Michigan brewer combines experience and artistry

Corey Wentworth, head brewer at Ludington Bay Brewing Co., explains some of the beer-brewing processes May 15 at the new facility located in Ludington, Mich. (Jeff Kiessel/Ludington Daily News via AP)

LUDINGTON — His boss raves about him, saying his experience is unmatched, while his mentor, whom he’s been living with the last three months, touts his talents and promising future.

For Corey Wentworth, new head brewer at Ludington Bay Brewing Co. compliments come at him like songs stuck on repeat.

Yet, this isn’t why Wentworth brews. Not even close.

It’s the people — the restaurant-goers — who motivate him.

“There is no greater thrill to me than going through the whole process to craft something and you deliver it to someone and you get to see the smile on (his or her) face,” said Wentworth, who grew up in Suttons Bay. “Kind words are nice, but when you see (people) smile, they aren’t faking that. When it’s an instantaneous reaction . I just love that.”

What Wentworth doesn’t know, however, is how much his peers truly admire him.

“From his first day here, he was just really easy to get along with,” said Tom Buchanan, Ludington Bay’s lead brewer and production manager. “He’s darn like a little brother or my oldest son. To tell you the truth, he’s a great friend of mine. We’re pretty tight.”

The Ludington Daily News reports that the brewery, 515 S. James St., is set to open, and Buchanan, known in the community as “Father Beer,” couldn’t be happier to see Wentworth have his moment.

“This town has been so good to me,” Buchanan said. “It’s almost like — I am done brewing. I have had my glory days, and this guy really deserves it. He’s tremendous, a great brewer. He’s so much better than I was. Really. He’s everything I wanted when I was going to hire someone.”

Wentworth’s admiration for Buchanan runs just as deep.

“Tom is more of a traditional, old-school-type brewer,” Wentworth said, “and mine is a little new-aged. To collaborate and bring the two together, I think it only makes me a better brewer.”

When Wentworth finishes a beer, Buchanan taste tests it.

“It’s the first thing I do,” Wentworth said. “Right out of the fermenter, I give it to him, and he tells me what he thinks. His opinion is very valuable to me. Everyone knows him. He’s like the Godfather of beer.”

Ted Gedra, owner of Ludington Bay Brewing, said Wentworth is an “excellent combination” of brewing experience and artistry, a perfect addition to the Ludington Bay family.

“He came to us from Traverse City. He has a lengthy brewing background,” Gedra said. “(We) find that people who taste the beer, love it. . If you hire a Picasso, you have to let him paint. You don’t want to constrict the creative process. That’s how you get great beer.”

The feeling is mutual.

“Ted’s pretty cool. He lets me run free,” Wentworth said. “Obviously, he has a great vision here and a true love for the craft. He trusts me, seems to right now, and I am going to run with it and do the best that I can. . There is nothing off limits.”