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covid-19

COVID-19 began as an abstract. It was something happening across the world, but not here in Michigan, or even the United States. It was murmurs and rumors and hand washing.

And then March 16 came and everything changed with a quick, decisive snap when Governor Gretchen Whitmer closed all dine-in service for bars and restaurants across the entire state of Michigan. I went from being a full-time Sales Representative for Beards Brewery to a question mark—and I was not the only one. Here’s a peek into our COVID-19 story:

covid-19

Emily Hengstebeck

Beards Brewery sits at the very entrance of Downtown Petoskey overlooking Little Traverse Bay. The pub and restaurant’s capacity is over 300 with our outdoor patio included, and we offer a full menu of food, beer, cider, and soda. We host local musicians and organize a monthly concert series as well. Needless to say, we are well-practiced and used to managing large crowds and thirsty customers. 

When all of that became a moot point our management team took quick, decisive action. For our small business to survive, we immediately changed our dine-in model to a takeout and delivery model staffed by a skeleton crew, while a majority of employees were temporarily laid off. 

“We were forced to become more flexible,” says Peter Manthei, co-owner and co-founder of Beards. 

“Restaurants and any business in hospitality are financial acrobats,” says Ben Slocum, the other co-owner and co-founder of Beards. “Most are living at tight levels of cash flow margin—enough for a few weeks and that’s it.”

With COVID-19 making the cash flow margins even tighter, Beards executed To Go & Delivery within just a few days after the dine-in shutdown. And I can say a lot of things about how this went, but the most important aspect was the outpouring of community support. 

“The ones that care, really care. It might sound cheesy, but it made our shining star shine brighter,” says Slocum. 

Especially in Northern Michigan, our shining star is community; and our local community keeps Beards (and other small businesses) afloat in non-tourist months. Even amidst a pandemic, many of our pub regulars who could no longer belly up to our bar showed up for their Beards food and beer. And with everyone restricted from gathering together, it was nice to see familiar faces, even if it was through a car window. 

Meanwhile, behind the scenes our owners strived to keep up with the constant updates to unemployment, the Payment Protection Program (PPP), and any and all health and safety bulletins. Planning for the month turned into adjusting plans daily to adapt to new regulations. Is there a right way? A wrong way? Support, grants, and regulations have been primarily reactive, with too many agencies being caught off guard to paint a clear picture. For instance, the PPP fast-tracked money to small businesses to aid operations and payroll, but only after the funds had been dispersed were tutorials and guidelines provided to business owners. 

covid-19

“It [PPP] got cash in people’s hands quickly, but not knowing how to utilize it has been tough.” says Manthei. 

Because of Beards’ seasonality—meaning a majority of our business comes from the summer months—we are ultimately hoping the PPP can slow down any backslide we have to endure over the next six months of not being open to our full capacity. And in true Beards’ spirit, we are making it work. 

To us at Beards, making it work means we thought very seriously about whether or not to open our dine-in service Memorial Day weekend following Governor Whitmer’s announcement. With only four days between the announcement and the weekend, we decided it was not enough time to finish our construction projects or ensure quality of service and safety to both our customers and staff. 

“How do we provide a level of service while distancing? How do we provide a fun experience while wearing masks?” asks Manthei.

We were not the only ones to remain closed, but there were other businesses who did open their doors. 

Like many other businesses, we asked around about what was working, how customers were reacting, and how to keep everyone comfortable while still maintaining the safety requirements. Admittedly, the world seemed to be all over the spectrum. While some reopened establishments operated with clear COVID-19 signage and traffic flow to steer customers into staying cautious, others were completely denying the restrictions by seemingly not caring at all that large groups, many of whom who were unmasked, were gathering in their spaces. 

covid-19

It was a careful experiment on our end. At first our management team used signage, red floor arrows, and trained staff to direct and inform our customers on how to move about our space. We quickly realized that absolutely no one looked at the floor no matter how obvious the arrows were, so we got rid of those by the end of the week, using our staff instead to guide customers around our space to abide by safe social distancing rules. 

