy of a visit. Perhaps we chose the wrong 4 beers with which to evaluate the brews here, but this pub is worthy of a visit by anyone who likes craft beer, and we’ll go back again someday.

Photo of joe1510
4.16/5  rDev +4%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.25

Right Brain's newish location is in warehouse down in SoFo. When I walked in the door the first thing that struck me was the sheer size of this place. I patronize a couple music venues in Chicago that are smaller than this place. Tables were sparsely spread and the bar seated about 15. There was a solid number of drafts up on the dry erase boards; 6 regular offerings, 5 middle tier beers, and 5 top tier offerings. I sampled a couple pints that were good and then hit the generous sampler to try most of the others.

All beer was good to excellent with some interesting combinations thrown in the mix. A couple harvest ales were on tap, a double IPA, two saisons (one with beets), and a handful of other unique offerings. The bartenders were a little stand offish at first but when they got talking they were super friendly and informative, chatting about everything from Traverse favorites to music to beer. In the end I couldn't have been happier with the stop at Right Brain. The service was great, the beer excellent, and the prices in line with any other brewpub. Without a doubt this place is worth a stop when i Traverse.

Photo of JimT
2.66/5  rDev -33.5%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 1 | selection: 3.75

Don't know could not get a server to wait on me. Three people behind bar, one other table, no service. Left thirsty and disappointed. I hear it is fantastic Beer, if you have plenty of time, and patience, give it a try. But there are plenty of other excellent microbreweries in TC with better service..

Photo of TCmichigan
4.35/5  rDev +8.7%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

Right Brain is an eclectic place. There's no other way to put it.

2 story ceilings, cinder block walls, a salon to drink beers and get hairs cut. Old school arcade games, eccentric local art, those awesome cardboard building blocks from when you were a kid, but now can drunkenly play with and make inappropriate things out of... They have it all, but in a strange location.

16th street is a bit off the beaten path in TC, but RBB is well worth the trek from downtown.

The beers are plentiful, the staff is knowledgeable and friendly... I was even given a free pint just to try one of the staff members homebrews. He kept telling me I should order it b/c I'd love it, then finally said, "Hey, just take this, I know you'll enjoy". (P.S.- He was right)

The food ranges from typical taproom fare to the amazing waffle-sandwiches they make with pretty much whatever you want on them. If they have the foodstuffs as an option, you can customize your waffles and get it made.

Photo of jt31914
3.83/5  rDev -4.3%
vibe: 2 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4 | selection: 4

Visited Right Brain as my last brewery trip of a beer filled weekend in T.C. I think that beer at Right Brain is very good; however, the brewery itself has an identity crisis. It has a hodgepodge of tables, decor, and games (there are creepy mannequin's lining the walls, as well as an elephant with wings hanging from the ceiling and a starship battle cruiser model). It was very weird and slightly uncomfortable.

The beer was fantastic, albeit a little overpriced. We had the Strawberry Fields and Spiny Norman (a Strawberry Blonde and a Simcoe IPA). I thought the Strawberry Fields was a slightly better version of Short's Strawberry Short's Cake (less sweet due to the lack of milk sugar, still full of strawberry flavor) and the Norman was just a solid drinkable IPA. The prices were a bit high for my taste ($5.25 for a standard pint and an outrageous $15 for 6 samples), but if you go there during happy hour it is much more reasonable ($3.50 per pint).

We didn't have food, and the service was fine. I would recommend Right Brain's beer, but the atmosphere left something to be desired.

Photo of HarmonMW
3.96/5  rDev -1%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.75

Right Brain is a bit off the wall, but that's part of what makes them unique. Visited the new brewpub recently. There are several bench-style and bar-style table tops, with surrounding chairs that are a hodge-podge of anything they find - old dentist chair (check), hospital chair (check), ugly chair probably found on the side of the road (check). There is a TIE fighter hanging from the ceiling, and some of the tables are game tables where you can play Donkey Kong while enjoying your beer. Lots of games on the walls to play. And if you're feeling like a voyeur, you can watch some people getting their hair done at the neighboring salon. Unique for sure, and I really liked it.

