The popular brewery on Grand Rapids’ West Side announced this month it plans to open a taproom in Saugatuck, the second satellite location for The Mitten, joining a location in Northport.
The Mitten’s beers like Country Strong IPA, Triple Crown Brown and Peanuts & Crackerjack porter and the company’s pizzas will soon be pouring in southwest Michigan when it opens in the former Borrowed Time bar, at 329 Water Street in Saugatuck, likely in June.
The building is a 1,900-square-foot house built in 1860.
The location will provide the ability to pull from both the original location and Northport, said Max Trierweiler, who started the brewery in 2012 with Chris Andrus.
While the Grand Rapids taproom, 527 Leonard St. NW, has a kitchen specializing in pizzas to accompany its beers, the Northport location is just a taproom. Saugatuck will incorporate both aspects.
“We have the recipe down for food here and the recipe for a satellite location in Northport. It’s a hybrid of both for sure,” Trierweiler said.
Trierweiler said The Mitten wasn’t really looking for its third location when fellow local company The Mitten State came calling with the tantalizing offer. Both companies have worked together on nonprofit initiatives and the brewery uses the apparel company for its t-shirts. The two companies hosted Detroit Red Wings legend Darren McCarty this past weekend at the Grand Rapids taproom. The Mitten State will sell t-shirts out of The Mitten’s Saugatuck location.
When the opportunity came up, Trierweiler said it was a “no-brainer” to move forward with the third taproom location. While the company will reassess expansion plans in the future, Trierweiler said he won’t discount new taproom plans in the future — the company has had feelers out in Detroit, for a Detroit Tigers-themed taproom.
The Northport location was originally meant to supplement the Grand Rapids location, and balance a summer season that can be a little slower in the city.
Trierweiler expects to see similar seasonality in Saugatuck, with a stronger winter than in Northport.
“We know how to open another taproom, it’s worked well for us,” he said. “We make more money through retail sales than through distribution.”
With the beer industry ever evolving, selling straight to consumers appears to be a solid move forward, especially for small- to mid-size breweries such as The Mitten.
The Mitten brewed a little more than 1,400 barrels of beer in 2017, according to Trierweiler, and with the planned expansion he expects that number to reach 2,500 this year.
Along with the two taprooms and a steady statewide distribution to bars and restaurants, The Mitten released cans earlier this year for retailers.
With one salesperson on staff, Trierweiler said the company hasn’t focused on distribution sales, but with the cans, sales have taken on “a life of their own.”
“Our expansion should allow us to keep up with our current distribution and two taprooms, but we’ll see,” he said. “We don’t know exactly how much we’ll need to brew this year, so we’ll reassess as it goes on.”