When it came to mask wearing, we very clearly demanded that upon entering and moving about the pub, customers were to wear masks at all times. When seated, customers are allowed to de-mask and enjoy their meal and full experience. And most customers have been abiding by this practice with grace and understanding; however, there have been a few colorful stand-outs in opposition. They did not stay at Beards Brewery for long as their attitudes and disregard for the safety of our staff and other customers was not welcome. Staff, I must note, are wearing masks during their entire shifts whether they work as front of the house or back of the house workers, only taking them off to hydrate or eat their meals on their breaks from the safety of our break room. 

Northern Michigan has always been a haven for Michiganders and other visitors—a place to get away, to breathe fresh air, relax, and come together. For many, Northern Michigan has been an escape from COVID-19. Our population size and the amount of open space we have has made our region safer than most. But this does not mean we are invulnerable, so while we have our usual summer influx of tourism and vacationers, we will still be here, but it will be on our terms. 

Looking to other regions of the state, and other bars and restaurants tackling the same issues we are, it all seems like an experiment. Truthfully, it’s frightening for many reasons. No one wants another surge in positive COVID-19 cases to happen, obviously, but outside health and safety, a lot of establishments are asking themselves—can we make enough money at 50% capacity to justify opening? Some of my staff will not return to work—is it because of fear or because unemployment is more lucrative? My space is small and narrow—how do I direct traffic inside my space safely? What will my business plan look like next year? Will my business still be here next year? 

These are all fears. Some are short term problems and some we will only begin to see in the next six months. The survival of hospitality will not rely on the customers’ need to go out to dinner; rather, it will survive because ownership and management will have made the right decisions. 

At Beards, we have had to cut back our menu offerings as well as our hours in order to keep our present staff healthy and safe while trying to avoid over-work. And although we have hiring challenges every summer due to the huge need, it is more difficult this year with many people still staying at home and not working. Our staff have also become multi-taskers—every staffer has been trained to work almost every position at our pub in order to fulfill ease of scheduling and protocol. We have waiters working in the back of the house slinging pizzas. We have hosts manning the dishwasher. We have our sales representative chopping, pressing, fetching, catching, and helping a little bit everywhere. And everyone busses tables. It is truly a team effort. 

Outside our home pub in Petoskey, our sales market has been a similar story on a larger scale. 

After bars and restaurants closed dine-in service in March, the majority of the traditional sales rep. job description disappeared. Spring and summer festivals were cancelled one after the other. Draft sales dropped to nothing. Besides pivoting to kitchen work and other odd jobs to support the brewery, sales reps like myself had to get creative. We rely heavily on face-to-face communication in the craft beer industry—it’s all about establishing and maintaining the relationship with buyers and accounts. 

But when do we go back into the market now that the state is opening again? When is it safe to visit other businesses and actually interact—to reconnect those important relationships? How do you measure personal safety on one hand and the success of a business on the other? Because, while beer is not an essential product to actually survive as a human being, it is the lifeblood of over 400 small businesses in the state of Michigan. 

I can say that the Michigan brewery sales representatives know each other pretty well; in fact, we prefer to help each other out and many of us have close friendships outside of work. Because of this, all of us reps have been debating the above questions for the last three months. We normally operate with calendars that have been scheduled with travel, lodging, events, and sales strategy one, two, three months ahead at a time. We are go-go-go, always-on-the-move people. Now, we are planning week-by-week, twiddling our thumbs and getting used to being the most sedentary we have ever been. Communication and connecting has been challenging as well, and we are taking our cues from distributors and accounts directly to see what they are comfortable with. Personally, I have tried a bit of everything—emails, texts, phone calls, Zoom meetings, and even custom ‘Hello, hope you’re swell’ Beards postcards. Recently, I have dipped my toe back into the market in Beards’ hometown by visiting neighboring businesses and dropping off samples. It has all been fine, but it has changed so much. A conversational pleasantry is not just ‘Hello’ anymore, it’s “Are you okay with me coming in?”, “I’m wearing a mask, but where would you like me to stand and speak with you safely?”, “Can I hand you this product sheet?” It is clear that there is no universal policy for selling beer safely. It is on every individual rep’s shoulders to balance the responsibility of safety and doing their job. 

covid-19

But we are used to being flexible in the beer industry. The market changes and we adapt. This is just a bigger challenge than we ever expected, and who knew there was something bigger to battle than seltzer? Looking at this as an opportunity, the craft brewery industry in Michigan can and will survive this. 