Beers were very good. They even had a beer made with asparagus that I got just for the novelty of trying it. My fiancee groaned when I ordered it. We both like asparagus and both of us found this to be surprisingly delicious.

If you're in TC and a fan of unique beers, I'd definitely recommend stopping by.

Photo of redleg64
4.25/5  rDev +6.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 2.5

Atmosphere - Right Brain gutted a what looks like a warehouse and turned it into a beer mecca for NW Michigan. The walls are covered with lots of local art for sale and the place is family-friendly during the day. You can always find local musicians in there too.

Quality - Damn fine beer. That's all I have to say about that.

Service - I haven't had a complaint yet.

Selection - I haven't counted the beers available there, but there are always great selections available. There is always something new to try. Personally, I love Igor Takes a Digger.

Food - Almost non-existent, except for the typical bar snacks and pre-packaged sandwiches. Roaming Harvest, a great locally-sourced organic food truck does frequent Right Brain though, so that bumps the score up a bit. I did go to a beer dinner there before and had a great time. Right Brain teamed up with Roaming Harvest and put on a great evening for those lucky enough to score one of the limited seats.

Value - There is always a cheap pint available and nothing costs more than $6 or so last time I was in there, and that is for the premium pours.

Overall Right Brain is a great place with some great people making it happen. Next time you're in town make sure you stop by!

Photo of theecaleb
4.19/5  rDev +4.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4

This review is for the Garland St location. I guess they just moved to a new location last week (Sep 2012).

In my opinion RBB has the best beer in Michigan. By all means it is a micro brewery. As far as I know they do not sell beer outside their pub. They brew beer for quality, not quantity, and it shows.

The setting was kind of weird. It is attached to a hair salon by two way mirrors. So basically you can sit in the bar and watch people get their hair done, but they can not see you threw the mirror. I thought that was super weird and somewhat creepy, but cool.

No food besides snacks are served, they have growlers of beer to go. They also sell some of their t shirts and stickers.

Overall, great beer, average service, and a weird environment. Definitely the best brewery in TC, if not the nest in Michigan.

Photo of morimech
4.01/5  rDev +0.2%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

I heard that people that have TomTom or some other navigation devices have a hard time finding this place. Using Google maps on my smart phone brought me right to the front door. The location and building is nowhere near what you expect for a brewpub. In a commercial area in pretty much an alley. Right Brain shares a building with several tennants, one being a hair dresser that you can look upon via the windows. So if your wife wants to get her hair done, go with her, you are all set to drink some beer. All orders are done at the bar. I ordered a sampler with 6(?) choices. All the beer was good but nothing really grabbed me. My favorite was Dead Kettle while Bone Crusher was my least favorite. Beer from straight forward to out in left field. They had a smoked porter made with smoked pig bones but I did not try it. Sounds interesting though. The bartender was sure to tell me it recently won a reward. They do not do food besides bar snacks. I thought it was a bit expensive. If I remember correctly, it was $15 for the sampler.

Photo of dorianmarley
4.05/5  rDev +1.3%
vibe: 2 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

A very creative brewery. I had beers made with whole cherry pies and ghost chilis. The beers were well-made and balanced. They were adventurous, but very enjoyable.

The atmosphere is eccentric. Right Brain is located inside of a building where all the other businesses are closed by sundown. The building is on a road/alley that also is home to a commercial baked good warehouse. The bar shares a bathroom that is located outside of the main area, like you'd find in an office building. The bar is very well-lit, There are plenty of tables, but no servers. You must stand in line and order your beers at a countertop. A beer list is written in dry erase marker on a white board. The entire experience feels more like a coffee shop, or a bakery, than a brewery.

