USA, MI: The Northland Brewing Co. becomes Northern Michigan's newest brewery
One man's passion for brewing recently culminated in the opening of Northern Michigan's newest brewery, the Petoskey News-Review reported on July 29.
The Northland Brewing Co., Indian River's first and only brewery, recently opened on Saturday, July 3 and cant stop brewing both beer and business.
"I get so many people that come in and say '... finally! Indian River really needed a brewery' and people seem to be really loving it so far," said owner Matt Whitener.
Whitener got his start in beer production doing some home brewing for fun, but also to give out beer to his ski league friends and at a few local music festivals.
A long run with perfecting his craft even took Whitener as far as winning brewing competitions and brewing his winning beer for the Filling Station in Traverse City.
"I'd brew five-gallon kegs for my ski buddies and everyone loved it," said Whitener.
"After that contest, though, I really started thinking about going to work at a brewery and got really serious about it," he said.
Whitener ended up working for Pond Hill Farm's brewery in Harbor Springs for a bit to learn more of the ins and outs of brewing in a commercial facility and getting some more hands-on training with brewing equipment.
"I did that, did a ton of research and I just started this plan in my head to open my own brewery," he said.
As owner of a plot of land on South Straits Highway in downtown Indian River, Whitener already had the location for a brewery. The rest of the work was just getting one of the buildings he owns ready to open.
The building where Wildwood Coffee recently opened is where Whitener had originally planned to open his brewery, but he figured a coffee shop would pair well with a brewery.
"I had wanted to open the brewery where they are now, but they had approached me a few years ago about opening. I thought it really complimented what we were going to be doing with the brewery," he said.
In 2019 Whitener then went to work renovating the building on the north side of the property doing everything from ripping out the floors to plumbing work, re-pouring cement floors, installing tap lines, building a new deck and more.
However, the day before the brewery put in for its plumbing inspection, the COVID-19 pandemic was intensifying and Michigan's stay at home order was announced.
"We were finally able to get a rough inspection done over a video call so we were finally able to move forward and get to opening," said Whitener.
Whitener had planned to do a soft opening for his friends and family in late June or early July, but had been waiting for the final licenses from the state to come through to finally open.
At 4:45 p.m. on Friday, July 2, the licenses came through and thus the Northland Brewing Company opened.
"We pulled it together and opened the next day for that Fourth of July weekend," said Whitener.
"That weekend was crazy and we've really only been open for a few weekends but so far it's really been great," he said.
The brewery features six rotating taps with a beer for all types of beer lovers. Right now a pale ale, a stout and a few IPAs are available. A seltzer is also in the works to be put on tap for those wanting a lighter drinking option.
Future plans for the brewery also include having some light food offerings and live entertainment either inside the brewery or outdoors on its one-acre backyard.
"We are just getting out feet under us and business has been amazing but as we grow we definitely want to have some live music and entertainment," said Whitener.
"Really, we are just excited to be open and the support we have received from the community so far has been amazing," he added.
The Northland Brewing Company is located at 3798 S. Straits Highway in downtown Indian River and is currently open 4-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon-10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and noon-5 p.m. on Sunday.
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