By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BRIDGMAN — Pete Crowley and John Neurauter stood and watched as dozens of people packed the Haymarket Brewery & Taproom on Wednesday.
The guests came for a ribbon cutting and an early look at the Bridgman business.
The two business partners acquired the former Bridgman state police post nearly two years ago and will open the brewery today after holding a series of soft opening parties in an effort to fine tune the staff.
“Tomorrow is the first day where we will see revenue here, which is an interesting concept at this point,” Neurauter joked Wednesday. “But we’re ready. This was a pretty big undertaking.”
The former post at 9301 Red Arrow Highway was built in 1994, but was eventually vacated when budget cuts forced the closure in fall 2011.
Before the building was transformed into the brewery and taproom, Neurauter said the building looked like an office with low ceilings.
“We had to significantly re-engineer the center of the building and the roof structure to get the needed height for our tanks,” he said. “We gutted the entire building.”
Even some of the floors were redone. Most of the concrete floor under the heavy equipment is 12-inches thick to support the weight.
Neurauter and Crowley bought the building in March 2015. Plans were approved later that summer, which led to more than a year and half to get it all done.
Out of the 16,000 square feet that comprises the entire building, about 2,600 square feet is dedicated to the retail space. Most of the brewery will be used for production and canning, Neurauter said.
“There’s enough space where we will be able to expand,” Neurauter said. “It’s built to expand in one place. The next thing we would have to do is move the cold storage into another structure. This is to get the first year rolling and have all the distribution arrangements made in Chicago and Southwest Michigan.”
The full-scale production brewery is joined by the original brewpub in Chicago called Haymarket Pub & Brewery.
At the Chicago location, the pub portion is big and the brewery is small. At the Bridgman location, Neurauter said they made the brewery portion big and the taproom small. This was to allow Haymarket to distribute its beer.
“In Chicago we have a brewpub, so all the beer we brew there is for in-house sales,” Neurauter said. “We don’t have any packaging capabilities over there. We were looking to expand out of there and try to get our beer in bottles and cans.”
In search of space, Haymarket made its way to Southwest Michigan.
Neurauter said they were joking about bringing a second brewery to Michigan at first – Neurauter’s family has had a house in St. Joseph for more than a decade – but made the move after seeing a limited amount of real estate in and around Chicago.
From there, a few economic development representatives in the area brought Neurauter and Crowley to the former police post.
“We were looking for a ready-to-use warehouse, and this was definitely not it,” Neurauter said. “But with a little bit of help from some architects, we figured out it was feasible to do.”
Pizza and no tips
Mike Gemma is the director of operations at the Haymarket Brewery & Taproom. He said they have just under 40 people hired at the moment – which includes brewers.
“We’re already on the hunt for more,” Gemma said. “Being open seven days a week, we might need more help.”
Once it’s open Thursday, Haymarket will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.
In addition to the taproom, Haymarket has two wood-burning pizza ovens that were made in Italy. Gemma said the staff got specialty training to make the wood-fired pizzas in Denver.
In addition to the pizza, Haymarket will offer sandwiches and salads along with other seasonal items.
The beer lineup won’t deviate too much from the original brewpub as well.
Both in Bridgman and Chicago, Neurauter said, they’ll sell American ales and Belgian styles. In the past, Crowley has won awards for his Belgian IPAs.
“There’s always the tendency to go the heavier beers, but it’s also nice to enjoy a few more of them and not go all in on 12 percent beers,” Neurauter said. “But if that’s your jam, we’ve got you covered there too.”
Neurauter said they’ll use a “one-house” approach, where everything in the restaurant is everyone’s job.
“We’re not doing a traditional sit-down service. It’s all ordered at the bar,” Neurauter said. “There’s also no tipping. We don’t accept any tips. We wanted to go a little off the reservation there.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 12, 2017)