Right Brain Brewery
Active Beers: 95
Beer Ratings: 1,115
Beer Avg: 3.71
Taps: 15 / Bottles:
Cask: Y / Beer-to-Go: Y
Ratings: 88 | Reviews: 46 | Display Reviews Only:
1.98/5 rDev -50.1%
vibe: 2 | quality: 1.5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 2 | $$$
I had a lot of hope for this place, as many I know have told me about it, and it's gotten some kind reviews on BA. I just didn't see what people enjoyed at this place.
Located in an alley, it was off the beaten track; but hey, I live in Three Floyds country, I know about obscure brewpub locations. The outside was a bit confusing, as the permanent sign, highest placed, was for a hair salon. And with the salon in the front window, we thought the whole place was closed at 9 on a Friday. A trip down a hall proved otherwise. There was the room we seeked.
I took a look around and had a seat at the bar. The place reminded me of a coffee shop, with linoleum floors, laminate here and there, country oak trim for the bar. No passive entertainment or games, save a collection of board games where we came in. The room was large, quite a few 20-somethings were sitting around in what looked to be clicks in a lunchroom. Come to think of it, the place could have been confused with a cafeteria. Not to be mean, but it felt a bit juvenile. And misleading, as there was nothing in the way of food beyond hummus, chocolate truffles, and some bags of popcorn.
We were greeted quickly by a guy playing with his iPhone behind the bar, which oddly enough was being used as the source for the bar music. He asked if we wanted to see menus. He handed us each a piece of white paper folded in half. Inside were the beers and some descriptions. 2 IPA's to lead off, and some other interesting ones. My wife took one IPA, and I took the other. Mine tasted eerily similar to a malt taste I had for my first ever homebrew attempt. That taste that comes from extracting the sugars at the wrong temperature, like it's too starchy. The hops really took a back seat to what the malt was doing. Aromas were weak, the apperance muddy, the flavors that were there were not interesting. We saw a sign of "beers in the pipeline" with 5 different IPAs listed, among other varieties. I wonder if they are searching for a recipe that comes out tasting like an IPA or if they think that their hoppy beers are good enough to be recognized for them. We noticed the cask ale was hanging out with a wrap on it under a counter, with a needlessly long, uncovered line running to the beer engine. I just couldn't bring myself to even ask for a taste to check it, especially with the $1/ounce charge on tastes.
As we looked back over the menus to see if we should venture on, we noticed that over half the beers used the term "malty" singularly to describe the profile, including the IPAs. Like whoever wrote it had no idea what to write about the beers. It made me wonder who was running the place. Then I saw a high school graduation photo of the owner over the other side of the bar, replete with flawless mullet and 'stache. Normally I'd find some humor in something that odd, but given all the other odd problems I saw, it just made sort of a sad amount of sense.
I asked a bartender what other beers they had available from guest breweries. Although they had probably 8 open draft lines, Right Brain didn't have anything else on. So pretty much nothing left for me to do but call in the tab. I guess I wouldn't want my beers placed next to anyone else's either.
Now, I understand the brewery is young, and that certain changes are made as a business grows and learns from experience, but to start of on such a missing foot makes me wonder if they can cut it. The beers will have to step it up a huge notch and receive cult-like status here on BA before I'd ever venture back. Again, it probably sounds mean, but I just don't understand how beers of this caliber become the backbone of a business.
Not recommended. Try North Peak just down the street. It's nicer to look at, has a less clicky crowd, the beers are acceptable or better, and have a cask ale I wasn't worried about (IPA when I was there, ironically). They also have food pretty late. The wood-fire baked cheese dip was a fantastic snack.
08-17-2008 03:38:42 | More by littlehowtown
2.05/5 rDev -48.4%
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.
07-31-2011 23:42:56 | More by augievikings
2.36/5 rDev -40.6%
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.
02-16-2011 14:55:19 | More by zoso1967
2.63/5 rDev -33.8%
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.
01-07-2011 17:47:32 | More by goast8127
2.66/5 rDev -33%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 1 | selection: 3.75 | $$
Don't know could not get a server to wait on me. Three people behind bar, one other table, no service. Left thirsty and disappointed. I hear it is fantastic Beer, if you have plenty of time, and patience, give it a try. But there are plenty of other excellent microbreweries in TC with better service..
08-30-2013 02:04:47 | More by JimT
3.1/5 rDev -21.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 2.5 | service: 3 | selection: 3.5 | $$$
well it's very clear that the brewery shares a building with other businesses. very cool establishment i.m.o. they have a chalkboard with the brews on hand and giving info on each one. they have a wall for their mug club and it's a site to see. it's a very laid back enviroment. when i went there were kids running around playing with their toys and no one cared. the place is very i don't know.. free spirited. they have alot of personal art and what-not hanging on the ceiling. the service is really good and the staff are cool. i got a growler to take home and i wanted the simcoe dream which is cask conditioned (cuz i thought their other ipa that wasn't casked sucked). well one of the employee's told me they don't really do that cuz of the cask getting flat but i offered to pay more and he said he would. he ended up giving me the growler for no extra money and i also got 2 pint glasses and a set of coasters for all 25 bucks out the door. which totally beats great lakes brewing which not even a month ago wanted to charge me 33 bucks just for a growler of blackout stout (RIP OFF!!)
the only thing i can say that is negative about the place is how they try to have 12+ beers on tap and when i went there 8/23/10 there were only i think 8. now the only thing i can say negative about the brewery is i would like to see more higher alcohol beers. they had nothing over 6.3abv which was an amber. like make an ipa that or 7abv.
i didn't get any food but all they have anyway are just some munchies like pretzels, popcorn, etc. overall this place is great. seems like the majority of the people who go there are down to earth but there are #ssholes everywhere. for $3 pints during happy hour 3-6 you can't beat it.
UPDATED!!!!went back on aug 17th 2011 and was pretty disappointed. their prices seem like they could be lowered and the quality of beer seemed to have dropped. 5.35 a pint of your own homemade beer at the same establshment seems kinda dickish to me. when shorts and other companies sell their beer cheaper and make way much more better stuff too.
08-25-2010 20:50:12 | More by claminat420
3.13/5 rDev -21.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3 | service: 3 | selection: 3 | $$
Traverse City was a pitstop on our way to Shorts a few miles north. Thank God we didn't stay in Traverse since it was awash in vacationers. We had received several endorsements of the Brain and so made our approach with optimism and enthusiasm. That a bit dented by its slightly hidden quality and trying to find a parking spot. Also a little taken aback by the first impression being that of a hair-dresser. Fortunately we managed to discern that the bar was behind. I guess it is a unique claim to be made to be the only bar where one can gaze out onto people having their hair dyed.
First impression was favourable: liked the slightly hip, west-coast casual ambiance. Encouraged by sign saying no one under 21 (except that's only true after 9, so yes there were babies in there). Bar staff pretty friendly. Happy hour prices really reasonable. Here's the thing though: beer just not that good. My own brewery is better. Spiny Norman not so bad. Will Power not so good. Something on the cask, a stout with cinnamon, truly awful; it would take a lot of ice cream to banish the taste of that one.
Another disappointment was the complete absence of real food. Chips and hummus that are delivered in the packages that came from the store...
A lot of marketing goes into this operation with its funky shirts and stuff. Also it tries to create a reputation of edgy and off-the-wall creations - like beer made with asparagus. Take a tip from Barry at Saugatuck: do the simple things well.
08-06-2010 02:51:47 | More by AylwinForbes
Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City, MI
89 out of 100 based on 88 ratings.