All of the idiosyncracies feel deliberate. The beer is allowed to speak for itself. The beers are over-the-top statements, and they do not need an over-the-top delivery. Everyone inside is nice and friendly, and if you want to try some unique beers in an unassuming environment--perhaps while playing one of their several board games--Right Brain is your place.

Photo of stewart124
3.94/5  rDev -1.5%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5

Plenty of beers on tap and from the looks of the site it's always changing. My wife and I went for happy hour during the week and it was very laid back. The bar was more like a coffee shop that served beer. The one bartender was very friendly and quick while taking the time to talk to each costumer.

We sat in old hospital chairs and there was a beer advocate mag for me to browse through while I sipped on a delicious IPA. I really wanted to try all there beers because they had somethings as wild as a cherry pie beer. Actual cherry pies were through into the fermentation! There are "premium pours" and regular pours while they will also let you take a growler to go.

Right brain is cool with people bringing in their own food and even mentions this on their cards. The only downside we both agreed on was that there was no outdoor patio. Traverse City has such great weather and Righ brain should take advantage of this. Solid overall.

Photo of jale
3.88/5  rDev -3%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

Stopped here after spending the day at Short's eating and drinking. I did'nt have anything to eat here but did try about 10 beers. Very bright and colorful inside, makes me feel like I'm in an ice cream store. The pub also connects to a salon where you can have your hair styled or cut while enjoying a beer. If you know me you understand I have no need to have my hair styled. This is a kid friendly brew pub so no need to leave them at home. The beers I tried were very solid beers and the had a sour which was very good. They always seem to have a highly eclectic variety of beers and is a place I will stop at every time I'm in Traverse City.

Photo of SpdKilz
4/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

I have been here three times in the past three days.

Walking in was a hint confusing seeing as there is a salon out front. For those who are not locals or familiar with this location it might be a bit odd. But after the first time you know exactly where to go.
One is welcomed by a very nice and modern décor brew pub. Lots of open seating, a long L shaped bar, and a wonderfully transcribed board telling what is on tap. The three times my brother-in-law and I cam here it was a bit of off hours but the atmosphere was still great and the employees were eager to banter and BS with us about the beers. My brother-in-law and I both had a flight and then a couple other beers (at the other various times) that we enjoyed. They had some interesting beers (some I wouldn’t get again but was glad to try) but others that were solid for sure that I have enjoyed a few times.

The prices were overall good, and service great (sorry for the old fogies that feel they were not served well or are “out of the loop”…maybe they are). The selection was great, as in they had tons of RB’s own beers (no guest taps which would have been nice I will admit). We had plenty to choose from.

All in all, I have had an enjoyable experience and would recommend people to come here. The only downside was there was no real food avaliable.

Photo of augievikings
2.05/5  rDev -48.8%
vibe: 1.5 | quality: 1.5 | service: 2 | selection: 3

In a nutshell, this place is weird. Tucked back inside a strip mall, you feel like you're walking through a hair salon to get to the bar. After attempting to have a beer here, it became very obvious that I am not hip enough for this scene. I always try cask conditioned beers when I have an opportunity, and here they had a jalapeno stout concoction on cask. While others may like a spicy warm stout, I found it to be awful. The bartenders were pretentious and not particularly friendly. We didn't even finish our beers because we were just not enjoying the vibe the place was giving off. Perhaps if you are a regular you are used to the atmosphere, but I found it off-putting. I much preferred the North Peak brews I tried during my stay in Traverse City.

Photo of RocPorterFanatic
4.58/5  rDev +14.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5

This very eclectic brew pub is nestled in the warehouse district of Traverse City. The overall theme seems to be industrial meets geek. Patrons seem to come from every walk of life. There's a nice long bar with comfortable stools, as well as tables of all heights and sizes scattered around the place. The patio, was large, but packed. Not a seat to be found.

