Becoming a Big Fish in a Summer Pond
Ponder for a moment the number of people that metro San Diego is home to (about 3 ½ million)…and consider all the locally sourced food and beer they have access to in that big city (hint: it’s A LOT). Next envision that same number of people coming through a tiny village on the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, squeezed in over only three to four months of the year. Now imagine only having one small, burgeoning brewery in that entire town to service all those travelers in that short span of time.
Actually, you don’t even have to imagine it. That’s the approximate number of people traveling through Mackinaw City (population less than 1,000) every year from June through September, and Biere de Mac Brew Works is the town’s only brewery where they can grab a pint. They currently have such a small system at their primary location that they’re brewing non-stop, and can only have about five kegs available at one time, with fourteen taps, always changing.
Good thing the folks there like a challenge!
They recently purchased a second property downtown that’s roughly an acre in size, zoned for retail, and undergoing renovation. Eventually, that facility will be utilized for distribution, merchandise, growler fills, and retail cans. But until that location is completely up and running, owner and brewer Danny Ranville remarked, “We just ordered 47 more kegs, and we’re brewing our faces off to stockpile as best as we can for the summer.” They’re also finishing up construction on their outdoor patio to accommodate more seating at the brewery and restaurant during the busy months.
They opened on January 3rd last year, and word got out about them fairly quickly. The philosophy that guides the brewery and restaurant seems to be the reason why people are talking. The brewers at Biere de Mac really concentrate on trying their hand at as many of the 150 styles of beer as they can, while still recognizing that as a tourist destination, they have to offer an easy-drinking summer IPA, and something for the guy who’s been drinking Budweiser for fifteen years. Every time the crew there embarks on a new libation style, they approach it, well, in Danny’s words, “like beer geeks.” They research the history of the style of beer they’re creating, learning how the water, the grains’ age and origin, the terroire, and the yeast, play into the process and craft of the beer. When I visited, they had just finished an Old World RoggenVier. According to Danny, this brew is 50% or more rye because in the 1500’s, “royalty insisted all the wheat was for bread”; they truly strive to stay as true to style as possible. Danny even had a bit of a twinkle in his eye when he told me that a British tourist once told him, “your English Pale Ale is the first one that reminds me of drinking a pint in London.”
I can definitely think of worse problems to have than creating too much demand for your product because you’re so good at what you do! Pay a visit to Biere de Mac for Up North Beer Week Friday night, May 11th. It will be a great night with music starting at 7pm, a Chef’s special, and fourteen unique craft brews with $3 select pints.
Molly Stepanski is the local food coordinator for Northeast Michigan. She enjoys digging and hiking in the dirt, cooking up her own recipes, drinking wine, and eating anything deep-fried (in accordance with her southern heritage), and lots of fresh, seasonal produce. Contact her at [email protected]