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fetch brewing

“There’s got to be more to life than this,” said Jen Hain, owner of Fetch Brewing Company alongside her husband, Dan.

They didn’t plan on opening a brewery. They had both come from different careers, but they realized after meeting, marrying, and starting a family that they did not want those jobs forever.

So, the Hains took a risk. Dan, a local from the neighboring town of Montague, knew Whitehall very well. Jen married into the community (and laughingly says after 12 years she’s still not considered a local). They both wanted to bring something that would not only support their family and dreams, but also extend that reach to their fellow neighbors and friends.

 

In 2013, they found and bought an old bank on the corner, right in the middle of Whitehall’s downtown, that had been empty for over 20 years.

“Ignorance is bliss, and we fell in love with the building right away,” said Hain. “We had no idea what we were doing and this building needed everything, and I mean everything.”

Nothing was up to code, the interior was in shambles, and odd collections of old furniture and wood were in heaps everywhere. But Jen and Dan tackled all of this with excitement—they had a vision and it was all coming true.

Luckily, they were already great at the beer-making thing.

“Dan has been a homebrewer for 20 plus years!”  “Before it was cool,” she adds. With a huge laboratory, chemistry, and natural resources background, Dan Hain had a great foundation for the Fetch beer portfolio.

fetch brewing

Jen & Dan Hain

On a fun side note, according to Dan Hain, the term “fetch” refers to “the distance that wind travels across open water to create a wave.”

This is an image that reflects the Michigan craft industry’s growth and enthusiastic followers to be sure, but it also reflects the Hain’s family, hometown on the water, and business mission statement.

Their mission from the start wasn’t to conquer the world. The belief was that Michigan caters to the craft industry big and small, no matter the growth plan or distribution reach. The Hains aimed to make small waves in their community by offering quality product and a quality destination for all.

“We’ve always been on the slow plan,” said Hain.

They mark their milestones by improving in their education, quality, promotion, and production; and sometimes that means just making enough beer to keep the taps flowing.

After putting in a lot of hours and elbow grease, they opened back in 2014 to great success and great support from their community. Since then, Fetch Brewing Company has become a community meeting spot for the towns of Whitehall & Montague, as was their goal.

Their beer portfolio has favorites in their Distracted Pale Ale, Riptide Rye, and Tree Stump Stout, and they always have a running variety of other recipes to make sure every customer is happy. Dan Hain runs everything on a Michigan-made, five barrel Psycho Brew system.

“If I had my way, there would be IPAs all day every day,” said Dan.

Alongside the beer game, Fetch plays host to a local running group, a cycling group, and local music. A City Council member and brewery regular even comes in on certain nights to spin vinyl!

Whitehall and the surrounding area have very small town, quaint vibes to those people who just pass through occasionally—“Very Norman Rockwell on the surface, but we have an artistic underbelly. Opening a brewery gave the community a platform for exposing the artistic personalities of town,” said Hain.

“Some people don’t even drink, but that’s ok, too,” said Jen. “We like being the go-to place.”

They refer to their community as their “Fetch Family,” and it very much is. When they premiered their Mug Club, the first 100 sold out in the first week, the second batch of 100 sold out in a day, and the third in less than a month; and these were all taken by locals. Since they’ve fulfilled their community mug club demands, they have expanded the club here and there for special occasions.

“We’re our own little island,” laughed Jen. “Our regulars keep us going—they’re our heart and soul.”

Going into their fourth year, the Hains have proved that a brewery can really revitalize small town pride. The brewery has opened up and strengthened collaborations with their watershed council, food pantry, local farms, charities, events, and other small businesses. Jen Hain now even sits on the City Council.

Fetch Brewing Company is a destination for new and repeat visitors and that brings further growth to the economy as well; and it was just announced that the Hains bought a new building downtown to expand their production facility. By mid to late summer, it will be a renewed space enabling the brewery to keep mainstays on tap, increase distribution and give brewer and co-owner Dan Hain more room to experiment. Stay tuned as they renovate the old site from the ground up into a vision of their future.

