A Particular Vacation spot: Austin Brothers Beer Co.

A Particular Vacation spot: Austin Brothers Beer Co.

Generally a vacation spot is so particular, you’re compelled to uproot your life and relocate there.

Within the early 2000s, Dana and Julie Austin set out from their southern California house with their sons, Blake and Brant, to discover America by way of motorhome, hitting 47 states over the course of two summers. Among the many cities they found was Alpena, alongside the northeastern shore of Lake Huron. 

Again house, Dana continued his profession as a fireplace captain in San Bernardino; Blake labored as a golf professional for Oak Valley Golf Membership in Beaumont; and Brant got down to turn into a brewer. He enrolled within the esteemed Siebel Institute of Know-how, a Chicago-based vocational faculty that has been providing brewing schooling since 1868. As a part of that program, he frolicked on the Doemens Academy in Munich earlier than in the end graduating from Siebel in 2011. From there, he honed his abilities at Ballast Level Brewing in San Diego (2011-2013) and Mom Earth Brewing in Vista (2013-2014).  

Dana in the end retired and in 2014 the Austin household determined to maneuver almost 2,500 miles east to northern Michigan, to that quaint trip locale that left an enduring impression almost 10 years earlier than. Tapping into Brant’s skillset, they shortly started working organising a household enterprise – Austin Brothers Beer Co.

First settled in 1835, Alpena was formally based 5 years later earlier than being integrated in 1871. By 1884, the inhabitants had grown to 9,000. Primarily based on the 2020 census, it’s now slightly below 10,000 and is the second most populated metropolis in northern Michigan (after Traverse Metropolis).

A half dozen breweries operated in Alpena between the 1870s and Twenties, when prohibition put a halt to such companies. A long time later, because the craft beer motion took maintain in Michigan, Alpena welcomed Fletcher Road Brewing, which opened in 2003 and closed for good in June 2014. Austin Brothers was established in late 2014, and open for enterprise by the next September.

“It’s cool to be part of Michigan’s rising beer business,” Brant says. “I believe the variety of breweries right here has doubled since we opened our doorways.”

 At present, Michigan ranks sixth within the nation for the variety of craft breweries, based on the Michigan Brewers Guild and the Brewers Affiliation, with simply over 400. That quantity was 205 in 2015 when Austin Brothers opened. 

There have been solely 4 beers on faucet that fall when Austin Brothers opened its taproom and restaurant at 821 W. Miller St., simply exterior of downtown Alpena, however that quantity shortly doubled. By their one-year anniversary, Austin Brothers had expanded to almost 100 totally different beer recipes with a rotation of about 18 totally different beers on draft at any given time. This contains their commonplace line up in addition to seasonal and trending types that are crafted in small batches till they’re positive the general public will get pleasure from them. 

“Since day one, 45er IPA has been our signature beer. Coming from California, we needed to carry a real West Coast IPA to Michigan palates,” says Chris Heikkuri, director of gross sales, of the beer named such as a result of it’s brewed alongside the forty fifth Parallel. Tasting notes reference hints of pear, grapefruit and tropical fruits attributed to the two.5 kilos of hops per barrel, making 45er the best-selling beer by a big margin.

Arising beer names is a enjoyable and artistic option to seize all the nice and fascinating issues about the place the beer is brewed. 

“Hazy Depths Double IPA, a collaboration with the Mates of the Thunder Bay Marine Sanctuary, options totally different shipwrecks that may be present in Thunder Bay,” Heikkuri says. “ROCKPORTer is called after the state park the place you may hunt for fossils throughout the day and see each star within the sky at night time. NRTHRN LTS – a low cal, low carb, gluten-reduced beer – is one other nod to the wonderful night time sky in northern Michigan.”

Pub guests may even discover a collection of Shandies (beers combined with lemonade) and distinctive “Brothers Blends” like a Cherralyzer – a mix of the Parallyzer Double IPA and the Cherry Bomb fruit ale.

