While the stretch of Chicago Drive through Hudsonville may no longer be known as Turnpike 51, the namesake lives in the form of fermentation.
In June 2012, Pike 51 Brewing Co. brought back the historic route’s name with craft brews to complement the existing Hudsonville Winery. The West Michigan winery opened three years earlier as the first phase in a plan by co-owners Steve Guikema, Ron Snider and Ken Groenink.
“We always wanted to do beer and then a couple of things fell in place for us,” Guikema said.
Call it what you will, but in a certain sense, Pike 51’s brewpub is the perfect storm. For one, the three business partners had been home brewing together for almost 20 years when they opened a winery. Second, craft beer continues to gain popularity.
But the last piece was probably the most important — the perfect brewer.
Enter Jeff Williams. The former HopCat head brewer had been frequenting the winery since its opening, taking residence just three blocks away.
“He’s been coming in since we opened,” Guikema said. “It was just a perfect fit.
“At first we didn’t even know him as a brewer, we just knew him as a customer who came in. Jeff has a phenomenal reputation.”
Entering Pike’s taproom, a certain simplicity greets its thirsty patrons. Modern hardwood floors meet a long U-shaped stone bar with a cavernous backdrop where tap handles and wine bottles are constantly flowing in glasses. The bar is an excellent gathering space to meet and greet with fellow patrons.
Tables throughout the southern portion of the brewpub are noticeably close together, also encouraging chatting with neighbors. This is clearly part of the true pub style of the layout, as no distractions like TVs are an option to divert from the goal of enjoying the company of those gathered together in the name of libations.
“It’s just get-to-know-you,” said Amber Guikema, Steve’s daughter. “My name is on my shirt, but I want you to know my name and I want to know your name.
“It’s kind of enjoy the company, have a conversation with your neighbor and enjoy a good drink.”
As neighbors forge bonds, 16 beers are available on tap, quite a variety for a newly established brewery. But it’s all thanks to the creativity of the brewer.
“The good thing about Jeff as a brewer is he’s very, very dedicated to making a true form,” Amber Guikema said. “If it’s an imperial brown, he’s going make sure it’s a true imperial brown. He’ll have his spin on it, but the ABV, the IBUs will be true form.”
“(The number of tap handles) started out to be versatile,” Steve Guikema added. “Jeff’s kind of got free reign. He hasn’t made a bad beer.”
As such, since Pike 51’s first batch of beer, Williams has been spot on, according to Guikema.
“Jeff wanted to name the very first batch Calibration, so that he could make sure his numbers aligned on a brand new system. He nailed the numbers from batch one. It was right on.
“We hit the ground running. It’s all his concept, his recipes. I have total trust in him.”
Along with mainstays Marvin’s Weizen, The Kush IPA and Knight’s Brown, the current tap rotation includes the following special/seasonals:
- Brass Monkey Vienna Lager (amber lager)
- Lead Belly (a collaborative IPA with Grand Rapids Brewing Company)
- Tall Boy (Light American Lager)
- Weizenbock (Carmelly German)
- Cherry Triple (Belgian Trippel)
- Sinister Kid Imperial Porter
- Mojo Hand Black IPA
- Sabotage (Coffee Milk Stout)
By July, the brewery plans to release some bourbon-aged brews, which are currently aging in the brewery.
With everything seemingly aligning for Pike 51, Guikema and his partners don’t plan to limit the potential of the brewery and winery.
“We’ve got over five acres,” he said. “I think we’ve got the best business plan ever made. We actually still all have our day jobs.”
So, just as the customer base at Pike 51 grows, so too can the brewery and taproom. In the meantime, Pike 51 brews are already showing up in select bars and plans for bottling are in the works.
Pike 51 Brewing Co. and Hudsonville Winery are located at 3768 Chicago Drive in Hudsonville.