Craft beers are flowing along the circle of Alpha
By JAYMIE DEPEW
Journal Staff Writer
ALPHA — About eight years ago, three men shared the idea to build a craft brewery in Alpha, a small village in Iron County that’s home to under 200 people. Years later, the idea came to life with the opening of the Alpha Michigan Brewing Company.
The brewery, which is located along the village’s main drag that’s shaped as a circle, held its grand opening over Memorial Day weekend, offering patrons the chance to enjoy a fresh beverage and mingle with others.
Initially proposed to be built in the old Porter School building that was constructed in the early 1900s, the brewery is housed at the former Alpha General Store, right across the street from the school.
Stuart Creel, who operated the convenient store, is one of the brewery’s owners.
“We did a lot of work in the school, but in the end it wasn’t the right place to be,” Creel said, explaining that repairs were costly and really unnecessary since they had another option. “At the time, I was running a small convenient store and was getting ready to close it. The store closed in August 2016 and by January 2017, we started gutting out the building and converting it over to a microbrewery. Since then, we’ve went through all license issuing, which took a fair amount of time, but that was OK because we had a lot of work to do in the building. In March 2018, we were officially licensed.”
For months, the brewers tested batches of beer so they could “work out any kinks” they might encounter before opening to the public.
“We started brewing test batches in the fall of last year and then started producing the first of this year so when we opened we would have beer available,” Creel said.
Alpha Michigan Brewing Company offers a variety of “general ales” and uses ingredients such as hops, grains and even maple syrup from local farmers when possible.
Most of the brewery’s beers are named after area landmarks or natural features. Some popular brews include: Brule River Red Ale, Bears Cave IPA and Porter School Porter. On Thursday afternoon, Creel said he was brewing a new summer beer called Stager Lake Summer Wheat.
The brewery is currently making smaller batches since it’s so new, but the owners said they’d like to expand in the future.
“We know we’re going to have to expand but I’m not sure what size system we’ll end up going to,” Creel said. “We’ve already had some verbal agreements with local agencies that want to carry our beer when we’re able to supply to them properly.”
While, the brewery offers beer flights and samples, pints and growlers for adults, there’s also board games, pretzels, popcorn and beverages for kids.
Creel said the intent behind the brewery was for it to be communal.
“We have big 8- or 9-feet-long picnic tables and there’ll be a group of four at one end of the table and a few other people on the other end,” he said. “They don’t know each other but by the end of the night I’ve heard people who came in as strangers making plans to do other things in the surrounding area.”
Since food isn’t served at the brewery, they’ve recently teamed up with local food trucks and encourage people to bring their own food in whenever they please.
“Our entire brewery is food and family friendly. Even though we don’t serve food here, we encourage people to bring it in,” Creel said, adding that there’s a tavern across the street that has a delicious fish fry, burgers and more. “We have their menu on our tables.”
Creel said each week, the brewery puts money aside as a donation fund.
“We look at things in the community that might need help,” he said. “We’re thinking about doing fundraisers, where maybe $1 of every pint will go toward something one day and things like that.”
Even though the brewery is only open on the weekends, beer will be flowing from noon to dusk on the Fourth of July.
“We’ll have our outside beer garden open for people,” Creel said. “Even though we just have a little over 100 people that live here in Alpha, there’ll be around 2,000 people in town. It just blows up. Campgrounds are filled. And then as we get into August, we’ve got the Alpha Summer Blues Festival, which is the last Saturday every August, and we’ll be an integral part of that and have a speciality beer or so for that.”
Creel said Alpha also plans on offering a speciality beer around Oktoberfest and the Polish National Holiday in November.
Alpha Michigan Brewing Company is located at 303 E. Center St., Alpha, and is open from 4-8 p.m. Friday, 2-8 p.m. on Saturday and 2-6 p.m. on Sunday.
For more information, vist the brewery’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/alphabrewingcompany
Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.