TRAVERSE CITY — Pete Kirkwood asks how many wineries dot the Leelanau peninsula and says "come on.”
If 20 or so wineries can survive within 50 miles of Traverse City, he contends, a number of craft breweries can do so, too.
Kirkwood's microbrewery, The Workshop Brewing Company, is one of five breweries and brewpubs slated to open in the area by mid-summer.
He's shooting for a July opening date at the former Right Brain Brewery, 221 Garland Street in Traverse City. Construction will begin this month to tear down walls and create a space themed around craftsmanship. He’s calling for community contributions of rusted tools to line the walls and mix-matched hardware to personalize the bar top.
“I want my microbrewery, my brewpub here, to be a classic third place,” he said. “I like the idea of it being a place where people feel comfortable spending time, and where you’re going to encounter people from different walks of life with different points of view.”
Seven beers on tap will be named after hand tools. A rustic and simple menu will offer cold meats, cheeses and paninis. Kirkwood plans to expand production to include wine, cider and distilled spirits.
Mike Rizik, head brewer of upcoming Beggars Brewery, a family owned production brewery and taproom, said “the more the merrier as far as breweries go.”
"This is definitely a community of craft brew drinkers,” he said.
Rizik said Beggars will serve its traditional American and European style ales and stouts by Memorial Day weekend. Month-long construction recently began at 4177 Village Park Drive, which will have an “up north cabin vibe." Beggars won’t have a menu, but outside food will be welcome.
Jeff Brooks envisions his production brewery in Williamsburg as a hangout for police, firefighters, EMTs, military personnel and veterans. The Army and Navy veteran suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and wants his brewery, Bravo Zulu, to foster a community for veterans who need assistance.
“I want any vet to know that if they’re having problems, they can walk into my place and ask for me personally,” Brooks said.
Bravo Zulu will open its doors at 5690 U.S. 31 North in late April. The brewery will serve ales. Brooks said he’s looking into arranging for food trucks to make stops in the parking lot, and outside food will be welcome.
Business partners Tina Schuett and Nate Crane believe there’s a niche to be filled in Traverse City's burgeoning brew scene. When their brewery and taproom, called Rare Bird, opens in mid-summer, patrons can expect 20-25 “hard-to-get” beers from around the world on tap alongside Rare Bird's American pale ales, IPAs, browns and milk stouts.
“7 Monks (in downtown Traverse City) does a good job covering Michigan beers,” Schuett said. “We don’t want to try and do what’s already done.”
Demolition has begun at the brewery’s future home at 229 Lake Avenue, where Schuett and Crane are aiming for a "nice finished look" that's not "upscale snobby." Rare Bird will offer a simple menu of appetizers, soup and sandwiches. Wine, cocktails and cider also will be available.
Construction is moving along at Terra Firma, a project poised to become the state’s first agriculture brewery. The brewhouse and taproom is enclosed at the 10-acre Dracka Farm on Hartman Road, and brewmaster John Niedermaier is eyeing a potential April opening date.
Terra Firma will cultivate crops used to brew and flavor beer, such as hops, buckwheat and honey. Niedermaier looks forward to growers "throwing curveballs" with odd plantings, like fruits and vegetables that wouldn't traditionally be used for brewing.
There are offers on the table to distribute widely throughout the state, but he'd rather not go that route. Terra Firma's equipment and brewing process will cut water waste, and Niedermaier wants the overall operation to promote sustainability.
"I don’t want this to turn into a big lumbering monster," he said. "It’s exciting to have that kind of interest but at the same time this is all about quality of life."