The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has much to offer in the way of scenery, outdoor activities, and a unique culture that spreads into the Keweenaw Peninsula where the town of Copper Harbor sits on the shores of Lake Superior. This out-of- the- way town is a quiet getaway from Michigan dwellers and visitors alike, offering bike trails, trips to Isle Royale National Park, and an annual migratory bird festival. Very soon, Copper Harbor will have another place for people to visit — its very own brewery.
Brickside Brewery is anticipated to open in Fall 2011 by owner Jason Robinson, a Copper Harbor resident who lives there year round with his wife, Jessica, and their children. The Facebook page gives a simple yet warm view of what customers can expect from Brickside Brewery: ” Small batch hand crafted beer made with the most important things in mind, fun, friends, family, and life lived at a slower pace.”
Jason was a great sport and took time out of his brewing and business planning to give me an interview about this exciting new business venture in the UP.
What piqued your interest in the beer brewing business?
Around seven years ago, we were gifted a home-brewing kit one Christmas. When we finally got around to trying it, we were hooked. A couple years into it we kicked around the idea of opening our own brewery, as most home-brewers do. But the idea took root as my wife went to school I worked on expanding my brewing skills. When she finished I looked into brewery training and schools.
What school did you go to? How long did you attend and what was the course like?
I choose the American Brewers Guild’s Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering with a Craftbrewers Apprenticeship. It’s now primarily a distance learning setup where the lectures are watched on DVD and supplemented with lots of reading and internet resources. It’s a six month course for those looking to get into the professional side of brewing; six months of 9 – 12 hours of lecture with plenty of reading, online quizzes, and some tough tests which culminates with a weeklong hands-on at a Guild brewery. Then I did a 5 week internship at Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, a small downstate Michigan craftbrewer, doing on hand what I’ve learned over the last 6 months.
How has your family helped with this venture?
From my wife fully supporting my schooling, to my parents and in-laws watching the kids while I was away, they’ve helped in innumerable ways. In the lead up to getting things open, all have given advice in the business and legal side of things, which admittedly is a lot harder than the brewing part for me.
What are your long term goals and hopes for the brewery?
My goals are to grow over the next few years till I’m going at full capacity, to make beer that people eagerly recommend to others, and to not go insane getting it all smoothed out in the beginning.
Do you have a “stand out” factor? What makes this brewery different from others?
I guess our location to begin with. We’re in a remote resort town with a unique situation and way of life. I’m trying to reflect that in the labels and artwork. As for the beer, right from the start we have some great tasting styles that people are familiar with: a pale ale, an IPA, and a stout. Once we’ve got our system dialed in and people aware, I want to start delving into some beers using local ingredients and wild berries; rhubarb, black berries, blueberries, and thimbleberries (to name a few) as well as spruce, juniper, mint and other herbs, exploring some of the earlier styles of beer that were made in this country.
What kind of feedback have you gotten so far?
Universally positive. Everyone that I tell about it or hears about it agrees that it is a great idea
Jason is currently working to get the website, www.bricksidebrewery.com , up and running. He will also have a Kickstarter project up by May 23rd. Kickstarter is a way for people to donate money to projects they are interested in .
I can’t wait to hear how this project develops and fully plan to find a time in the future to visit Copper Harbor so I can sample some of Brickside Brewery’s homemade beer.