Scott Freitas says it’s hard for an outsider to get started in Michigan’s craft beer industry. He would know. He came from about as far outside of Michigan as possible to help launch Latitude 42 Brewing Company in Portage. Freitas was the head brewer at Maui Brewing Co. — as in Maui, Hawaii — before he became co-founder and head brewer of Latitude 42.
Even as an outsider, Freitas was confident of his success in Michigan, and for good reason. He earned his job at Maui by doubling their production in a one-month stint as stand-in brewer. And he kept going: in five years, Maui jumped from 1,200 barrels per year to 20,000. They also earned 150 medals nationally and internationally, excelling in quality no less than quantity.
So Freitas didn’t want to start small at Latitude 42. His partners’ initial plans envisioned a seven-barrel nanobrewery. When Freitas was brought on, and was given a lot of, well, latitude to shape the business, he pushed for a 15-barrel, full-production brewery, plus a restaurant. He got his way.
Ten months in, business is booming. Freitas and the team is already adding tanks, and they’re preparing to export their beer to Germany. A German delegation met Freitas through an export development program. “They drove all the way here from Denver,” he says, “and they put in an order the next day.”
If the brewery’s success can be measured in what Freitas exports, the source of its success can be traced to what he imports.
“There was no aloha here,” says Freitas. That sense of laid-back happiness and tranquility was somewhat lacking in Michigan. “We pride ourselves in brewing aloha here,” he says. “We feel we make happy beer, not angry beer.”
For Freitas, happy beer often means hoppy beer. He loves concocting hoppy IPAs of course, but he also experiments with hoppy lagers and even stouts. You can also catch a taste of island life in his coconut stout and his Beach Cruiser hefeweizen.
But if none of those are your style, no worries. The tap list at Latitude 42 is surprisingly large and diverse (again, Freitas likes to brew a lot of beer); just about every style of beer is represented, sometimes with a couple of variations.
The menu is equally extensive and diverse, with everything from steak and seafood entrees to the house specialties: double decker tacos (with beer cheese gluing soft shell and hard shell together) and brick fired pizza. It’s a big, open, casual venue, so bring some friends and plan for a relaxing session with a pizza and a few beers.