Each of these Michigan Breweries brings something a little bit different to the table. However, the one characteristic they all share is their commitment to providing memorable experiences for their customers and community. These six interviews provide insight into how these breweries became so successful and how they manage to keep things fun and creative by hosting all-star events!
1. Brewery Vivant
The word “vivant” translates as “to be alive”, or “to be lively”. As the name implies, this brewery is anything but dull; it’s setting, staff, and beer seem to come alive from the moment one enters this welcoming community. Although the brewery’s most popular beer is known as Farm Hand, one can find Brewery Vivant’s Belgian and French inspired beers throughout the state of Michigan. I spoke with Kate Avery, Director of Sales and Marketing about what makes this brewery really come alive…
Our owners, Kris and Jason Spaulding, wanted a brewery set in a neighborhood within Grand Rapids, as opposed to an industrial area. Their intention was to become a neighborhood spot, a place where customers could instantly feel welcome and at ease. From the moment you walk through our door, it’s obvious that they’ve accomplished just that. People come here to do more than simply satisfy their hunger or thirst; they come here to be a part of the community. It’s almost impossible to not make a new friend when you come in for a beer. It’s funny, our regulars often think they are coming in for just one beer, yet end up running into all their friends and staying a lot longer than they planned! We love being a catalyst for connection and camaraderie.
Our location is also unique because our pub is in a refurbished historical funeral home! Upon entering, it feels as if you’ve stepped into another time zone or country. Or, maybe like you’re walking into an old beer hall in Europe. This plays well with our beer making which is based on Belgian tradition.
We have an exciting event coming up; we are celebrating our fifth anniversary on December 20th with live music, food specials, and the release of our anniversary ale to commemorate the occasion. On that same day, we’ll also pledge to donate $5,000 to a local charity partner, Congress Elementary School. We’ll be open from noon until 10PM, so anyone that’s interested in exclusive beers and general merriment… mark your calendar!
2. Greenbush Brewing Co.
Although Aaron Darling’s main responsibilities include marketing and retail operations, his official business card reads “Chaos Commander”. I can understand why this title is appropriate for Aaron because there are many moving parts to this brewery, and he usually has a hand in making sure each of these parts run smoothly. Aaron paints a very accurate picture of the creative and inspiring nature of this brewery located in Sawyer, Michigan…
The more time I spend here, the more I realized that creativity runs in the veins of this place. We have a lot of creative minds working for us, who enjoy and take pride in making new and beautiful things. This comes through first and foremost in our beer and trickles down to a lot of other facets of the company. We make big, unique beers, but we are as well known for our food as our beer, and I think that is a testament to an internal foodie culture.
Working at Greenbush is a unique experience in and of itself. In my former work-life I had to dress up and play some roles that I didn’t feel authentic playing. Now, I feel like I get to be myself. I wear a trucker hat, t-shirt, and jeans to work everyday. I like the idea of building something special in a small town with a bunch of rad people that have a similar passion and want to see this thing succeed.
There are a lot of factors we have to consider when planning an event because we have grown into a bunch of different departments. We are always going 100 MPH, so we need to stop and ask, “How is this event going to impact every single department?”
This past year, we hosted an event called Shears and Beers. I had grown a big grizzly beard and had talked about shaving it for a long time. I thought, why not raise some money in the process! We got three stylists/barbers to come out and shave beards and hair in a competition style to raise money for three deserving local charities.
In addition, we have a Mug Club program with almost 4,000 members and most of them are part of our community. One of our members told me that he didn’t go down to Florida this year because of the community and his Greenbush family. We’ve also partnered with a few local charities and have worked hard to promote and support them financially. Anytime we can support someone in our own backyard, we make that a priority.
3. Jolly Pumpkin
Jolly Pumpkin is known for it’s sour beers and crazy cool atmosphere. There’s a lot to say about this brewery, but I’ll let Jolly Pumpkin’s Events Coordinator, Kerry McLean, explain the details of what makes this place a hit!
We’re weird! Seriously though, we were the first all sour brewery in the United States and the first brewery to use the term “Farmhouse Ale” to describe a beer. We like to make stuff that’s a little different than what you’re used to. If you’re looking for a saison with yuzu and peppercorns in it, we’re the people who will make that happen.
Outside of being able to drink and promote my favorite beers in the world, the people are the real reason I love working at Jolly Pumpkin in Dexter. We have a beautifully eclectic group of folks here, but we are all so completely tied together by our passion for what we are creating. Plus they are all supremely funny. I laugh a lot here.
Most of the events we hold here at the brewery are intimate, so it ends up feeling like a party with close friends more than an event. We spend a lot of time making sure the beer that we have for events is going to be unique and delicious and something you can’t get anywhere else. JP beers cellar extremely well, so we hold events like Vintage to Vinegar (vertical samplings of different years of a single beer) or the Rare Beer Auction (with some stuff that has been cellared for up to 10 years!) to showcase these bottles.
