Chris LaPonsie laughs when he remembers that first batch of homebrew. "It was the coldest day ever, and it was the worst beer ever."
Duane LaPonsie, his father, smiles and shrugs. He wasn’t fazed. "Let’s try making our own," he suggested, and the two never looked back. That was nearly six years ago.
Father and son are now co-owners of Millgrove Brewing Company
at 633 Hooker Road in Allegan, at the center of a small strip mall, with a capacity of 66 thirsty souls. The microbrewery is Allegan’s first and only brewery within a 15-mile radius. They are already eyeing the space next door for an expansion.
"The City of Allegan didn’t even have any ordinances in place when we applied for a license," says the elder LaPonsie. "They were very supportive of our opening."
The grand opening was July 4, 2014, with the brewery open only two days a week, but business was so brisk that the LaPonsies have already expanded hours to five days a week: Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 9 p.m.; Friday 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Realizing that the kits to make homemade brews were not giving them the results they wanted that cold day years ago, the home brewers began grinding their own grains. "The kit has all that done already, but that means the sugars have been extracted. Once we started doing our own, the beer got really good."
"We had a lot of friends coming over to give it a try," Duane LaPonsie says with a grin.
"We get most of our hops now from Schoolcraft, and we are experimenting with Michigan-based malt and grains," says Chris LaPonsie.
Millgrove Brewing Company, named for the nearby village of Millgrove the LaPonsie family calls home, serves five craft beers on tap, four of which are mainstays with one or two seasonal or experimental beers, called one-offs.
Wayfarer, a cream ale, is their first and most popular brew. Allegan Stout is an oatmeal stout with roasted barley added for a coffee flavor. RoboPorter is a robust porter with hints of chocolate, and the Imposter IPA is a dry, west-coast style IPA with a simple malt to showcase the hops. Pints are priced at $4, a 5-ounce pour at $2 or $3, but flights featuring samples of all four beers run $8 to $9. Panini, quesadillas and sandwiches will be added to the menu in December, but customers are invited to bring along their own take-out meals.
Adding to the draw is live music on Saturday evenings, often featuring the local Irish folk band, Tarpaper Sessions
. Local musicians interested in playing at Millgrove Brewing should contact Chris at 269.355.1915.
Writer: Zinta Aistars, Second Wave Media
Sources: Chris LaPonsie, Duane LaPonsie, Millgrove Brewing Company