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barrel + beam

Barrel + Beam opened its doors in Marquette in January 2018 with a clear vision. Seeming to come out of the gates sprinting, the brewery emerged with a well defined brand, a suite of farmhouse and barrel aged ales and an ambitious self distribution plan.

None of that happened overnight.

“It took a decade for that to become a clear vision,” said Nick VanCourt, brewer/owner at Barrel + Beam.

That vision started roughly the same way most breweries do. VanCourt’s homebrew recipes were receiving a warm reception from friends and family. He told his wife, Marina, that he’d like to start a brewery. She told him that he ought to get an education and some experience first.

He did. He graduated from the World Brewing Academy and garnered professional experience working at Wisconsin’s The Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company, Tyranena Brewing Company and Milwaukee Brewing Company. Most recently, he was the head brewer at Marquette’s Ore Dock Brewing Company.

During those 10 years, the vision for Barrel + Beam gradually became more specific. VanCourt decided he wanted to focus solely on bottle and cask conditioned farmhouse and barrel aged ales, which set Barrel + Beam apart from every other brewery in the Upper Peninsula. VanCourt was drawn to the styles’ rich, complex flavors and dry finish.

“I just personally think it’s where the pinnacle of the best beer experience can be,” VanCourt said. “You have this beer that is rich and really strikes a note in your mouth. But then when you swallow, it goes away.”

 

Barrel + Beam’s tap list has become a case study in the ways traditional and modern brewing techniques express themselves in beer. The brewery’s old-world line uses ingredients imported from Belgium and France, and its new-world line uses all Michigan produced ingredients. The tap list also features ales soured over months in barrels, a traditional technique, and kettle soured beers, a modern way. Tasting Barrel + Beam’s brews offers an opportunity to study exactly how these techniques impact flavor.

One example comes in the two saisons on the tap list: the French-sourced “Terre a Terre” and the Michigan-sourced “Terroir.”

“Side by side, they’re very different beers, even though they’re not different in formulation at all. It’s just the ingredients,” VanCourt said.

It’s a study in the effect of terroir—the environment in which the ingredients are produced—on a beer’s flavor.

“People know it in wine, but in beer nobody seems to talk about it. That’s the point to us with these ingredients,” VanCourt said.

Choosing to become a niche brewery in the Upper Peninsula came with its risks. One that VanCourt anticipated was the need to distribute to be successful.

“It wasn’t just going to happen here in Marquette,” VanCourt said. “We were going to have to get out there and bring our beer to our market.”

The brewery’s first full-size batches were produced for distribution. VanCourt started self distributing to bottle shops in Marquette, then throughout the U.P. and Northeast Wisconsin. The footprint has since expanded to include Northern Michigan, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor.

VanCourt said self distribution is a challenge and ultimately unsustainable. With his van, he’s only able to get 30-40 cases to his locations at a given time. It’s inefficient and costly.

“We can’t do this forever,” he said.

But he’s grateful for the opportunity to get to know his stockists, and he knows that when the time comes to hire a distributor, the relationships he’s built in these first months will only make things easier.

Barrel + Beam’s home base is set in the building that once held the famed Northwoods Supper Club, a popular dining destination in Marquette that opened in 1933 and operated for 75 years. The supper club closed in the midst of the 2008 recession and sat untouched on the market for years. Getting it up to standard to host the brewery took a $2 million renovation, which VanCourt said was worth it for its size, location and unique history.

“The family that started it, you know, they were as crazy as we are—to show up here when it was the middle of nowhere and build a supperclub. And it worked, wonderfully,” VanCourt said.

VanCourt and his wife, Marina, worked hard to maintain the wooden beams that gave the building its original character. They’ve turned it into a cozy space to enjoy Barrel + Beam brews, either after a day of shopping in Marquette or hiking, biking or snowmobiling the nearby Iron Ore Heritage Trail.

Word of mouth is spreading about the brewery, and VanCourt is optimistic about what the future holds.

“There’s two things that you can’t screw up: one is the quality of your product, two is the customer service you provide,” VanCourt said. “We just know that if we make the product the best we can and we get it to where our market is, then we have a chance.”

