There is a storm cloud brewing over Frankfort and it's not the kind that generally sweeps across Lake Michigan. It's the imminent opening of the Storm Cloud Brewing Company
in the heart of Frankfort's downtown.
Actually, the new brewery should mean sunny skies ahead for those who enjoy a good ale and equally good eats. It will also provide up to 15 jobs for the community and give people another reason to come to this beautiful town on the shores of Lake Michigan.
The brewery will not only feature 15 different specialty beers, but also flatbread sandwiches, different types of cheese and smoked meats. And if ale isn't your thing, you can have a pop or even a glass of milk, so bring the family, says co-owner Rick Schmitt.
"Breweries date back to 150 years when there was a brewery in a lot of towns; you would go to see your neighbors, hang out with family and friends or just read the paper," says Schmitt. The new owner hopes the new brewery will have a similar appeal in friendly Frankfort.
Storm Cloud Brewing Company occupies a prominent place in downtown Frankfort next to a renovated 1920 movie theatre, which is no coincidence. Schmitt is part owner of the theatre and thinks the brewery and movie theatre, which shows first-run movies, will go together like popcorn and a movie, or in this case, cheese and beer.
"I think there is a certain synergy between the two," says Schmitt. Indeed, you can take a date to a movie and step next door afterward for ale or a snack.
Schmitt opened the theatre and now the brewery with a little help from his friend and business partner, Brian Confer. Now the two are brewing beer and good times in Frankfort. Confer will be mixing the hops and grains (mostly locally purchased) while Schmitt does the marketing, hiring and some of the other icky stuff of running a business.
Schmitt says Confer has ten years of experience brewing beer for others and is looking forward to striking out on his own in this new venture. He'll be brewing a "Michigan-inspired Belgium beer."
The new owners don't plan on distributing beer but you can walk out with a "growler," beer speak for a gallon of ale. They're also licensed to sell wine, so expect to find a little Michigan and other types of wine down the road.
The brewery and pub, which is actually a 1940's renovated tavern, has been a year in the making, according to Schmitt, and has been well received in this coastal town. It's an apparent labor of love for these two men who have traded the security of jobs working for others to strike out on their own as entrepreneurs.
Both men have lived in the Frankfort area for more than 10 years. Confer originally hails from Saginaw, Schmitt from Colorado. Schmitt says there is no better place to live and do business than Frankfort.
"What's not to like about Frankfort?" says Schmitt. "We're the gateway to Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes…I can't think of a better place to be."
Breweries have been popping up around the northern part of the state like morels in May. However, the Storm Cloud Brewing Company is the only one within 40 miles of Frankfort, which should help this business thrive in the days ahead.
Neil Moran writes articles and copy for businesses from his home office in Sault Ste. Marie.
All photos courtesy of and taken by Brian Confer.