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Good Brews, Good Views

Patrons in the Tantrick taproom. © 2021 Encore Publications/Brian Powers
New locations, growth for local craft brewers

Three area craft beverage companies have been growing in the midst of a pandemic economy.

Final Gravity finds deals

The owners of Final Gravity Brewing Co. may have an unfair advantage over their peers in beer: Mike Christensen’s deal-finding prowess.

The Christensen family, including Mike’s parents, Kevin and Trina, have opened an expansion of the company’s brewery operation on Phelps Street in Decatur. The budget-conscious father-son duo performed as much of the renovation work as they could. Mike also possesses a gift for thrifty online shopping that the family used to complete the project while still pinching pennies.

“He opens up that laptop, and deals just fall out of it,” Kevin says.

Take, for example, the new brewing system they are using. Mike, who enrolled in Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Sustainable Brewing Program, identified a Newlands Brewing System as his preferred equipment.

“It’s the Ferrari of brew systems,” Mike says. “We wanted something that would last — but on a budget.”

He found a used Newlands system for sale by Phantom Canyon Brewing Co., in Colorado Springs, Colo. When it was first built in the 1990s, this particular system carried a price tag of more than $200,000, Mike says. He and his father flew out to Colorado Springs in the fall of 2019 and purchased it for about $18,000. It was then trucked to Decatur and installed in the new space. The family can rattle off a slew of other examples of cost-saving finds over the last couple of years, when every cent counted, especially during the uncertainty of 2020.

The family bought the former Patchwork Brewing Co. in Decatur in 2011 and opened it as Final Gravity Brewing Co. in 2014. The brewery expanded to a second location, in downtown Kalamazoo, at 246 N. Kalamazoo Mall, in December 2017. Before undertaking the Kalamazoo project, for which Kevin and Mike also did a lot of the renovation work themselves, the family purchased a series of empty storefronts “for a song” at 100 S. Phelps St. in Decatur, across from their brewery.

Final Gravity will operate out of both Decatur buildings, with the new space being used primarily for brewing production and overflow space on weekends as well as for private events. The significantly larger brewing equipment will allow the family to produce more beer for both taproom locations and eventually pursue a somewhat wider distribution footprint.

Tantrick thriving in new locations

Tantrick Brewing Co. opened in July 2018 at 633 Hooker Road in Allegan. When owners Tanya and Patrick Westover needed more space for the company, they found it at their new locations in downtown Allegan.

After more than two years at the original location, Tantrick Brewing Co. was moved to a pair of buildings just off the Kalamazoo River. The 2,500-square-foot building at 134 Water St. features a taproom on the street level and a restaurant, Food Motivated, on the lower level. The restaurant is operated by Alex and Sylene Wilkening. Both businesses provide views of the river, Tanya says.

Tantrick’s brewing production takes place four blocks away, in a 2,200-square-foot building.

Tanya says making this move during the pandemic was “terrifying,” but they “are too stubborn to fail.” She says she sees a lot of opportunity in downtown Allegan, including the development of a new hotel and the social district where visitors can consume alcohol while walking through designated sections of town. Tantrick is also a couple of blocks away from Schaendorf Brewing Co., which opened in 2018 and also participates in the social district.

Allegan officials and community members “are very excited to have us come downtown and bring some life back,” Tanya says. “Allegan has just needed something fresh and new. Schaendorf has been great, but it (downtown Allegan) needs more. We’re excited.”

Warner Vineyards adds beer

Warner Vineyards in Paw Paw gave its beer lineup a bigger physical presence this past spring.

Warner BrewHaus, located in the renovated 1898 Paw Paw Waterworks station on the winery property, held a soft opening in May and its official grand opening in August.

The new taproom space has often been used for private events. The grounds also feature an amphitheater and a patio along the Paw Paw River, and the Brewhaus boasts weekly live music.

Brewer Jimmy Kolka, a Kalamazoo resident and a graduate of Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Sustainable Brewing Program, joined Warner in July 2019 and uses a one-barrel system. He says his session IPA and wheat ale are popular options when the weather warms.

“I love the venue,” he says. “The property is amazing, and the space is amazing.”

John Liberty

John Liberty began his professional career as a journalist, but now he’s “a craft beer ambassador” and says the two vocations aren’t really so far apart. Liberty, a former Kalamazoo Gazette entertainment writer, and Aric Faber created West Michigan Beer Tours in 2013 to allow people to experience the area’s growing craft beer industry.

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