If you haven’t made your way to Newaygo Brewing Company yet, make it a destination this summer. Just 45 minutes north of Beer City USA lies the city of Newaygo. This cute city is a great stop to grab a cold one if you are on your way up north, checking out the North Country Trail, or navigating your way on the Muskegon River.
Upon walking into the brewery you will immediately notice a wall mural of three men in overalls drinking beer. It makes you feel like you’re grabbing a well deserved brew on a hot summer day. Complete with exposed brick, industrial accents, and beautiful wood counters, you can feel the hard work that has gone into making Newaygo Brewing Company special.
Celebrating their first anniversary on May 1, Newaygo Brewing successfully turned the homebrewing passion into a business. Husband and wife duo Nick and Krista Looman, owners of Newaygo Brewing Company, made their dreams come true, with the help of Nick’s brother, Eric Looman, after uprooting their lives and moving to Newaygo from Grand Rapids.
Uniquely enough, their brewer came from the construction company that built the brewery. Brett Blenman, while constructing the brewery, showed interest in getting involved as soon as they were up and running. When the door opened, Blenman worked part time bartending and part time learning from Master Cellarman Dan Humphrey, former owner of Cellar Brewing Company, who was hired on as a consultant to get them up and running.
“I learned a lot (from Dan), I can’t say I would be where I am at right now without him,” says Blenman.
After six months, Blenman transitioned to full time brewer and now proudly holds the title of Head Brewer.
Ever since the city of Newaygo happily opened their arms to the Looman’s presence they have made sure to give back to the community. Employees spend time playing games with local senior citizens, wield hammers and 2x4s as they lend a hand in building transitional housing, and open their facility to local homebrewers.
“It gives someone the opportunity that is doing it in their garage to come in and do it on our kettle system. It is nice to see the response from the community at the chance to be able to come in and experience that. I know I would have loved that opportunity,” says Blenman.
Being very hands on with the community reflects in the way they brew as well. The brewing process for Nick Looman and Blenman is very labor intensive — hands on and low tech. They pride themselves in building their own keg washers, pumps, and bottling systems, which keeps them relying on each other to be successful. That little bit of extra effort is worth the quality, over quantity, of their beer to them.
“We focus our brewing on light and balanced beers and I think people in the city focus on biggest boldest punchiest beer. This is not what we do, not to say we don’t have that…” says Nick Looman
Krista Looman chimes in, “But a beer for every palate is the tagline we use. If you want to come learn about craft beers, you come to our bar and talk to our bartenders and they help you go from a Bud Light kind of style to something more complex.”
In the near future, Newaygo Brewing will start their bottling line and will provide bottle service to their tables. The number of beers on draft will drop, but only because the higher-end, barrel aged beers will be bottled.
When the weather cooperates, you can catch Newaygo Brewing’s “4 & a pour”. Starting at the brewery, a running group runs to the fitness center and back – a four mile trek ending with a pour (of nice cold beer). And why not refuel with some delicious food from their kitchen as well.
Photography: Bri Luginbill