The story behind the foundation of Ore Dock Brewing Company in Marquette is one of travel, collaboration and reclamation. Founders Andrea and Wes Pernsteiner were inspired to start the brewery in the Upper Peninsula town after traveling all over the country and stopping at breweries.
“Whenever we would go to a new city, we’d always find a brewery there because we felt like it was a place where a lot of people would sort of meet and congregate and chat. We’d always meet really interesting people, we’d find out great places to hike, great places to eat, whatever, and you could always find that at the local brewery,” said Andrea Persteiner.
After the two committed to the idea of starting the brewery, they took a long road trip to plan everything. Within three years, the couple had come up with a business plan and achieved financing. But while the Pernsteiners dabbled in homebrewing, they agreed that they weren’t good enough to brew for the business. Enter brewing veteran Nick VanCourt.
VanCourt began as a homebrewer around 2005, and when he considered making a career change, he found himself interning at The Great Dane brewery in Madison, Wis. Afterwards, he enrolled in and graduated from the World Brewing Academy. Before moving back to Marquette, he worked as an assistant brewer at Milwaukee Brewing Company and Tyranena Brewing Company in Lake Mills, Wis. With this abundance of experience, VanCourt posted his application to Ore Dock.
“We knew we needed to find someone who had training and was passionate about beer,” said Andrea Pernsteiner. “In the process of talking to [VanCourt], we got to know him and realized we were going to work well together.”
The Pernsteiners and VanCourt would become a part of what would eventually become a team of six owners. Together, they worked to turn the brewery into a destination that would do for Marquette what the breweries accomplished in the towns the Pernsteiners visited on their road trips. They sought to capture the personality and history of Marquette in their decor, and they continue to make themselves a part of the community through the entertainment and programming they host.
Ore Dock Brewing Company is located in what used to be a car garage. In fact, the second floor stored 30 cars, so no one needed to worry whether or not the building was structurally sound. The owners had to make some renovations to the building to make it suitable for the brewery, but they made sure to preserve what materials they could for use in the furniture and decor.
“We didn’t throw anything away,” said VanCourt.
Among the reclaimed artifacts featured in the building are the tables on the second floor, which are made from the wooden ramp used to park the cars on the second floor of the garage. A fireplace in the corner is made from brownstone that was blown out of the wall to make room for a doorway, the flooring is original (you can still see the burn marks from what Andrea Pernsteiner postulates was metal welding), and the barstools are made of two-by-fours that were present in the building. And the reclamation didn’t stop at materials the building had at the ready: the Pernsteiners reupholstered booths from a old restaurant doomed for the burn pile, used old barn wood for the beams and as decoration on the bar, and crafted chandeliers from empty beer bottles. Reclamation became the central theme of Ore Dock Brewing Company, and the theme is the namesake of their staple IPA.
Part of Ore Dock’s motivation behind their persistent reusing of old materials is that it’s become a way to preserve pieces of Marquette’s history.
“Part of what makes Marquette great is that history, and people have that sense of community that they want to preserve the community that has existed here, whether it be the industry that has existed, or the environment, and the outdoor aspects we all have grown to love here,” said Andrea Pernsteiner. “People realize that has been built over many years and in order to pass that forward you need to understand the past and appreciate it.”
While preservation of history is certainly factors into Ore Dock Brewing Company’s goals, another is contributing to the culture of the contemporary community.
“When we wrote our business plan we really had two sort of main ideas in mind: making quality craft beer, and being a value to our community,” said Andrea Pernsteiner.
Beyond hosting community events, the brewery also seeks to engage other businesses in the area through collaboration. The brewery helped increase the capacity of a nearby cattle farm by donating the brewery’s speck grain as feed, as well as increased the demand for a hops farm in Rock, Mich., enabling it to expand its services.
“Those are two businesses locally that, just because of our brewery, have been able to grow their businesses,” said Andrea Pernsteiner.
The brewery continues to expand its repertoire of beer styles, including new wine-barrel-aged and cask-conditioned brews. Fans of Ore Dock Brewing Company’s beer can look forward to seeing some of their staple brews in bottles later this year.