SALINE – Salt Springs Brewery, a recent addition to the Southeast Michigan beer community, has quickly become a mecca. Officially open since July 31, it has established itself as a must-visit destination not only for its beer, but also for its farm-to-table food and its charming ambiance.

The name Salt Springs is a nod to the history of town of Saline (pronounced Suh-leen, unlike the typical expectation of Say-lean) as a place Native Americans and early explorers gathered salt from area springs.

The building was dedicated in 1899 as a Methodist church. In its 116-year history, it housed a gift shop and most recently an event space before becoming Salt Springs Brewery. The original stained glass windows still grace the walls, glowing colorfully during daylight hours. The former church lawn where ice cream socials had taken place is now paved and serves as the brewery’s 75-seat beer garden.

The purchase plan was in place for months, but the new owners couldn’t take possession of the building until all previous event space obligations were fulfilled in January. The arduous process of remodeling and installing the brewhouse was done in six months.

The design was thoughtfully developed beforehand with the intention of preserving the building’s heritage. They wanted to be “respectful of the grand space because this is a historic building in the Saline area. There are still citizens who live in the city who were baptized here, married here, et cetera and so we knew we had to respect the space the best we could,” said Ed Brosius, one of the brewers and owners.

Various doors removed during renovations now serve new purposes as the base for the bar, the soffit above the kitchen cookline, and as walls in the bell tower room. Another owner, Ron Schofield, an architect by trade, points out, “You can still see the hinges on the ends of the boards” in the bar and brewery area.

“We envisioned it as a community gathering place. So far we’ve had a very good response, from not only our local communities,” said Brosius. Press attention has come from nearby Toledo, including a food review that brought an influx of visitors from south of the Michigan border.

To meet the high demand, they’ve recently added brunch from 10 a.m. on weekends and lunch every weekday at 11 a.m.

The upper level mezzanine, formerly the organ loft, offers seating for up to 24 guests and has hosted gatherings for out-of-town friends and family who have come from many states to visit Saline-area residents and experience the brewery’s charm. Reservations can be made for groups of five or more before 5:30 p.m. and after 7:30 p.m., with those busy dinner hours being available first come first served to walk-in guests.

Brewing is done three days a week on average, using a seven-barrel brewhouse to fill seven barrel fermenters. A 15-barrel fermenter houses double batches. A crowler system allows for canned take-out beer that stays fresh for an extended period of time, and glass growlers are available for more immediate enjoyment at home.

The team describes their brews as following “Old-world European traditions with a modern American twist,” according to Schofield.

Quality is key in every aspect. No expense is spared to achieve the intended result.

“We use the proper yeast for every style. It doubles the cost of the beer, but for us it’s the only way to do it,” said owner and brewer Mark Zadvinskis, who has a background in finance.

Each owner brought individual strengths to the process of growing the business from concept to reality.

“We had Mark as the brains of the business, Ed as the brains of the beer, and I was the brains of the construction. We were the holy trinity,” Schofield joked. “The three of us have symbiotic skills,” said Brosius.

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A local focus is clear in many aspects of the operation. Financing was obtained from a local bank, and “we try to obtain as much of our foods, and our hops, from Michigan farms,” according to Brosius.

Executive Chef Justin Dalenberg was formerly employed by a notable high-profile Ann Arbor-area restaurant before joining the Salt Springs team.

Artist Dan Barry, who is an investor in the brewery, created the Michelangelo-esque ceiling fresco of a hand giving life to hops.

“There are three things going on. Number one it pays homage to the church. It pays homage to all creation, and it pays homage to the creation of beer in a secular way. It’s meant to be respectful, not cheeky,” said Schofield.

Saline resident and brewery investor Chris Frey of the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild, who also holds a seat as one of two American Homebrewers Association representatives on the Brewer’s Association board, produced his Belgian Tripel with the Salt Springs brew team for a special release this weekend. Frey will be at the brewery to officiate the release on Friday, November 6.

Tickets are available for their inaugural Beer Dinner on Tuesday Nov. 17. Live music will begin on Thursday evenings starting Nov. 19 with Dragon Wagon.

In the more-distant future there will be barrel-aged offerings, including a collaboration with Tippins Market using barrels from their proprietary blends of spirits. Dominic Aprea, beverage consultant at Tippins, said the barrels he’s providing will be from the store’s popular co-branded single barrel selections. Salt Springs will receive one barrel from Eagle Rare and one from Blanton’s.

“We’ve been experimenting with what to do with the barrels after our bourbon comes out of them. We were looking for someone to partner up with to fill a couple with beer and do something fun. Support local, keep it local, so we chatted with them.” Aprea said.

The final decision on which brews will go into the barrels hasn’t been made.

“I’m going to leave the style up to the brewmasters, whatever they want to put in them we’ll go with,” Aprea said.

Possibilities currently being considered include a barleywine, a porter, or their Breakfast Stout.