Tapistry leaders discuss making beer in Michigan before it was trendy

Leader photo/JUSTIN FLAGEL

Leader photo/JUSTIN FLAGEL

BRIDGMAN, Mich. — “We make beer and we love it.”

With those words, Keith Adams summed up our conversation about Tapistry Brewing, the craft beer industry and the cultural shift in the economies both state and nationwide.

Adams has many roles at the Bridgman brewery, including sales and marketing coordinator. He, along with co-owner Joe Rudnick, sat with me to discuss the evolution and adventure of making beer in Michigan for nearly three years.

According to Rudnick, “why Bridgman?” has been the most common question he has received since the tap room opened in 2013. For he and co-owner Greg Korson, though, the location of Bridgman “was a natural.” Born in Stevensville, he had family ties in the region and Korson owned a second home in St. Joseph. Bridgman and the surrounding area “felt like a good place to be.” The building prices were reasonable and the little town on Lake Michigan was a main thoroughfare thanks to its position in the county and proximity to Weko Beach and I-94.

Tapistry Brewing started producing and distributing beer two months prior to opening the doors of its Lake Street tap room. The decision was one of finances, as they needed to begin generating an income, but it also worked as a marketing strategy. Joe recalled people peering in the windows of the tap room location while it was still under construction. He would hear tales of beer drinkers asking “where can I get this beer?” When they finally opened the doors, customers were lined up and they had already pre-sold the majority of the memberships to their mug club.

That excitement has continued both at Tapistry and statewide. According to Rudnick, Michigan has become known in recent years as a “strong beer state.” Tourists from all over the country visit the region specifically to drink beer. He credits the renown to the area’s natural resources, where many breweries use locally grown crops and water from Lake Michigan, and the foundation built by larger craft breweries such as Kalamazoo’s Bell’s Brewery and Grand Rapid’s Founder’s Brewing Company. The established businesses not only put Michigan on the map, but also have helped to assist the smaller brewers as they begin.

“Everybody’s helping each other and wants to see [Michigan] grow.”

According to Adams, that attitude is a natural part of the craft brew industry. Individual breweries work together, not just to grow their own businesses, but to grow the industry and their local economies. They send tourists in their own establishments to other local breweries. When supplies run short, they call on each other to share hops and bottling supplies.

“It’s not a cut throat, brew or be brewed industry,” Adams said. “It’s community driven.”

Our discussion turned to the economy and the possible beginnings of a shift in American culture. I approach this topic often in discussions, posing the idea that the economic struggles of the past decade have led to a reassessment of priorities in which people are focusing energy and resources into art, food and the other areas of life that hold more value than the simple pursuit of wealth.

“It was a happy accident of the Recession,” Adams said. “People stopped thinking so macro and started working together, thinking on a local, communal scale.”

He went on to describe their head brewer, whose doctorate in microbiology could secure him a number of careers. He instead chose the craft beer industry because he is doing what he loves. Both co-owners worked previously in the pharmaceutical industry, one Rudnick describes as “cut throat.” He finds more value in his current pursuits, where people are working together in a shared love of craft.

“People are in it for the love of it,” Rudnick said.

Tapistry hopes to continue to trend, bringing beer and entertainment to the community year-round. The business hosts weekly events at the taproom, including bingo on Tuesdays, trivia on Thursdays and live acoustic music every other Friday. It also hosts seasonal parties and larger release events. On Nov. 28, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, leaders hope to take advantage of one of the year’s biggest bar nights with a release party for the M.I. Stout.

The American Imperial Stout is made with “99 percent Michigan ingredients, including local malts, hops, and water.” The event will feature food specials and live entertainment from musician Robert Rolfe Fedderson from 7 to 10 p.m. Information on that event and many others can be found at tapistrybrewing.com.

 

Justin Flagel is the founder of the web magazine and podcast Anywhere the Needle Drops, where he and others showcase their interest in music, pop culture, creativity and life. Follow their work at anywheretheneedledrops.com. Feedback can be directed to contact@anywheretheneedledrops.com.

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