When it comes to beer, sometimes it takes more than just the taste to succeed.
That was the thought process behind the Petoskey Brewing Company that opened last fall. Business partners Patrick Dowd and Lou Gostinger knew that if they were going to succeed in a town with a seasonal economy the numbers had to make sense.
“Both Lou and I come from numbercrunching backgrounds,” said Patrick Dowd, who heads up the sales and marketing end of the operation. “Lou worked in the beer wholesale business and I came from a sales and marketing career. In this business you have to have quality of product and a business plan that makes sense and I feel we have both.”
From all indications Dowd is right, Petoskey Brewing company appears to be foaming with success.
“We opened seven months ago and have already exceeded our sales projections by a significant margin,” said Dowd. “Certainly a big part of that is the quality we are getting from our brewer Brett Emanuel. He has hit a home run with every batch he has brewed and that is not typical in a start up brewery operation.”
Emanuel, a veteran of the burgeoning Michigan craft brew scene most recently was the assistant brewer at Battle Creek’s Arcadia Brewing, seems to have hit the triple crown from a brewers perspective.
“When you look at this craft brew business I think every brewer is striving for the respect of their peers and Brett has that. Every brewer that has come by has been impressed,” said Dowd. “Certainly every brewer wants to please the craft brew fanatic and that is definitely happening here. Finally it is also about the numbers and Brett and the brewery are succeeding on that front, as well.”
Dowd sees the community of Petoskey as a big reason for the Petoskey Brewing Company exceeding expectations.
“First of all we opened about three months behind schedule because we tried to renovate a 100-year-old-plus building in five months. So we opened in late September and missed the summer sales season and still have exceeded our sales projections,” said Dowd. “The people of Petoskey have really embraced us and we are grateful.”
A big part of their success is sticking to a well mapped-out plan.
“We did our homework on all fronts and had a good handle on what our production needs were going to be. A big reason for that was our distributor Bayside Beverage has a good understanding of the beer business in the Tip of the Mitt region,” said Dowd. “We have about 70 tap handles in the marketplace and beer on the shelves of just about every beverage retailer.
“We opened with our smaller brew system have never kept up with demand if we would have opened last summer,” said Dowd. “We have already begun planning for this summer. We know we are going to be busy, on average 14,000 cars a day pass by our brewery in the summer. We are adding tap room staff and last month we increased our production so we will be ready.”
Petoskey Brewing is located on M-119 (near La Senorita) in what was formerly the Pumco Interiors business. The building was once a brewery housing Petoskey Sparkle and Petoskey Export but in 1908 residents banned the sale of alcohol only to reverse that decision in 1913, and then in 1915 voting to go dry again. Now Dowd and Gostinger have revived Petoskey’s brewing legacy.
This week the Petoskey Brewing company with take the next step in securing their legacy when a state-of-the-art canning line arrives from Calgary.
“It is an automated line allowing us to produce 30 cans a minute. We have two semitrucks full of empty cans coming next week,” said Dowd. “We will phase out our bottles that were just meant to be a limited edition, but everyone wanted them. The problem is we don’t have a bottling line, so like a home brewer we bottle by hand one bottle at time. So in the future and just on special occasions, we will have small-batch limited edition bottles available.”
Cans instead of bottles? “We think cans are better packaging than bottles on several fronts from no light permeation to the fact that you can take them to places where bottles are not allowed. More craft brewers are going with them,” said Dowd. “We have lots of golf courses asking for them, plus they are beach-friendly.”
Petoskey Brewing will offer three of their brews in a can, North 45 Amber Ale, Mind’s Eye P.A. (I.P.A.) and Horny Monk Belgian Dubbel. They will also offer those and other beers in growlers and by the glass in their tap room that includes a limited menu.
“We really feel that there are plenty of great restaurants in the region and there was no need to add to the mix,” said Dowd. “We are offering a limited menu simply because some people like to have a little food with their beer.”
As for the future, Dowd says Petoskey Brewing will be an all-Michigan endeavor.
“Our business model does not have us expanding beyond Michigan,” said Dowd. “In fact our business model is to stick pretty close to home and slowly enter other markets in Traverse City. What we have learned from others in this business is they over-promised under-delivered and then at the busiest time of the year ran out of beer. You have the distributors fighting for the tap handles and then owners give the tap handles a chance educating their staff and customers on the product and then, come July, you don’t have beer. You really only get one chance in this competitive beer business to prove yourself.”
Petoskey Brewing company is located at 1844 M-119 and their taproom is open seven days a week. For hours and more information on all their beers check out petoskeybrewing.com.
Rick Coates tweets about beer @rcoates