Crafting a masterpiece: Midland's growing beer culture

India pale, oatmeal stout, smoked porter, cream ale, and of course, the newly popular sour. To some, this is just a random collection of words, but to a beer drinker, these are mile markers on a beer tasting journey. Now home to quite a few beer destinations, Midland offers plenty of beer to explore and the city has only continued to expand locally over the past few years.

Craft on the Rise
Michigan craft breweries and their associated businesses (vendors, restaurants, pubs, suppliers and the like) accounted for over $2 billion in economic contributions to the Michigan economy last year, and those numbers look to trend upward, specifically in Midland.

Whichcraft Taproom on Ashman Street right in downtown Midland bills itself as “The best place for Michigan-made craft beer, cider, mead, and wine in downtown Midland, Michigan.”

Some of the tap options at Whichcraft Taproom

Whichcraft is home to some of the most sought after brews Michigan has to offer, including limited-release beers from some of the larger breweries like Founders Brewing and Bells. Depending on the season, you will sometimes find Founders KBS or even Founders CBS on tap for a limited time.

Renowned for it’s laid back atmosphere, knowledgeable bartenders and prime location at the heart of downtown Midland, the taproom kicked off Midland’s expanding beer culture when it opened its doors in 2013. Between their impressive craft beer menu and their deeply knowledgeable beverage staff, that claim is easily confirmed.

The custom beer cap table at Whichcraft Taproom

The newly remodeled Midland Brewing Company is taking craft a step further by brewing their own brand of beer right here in Midland. MBC is the hometown revival whose recent renovations include a giant kitchen expansion and the addition of a large outdoor deck. With additional beer and food options, MBC has managed to predict and ride the explosion of craft beer in the area.

Dave Kepler at the official ribbon cutting of Midland Brewing Company

According to Theresa Wasinski, Communications Manager for MBC and Turtle Cove Properties, “MBC was founded in 2010 and expanded in 2016 to add a large outdoor beer garden and patio and a full-service restaurant.”

“We're really proud of our region and our brewery theme celebrates the history of Midland, particularly the logging industry and the historical Pere Marquette Railroad which is now memorialized as the Pere Marquette Rail Trail, which runs right up to our back door,” adds Wasinski.

Midland Brewing Company

MBC has been open for less than ten years but they have already gone through several changes. “In this industry, you really have to be open to feedback from customers and constantly striving to get better or you won't make it,” says Wasinski. “We've tweaked a lot of our recipes and our branding due to customer suggestions.”

This summer, Midland Brewing Company will be adding a barrel room that will be used as an event space, in order to accommodate larger groups, which Wasinski noted has been a growing request among patrons.

Homebrewers Unite
Of beer enthusiasts, home brewers are their own special sort with a unique blend of passion, energy, and willingness to work through what can at times seem like apocalyptic mistakes. Thanks to Michigan Brew Supply, this group has the right tools to make this process possible, easier and accessible to the layman — all right here in Midland. With kits and ingredients ranging in skill level from clueless amateur to master brewer, Michigan Brew Supply has enthusiasts covered.

Nicole Kris, co-owner of Michigan Brew Supply

With this particular subculture of the beer community booming, Nicole Kris, co-owner of Michigan Brew Supply (along with her husband Matt) reflected on the local brewing community with amazement.

“The local brewing community here in Michigan constantly amazes us. A week doesn't go by where we don't get to taste a commercial-quality beer that was brewed by a local homebrewer,” says Nicole. “Homebrewers have the freedom to create any beer they desire and they can afford to take more risks in experimentation of new flavors. Over the last few years, we've witnessed homebrewers actively using that creative freedom to continue raising the bar for craft beer.”

Different grains at Michigan Brew Supply

The community that Matt and Nicole have built, as brewers and brew enthusiasts, is a tight knit one while still being very geographically diverse. Nicole mentioned brew clubs such as the Dead End Brewers, the Mount Pleasant Homebrewers, and the Cass River Brewers as active sub-communities within the larger culture of Mid-Michigan homebrewing.

Some of the different styles at Michigan Brew Supply

“The individual clubs help put on events that helps drive a lot of discussion on recipe building and sharing within our community,” says Nicole. “Often discussion ranges from who's brewing what next, troubleshooting, sharing brewing techniques and honest feedback during the sampling portion to help brewers advance their hobby. Additionally, the group has a healthy mix of engineers, welders, and software developers we also see a bit of collaboration on building brewing equipment.”

Come One, Come All
But what if you want to simply sit and sip with family, friends or even your dog? Perhaps in a lovely, lively, outdoor environment? Those looking for a chill place to hang on the weekend, flock to Larkin Beer Garden.This pop-up style shipping container bar resides at 233 Larkin Street and is open on Thursday's and Friday’s all summer long, and is the perfect place to cool your heels...and wet your palate.

Sunset at Larkin Beer Garden on a busy summer night.

Nicole Wilson, the Program Manager for Momentum Midland, the investment initiative behind Larkin Beer Garden, was adamant that community was the number one driving force behind the success, and both initial and sustained, of the effort.

“Larkin Beer Garden was established to create a community gathering spot to enjoy the summer season. Through placemaking initiatives like the Beer Garden, the Michigan Baseball Foundation is able to help downtown Midland to continue to develop a sense of place,” says Wilson. She went on to add that the she hopes the Beer Garden will become a summer ritual for members of the greater Midland community.

Larkin Beer Garden on a summer night.

The goal of the Beer Garden, Wilson says, is to provide a fun, relaxed environment that celebrates summer and showcases the local craft beer and food truck communities. She went on to point out that growing options like this are important for the community to identify with in order to enjoy, explore, and grow their community. In addition, Wilson stressed that providing these things within the city of Midland allows motivated entertainment seekers to stay within the city, contributing to its growth.

The outdoor nature of the Beer Garden is central to this, as we all know, the Michigan summer can be over all too soon. Larkin Beer Garden is able to service roughly 300 patrons each night during peak summer hours, and Wilson points out that more than anything, the spot is a place to grab a quick and easy dinner with family and friends, play a game of giant Jenga or other games and enjoy the sunshine and blue sky of a Mid-Michigan summer.

Locals will find another sun-drenched craft beer event each summer in the Tapped Beer Festival, put on annually in Downtown Midland by the Downtown Development Association. The event draws numerous Michigan craft breweries and sprawls Main Street each summer and also features several food vendors that come special for the day and an accompanying artists market all in the downtown area.  

Patrons at Tapped Beer Festival during summer 2017

With so many options right here in Midland, from traditional pubs to brew houses to brewers to an outdoor railroad car, beer seeking residents of Midland can look forward to an endless supply of excellent options for relaxation, and of course, libation.
 
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