LANSING, Mich – A record number 92 Michigan craft breweries will be serving up more than 588 beers on Saturday, September 9 at the Michigan Brewers Guild’s 9th Annual U.P. Fall Beer Festival at Mattson Lower Harbor Park in Marquette.

Tickets are available online now and are $40 in advance (and $45 at the gate, if any remain available). Admission includes 15 tasting tokens, each good for a three-ounce sample. Additional tokens are 50-cents each.

In addition to online tickets, a handful of outlets around Marquette also have tickets for sale for $40—including Blackrocks BreweryMarquette Food Co-OpOre Dock Brewing and The Vierling.

The Michigan Brewers Guild is the network of innovative and passionate brewers that serves as the recognized advocate for the Michigan craft beer industry. The mission of the Michigan Brewers Guild is to promote and protect the Michigan craft beer industry with an overarching goal to help craft beer acquire 20% of the market by 2025.

 Michigan’s thriving brewing industry conservatively contributes more than $144 million in wages with a total economic contribution of more than $600 million. In terms of overall number breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs, Michigan ranks #6 in the nation – thus supporting its claim as “The Great Beer State.”

#MiBeer #MiBeer20Years #DrinkMiBeer #GreatBeerState #UPFBF17

 

 

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.

 

It has been nearly 30 years since the idea and construction of The Vierling came to be. It lends its history to an already historic downtown Marquette, MI, a known destination in the Upper Peninsula for road trips and brewery tours.

“We were sitting on Presque Isle when I realized there were great views and a great opportunity,” said Terry Doyle, one-half of the ownership behind The Vierling.

His other half, Kristi Doyle,  grew up in the Upper Peninsula, with generations of her family leading the way.

“My wife landed me here. I wanted to originally stake my grounds in Florida, but that didn’t last long so we quickly came back up here.”

Wanting to break into the restaurant business, the pair bought an old café on the corner of Marquette’s downtown that featured great Lake Superior views. Nine months and a lot of elbow grease later, The Vierling Saloon and Sample Room opened its doors, showcasing an exquisite menu while providing a beautiful atmosphere to enjoy.

The space gives homage to the original owners, Martin and his son Louis Vierling, with original artwork and stained glass as the primary accents. With the additions of floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the water and a unique collection of international beer bottles, the Doyles made the space their own, combining history with personal style.

“This space has been a saloon, café, and even a Maytag refrigerator store, but it has always been a place where people come to meet, relax, and enjoy each other’s company,” said Doyle.

When it comes to the menu, the Doyles pride themselves on the whitefish that they get right from the harbor outside their window.

“When we went to Italy and visited Rome, I asked for their best whitefish. But it wasn’t even close to Lake Superior whitefish—the fish we serve here is the best.”

In 1995, The Vierling became famous not only for its whitefish, but also for being one of the first brew pubs in Michigan. They added a five-barrel brewing system, with beautiful equipment manufactured in Budapest, Hungary. Derek Anderson, aka Chumly, has been the brewer since the beginning in 1995 and has crafted a broad spectrum of beers for all different palates.

With craft beer being on the upward swing, Doyle said the best thing about having their own brewery was not having to worry about keeping up with all of the thousands of other beers on the market.

“We sell and make our beer here, and only here. People know what they want when they come here, and we provide it.”

The most sought-after brew featured here seems to be the Blueberry Wheat, a lovely American Wheat topped off with fresh, local blueberries. The Vierling offers many other styles, ensuring great flavors and aromas while keeping the ABVs reasonable.

“Some beers are so high in ABV, and we want to allow for the chance that people can enjoy different beers without overdoing it,” said Doyle. We have our Laid Back IPA, a Session Pale Ale that offers a refreshing amount of hops without going overboard.”

The Vierling is recognized as a historic marker for beer in Marquette, and have been long since joined by other craft breweries in the area. As others opened, such as Blackrocks Brewery and Ore Dock Brewing Company, the brewers have all come to know each other and collaborate on new recipes.

“All the brewers up here talk all the time. For the U.P. Fall Festival—one of our most challenging and busy days of the year—they like to collaborate,” said Doyle.

The fall festival is one of the many activities that keeps Marquette an up north destination year round. Alongside seasonal recreational activities such as fat tire biking, sled dog racing, and hunting, the Northern Michigan University presence means constant visitors and dinner reservations at The Vierling.