My fiance and I settled into our barstool and took a gander at the white board displaying the day's selections. There was a style for everybody. From the Owl Hawk made with Maris Otter to the Black Eye PA.

I had a flight of 6 beers, 6, 6oz. pours for $15. A bit pricey as far as flights normally go, but for my first time there, a great way to sample the majority of beers that piqued my interest.

My fiance had the Fuzz Face Peach Wheat, reasonably priced with a 20oz. pour for $3.50.

Merchandise was on par with other brewpubs, a T-shirt running $23.

Overall, a great experience with delicious, well crafted beers.

Photo of MarcatGSB
3.59/5  rDev -10.3%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 3.25 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4

Now I've visited Right Brain about a half dozen times over the past three years, and have varying experiences. The first time I went about three years ago, I really fell in love with the place. It was a great addition to the Traverse City area. The local artwork is a great feature, the beers were tasty, using alot of local, eclectic ingredients, and the vibe was fun and relaxed. I've read some things recently that say the beers have gone down hill, but in my limited experiences, they have been alright. They aren't the best beers, no Shorts, or JP, but they are better than average beers. I've had some really nice beers on cask there, which is hard to get around the way. Give it a try, there aren't an overwhelming amount of choices in the area, so you should have time to decide for yourself.
NOTE: EDIT 12-27-2012 Original score as 3.91.
I have since visited Right Brain in their new location and wanted to note some things. The original brewer is back from his stint at JP, and the quality of the breweries as definitely been re-elevated.
The new tap room is pretty impressive. It's a really cool space, spread out, with plenty of wall space for art work, kind of continuing the theme from the Warehouse District. The brewing area itself is massively larger than previous, so this should give them the room they need to grow and distribute soon. Good looking out Right Brain.

RE-EDIT: 12-17-2013 After visiting Right Brain a few more times in their new location, and tasting some of the new brews from the new brew system, my opinion has changed quite a bit. The new location is so far out of the way. We stopped by on a Saturday night around 7 o clock, and it was more or less empty feeling, and was not inviting. If the space was smaller, or could be broken up a bit, the vibe may change, but with it being so big and everyone so spread out, it really wasn't that welcoming and warm. The Anniversary brew was pretty good, and everything else we had was ok, but two visits ago, both the beers we had were butter bombs. And these werent't the first beers we've had that had that problem.
With other options popping up in Traverse City, Right Brain needs to step it up or they will find themselves on the outside looking in.

Photo of zoso1967
2.36/5  rDev -41%
vibe: 4 | quality: 1.5 | service: 3 | selection: 2

Oh Right Brain, I just don't understand why so many people like you.

Since moving back to TC I have been coming by RB frequently enough to allow me to review this place. We most often come on Tuesday nights when they have their very enjoyable trivia night. Unfortunately, trivia is the only reason I ever want to come here.

The decor and vibe of the place are both fine. It's modern, eclectic and chill with a nice Midwest laid back sort of feel. I find that the place tries a bit too hard to be different, but I really can't complain much about the atmosphere when compared to many other local places.

I have never been overly impressed with the service here. Some of the people don't know much about the beers and they often get a little snotty with me when I ask too many questions.

The beer is the real downfall though. I have had many different brews of varying styles during different times of the year and I have even had brews from both brewers. Unfortunately the very best of what they have to offer is just mediocre and when it's bad, it's pretty ugly

I went just last night and out of the 5 different beers I tasted only one was decent enough that I might order it again. The other four were terrible and we were using words to describe them like: plastic, rotting vegetation, moldy doughnuts, rubber, ash and marinade. If my homebrew ever comes out tasting like some of what they have on tap, I would pour it down the drain and try to do better next time. Once the bartender actually apologized to me in advance when she handed me a beer. She should not have to do that!