Getting creative, becoming more flexible, and pushing business models forward will help sustain us here in the market as well as in the taproom. Beards is forging ahead and launching a monthly beer subscription ‘Milk Route,’ with subscribers receiving different Beards products throughout the month on a weekly basis. We also have products coming down the line that are newer avenues we are excited to pursue.  

COVID-19 has definitely been a challenge so far, but we can use it to expand upon our core principles of community, hospitality, and innovation—all while diversifying revenue. And since Michigan has always prided itself on buying and supporting local, we are confident we will have the support needed to make it through this pandemic. It will be another learning experience for all of us, but I think we can meet the challenge. After all, our consumers are not merely customers, they are enthusiasts. As much as we care about the product and the experience, so do they. 

 

delta series

News series is inspired by the local brewing history

 

ESCANABA, Mich. – Upper Hand Brewery is proud to announce the upcoming release of its Delta Series, six beers inspired by the historical Delta Brewing Company.

The beers, which will be available in cans and on draft, are based on real brands and styles brewed by Delta Brewing Company in the City of Escanaba between 1933 and 1940.  The cans feature artistic elements from the original beer labels and descriptions based on newspaper advertisements found in the archives of the Delta County Historical Society.

“We have been inspired by the rich history of brewing in Escanaba since we opened Upper Hand in 2014,” said Upper Hand Brewery Director, Sam Reese.  “These Delta Brewing brands really captured a time and place that isn’t altogether unfamiliar today, and in a lot of ways, they accomplished what we have always tried to do from our onset, which is to establish the U.P. as an iconic place to both brew and enjoy great beer.”

“After digging through the archives at the Delta County Historical Society, we saw an opportunity to resurrect some of these prohibition-era styles and present them to a new audience of beer lovers using some old-world ingredients and methods we don’t usually explore.”

The first brand in the Delta Series, Peninsula Pride, ships throughout Delta, Alger, Schoolcraft, and Luce counties beginning June 15, 2020.  The remaining brands—including Pioneer Extra Pale, Arctic Club, Hunter Special, Buckingham Ale, and Old Delta Bock—will be released progressively through the end of the year.

Delta Brewing Company’s Victorian-style commercial building, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, is located at 1615 Ludington St. in downtown Escanaba.

 

ABOUT PENINSULA PRIDE CREAM ALE:

Clean, light, and classic with a snappy modern hop foundation.

4.6% alcohol by volume

Available in 12oz cans

Shipping the week of June 15, 2020

ABOUT PIONEER EXTRA PALE CLASSIC AMERICAN PILSNER:

Pre-prohibition-style American Pilsner with floor-malted Bohemian malt and old-world hop varietals.

5.2% alcohol by volume

Available on draft and in 12oz cans

Shipping the week of July 20, 2020

ABOUT ARCTIC CLUB ICE BEER:

Dry, bubbly, light-colored lager with mildly elevated ABV.  A peak summer celebratory specialty.

6.0% alcohol by volume

Available on draft and in 12oz cans

Shipping the week of August 31, 2020

 

ABOUT HUNTER SPECIAL BAVARIAN-STYLE LAGER:

Balanced and refreshing Festbier featuring premium Bavarian hops and malt.

5.5% alcohol by volume

Available on draft and in 12oz cans

Shipping the week of October 12, 2020

ABOUT BUCKINGHAM ALE ENGLISH MILD:

Low ABV, moderately malty, sociable, historically-accurate English pub-style ale.

3.8% alcohol by volume

Available on draft and in 12oz cans

Shipping the week of November 23, 2020

ABOUT OLD DELTA BOCK BEER:

Malty, mid-sweet brown lager with a sturdy ABV.  The traditional and renowned mid-winter accompaniment.

