“The Inspiration”

Curious about why we’re here or where we draw our inspiration from? Here is a story from Ron and Dawn Ford, partners in North Channel Brewing, about why North Channel Brewing came to life in Manistee, Michigan:

It was the summer of 2002 when we first drove through Manistee. My wife and I were driving along the coast of Lake Michigan and enjoying the beautiful weather, beaches and scenery. We were trying to find a place to spend some time during the amazing Michigan summers, and we found a wonderful home in Manistee. The town was vibrant at the time and the downtown was thriving. There was even a local brewery on River street. We had been introduced to craft beer while living in Grand Rapids and we were excited about being in a town with its own microbrewery. We spent our summers in Manistee and our children grew up loving the city, the lake and cottage.

Now fast forward about 10 years, and the brewery has failed and the the town is suffering the effects of the housing boom and the great recession. Despite the microbrewery being long closed, the craft beer industry has exploded. My son and I had been home brewing for a year or two and we began to kick around the idea of starting our own craft brewery. We thought that Manistee was the perfect place, with no craft brewery between Ludington and Traverse City at the time. When a microbrewery opened and was successful in Frankfort, the idea gained steam. We met our brewery partners, Aaron and Erik May, and Phil Johnson and with the assistance of Capstone Real Estate and many local partners, we felt the microbrewery dream could become a reality. After a great deal of research into local demographics, financing, and the craft beer industry, I wrote a 29 page business plan, wrote and designed profit and loss projections and presented all of this information to a number of banks to obtain financial backing. Finally the dream was being fulfilled.

From a historical standpoint, craft breweries like ours are designed to satisfy the public demand for fresh, quality beer. In the year 1873, there were 4131 breweries in the US while in 1994 there were about 500. Growth of the industry has skyrocketed and now there are over 4000 craft breweries in the US, yet there are still over 1,200 towns the size of Manistee that do not have a local craft brewery.

North Channel Brewing has as their mission to produce high quality, fresh beer using the combination of creativity and science. Our beer will be scientifically and classically designed according to international beer standards while adding our own unique and creative touches. We will have at the heart of our business the attributes of creativity, craftsmanship, passion and science. Gastro pub food of very high quality and reasonable price will be produced in our new state of the art kitchen and will utilize locally grown produce and meats with a farm to table model and thus help to make us a destination for foodies, craft beer enthusiasts and locals alike.

We envision this company as one that will provide jobs for our community at a fair and living wage while training employees from the local community in the science and craftsmanship of brewing. We view our business model as sustainable and inclusive. We understand the importance of partnering with our community for the success of our venture, and will thus work

with the city and city members and will employee local residents as much as possible during the construction phase as well as in our place of business.

Part of our mission is also the revitalization of the downtown and we see our project, along with the adjacent condo project and the restoration of the North Channel Building as being anchors for this revitalization. We hope our brewery and restaurant will spur additional investment in infrastructure, increase tourist activity and drive growth in Manistee. We envision many events in partnership with other local businesses such as Vogue TheaterRamsdell Theatre, local hotels and restaurants. We also will work with the city to be a part of their many festivals and events such as Victorian Sleighbell Parade & Old Christmas WeekendManistee National Forest Festival and of course Hops & Props on the River – Manistee

So you might be asking why we are starting a brewery. The answer to that question is difficult to answer in one sentence but I think we started the brewery to fulfill a dream of building a sustainable business around something I, my family and our partners love; good food, good beer and good people.

– Ron and Dawn Ford 

Partners, North Channel Brewing