“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.
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