6.5% alcohol by volume

Available on draft and in 12oz cans

Shipping the week of January 4, 2021

 

ABOUT UPPER HAND BREWERY: 

Upper Hand Brewery is a crew of hikers, campers, dog-walkers, anglers, hunters, bikers, and folks that just want to get out there. We believe that life’s mission is to do what you love, where you love, with the people you love. For us, that means brewing the best beer we can, in the best place on Earth: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

We put a lot of thought into brewing beer that reflects what we love about where we live. We have the unique opportunity to try and capture an experience—a sense of place—in each and every beer, and we take it seriously. That’s not to say we don’t have a lot of fun. The U.P. is full of adventures and we love making beer that makes those adventures even better.

A little more about us: our founder—Larry Bell of Bell’s Brewery—had always dreamed of opening a brewery in the Upper Peninsula. Little clues of those dreams can be found in many of the classic Bell’s brands, which pay tribute to the U.P. in their names and label artwork. His dream became a reality when we broke ground on our 20-barrel brewhouse in 2013, and we haven’t looked back since.

Find Upper Hand Brewery online at www.upperhandbrewery.com, as well as FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

 

reopening

Bellaire, Mich. – Following the Governor’s orders, Short’s Bellaire Pub will reopen this Friday, May 22 just in time for the holiday weekend. The Short’s team are going above and beyond government mandates for the safety of our staff and patrons as a result of COVID-19. 

The biggest change—moving to reservations only and limiting group sizes to 10 people or less. 

“We’re doing everything we can to keep our patrons and our staff safe. We want to thank everyone in advance for their patience and grace, and for adhering to our new rules. We reserve the right to refuse service to any guest that refuses to comply with our new normal.” Said Erin Kuethe, the General Manager at Short’s Pub. 

 

Guest Changes: 

– Guests will be only be allowed in the pub when they are dining, and are asked to remain home if 

they are, or have recently been sick 

– Guests will be legally required to wear a mask, unless they are at their table eating and drinking 

– Reservations only—Guests will be required to book online (see below for details) – QR Codes will be visible on-premise and take guests to an online menu 

No waiting areas—Guests encouraged to wait in vehicles or go for a walk while waiting for a text notification that their table is ready 

– Limit party sizes to groups of 10 or less 

– Take out window will remain open for growler fills, packaged product, and to go orders 

– Expanded take out menu options for large groups 

– Food and beverage delivery available for Bellaire addresses 

– Curbside pick up available in designated spots behind the pub 

Condiment caddies will be replaced with single serve salt, pepper, parmesan, and red pepper 

flakes—available upon request 

– *Some menu items are subject to change based on supply availability 

 

Pub Changes: 

– New Hours 

– Sun-Thur 11am-9pm – Friday & Saturday 11am-10pm 

– Moving to all single-use menus or laminated menus that are sanitized between guests 

– Dining room capacity has been reduced to less than 50% 

– At least 6 feet between each table

– X’s on the floor will indicate 6 foot separation 

– Removal of barstools, pool table, and gaming areas 

– Installation of plexiglass guards at the host stand and North bars 

– Each shift will have a designated cleaner to clean and sanitize work surfaces, shared surfaces, and bathrooms CONSTANTLY. This will go above and beyond normal sanitation practices. 

 

Short’s Mart Changes: 

– Shoppers will be legally required to wear a mask 

– Short’s Mart will be limited to 4 patrons at a time 

– Mart door will be used for Exit Only 

– Guests will be asked to not handle the merchandise 

– All Short’s Mart merch can be ordered online (see link below) 

– Tuesdays from 10am-12pm will be open for vulnerable guests, which currently include people over 60, pregnant women, and those with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease. 

