Brothers prepare to open Suttons Bay microbrewery

Plans are coming along for a new microbrewery in Suttons Bay.

Hop Lot Brewing Company, founded by brothers Steve and Drew Lutke, and funded by private investors, is on the road to opening in the spring.

The brothers, originally from Holland, currently live in Chicago. Suttons Bay, however, is no stranger to the family as Steve's wife is from Suttons Bay and trips to see family in the area have been frequent.

"We love brewing and we wanted to somehow be able to relocate to Northern Michigan, and felt that this was a great opportunity," Steve Lutke says.

The art of homebrewing has been in the brother's lives for about five years--ever since the pair bought a homebrewing kit--and they were hooked from the start. Within the first few weeks of their homebrewing journey, they decided to invest in all-grain brewing equipment and start experimenting with original recipes; eventually they began growing some of their own hops as well.

Fast forward to today and Steve is on track to finish the World Brewing Academy through the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago.

The duo has provided homebrews for special occasions including his own wedding reception, Steve says. Their brews were popular and those who enjoyed their beer encouraged them to take their brewing to the next step; so the idea of Hop Lot Brewing Company was born.

Originally, the plans for Hop Lot included an agricultural microbrewery in Suttons Bay Township. However, because there were no microbrewery zoning ordinances, their process got slowed down. During this time the brothers ended up finding a different piece of land, this time in the Village of Suttons Bay on Bay Shore Drive. They still have yet to file their paperwork for their license and the site plan is going to be up for review soon, he says.

"Suttons Bay is known for its natural beauty and our location is unique in that it allows us to exploit that," Steve says. "Our plans are to include an on-site hop garden and also feature an expansive, natural, secluded beer garden that's going to kick ass."

This on-site hop garden will contain about 100 to 200 plants making up five varieties of hops in addition to their potential off-site garden in the agricultural district of town that may have an additional one to two acres of anywhere from two to five varieties of hops to use at the brewery. Right now the brothers are testing out growing procedures and different hops at a family garden site where more than 100 plants are growing.

Their homegrown hops will be used to produce one or two specialty ales at a time while the rest of the hops will be purchased from as many local sources as possible, allowing them to have a total of about 10 to 14 brews on tap at a time, Steve Lutke says.

Visitors to Hop Lot will be able to enjoy a cold glass of beer in the large beer garden, sample a variety of beers at the tasting room's patio, or take beer to go with their bottled beer and growler options. Food will also be available, as the pair plans to include a kitchen on site and tours of the microbrewery will be available on a regular basis free of charge.

Their business model includes not only making great beer, but also educating people on the process, ingredients, and the overall microbrew experience.

"The brewers will be accessible to answer questions and the staff will be well educated on the process and ingredients of our beer. We'll offer classes and tastings, and we also hope to implement educational concepts within the menu and overall experience," Steve says.

The number of employees Hop Lot plans to have will vary depending on the time of year, he says, but they expect to have about 10 employees and they plan to start the application process soon.

Hop Lot Brewing Company will be open seven days a week. Check out their Facebook page to stay up to date on their progress and their plans to open.

Julia Woehrer is a freelance writer, photographer and Internet content manager. She attended the School of Art and Design at Northern Michigan University where she concentrated in photography and minored in journalism. She volunteers at a local no-kill cat shelter and enjoys spending time with her cats, Bella and Macy. On hot summer days she can be found on the beach, probably taking a nap.
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