MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — Beer is being brewed commercially in downtown Muskegon for the first time since 1957, local beer historians say.
The long development efforts of Unruly Brewing Co. are paying off in the creation of local craft beer in the basement of the Russell Block Market, according to The Muskegon Chronicle ( http://bit.ly/1hJOW2K ).
Head brew master Eric Hoffman of Norton Shores began testing out Unruly’s new brewing system two weeks ago and has put six batches of beer through the production process. It is hoped that Unruly’s tasting room will be open by the end of November, owners said.
Unruly’s brewing room has been licensed and inspected by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, the Muskegon County Health Department and the city of Muskegon. Once the upper level tasting room is complete, the brewing company will need a final walk-through inspection to be able to sell its various craft beers.
“It was exciting to get in here and get to work,” said Hoffman, who has been a home brewer for five years and has studied the commercial brewing process. “To this point, a lot of people have rooted for us and others have had their doubts. There are some bittersweet emotions with it all.”
Hoffman has joined partners, Muskegon attorney Jeff Jacobson, construction contractor Mark Gongalski and investor Mike Brown, in getting Unruly brewing. Hoffman is sales and service representative for BICO Steel, a steel plate supplier to the plastics and tool and die industries.
“I hope to make this into a full-time job,” Hoffman said of brewing. “But I’m being realistic so I am keeping my day job for now.”
Unruly began two weeks ago with its first batch of Pale Ale Newmeister, brewed in honor of the first commercial beer recorded from Muskegon in 1876, Hoffman said.
The Muskegon Brewing Co. operated from 1876-1957 as the building was used by brewers with various names. The Grand Rapids Brewery bottled in that location from 1935 to 1946, local historians say, and Goebel Beer was made there from 1946 to 1957. For a time, it also was one of two places in the United States producing Guinness Beer — an Irish tradition.
Unruly Brewing Co. incorporated two years ago with the idea of creating a “community brewery” and selected its downtown location last November, Hoffman said. The brewing room is directly below the bar and seating area of the tasting room.
No one is more excited to smell the grains and hops cooking in the lower level of the Russell Market than Jonathan Seyferth, the new director of Downtown Muskegon Now, a craft beer fan and home brewer.
“This is real exciting,” Seyferth said in paying a visit to Unruly Brewing Co. late last week. “It will be great to get a locally-brewed pint in downtown Muskegon.
“They are doing it right and will produce a high-quality beer,” he said. “This project is all home-grown.”
Down the street, the Pigeon Hill Brewing Co. is fast at work converting the Noble Building into its new home. Seyfreth said that Pigeon Hill appears to be making progress and is on schedule to open late this year or early 2014. Along with Fetch Brewing Co. in Whitehall, Muskegon County has three craft beer outlets under development.
In the basement of the Russell Market, the Unruly partners had to construct a sealed concrete floor in the basement of the historic building, which dates back to 1890, he said. The floor includes a “trench drain” and all of the electrical element is waterproof, Hoffman said.
The brewing process called for a vented hood for the natural gas burners under the brewing kettles and a sprinkler fire suppression system in the brew-room that is roughly 20-by-80 feet.
“The brewing system can result in 20 gallons of water being evaporated in the process,” Hoffman said.
Unruly’s brewing system comes from Portland Kettle Works in Oregon. It is all American-made equipment and designed specifically for the installation in Muskegon, he said. Unruly has more than $100,000 invested in its brewing system.
“It was kind of a ‘plug and play’ system for us, which helped in getting our permits and approvals,” Hoffman said, adding that automated temperature controls and built-in pumps are part of the Portland Kettle Works brewing system.
The Unruly brewing system can hold 120 gallons and is considered a three-and-a-half barrel system. The components include three steel kettles, four 110 gallon fermentation tanks and a brite tank to clarify, carbonate and chill the beer.
The beer-making process takes two and a half weeks. The Unruly system also includes a cold room that has been built to keep the beer at 38 degrees right below the bar. Unruly’s tasting room will have the capacity of tapping 12 beers at once.
The brewing company will offer a half-dozen beers that will be rotated and some specialty or seasonal beers to start, Hoffman said. Hoffman will be brewing three or four batches a week to get Unruly open. The brewery is taking delivery of a number of kegs for storage purposes.
“We got plenty of advice when putting our system together,” Hoffman said. “We were told that it takes twice as long to get it built and costs twice as much as you think it should. That was good advice . almost to the dollar and the day.”
Information from: The Muskegon Chronicle, http://www.mlive.com/muskegon
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