 

Employee Practices: 

– Staff will be required to wear masks at all times 

– All employees are required to stay home if they are sick 

– All employees will have their temperature taken and complete the health departments questionnaire before beginning their shift 

– Silverware will be rolled using single-use gloves 

For Reservations visit: https://www.shortsbrewing.com/reservations/ 

For more information regarding the pub reopening, please visit our Rules/FAQ page: https://www.shortsbrewing.com/reservations/ 

 

 

About Short’s Brewing Company 

Located in the heart of Downtown Bellaire, MI, Short’s Brewing Co. was established in 2004 by Joe Short. In 2009, Short’s began keg and bottle distribution in Michigan via their Elk Rapids Production Facility. The brewery is known widely for their flagship and experimental brews including Soft Parade, Local’s Light, and Huma Lupa Licious. Short’s prides themselves on producing fearlessly creative beers, handmade by people who care in Northern Michigan. 

Short’s Brewing Co also has a passion for beverage innovation and created Starcut Ciders in 2014 and Beaches Hard Seltzer in 2019. Both brands push the boundaries of ingredients and fermentation innovation to create unique, premium beverages.

shorts brewing

Elk Rapids, Mich. – Just in time for summer adventure, Short’s Brewing Co has released a brand-new variety pack featuring some brand-new brews and a flagship favorite. Refreshin’ Session is lo-cal, lo-carb, and lo-abv variety pack featuring Local’s Light, Furry Buddy, Lil’ Huma, and Soft Parade Seltzer. It’s truly Short’s guide for the long game, with something for everyone. 

“This 12 pack is a one-stop-shop, pick one up and you’re good to go. Approved by moms and dads, neighbors, colleagues, coaches, athletes, teachers, other brewers, your grandma, and yes—even aliens.” said Joe Short, Front Man and Creative Engineer of Short’s Brewing Co. “It’s the ultimate summer session party pack for long days on the water or the trail, and it’s just at home at the family BBQ.” 

Lil’ Huma, Furry Buddy, and Soft Parade Seltzer are making their debut into the Short’s Brewniverse, and are only available in this limited variety pack. 

Lil’ Huma, a takedown from our flagship Huma Lupa Licious, is a session IPA with a 4.5% abv, 95 calories, and 4 carbs. 

Furry Buddy is a light stout with 4.9% abv, 115 calories, and 6 carbs. 

Soft Parade Seltzer is a light, refreshing take on our flagship fruit ale and is brewed with blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries with 5.5% abv, 95 calories, and only 2 carbs. 

Local’s Light—our flagship American Lager at 5.2% abv, 110 calories, and 3 carbs. 

Find our Refreshin’ Session variety pack starting the week of April 27th. This is a limited release, so grab it before it’s gone this summer! You can find the pack at retailers across Michigan, Wisconsin, and Colorado, including local beer stores and large grocery retailers. Or, if you’re in northern Michigan, visit our online store to have beer delivered right to your doorstep. 

For more information about Short’s Brewing Company, please visit www.shortsbrewing.com. 

For more information about Short’s Beer Delivery program, please visit store.shortsbrewing.com and click the BEER DELIVERY tab. 

About Short’s Brewing Company 

Located in the heart of Downtown Bellaire, MI, Short’s Brewing Co. was established in 2004 by Joe Short. In 2009, Short’s began keg and bottle distribution in Michigan via their Elk Rapids  Production Facility. The brewery is known widely for their flagship and experimental brews including Soft Parade, Local’s Light, and Huma Lupa Licious. Short’s prides themselves on producing fearlessly creative beers, handmade by people who care in Northern Michigan. Short’s Brewing Co also has a passion for beverage innovation and created Starcut Ciders in 2014 and Beaches Hard Seltzer in 2019. Both brands push the boundaries of ingredients and fermentation innovation to create unique, premium beverages. 

 

Upper Hand

ESCANABA, Mich. – Upper Hand Brewery is proud to announce that two of its beers were awarded medals at the 2019 World Expo of Beer.

Escanaba Black Beer was awarded a gold medal in the Dark European category, while Barrel-Aged Old Fighter took home bronze medals in both the Strong American and Wood-Aged categories.  

