Welcome The 51st State
Family operates first brewery in Kingsford
KINGSFORD — 51st State Brewing Company has been welcomed with open arms since opening in January, even receiving recognition at the state level for being the first brewery in the Kingsford area.
What began as a retirement homebrewing hobby for Jeff Brickley, ventured into a thriving family-operated microbrewery that provides signature and seasonal craft beers, hand-tossed, wood-fired pizzas and more.
After looking at different areas throughout the Upper Peninsula to house a brewery, Jeff and his wife, Victoria, discovered Kingsford.
“Some of the places we considered were St Ignace, Munising, Paradise, and Newberry,” Jeff said in an email. “We had difficulty finding a location that would fit our budget and business plan. Then our son’s future wife got a great job in Iron Mountain.”
While helping with the moving process, Jeff and Victoria got the chance to see an area they hadn’t considered.
“We found affordable locations and fell in love with the community,” he said. “Victoria and I have lived many places over the years and have never been more welcomed in a community until now. We are humbled by being continually thanked for starting our business here.”
The brewery offers six signature beers and other seasonal or special-event varieties on tap. Jeff brews them in two- or four-barrel batches to ensure freshness. The system is capable of brewing 124 gallons at a time, or two smaller batches of different beers are brewed simultaneously.
Jeff brews up to two to three days a week to keep the taproom supplied.
“I brew beer in small quantities, so our beer is a fresh as it can be from the first beer to the last beer tapped,” he said. “I also brew traditional beer styles with my own twist. The biggest surprise is how popular our ‘Batty Millie’ (blueberry wheat) beer has been.”
Other signature beers include “State of Superior,” a session pale ale, with moderate hop flavor and hints of citrus, pine and fruity undertones; “3 Vagabonds,” a light-bodied and highly carbonated American lager; “GC-4A Glider,” a porter with a hint of roasted coffee, caramel, toffee, molasses, black currant and dark fruits; “Woody Wagon,” a medium-body strong Scotch ale with notes of plum and raisins; and “Ski Jump IPA,” a classic hoppy, bitter beer that has a slight malt flavor with citrus and pine aromas, along with tropical fruit flavors.
The beers are all named after unique qualities and characteristics of the U.P. Speaking of which, the name of the brewery is a play off of a proposal made in the 1970s, involving the secession of Michigan’s U.P. along with portions of northern lower Michigan and some northern counties of Wisconsin.
The proposal was made on cultural differences, geographic separation
and a belief that the capitals in Lansing and Madison, Wisconsin, ignored
problems of the “Superior Region.” Efforts to break away and form a new
state date back to the 1800s.
Victoria came up with the name as a nod to unsuccessful attempts over the years, the 51st State Brewing Company’s website states.
Victoria is also responsible for crafting the brewery’s food menu, Jeff said, which includes wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, a variety of salads, appetizers, as well as soft drinks, coffee and tea.
The Brickleys’ children also play a part in helping the brewery run. According to the brewery’s website, their daughter, Vica, can be found serving pizzas when she isn’t in school; their son, Ben, is known for making a “mean” pizza; and their oldest son, “Mountain Man” Jake, works the bar.
Currently, the brewery’s beer can only be found in its taproom.
“We have no plans at this time to can, bottle or distribute our product,” Jeff said. “We are more than happy to supply beer to our taproom customers.”
Northern Initiatives — a community development financial institution that provides loans and business services to small business owners and entrepreneurs who help create jobs and enable communities of Northern rural Michigan and Wisconsin to thrive — assisted in funding the down payment for the brewery’s brewing system. It also provided another loan for startup costs.
51st State Brewing Co. is located at 115 Harding Ave. in Kingsford and is open 4-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 4-10 p.m. Friday; noon-10 p.m. Saturday; and 4-8 p.m. Sunday. The brewery is closed Monday, but available to rent for private events.
For more information, visit 51st State Brewing Co.’s Facebook or Instagram pages, as well as its website at: www.51ststatebrewingco.com.
Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.