And while 30 years of successful business can be considered a remarkable triumph, Terry and Kristi Doyle recognize the craft beer trend and the universal crowd it attracts.

“We hope, this fall, to break into some new things. Maybe be more of a brewpub. Get things geared around the beer, because the beer is absolutely fabulous.”

With an emphasis on special events and tastings in their sample room, they hope to keep the historically elegant atmosphere while maintaining an affordable product for customers of all ages and means.

“We will be celebrating our 30th anniversary this October. We have been in the same spot for 30 years and not too many businesses can say that.”

MARQUETTE — To say White’s Party Store stands on the grounds of legendary Upper Peninsula history is not an exaggeration at all.
“I found this building on a map from the 1800s,” says co-owner Jamie Strand.
Starting as a neighborhood grocery store, before White’s was called White’s it was also a beauty shop, candy store and possibly the first U.P. shop to be issued a liquor license following the end of prohibition.
Through all of this change, White’s and its predecessors have always been a local, family-owned shop — a place nestled right in the Marquette community; and Mac and Jamie Strand strive to keep that tradition alive.
“[There’s] always an opportunity to get to know the community, and especially the history — the history is so important,” says Jamie.
The original White family, to which whom the store is named after, stops in a couple times a year to visit their old business and wax nostalgic about years past. Community members who have lived and breathed Marquette all of their lives “tell stories about how they stopped in here [when it used to be a candy shop] and bought their favorite candies every week.”
History and community have always worked here as a team. All of the local breweries and restaurants — such as Ore Dock Brewing Company and Blackrocks Brewery — work together to keep the craft industry growing. In fact, Jamie admits that former White’s employees are now at Ore Dock Brewing Company and Blackrocks, saying, “everyone has a history together.”
Neighborhood regulars and visitors to the town filter into the shop all of the time, and all are invited to buy and to learn. Here, personalized customer service is top priority, and any employee at White’s is there to offer knowledge.
Apart from selling an excellent selection of craft products, they also have home brewing and wine-making supplies. Home brewing is a fast-growing industry, especially in the Marquette area. In the past year, a Marquette Homebrewing Club has been established with very enthusiastic participation. “I love that people make their own…,” Jamie says, “that they take the time to make a good drink.”
White’s Party Store represents close-knit neighborhoods, a welcoming community and a growing craft industry. It not only offers rare bottles, but it also offers customers a chance to interact with Marquette history. And yes, you can buy the latest cans from Blackrocks Brewery, or maybe pick up some candies or a flask from their specialized gift selections; but just remember the conversation, knowledge, history and service are the real prize.

MARQUETTE — To say White’s Party Store stands on the grounds of legendary Upper Peninsula history is not an exaggeration at all.

“I found this building on a map from the 1800s,” says co-owner Jamie Strand.

Starting as a neighborhood grocery store, before White’s was called White’s it was also a beauty shop, candy store and possibly the first U.P. shop to be issued a liquor license following the end of prohibition.

Through all of this change, White’s and its predecessors have always been a local, family-owned shop — a place nestled right in the Marquette community; and Mac and Jamie Strand strive to keep that tradition alive.

“[There’s] always an opportunity to get to know the community, and especially the history — the history is so important,” says Jamie.

The original White family, to which whom the store is named after, stops in a couple times a year to visit their old business and wax nostalgic about years past. Community members who have lived and breathed Marquette all of their lives “tell stories about how they stopped in here [when it used to be a candy shop] and bought their favorite candies every week.”

History and community have always worked here as a team. All of the local breweries and restaurants — such as Ore Dock Brewing Company and Blackrocks Brewery — work together to keep the craft industry growing. In fact, Jamie admits that former White’s employees are now at Ore Dock Brewing Company and Blackrocks, saying, “everyone has a history together.”

Neighborhood regulars and visitors to the town filter into the shop all of the time, and all are invited to buy and to learn. Here, personalized customer service is top priority, and any employee at White’s is there to offer knowledge.

Apart from selling an excellent selection of craft products, they also have home brewing and wine-making supplies. Home brewing is a fast-growing industry, especially in the Marquette area. In the past year, a Marquette Homebrewing Club has been established with very enthusiastic participation. “I love that people make their own…,” Jamie says, “that they take the time to make a good drink.”

