By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON TOWNSHIP — North Pier Brewing Co. has grown fast since opening last year, enough so to merit an expansion at its Benton Township location.
The microbrewery at 670 North Shore Drive, adjacent to Hole 14 of the Golf Club at Harbor Shores and across the street from the North Shore Inn, was given approval by township trustees Tuesday for a 20,000-square-foot expansion that would be completed in two phases.
The expansion won’t be connected to the microbrewery’s current building, but create a separate facility across the street at the shared parking lot between North Shore Inn and North Pier.
Jay Fettig, owner of North Pier, said the expansion would be dedicated to cold storage, warehousing and bottling beer.
The first phase includes 7,500 square feet in cold storage and warehousing. The second phase will address the remaining 12,500 of the expansion for production, Fettig said.
The separate production building would be geared toward canning.
“We always had aspirations to expand. As things progressed and we figured out what was required, we quickly realized we needed to ramp up production now,” Fettig said. “We weren’t quite ready for a new brewhouse since we’re only a year old, but we needed some upgrades.”
The microbrewery at 670 North Shore Drive has a somewhat low barrel capacity, Fettig said. The expansion would alleviate the problem.
“We’ve been doing a small expansion in our current space and added new outdoor tanks that hold 45 barrels,” Fettig said. “What this will allow us to do is brew five times as much beer as we were doing. We will also get a canning line in April. With all that in mind and those upgrades going on in our current space, we needed space for everything else.”
Fettig told trustees Tuesday that they would like to begin work on the first phase as soon as possible.
The rest of the mitten
Part of what’s driving this expansion is North Pier’s effort to extend its beer to the rest of the state.
As a microbrewery, North Pier can sell beer in its own tavern or through retailers across Michigan.
Most of the beer made at the microbrewery is for distribution, which is limited to Berrien County and neighboring regions. After the expansion, Fettig said the microbrewery would end up producing enough to distribute to most of Michigan and northern Indiana.
“We would continue to sell about eight to 10 different beers locally,” he said. “Statewide, there would only be two flagship beers that would be distributed because of the amount of work it would take.”
The parking lot, which has 24 spaces, would be upgraded to reduce any traffic congestion along the three-way intersection. The production building Fettig hopes to see built would be directly behind the parking lot.
The land behind it has already been cleared for site preparation.
Fettig said the second phase would be done later on with no specific time frame in mind.
“Ideally, if things go well and we max out our current facility, the plan would be more space,” Fettig said. “A new brewhouse and larger fermenters would be nice. The additional 12,500 of the site plan is our way of planning ahead.”
The microbrewery has three full-time workers and seven part-time employees, but site documents provided to the township show the expansion is expected to eventually add five to 10 people.
North Pier Brewing Co. first opened last summer in time for the 2016 Senior PGA Tournament.
Fettig ended up reusing the building as well as its extension that was built in the 1950s. The building was renovated to accommodate seating and the tap room. The remaining structure, which dates to the mid-1920s, was the old Anderson Patterson Works.
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 23, 2017)