“Escanaba Black Beer is one of the three original Upper Hand recipes, and it has remained unchanged in our year-round portfolio since the day we opened,” said Upper Hand Brewery President and Founder, Larry Bell. “It is very gratifying to see it win top honors in its class.”

“I’m also delighted that the barrel-aged version of our Old Fighter was recognized with medals in two categories,” he added. “Like a good bottle of wine, we brewed this beer specifically to age gracefully, so it is incredibly validating to see it honored after over three years.”

There were 803 entries in this year’s World Expo of Beer, which is held annually in Frankenmuth, MI. It is Michigan’s largest professional beer competition. Upper Hand Brewery is the only U.P.-based brewery to receive awards at the 2019 event.

Escanaba Black Beer is available year-round in cans and draft.  Barrel-Aged Old Fighter is a small-batch, draft-only brand available at select bars and restaurants throughout the Upper Peninsula.

 

ABOUT ESCANABA BLACK BEER:

Escanaba Black Beer is at home around both summer fire pits and winter fireplaces. This dark, delicious, malt-forward black ale has a moderate roastiness that is balanced with a silky-smooth, mildly bitter finish (4.5% alcohol by volume – available on draft and in 12oz cans).

ABOUT BARREL-AGED OLD FIGHTER BARLEY WINE-STYLE ALE:

Barrel-Aged Old Fighter is a bold, brash take on the American Barley Wine style. Barrel-aged for fifteen months in blend of bourbon, rye, and port wine barrels, Old Fighter displays caramel, rich malt, and oak character throughout (12.7% alcohol by volume – available on draft).

 

ABOUT UPPER HAND BREWERY:

Upper Hand Brewery is a crew of hikers, campers, dog-walkers, anglers, hunters, bikers, and folks that just want to get out there. We believe that life’s mission is to do what you love, where you love, with the people you love. For us, that means brewing the best beer we can, in the best place on Earth: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

We put a lot of thought into brewing beer that reflects what we love about where we live. We have the unique opportunity to try and capture an experience—a sense of place—in each and every beer, and we take it seriously. That’s not to say we don’t have a lot of fun. The U.P. is full of adventures and we love making beer that makes those adventures even better.

A little more about us: our founder—Larry Bell of Bell’s Brewery—had always dreamed of opening a brewery in the Upper Peninsula. Little clues of those dreams can be found in many of the classic Bell’s brands, which pay tribute to the U.P. in their names and label artwork. His dream became a reality when we broke ground on our 20-barrel brewhouse in 2013, and we haven’t looked back since.

 

 

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.”

7 monks

Traverse City, Mich. – Seven years ago Matt Cozzens and Jim Smolak had a dream to bring great beer and great food to Traverse City. They dreamed big, opening their craft beer bar with an almost unheard of 46 taps; wine, cider, local mead; and an ever changing bottled beer selection. Fast forward to today and 7 Monks Taproom – thrice named to Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Beer Bars in America – is celebrating a monumental anniversary.

According to co-owners Matt Cozzens and Jim Smolak, it’s time to party. And they plan to do just that on Sept. 22 as they present the “7 Monks Experience” from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Back Abbey.

“This celebration captures the best of our past 7 years of friendships created through beer,” said Cozzens.

Those friendships will be highlighted with 7 different brewery tents:

  • Short’s Brewing Company Tent featuring multiple past 7 Monks Taproom  anniversary ales/lagers plus this year’s edition; Gratitude – a hoppy farmhouse ale

  • Odd Side Ales Tent featuring the 7 Monks 7th Anniversary Dank Juice IPA

  • Local’s Tent featuring Low Bar, Filling Station and Earthen Ales

  • Schilling Beer Co./Resilience Tent featuring Travese City friends who operate these great breweries out in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

  • Trappist Tent featuring Chimay, Rochefort, and other Trappist gems

  • Founders Brewing Co. Tent

  • Left Foot Charley Winery and Tandem Ciders Tent

Taqueria Las Lagunas food truck will be on site in the Back Abbey, and Timed Tappings will take place throughout the event, including:

4 p.m.: Transient Artisan Ales (Bridgman, MI)

6 p.m.: Speciation Artisan Ales (Grand Rapids, MI)

8 p.m.: HOMES Brewery (Ann Arbor, MI)

10:30 p.m.: Mystery Tapping

No party is complete without live music, and 7 Monks is ready to serve up the best.