For his or her in style Murk Collection (a rotating collection of New England model IPSs), the names are drawn from popular culture like Murko Polo, Steve Murkel, Murking for the Weekend, Murk & Mindy, Murk Twain and Captain Murk. 

“These names come from all over the place – us, workers, clients, random emails from folks we don’t know,” says Heikkuri. “We’re all the time available in the market for Murk title!”

Whereas Brant handles the brewing operations, Blake serves as CFO and is chargeable for the corporate’s financials, distribution administration, gross sales and advertising and marketing. Since Covid, he has additionally taken over the kitchen the place he serves up hearty sandwiches, handheld pitas, burgers and shareables like crispy Brussel sprouts, poutine tri-tip fries and smoked whitefish dip. He’s additionally the pit grasp for the brewery’s 1000-gallon smoker (for these brisket, pulled pork and Cubano sandwiches). 

Even mother and pa are in on the operations – Dana runs the entrance of the home and Julie manages all of the merchandise for individuals who need equipment with Austin Brothers logoed hats and shirts, together with glassware and different bar instruments. 

“The Austin household instantly linked with the group once they arrived in Alpena and shortly turned a key participant as a part of the town’s hospitality revitalization,” says Alpena Mayor Matt Waligora. “Their service, beer, and menu set a excessive commonplace not just for breweries however eating places normally and has definitely made them a neighborhood and journey vacation spot. That clearly performs a job in our total regional financial growth.”

Outdoors, guests will discover loads of patio and out of doors backyard seating, cornhole tournaments and dwell music to boost the brewery expertise, drawing locals and guests alike.

“We’re fortunate to have nice native assist, whereas additionally being in an space that continues to see progress in tourism yearly,” Heikkuri says. “Within the winter, we positively see extra of our neighbors, however there are all the time acquainted faces sitting on the bar in summer season as properly.”

Past Alpena, Austin Brothers distributes their canned beers all through Michigan, with 28 warehouses and 22 distributors based on Heikkuri. 

“There are about 350 bars that carry our beer, and about 600 shops,” Heikkuri says, together with Meijer, Walmart, Kroger, Spartan Shops and Whole Wine. “Our distribution community covers all corners of Michigan. The one beer we ship out of state goes to Tavour, which is an organization that runs an app that permits folks to purchase beer from breweries that don’t distribute of their state or are exhausting to search out.”

This in depth distribution round Michigan not solely builds model recognition for the brewery, but it surely attracts consideration to Alpena and its surrounding space.

“The brewery has been a beautiful addition to our group. I am going to skilled conferences and other people ask me about their newest recipes or let me know which sorts are their favourite,” says Mary Beth Stutzman, president and CEO of the Alpena Space Conference & Guests Bureau. “The Austin household has totally built-in themselves into the material of the Alpena group and Michigan’s microbrew tradition. We’ve actually loved welcoming the Austins to the group they usually have created a vacation spot brewery expertise in Northeastern Decrease Michigan that’s identified state-wide.”

Austin Brothers is certainly one of two breweries working in Alpena; Hopside Brewery opened downtown final July. It is usually amongst greater than a half dozen on Michigan’s Dawn Coast’ – between Mackinaw Metropolis and Tawas Metropolis – alongside the US-23 Heritage Route, a Pure Michigan Byway. Passing by means of six counties in all, this Lake Huron shoreline space is a pure tourism space wealthy in tradition, historical past, out of doors recreation and different hidden gems that draw vacationers from far and large (like households from southern California). 

“These final couple years have emphasised the significance of group assist to the success of our enterprise,” says Blake. “It’s enjoyable to be part of the expansion of tourism in Alpena.”

Dianna Stampfler has been writing professionally since highschool. She is the president of Promote Michigan and the writer of Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses and Dying & Lighthouses on the Nice Lakes, each from The Historical past Press.

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