I stared at the beer choices on the blackboard. I was stymied. So, Guardian Brewing Company co-owner/brewmaster Kim Collins asked about my taste preferences. Nothing sweet. Nothing fruity. Something a bit strong, zippy, maybe even nutty. “I even like pickle juice,” I told her.
Soon my flight of five beers sat before me. I laughed out loud – loudly enough for the whole room to hear me – when I got to No. 3. Tigris, its name. To me, pickle juice. I laugh even as I write about it. It was my second favorite of five. No. 1? An Oktoberfest named Wunderschon.
Barbara Haas, my friend from San Diego, exhibited distinctly different taste. Her favorite was a pale ale named Chimera, but she ooh-ed and ahh-ed over MICO, a spicy cream ale brewed with hatch chiles from New Mexico. The Midwestern me had never even heard of hatch chiles. The point? Lots of different beers here. And lots of fun checking them out in this brew pub along Blue Star Highway near Saugatuck.
Flights of five come in a horseshoe-like tray because the Guardian logo is a winged horse with a horn. (Collins calls it a “pegacorn.”) The bar echoes the horseshoe shape. Amenities added for comfort include a footrail and purse hooks. In the booths, seats are designed so feet can be tucked under the seat rather than kicking someone on the other side of the table. Who thinks of these things?
Oh, yeah – Collins and her partner, co-owner Kate Bishop.
There’s also hard cider, classic cocktails, wine and non-alcoholic beer. Food, too: pub grub with plenty of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options. Think not only nachos, tacos and pretzel bites with cheese but also brats, Reubens and salads.
The building was the Red Barn Theater for decades. It was born in 1912 as a horse barn, converted to a summer community theater in the late ’40s, underwent a number of additions and renovations, and in 2017 was purchased by Guardian to become “the ultimate craft beer destination.” It opened to the public in late 2018. The restaurant currently seats 92. An outside patio for 50 has an awning, gas fire pit and heaters.
Grab a board game from the bench. Test your knowledge on trivia night. Listen to live music on summer Sundays. Join the Mug Club. Or book a seat at Beer School, once a month classes/drinking sessions led by Collins, a certified cicerone (like a wine sommelier, but for beer). The class on April 6 will cover teatime beer pairing, and the session on May the 4th will feature lagers and Star Wars, of course. (Mystified? Read it out loud.)
Other monthly sessions pair Guardian beers with stuff like salsa or pie — eventually, something for everyone.
And make no mistake, Guardian Brewing Company is for everyone. Collins and Bishop are proud to say it’s Michigan’s first 100% LGBTQ+ and women-owned craft brewery. The Pride flag is prominently displayed in front of a large window. On its beer cans, too.
“Inclusion” just might be Guardian’s middle name.
Guardian Brewing Company is located at 3657 63rd St., in Saugatuck. They an be reached at 269-543-2238 or guardianbrewingco.com.