We even have a special events space that we like to loan out to local companies to host their events, and we try to stay involved in any of the upcoming events in the area. We have a partnership with North Peak and Grizzly Peak Brewing as well, and we all do what we can to work together to support local charities and colleges!
4. Short’s Brewing Co.
Beer lovers travel far and wide to experience this brewery. Although it has grown to be one of Michigan’s largest breweries, the team at Short’s still takes pride in their hands-on, mom-and-pop approach. The brewery’s Festival & Events Team Member, Kendal Fifield, elaborates on what makes Short’s such a success.
To me, it is the people of Short’s that really makes us stand out. The people of Short’s have a passion for making awesome beer, sharing our beer with Michiganders, and giving back to our community.
I love being a part of the Short’s family. In my position, no day is ever the same. I am always learning something new, I have creative freedom and I am able to travel around the state of Michigan and tell people just how great Short’s beer is! It’s easy to love your job when you are passionate about the product in which you sell and the people that you work with.
A lot of time and energy goes into planning our big events; Anniversary Party and Short’s Fest. The planning process never stops and we are constantly brainstorming and thinking of ways we can improve on for the next big event. We are always trying to give event attendees the best experience for the best value. We want our guests to leave our events already looking forward to the next big celebration.
My favorite event to host at Short’s happens to be our biggest event, our annual Anniversary Party! It is exciting to see thousands of people pack into the streets of Bellaire, Michigan to celebrate another year of fearlessly creative beer and share our passion for beer with friends, family, and fans.
5. Dark Horse Brewing Co.
Dark Horse Brewing Co. is the 13th brewery in history to open its door in Marshall, MI. Co-Owner and Director of Marketing and Social Media, Kristine Morse, expands on how this brewery uses both teamwork and fun events to build a strong sense of community.
We really take pride in the products we make here and work as a team. DHBC is a family and we work really hard to make our customers and supporters feel like a part of our family. We may be strange at times, but that’s just who we are.
I love all of our events: Smoke-Off, Crawfish Boil, Chicken Wing Thing and the 4 Elf Party. However, my ultimate favorite is our third annual Brew-Off Competition that will be held on February 20th, 2016. During this event, staff members are paired up with a brewer to create and brew a beer together. On the 21st, we invite the public to try them (kind of a mini-beer festival) and vote for their favorite! The winners then get to brew their beer on the 50 bbl brew house and we tap it for the first time at the MBG’s Summer Beer Fest held in July. That beer is then featured in the Taproom and all festivals throughout the year.
There is a ton of work that goes into preparing for our events. I think the most important is listening to our customer’s feedback for the year prior and make changes to ensure the event runs smother and better than the year before!
We try to stay involved and support our local retailers, recreation department, foundations and community events. We also hold a fundraiser at our annual Smoke-Off (rib smoking contest) to raise money for the Marshall Area Community Service that does wonderful things for those that are in need. One of our favorites is adopting a family for Christmas!
6. New Holland Brewing Co.
Nearing its 20th Anniversary, New Holland Brewing Co. has been invested in Michigan for the better part of two decades. While sponsoring local agricultural and humanitarian projects throughout Michigan, the NHBC team is committed to interacting with their dedicated customers both online and in-person. The brewery’s National Event and Sponsorship Coordinator, Taylor Remy, tells how this company has grown into something much larger than just a spot to throw back a few cold ones.
There are several chapters of the New Holland Brewing Company story that make us unique. We played a huge role in bringing grain-based distilling back to Michigan, with the law reformations of 2008 making us the oldest producer of whiskey in the state. We’re not afraid of change, which was made evident by the launch of our flagship IPA Mad Hatter earlier in 2015. Our commitment to using 100% Michigan ingredients for our specialty beer series also shows our commitment to the state that we call home.
I’ve been with the company since 2007, and a lot has changed since then. We’ve grown larger, our portfolios have grown, we started distilling, but the thing that has remained constant is the people. Every year we shut down all of our operations and take the entire staff out for a day of fun. We call it “Stop & Taste Day”, where everyone from the President to the accountants to the bartenders can sit down, share some food and drink, and enjoy the industry that we work in.
In addition, every June we throw a celebration called Mad Hatter Days. We set up a large stage, bring in some acrobats and some of our favorite bands, and enjoy another great year of brewing. There is face painting, hula hooping and juggling for the kids, cocktails and wine and beer pairings for the adults, and an entire area of the festival is filled with chairs and hammocks that people can take the time to relax in.
Not matter what event we are planning, we always need to consider the audience. We sponsor a booth at Bonnaroo every year, and that crowd is completely different from the beer garden we put up for the Grand Rapids Marathon. The wonderful thing about this industry is the variety that we deal with every day.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that we will see the opening of our second pub location in Grand Rapids in 2016 on the west side on the corner of Bridge and Broadway. The new site will be a full restaurant, tasting room, brewery and distillery. We’re all very excited about the project, and can’t wait to bring some of our unique flavors to Beer City, USA.