There is something enticing about Northern Michigan and its endless summer charm. That charm led Hop Lot founders Drew and Steve Lutke to leave Chicago and pursue their dream of living up north. Hop Lot Brewing Company opened in April 2015 and has emerged as an exceptional brewery to visit if you are looking to spend some time outdoors with friends and family.
The journey to brewery ownership for the Lutke brothers began with a Groupon deal. The Groupon deal was for a homebrew kit and peaked their interest.
“Steve got into it, and then continued to experiment with all grain. He has a chemistry background, and had fun tweaking the recipes, trying to perfect the product,” said Drew Lutke.
Fast forward to 2012 when Steve Lutke married his wife, Sarah. Her family is from the Suttons Bay area and their wedding was held in Northport. Steve brewed six varieties of beer for the wedding, and they were well-liked. So much so, that he was approached that night about opening a brewery.
The Lutke brothers had visited the area many times and had always dreamed of making Northern Michigan home. So, they entertained the idea and began to draft out a business plan.
“We asked ourselves: what is going to make us unique? And really, what would we want to do?” said Drew Lutke.
The Lutke brothers began visiting breweries throughout Chicago and took diligent notes. This meant noting what they liked and did not like about the beer, atmosphere, taproom design, etc.
“We wanted to design our ultimate experience,” stated Drew Lutke.
Once that “ultimate experience” was defined, Steve and Drew began to put their plan into action by constructing the brewery on their own. With no prior building experience, they utilized the expertise of Steve’s father-in-law, Pete Leabo, who is a General Contractor. And, after 11 months of his guidance, Hop Lot was complete.
The result: a German-style biergarten with an up-north twist. The taproom is simple, featuring 8-10 brews on tap, as well as local wine and cider. The tap handles are in the shape of Leelanau County, and there are large windows and outdoor elements throughout, which highlight the relaxed up-north attitude. The large windows are inviting to the expansive biergarten. The outdoor space encompasses the best of Northern Michigan summers: picnic tables, fire pits, rustic elements, a live music stage, and yard games. Hops are also grown on site, which they hope to use in a harvest ale later this year.
With such a relaxed atmosphere and the emphasis on the outdoors, the Hop Lot space is one where an entire afternoon and evening could easily be spent. It’s not a place to make a quick pitstop; rather it’s a place to stop and enjoy yourself.
“We’re selling an experience: beer is bigger with a friend. It’s that simple,” said Steven Lutke.
Photography: Kaitlyn Rickman