“We are a family growing up around beer,” said Hain, “and beer is a small part of it—it’s business, it’s socialization, it’s community.”

 

Photography: Steph Harding

up beer fest

Nothing could stop people from enjoying U.P. Beer Fest this past Saturday.

Not the 10-hour drive to Marquette (for downstate attendees).

Not the monsoon rainfall that started at nine o’clock that morning and didn’t stop until six o’clock that night.

And definitely not the mud pit or creek of flood water that surrounded all of the beer tents.

Everyone was just too determined to have fun and drink great Michigan beer.

It makes sense. Although it may not be official, the term “favorite festival” is uttered by many in regards to this annual September event. For craft staff, September means summer madness is finally slowing down. There is an air of relaxation around it all—a loosening of the tension between shoulders.

As for attendees—a majority are Upper Peninsula residents, and their love for their region is palpable and proud. Nothing at all would sway them to say anything negative about the festival. It’s on their home turf—the beautiful Lower Mattson Park on Lake Superior—providing excellent views and close vicinity to downtown happenings.

Between the great hospitality of Marquette and the impressive organizational skills of the Michigan Brewers Guild, everyone is happy.

The Guild’s only one-day festival on their yearly calendar, there was still plenty of time to experience all the activities surrounding the U.P. festival. Leading up to Saturday was Marquette Craft Beer Week, a whole week dedicated to blending the local craft scene with other breweries from all over the state. Marquette restaurants, taprooms, and bottle shops played host to a variety of awesome happenings: White’s Party Store, an amazing local bottle shop and homebrew equipment destination, hosted multiple tastings with Upper Hand Brewery, New Holland Brewing, and Bell’s Brewery.

Jamie Strand, owner of White’s as well as the head organizer of Marquette Craft Beer Week, said the participation reach-out had been amazing.

“It used to be U.P. Craft Beer Week, but Marquette is such a center for craft beer in this region that it made sense to make the change.”

A Pint Above, a nonprofit organization celebrating Marquette’s craft scene, was on hand to help provide pourers at the festival as well as help coordinate events throughout the week.

Local Marquette brewery Blackrocks held their special release of barrel-aged Gnomas, a delicious and higher gravity twist on the original recipe, at their downtown production facility. Short’s Brewing Company premiered a special pairing menu with Lagniappe’s, a local Cajun Creole eatery. The Recovery Room, a newly opened restaurant and bar in place of the old Rover, hosted a double Tap Takeover alongside Dragonmead Microbrewery and Beards Brewery.

There were plenty other special events to whet the taste buds leading up to U.P. Beer Fest.

This year, the festival itself played host to 6,000 people, 86 breweries, and countless drinking options. To start celebrating fall, many breweries brought beers to highlight the seasonal transition. Oktoberfests, Brown Ales, Barrel Aged Stouts and Porters—they were all popular choices, especially as the day boasted cooler weather and rain that blasted through waterproof gear.

Fetch Brewing Company brought their Mad Swag Triple IPA, a deliciously malt-forward and hop-forward beer that made the taste buds sing with bitterness.

Many people went feverishly from booth to booth, asking after an infamous peanut butter Stout that turned out to be Grand Armory Brewing Company’s Nutter Your Business.

People jumped across a creek of flood water to drink the Tobacconist Porter by Our Brewing Company.

David Gill, President of the local Marquette Homebrewers, said fondly, “It’s been nothing but rain at all of the U.P. festivals this year, so maybe this is just us saving up our karma points for next year. Although weather will never stop people up here from attending a beer fest.”

With so many great distractions from the weather, attendees and breweries alike had a fabulous time. And sure, when the torrential downpour came down like a nonstop wave of water, 6,000 people crushed under all of the beer tents and brew staff held onto their tent poles for dear life; but it was no matter—it just brought people closer together and closer to the beer.

 


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