The U P’s smallest brewery is also its youngest, at least for a few more months.
Shooters Firehouse Brewpub in Munising opened as a bar in 1995. In 2010 the owners bought a three bay car wash and moved the bar to its current location. In the summer of 2012, local home brewer Wesley Daniels approached Shooters with the idea adding a brewery aspect to the bar.
Wesley Daniels, Chief Brewer at Shooters Firehouse Brewpub, said, “I contacted one of the owners that summer before with interest in investing in and opening a brewery aspect to the bar.”
“Wes was brewing at home,” said Donna Kolbus, Co–Owner and manager at Shooters, “and actually approached us. I was the least positive and the most surprised of how it’s turned out. There’s definitely a craft brew clientele.”
Daniels brews on only a half barrel system, which allows Shooters to keep six beers on tap. But even jumping from a home brew system to a half barrel had its challenges.
“Recipes from five gallons to 15 gallons do not transfer exactly,” Daniels said. “You can’t just times everything by three and expect it to turn out. The first six months was a lot of tweaking and playing around to get the same tastes; the same quality that I was getting at home.”
And last year’s tourist season caught them off guard.
Kolbus said, “We weren’t quite prepared for last summer. Craft brewing was very new to us whereas Wes had done it on his own and we were a bit overwhelmed. It was a good summer but they drank us right out of beer.”
Another challenge has been getting more local patrons to try craft beer.
Daniels said, “It’s been somewhat challenging developing a local customer base in that most of the locals tend to drink your regular domestic beer. There is a small and growing clientele of people who are looking to craft beer.”
To try and expand local appreciation for the brews, Shooters offers samples to anyone looking to try something new. And for Daniels, it’s all about keeping things local and communal.
“A local farmer takes our spent barley grain and feeds it to his chickens,” Daniels said, “and in turn he sells his eggs at the bar; trying to get more local sources of hops. There’s a farm that just opened up south of Marquette that we’ve sourced some from. I’d like to continue to do so; just the whole idea to try and create an organic Upper Peninsula product.”
Daniels would even like to see a partnership with all of the U P’s breweries that would encourage more people to embark on their own U P brewery tours.
“But that’s of course well down the road,” Daniels said. “My goal for this summer is just to keep the taps flowing.”