White’s Party Store represents close-knit neighborhoods, a welcoming community and a growing craft industry. It not only offers rare bottles, but it also offers customers a chance to interact with Marquette history. And yes, you can buy the latest cans from Blackrocks Brewery, or maybe pick up some candies or a flask from their specialized gift selections; but just remember the conversation, knowledge, history and service are the real prize.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/107157472

MARQUETTE — It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person attending a beer festival must be in want of nothing (excluding, of course, more beer). But put said beer festival on the shore of Lake Superior, where the climes are agreeable, the scenery is picturesque, and the local humor is good, well, then you’ve got a downright euphoric attendee.

Such was the case at this year’s Michigan Brewer’s Guild U.P. Fall Festival in Marquette.

When asked their favorite part of this year’s U.P. festival, most attendees said simply, “It’s in the U.P.” Whether their responses were influenced by the view from Mattson Lower Harbor Park, the good-hearted nature of Marquette’s inhabitants, or the alcohol, brewers, staff and public alike had positive vibes for Michigan’s superior peninsula (in orientation, that is).

“This is my favorite beer fest. It’s a gorgeous setting, it’s a laidback atmosphere,” said Short’s Brewing Company Liberation Specialist Ryan Engemann, “and then being up in the U.P. with fantastic people — the attitude really can’t be beat.”

Laren Avery of Mountain Town Brewing Company, who sported a banana costume because “you can’t be too crazy at these things,” said, “I love the atmosphere, the fact that we’re right on the lake, you just can’t get this anywhere else in the state.”

The Fall Festival featured over 400 different beers from 60 Michigan breweries. Brews ranged from crowd favorites like Founders’ KBS to off-the-wall experimental beers like B. Nektar’s Troll’s Offering, which was described as a “pasty beer,” brewed with potatoes, rutabaga and carrots, and served with ketchup around the rim. With such a promising variety of local craft brews, the festival drew a sellout crowd of 4,000 attendees.

Upper Peninsula native John Orttenburger said he attended the festival to experience the availability of beers from breweries who don’t yet distribute to his area.

“You have to come out and try all the beers that you can’t always get around to trying. When [the breweries] all come to one spot, you have to go to them,” Orttenburger said.

Others came for the camaraderie, which was highlighted periodically throughout the day as the entire crowd raised their glasses and joined in on the roar of 4,000 voices.

[tw-parallax image=”https://mittenbrew.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/R1-07587-019A.jpg” target=”self” ][/tw-parallax]

Several U.P. breweries, which are often less likely to show up to all of the Lower Peninsula-based festivals, made sure to attend this season’s festival.

“Most of [the festivals] I don’t make it to because I just can’t keep up enough in the summer to even go to them,” said Derek “Chumley” Anderson, brewmaster at The Vierling.

“The fact that the U.P. Beer Fest is in our backyard is fantastic,” said Blackrocks Brewery co-owner Andy Langlois. “To see people make the long trek from downstate, and to rekindle some friendships, and also to see our current customers out here enjoying some other breweries is a wonderful thing.”

Several U.P. breweries attended to represent the growth of craft brewing in the Upper Pensinsula. Marquette’s Ore Dock joined Blackrocks and The Vierling, along with other growing Upper Peninsula breweries like Soo Brewing Company out of Sault Ste. Marie, Jasper Ridge Brewery from Ishpeming, Houghton’s Keweenaw Brewing Company, Cooper Harbor’s Brickside Brewery, and Calumet’s Red Jacket Brewing Company.

With this year’s sold-out attendance, it’s safe to say the atmosphere and craft beer of the U.P. are no longer some of Michigan’s best kept secrets.

Local bands State 51 and Frank an Da Beanz entertained the crowd with covers of Neil Diamond, The Doors, Stevie Wonder and much more. The members of Frank and Da Beanz donned pink rabbit costumes and performed under a banner that read “#RELEASETHERABBITS” in support of Blackrocks Brewery, which has a staple cream ale called Grand Rabbits.