“We are thrilled that we will be joined by Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish and The Go Rounds,” said Smolak.

Tickets are $7 each and include your first pour (12 oz.) of any draft beer featured in the Back Abbey. Event tickets may be purchased by visiting 7 Monks Taproom in Traverse City or by going online to ?. Additional drink tickets will be available to purchase on-site for $5 per 12 oz. draft pour. Attendees must be 21+ to enter the Back Abbey.

 

About 7 Monks Taproom:

7 Monks Taproom is a craft beer bar and gastropub that has twice been named one of America’s Best Beer Bars by Thrillist and to Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Beer Bars in America for three consecutive years. With a heavy focus on Belgian Ales, especially Trappist beer, European ales and lagers, 7 Monks also offers a variety of wine, cider, and the best craft beers from Michigan, the United States, and the world. 7 Monks-Traverse City is located at 128 S Union St and 7 Monks-Grand Rapids. Visit them online at 7MonksTap.com.

beer and brat festival

Nothing says Memorial Day weekend like a giant cookout.

For the last 12 years, Crystal Mountain has been hosting just that, bringing together Michigan breweries and unique takes on that favorite summer staple: the brat.

This year, Crystal Mountain will host its 13th Annual Michigan Beer and Brat Festival on May 26 from 4-8 p.m.

The festival takes place at the base of the four-season resort’s ski slopes—a unique, outdoor atmosphere that keeps attendees coming back every year.

beer and brat festival

“Everyone is ready for summer to begin, there’s nothing more summer-like than beer and brats,” said Brian Lawson, director of public relations at Crystal Mountain.

Attendees to this year’s festival can look forward to a variety of twists on the age-old combination. Thirty-five Michigan breweries will be present along with over 100 of their craft beers. Those attending will be able to pair those selections with 24 different kinds of brats from local markets. Past favorites have included flavors like asparagus, morel mushroom and Roadhouse salsa.

Lawson said the festival has become a favorite way to spend the holiday for guests and brewers alike.

“It’s a big cook out, in a lot of ways. It’s like one big Memorial Day party” Lawson said.

He added that he is consistently surprised, and flattered, by how enthusiastic the Michigan brewers are about the festival.

“We’ve gotten a sense from the brewers that they’re just as excited to come here as the guests,” Lawson said. “We’re grateful and flattered to get such great participation from the breweries on a holiday weekend.”

A few non-beer beverage makers will also share some offerings at the festival. Iron Fish Distillery is a neighbor to the resort and the two often collaborate. They’ll be pouring drinks made with their craft spirits at the festival. Traverse City’s Brengman Brothers winery will also have some special offerings.

As is tradition, the festival will also feature a car show. The British Car Club will show a selection of vehicles. Lawson said this component of the festival started as a happy accident. Now it’s a favorite part of the festival. In the last few years, Tesla and electric vehicle owners have also brought their cars to display. As advocates of sustainable energy, Lawson said the resort is proud to host them.

Musicians Drew Hale and The Rock Show Band will provide live music.

Tickets can be purchased online. General admission tickets are $30 in advance and $35 the day of and come with a 9 ounce glass and five tokens. VIP tickets are $60 in advance and come with a 9 ounce glass, 10 tokens and access to the festival an hour early at 3 p.m. Kids are welcome to attend at the general admission ticket price, with tokens usable towards food and pop.

The Michigan Beer and Brat Festival takes place the day before the North Mitten Half Marathon, 10K and 5K. For those who’d like a taste of the action but don’t want to consume beer and brats the day before their race, the resort will host Micros on the Mountaintop that Sunday, May 27. The event features a chairlift ride to some of the Michigan brews celebrated at the Beer and Brats Festival. Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 the day of.

 

beer and brat festival

 

Sponsored by Crystal Mountain