Text: R. Collins
The Saugatuck and Fennville areas of Michigan have become synonymous with soft dune beaches—approximately six of them—sandy forest paths and laid-back mini vacations fit for the snow or summer. Other than panoramic views of Lake Michigan and an all-around quiet, getaway-destination-vibe, Saugatuck has also become a beloved source for unique small businesses and some of west Michigan’s most innovative and purposefully independent brewing operations. SOLACE Magazine recently talked with a couple Saugatuck brewers in anticipation of an active spring season, and some palate-enticing brews that have recently hit their menus and more that are soon to arrive.
Guardian Brewing Company | 3657 63rd St. Saugatuck, MI 49453
“We wanted to be in a place that truly values small, local business, and the town is just full of every local and small business that you could think of. From there we just feel so supported,” said Kim Collins, co-founder, owner, and head brewer of Guardian Brewing Company, a women-led operation just off Blue Star Highway and a short distance from Oval Beach.
“I’m not put under the pressure of putting out one or two certain kinds of beer that people want in distribution; we really get to play around and have fun and give our customers what they want as well as new flavor combinations,” Collins added.
For Collins, it is important to maintain a connection with guests, whether it is asking for feedback on the back of flight slips at the brew pub, and encouraging them to come in to have a drink on the heated patio, or supporting philanthropic partners in the surrounding community. Collins’ adventurous approach to beer brewing throughout the years has led to several anticipated and re-requested brews, as well as a continually busy, 10-barrel brew house.
Apart from the 22 taps of beer brewed in-house—two of which are always nitro pours—Guardian offers two ciders from Tandem Ciders in Sutton’s Bay, 14 wines on tap and by the bottle, cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages, and a full food menu taking after the creative bent of its beer and beverage pairings—such as the matching Stroopwaffle dessert and Dutch Mafia Stroopwaffle Cream Ale.
A supporter of dark beer in the summer and light beer in the winter, Collins’ current porter beer offerings comprise the classic Pegacorn English-style porter and its summery sibling, Coconut Vanillacorn, an English-style porter with a generous helping of Mexican vanilla beans and toasted coconut. Apart from the two nitrogen taps and around eight mainstays, Collins leaves the rest of the tap spaces open for newly inspired brew projects.
“I think that’s why we have so many taps, because I don’t want to have to choose too much; I just want to have fun and create new flavors,” Collins said. “We’ll have a few barrel-aged beer options coming out this year, for example a gin barrel version of our double IPA. We just got the barrels from Eastern Kille [Distillery] up in Grand Rapids, so we’re pretty excited about that.”
Guardian is also preparing to release a Graf beer—a blend of apple cider and beer that Collins is partially aging in rum barrels and fermenting with saison yeast.
“It’s going to be unlike anything we’ve served before. That’ll be out in February,” Collins said.
As for more decadent additions to the tap menu, Guardian has been experimenting with a couple cookie beers and finally pushed one, called Villainess, onto the menu. The imperial milk stout features more than 80 pounds of Oreos, crushed by hand with lots of help, according to Collins.
Sample the taps at Guardian Brewing Company or pick up favorites using curbside service. The brewery even offers a $5.00 delivery fee in the immediate Saugatuck and Douglas areas, and is currently open all week, Thursday through Sunday, from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET, and Friday and Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET.
Waypost Brewing Company | 1630 Blue Star Hwy, Fennville, MI 49408
Just off the highway and a few blocks from Lake Michigan, Waypost Brewing Company harnesses the best ingredients of its own farm and region to drive the tasty inspirations of its open-air brewery.
“Waypost is a farmhouse brewery, and our beers are created to reflect the place and the people who make it what it is,” said Hannah Lee, co-owner and brewer at Waypost Brewing Company. “Whether that’s the hyper-local ingredients or the feeling on the farm the day the beer was brewed, we want our product to be a reflection of this truly special place.”
The thoughtful mainstay beers at Waypost Brewing Co are some that can be enjoyed repeatedly, from the farmhouse attitude of the classic Saison and its peppery dry finish, to the crisp, unfiltered zwickelbier-style House Lager, and the Sea Salt Stout’s dry but complex blend of dark chocolate, sea salt, and coffee notes.
The seasons that drive the fresh ingredients of western Michigan’s fruit belt also guide Waypost’s inspired collections of seasonal beer.
“Lately, it’s been about reflection and intentionality on the farm, and that is very much mirrored in the beers we’ve been releasing. These include long-term beers like lagers and mixed fermentation projects, alongside beers that use unique ingredients purposefully,” Lee said.
Take for example the seasonal menu’s newest addition, the Helles Rauchbier smoked lager: a golden lager with a malty center and a wisp of smoke at the finish.
“It’s brewed with an even-handed addition of beechwood-smoked malt and is designed to be a highly approachable and delicate addition to the wide world of smoked beers,” Lee said.
Another take on seasonal is the yearly release of Waypost’s VIPA beer, a double IPA with Gewurztraminer juice grown on the Lake Michigan shore by the Benton Harbor-based 12 Corners Vineyards. Having backgrounds in wine production, Lee and Waypost Brewing Company Co-Owner Chuck Steinhardt reference the conceptualizing and creation process of wine when it comes to their current beer brewing. The two sensibilities meet in VIPA, which is a co-fermentation of an IPA and fresh grape juice from the year’s harvest. The result, according to Lee, “blurs the line between a fruity, juicy IPA and an aromatic white wine.”
While working toward a safe re-opening of its tasting room and garden patio this spring, Waypost has been steadily growing its distribution footprint in West Michigan and self-distributing throughout the state. For now, the brewery is focusing on its to-go operations, offering curb-side service at the farm from Thursday through Saturday, from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET and Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET. Waypost beer is also featured at several west Michigan retailers and can be ordered online at shop.waypostbeer.com.
Fenn Valley Vineyards | 6130 122nd Ave, Fennville, MI 49408
Private, sanitized vineyard igloo reservations that include fresh linens and charcuterie board. Get $6.00 wine shipping on six or more bottles. Try True or Classic Chardonnays for a multi-seasonal tasting.
Virtue Cider | 2170 62nd St, Fennville, MI 49408
Curbside pick-up and greenhouse reservations for outdoor seating.
Creative cider offerings such as the latest small batch brew, Rosalita, which will directly benefit World Central Kitchen, a non-profit that uses the power of food to heal and strengthen communities in times of crisis and beyond. Available now exclusively through their online cider shop.
Saugatuck Brewing Company | 2948 Blue Star Hwy, Douglas, MI 49406
Open for dine-in and takeout food and beer.
A noteworthy seasonal is Maggie’s Irish ale, brewed with locally harvested Michigan honey. Six-packs of the tart Cottonmouth Crusher sour ale are also now available.