Selection is also not their strongest point as often they are loaded up on one particular style, or they have almost nothing on. You can rest assured that they will have something "Right brained" on tap though, which has an equal chance of being interesting or a complete disaster. They make a lot of one-off beers which is nice, but this adds to the roulette type scenario of betting on how many of the beers I try will actually be palatable. Sometimes I win big and feel like I did not waste my money, but just like in Vegas the house usually wins.

To add insult to injury the beers are all around $5 and many are premium (chuckle) pours so you only get 12 oz. I could go to U & I and get a Huma for less, and U & I also has delicious food. Even Bubba's is comparable in beer prices.

I am sure this will not change the mind of the Right Brainwashed regulars, but I would highly recommend that if you are visiting the TC area that you take the money you may have spent here and use it on good beer at Short's.

Photo of MilwaukeeCrusher
4.06/5  rDev +1.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 5 | selection: 3

Stopped here on a summer beer tour after hearing great things about this place. Was difficult to find, in an office building behind a beauty salon. Could see a truck unloading fresh hops though, so this had to be the place.

Inside of the place looked modern and hip. Really liked the right brain man design and wanted to get it on a t-shirt but they were all out. Onto the beer... I got a flight of beers they had and they were good but not great. It appeared that I had picked the wrong day to come, as they did not have any of their more bold beers available... and bold is what I want. Growlers were cheap so I picked up one for the road as a memento. I really wish they had some of their wilder stuff and can see something great could happen there yet again in Michigan. Maybe some summer I can again drive around stupid Lake Michigan to give it another try, or maybe better yet they'll make the car ferries more afforable for a change.

Photo of goast8127
2.63/5  rDev -34.3%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 2.5 | service: 2 | selection: 3

Reviewed on 10/22

We had a little bit of difficulty finding this place. I mostly blame the GPS. The bar seemed a little oddly placed in it's office complex. Inside was eccentric and unique. There was some woodwork, exposed ducts, and many different games. Sly and the Family Stone was featured quite heavily on the sound system. Felt very much like a bar in someone's basement. Being it was Friday, the place was quite busy. We sat at a table and had to order and retrieve our drinks from the bar, as everyone did. Was disappointed that the white boards were not correctly up-to-date with what was available, and was not impressed with the beers I selected. I know enough about the place to give it another chance.

Photo of LilBeerDoctor
3.99/5  rDev -0.2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4

Reviewed on 6/27/2010.

This is a cool brewpub that is putting out a lot of interesting beers (there were 3 IPAs on tap plus the Ancho Chili Chocolate Porter and a beer made with asparagus and lemony spices). This place is all about the beer as there is no food served here. Just people chilling, talking, and drinking beer. They have a bunch of board games, a mini-shuffleboard, and darts. Since you just place your order at the bar there is not the traditional "service" per se. Somewhat hard to find, as it is located in the same building right behind a hair salon (the sign is somewhat small so just look for the right street address). This place is really geared towards beer geeks and you are sure to find something that piques your interest. Also the mugs are really cool. A must stop!

Photo of Stigs
3.73/5  rDev -6.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5

final stop on day #1 of our Michigan trip

It was pretty busy though we were able to snag two seats at the bar. Pretty cool looking place, playing off the "right brain" thing with some quirky decorations and layout.

Unfortunately, they were down to 5 (maybe 6) beers to choose from while we were there. One I was really looking forward to was the RAD (Random Alpha Docious) collaboration with Dark Horse. It was decent at best. The most intriguing selection was the Pomona Pumpkin "sour" (more tart) that was good, though didnt interest me enough to get a growler to go. Everything else was forgettable.

Service, well we were waited on and carded when we sat down and ordered a flight. To which we had to fill out which six beers we wanted - when they only had six to choose from. After that, we were pretty much left alone, and not even asked if we wanted anything else once the flight was gone.

Overall, a little bit of a letdown from what I was expecting to be a hidden gem of the trip. Not bad enough to the point where I would give it another shot if in the area though.

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Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City, MI
90 out of 100 based on 105 ratings.