Abuzz in Petoskey
The other Up North city by the bay is quickly becoming the latest hotbed for wine, beer, and spirits.
By Ross Boissoneau | March 10, 2018
On the north side of Petoskey, there are the Victorian cottages and music of Bay View. On the south, there’s the appeal of tony Bay Harbor, with golf, equine and water activities, and the upcoming opening of the Great Lakes Center for the Arts.
North, south, and in between, Petoskey is quietly becoming a haven for wine, craft beer, and craft spirits. Chamber of Commerce President Carlin Smith said the timing is fortuitous, happening in concert with the current emphasis on agri-tourism. “The growth is happening in Petoskey with regard to the trends in Michigan and the U.S.,” he said. “Traverse City was ahead of the curve. I’m excited we’re catching up.”
Start with the Bayview Wine Trail. It is a part of the newly-established Tip of the Mitt American Viticultural Area, which encompasses 2,760 square miles throughout Alpena, Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet, and Presque Isle Counties. Though its 10 wineries extend from Alanson to Harbor Springs, the bulk of the wineries boast Petoskey addresses.
Tracie and Andy Roush, who moved to Petoskey six years ago, are a forerunner. They began planting their first vines of what would be Petoskey Farms Vineyard and Winery in 2014. “We’d heard people were planting grapes up here. We thought how cool it would be to be on the cutting edge,” said Tracie. Today they’re among the region’s most established wineries, with a facility at the farm and a tasting room downtown.
Theirs is just one of the Petoskey-based establishments. Maple Moon Sugarbush & Winery, Rudbeckia Farm & Winery, Walloon Lake Winery, and Resort Park Cidery and Winery have joined the oldest kid on the block, Mackinaw Trail Winery, whose Upper Peninsula winery opened a Petoskey tasting room in 2014.
“We have relationships with every winery. We’re cheerleaders for each other. We want each other to do well,” said Tracie. “We want people to go back to Chicago, Detroit, Ohio and say ‘You’ve got to go to this new wine trail.’”
Her husband said that while Petoskey has long been a favored spot for vacations, he sees the burgeoning craft alcohol scene as a catalyst for increased development. “We’re absolutely primed for growth,” said Andy Roush, referring both to the craft alcohol industry and tourism.
The Roushs opened their tasting room last year in the space formerly occupied by Beards Brewery. The location was available because Beards was expanding and moved into the one-time Whitecaps restaurant location. “We grew pretty fast,” said Ben Slocum, who opened the brewery with Peter Manthei in 2012, when both were in their mid-20s.
So fast that in six years they opened an additional brewing facility in Charlevoix before moving the Petoskey operation to 215 East Lake Street, just blocks from the original location. The twosome is looking forward to their first summer with the outdoor patio in addition to the indoor space, which Slocum says is eight to 10 times larger than their old digs. They also have new fermenters, which will allow for greater distribution.
At about the same time Beards opened, Lou Gotzinger and Patrick Dowd decided to take up the mantle of the town’s first brewery. Petoskey Brewing is located in the building from which Petoskey Sparkle beer was brewed from 1898 to 1915.
Besides its historical significance, Dowd said the building sits atop an Artesian well they use for brewing. “There are Artesian wells all over the place — Harbor Springs, Petoskey, Indian River — we drilled down to a Lake Superior aquifer. There’s no filtration. You can’t find [this water] anywhere else.”
Michigan ranks fifth in the nation in the number of breweries, microbreweries, and brewpubs. Representing Petoskey in addition to Beard’s and Petoskey Brewing is Tap 30. It champions a variety of craft beers from Michigan and elsewhere, such as Shorts, Founders, and Cheboygan Brewing Company, alongside beers from Oregon, Chicago, and even Alaska.
Partners David Meikle and Steve Steffes saw an opportunity to use the building they bought and were refurbishing to provide a craft beer experience and a dining middle ground they saw lacking in Petoskey restaurants: “There was high-end [dining] and pubs,” said Meikle.
They opted to follow up Tap 30 with a higher-end restaurant of their own, right next door: Pour. “There are a lot of great restaurants with a wine list, but a small [number that offer wine] by the glass. At Pour we offer every wine by the glass. People can try a flight,” he said. Pour also offers a variety of what Meikle “curated cocktails.” All told, it has over 200 spirits, 50 wines, and 15 beers available.
With its sparkling waters, Petoskey has been a tourist draw for decades. Adam and Michael Kazanowski, a.k.a. the Gypsy Brothers, along with their pal Michael Kolkmeyer (pictured above) saw those waters as the perfect place to base their company, High Five Spirits. The company is based around their flagship Gypsy Vodka, and they’ve since added Petoskey Stone Gin. They anticipate opening their tasting room by next month at the latest in — where else? — downtown Petoskey.
Adam said they started their company in Petoskey for a number of reasons, from the welcoming business climate to the influx of summer visitors. “Everyone has kind of a crush on it. Petoskey is sexy,” he said.
Prominent in their decision-making was the area’s quality of — and access to — water. “From Harbor Springs to Alanson, there are a lot of Artesian wells. Sixty percent of spirits are water-based,” Kazanowski said. They use a mix of artesian well water and filtered water from their customized watering system.
Kazanowski said the cooperative spirit among the various entrepreneurs is refreshing. “Everyone is happy, cooperating, not competing. Everyone is in it together.”
Andy Roush said there is plenty of room for growth, and compares Petoskey with another northern Michigan city that has seen such industries help it grow. “We’re still small. We’re not competing with California wines, we’re not in Meijer,” he said. “Petoskey is like Traverse City 15 years ago.”
Smith said the city’s reputation regarding the wine, craft brewing, and distilling scene is growing, and it’s bringing more people to the area. “They’ve added to energy to the community. They’ve created some cool spaces. People are starting to know about and ask about it. They’re coming in to the Chamber office asking ‘Where are your wineries?’ I think it will continue to grow,” Smith said.
Slocum goes him one better, as he looks for other young business people to continue to make their mark. “There are a lot of young entrepreneurs. There are half a dozen [places] owned by younger folks. That was missing. I hope in 10 years I’m not considered one of the young business owners.”