A Mug and a Dream
Northport Brewingâ€™s First Season Exceeds Expectations
Sept. 21, 2014
Scott and Pamela Cain are taking Northport back in time by moving their business forward. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, most small towns boasted their own breweries. With the post-war boom of mass production techniques, these small breweries eventually closed due to large scale competitors, but over the past decade, tiny towns all across the country–and especially across Michigan–are once again embracing the idea. Now Northport is catching on to the microbrewery trend with the opening of Northport Brewing in late June 2014.
"We opened the week before the Fourth of July and the summer was outstanding," says Scott. "We were trying to catch up all summer. Now we hope to catch up with production by October or November."
Having to play catch up to demand is a great problem to have, and it should be easier with the off-season’s reduced hours and greatly diminished village population.
Like so many others, Scott Cain was bitten by the brewing bug. "I’m a home brewer," he says.
He decided to up the ante by opening a retail operation where he could share his creations, although he’s not the one actually creating beers. "We have a brewmaster, Collin Gaudard. He does most of the production," Scott says.
Many of the beer names are derived from maritime lore and shipwrecks with an anchor-shaped mermaid gracing the company’s logo–a natural fit considering Northport’s location jutting into Lake Michigan at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula.
Cain believes one of the keys to the brewery’s summer success was creating a beer garden with a covered pavilion and outdoor fireplace next to the facility, doubling their seating capacity. He explains that this outdoor area facing the town’s main intersection was once a parking lot where people would often sit and drink beer while watching the world go by. The lot’s new life as a beer garden seems fitting–another way of moving forward while going back.
"I can’t say enough about our summer and how we were treated," says Cain. "We exceeded our expectations on how much we would sell and how much we would produce."
ON THE MENU
With eight taps, Northport Brewing doesn’t lack in variety. "I’m a beer geek. We have quite a breadth of different beers," says Cain. "We have everything from a Belgian single to stout," he says.
Cain calls the Scottish Hero "very malty and smoky." It utilizes noble variety hops to give it a light hop presence. On the other end of the spectrum, the hops presence in the pale ale produces a grapefruit flavor, while the Northern Queen Stout’s flavor is creamy and dark with sweetness from added oatmeal and lactose.
Locally produced small plate snacks from Traverse City’s Northern Naturals (smoked fish spread, salsa and cherry jalapeÃ±o spread) or The Redheads in Lake Leelanau (hummus) are available to cushion the downing of just one more pint. And for those without beer on the brain, a variety of soft drinks from Northwoods Soda are offered. "We try to use as many local ingredients and vendors as we can," says Cain.
The Metamora Cherry Saison is a Belgian farm ale. Cain says such brews are typically sour, but Cain’s is "uncharacteristic" in that it is fermented at a colder temperature and "over-mindful" of malt, taking away a good deal of the sour experience. "It’s a little sour and peppery, then fades into tart cherry," he says. "It’s apricot forward."
Another top choice is the Morazon Amber, a crisp and malty brew with a touch of sweetness derived from honey roasted malt and local maple syrup. Cain calls it an Octoberfest-style ale. "It’s citrus forward, very much a sour beer," he says.
Cain is also partial to the Wit, a summerstyle ale he compares to Spanish wines in its flavors and adjuncts from summertime fruits. "It has so much flavor and vitality," he says. "It’s fruity and spicy at the same time."
THE REST OF THE STORY
Northport Brewing is running its first Octoberfest Sept. 26 through Sept. 28 in conjunction with the Leelanau UnCaged Street Festival. In addition to its brews, Cain says the facility will host live music and even a food truck, an occasional visitor to the pub during the summer.
Cain says he and his family are committed to Northport and to the Grand Traverse region. "My wife’s family vacationed here for a couple generations. We bought our own vacation home here four years ago. Then we decided there was no reason to go back to Chicago," he explained. "We love the school and the town and we want to make sure that people who come here get a taste of Northport," he says.
This fall, Northport Brewing will be open Friday and Saturday from noon to 11pm and Sunday from 3pm to 9pm. Weekday hours will be determined and adjusted as the season progresses, so Cain recommends calling ahead.
Northport Brewing is located at 112 West Nagonaba Street. Call (231) 386-1101. Online: www.LocalBeerIsBetter.com or visit their Facebook page.