The festival also had local restaurants serving food to attendees, including pub food from Stucko’s Pub & Grill, fried fresh Lake Superior whitefish from the Gordon’s, and Indo-European food from The Rubaiyat Falafel.

The story behind the foundation of Ore Dock Brewing Company in Marquette is one of travel, collaboration and reclamation. Founders Andrea and Wes Pernsteiner were inspired to start the brewery in the Upper Peninsula town after traveling all over the country and stopping at breweries.

“Whenever we would go to a new city, we’d always find a brewery there because we felt like it was a place where a lot of people would sort of meet and congregate and chat. We’d always meet really interesting people, we’d find out great places to hike, great places to eat, whatever, and you could always find that at the local brewery,” said Andrea Persteiner.

After the two committed to the idea of starting the brewery, they took a long road trip to plan everything. Within three years, the couple had come up with a business plan and achieved financing. But while the Pernsteiners dabbled in homebrewing, they agreed that they weren’t good enough to brew for the business. Enter brewing veteran Nick VanCourt.

VanCourt began as a homebrewer around 2005, and when he considered making a career change, he found himself interning at The Great Dane brewery in Madison, Wis. Afterwards, he enrolled in and graduated from the World Brewing Academy. Before moving back to Marquette, he worked as an assistant brewer at Milwaukee Brewing Company and Tyranena Brewing Company in Lake Mills, Wis. With this abundance of experience, VanCourt posted his application to Ore Dock.

“We knew we needed to find someone who had training and was passionate about beer,” said Andrea Pernsteiner. “In the process of talking to [VanCourt], we got to know him and realized we were going to work well together.”

The Pernsteiners and VanCourt would become a part of what would eventually become a team of six owners. Together, they worked to turn the brewery into a destination that would do for Marquette what the breweries accomplished in the towns the Pernsteiners visited on their road trips. They sought to capture the personality and history of Marquette in their decor, and they continue to make themselves a part of the community through the entertainment and programming they host.

Ore Dock Brewing Company is located in what used to be a car garage. In fact, the second floor stored 30 cars, so no one needed to worry whether or not the building was structurally sound. The owners had to make some renovations to the building to make it suitable for the brewery, but they made sure to preserve what materials they could for use in the furniture and decor.

“We didn’t throw anything away,” said VanCourt.

Among the reclaimed artifacts featured in the building are the tables on the second floor, which are made from the wooden ramp used to park the cars on the second floor of the garage. A fireplace in the corner is made from brownstone that was blown out of the wall to make room for a doorway, the flooring is original (you can still see the burn marks from what Andrea Pernsteiner postulates was metal welding), and the barstools are made of two-by-fours that were present in the building. And the reclamation didn’t stop at materials the building had at the ready: the Pernsteiners reupholstered booths from a old restaurant doomed for the burn pile, used old barn wood for the beams and as decoration on the bar, and crafted chandeliers from empty beer bottles. Reclamation became the central theme of Ore Dock Brewing Company, and the theme is the namesake of their staple IPA.

Part of Ore Dock’s motivation behind their persistent reusing of old materials is that it’s become a way to preserve pieces of Marquette’s history.

“Part of what makes Marquette great is that history, and people have that sense of community that they want to preserve the community that has existed here, whether it be the industry that has existed, or the environment, and the outdoor aspects we all have grown to love here,” said Andrea Pernsteiner. “People realize that has been built over many years and in order to pass that forward you need to understand the past and appreciate it.”

While preservation of history is certainly factors into Ore Dock Brewing Company’s goals, another is contributing to the culture of the contemporary community.

“When we wrote our business plan we really had two sort of main ideas in mind: making quality craft beer, and being a value to our community,” said Andrea Pernsteiner.

Beyond hosting community events, the brewery also seeks to engage other businesses in the area through collaboration. The brewery helped increase the capacity of a nearby cattle farm by donating the brewery’s speck grain as feed, as well as increased the demand for a hops farm in Rock, Mich., enabling it to expand its services.

“Those are two businesses locally that, just because of our brewery, have been able to grow their businesses,” said Andrea Pernsteiner.

The brewery continues to expand its repertoire of beer styles, including new wine-barrel-aged and cask-conditioned brews. Fans of Ore Dock Brewing Company’s beer can look forward to seeing some of their staple brews in bottles later this year.