Pictured Rocks Brewing Company
Munising's Contribution To The U.P. Craft Beer Scene
Just East of Marquette sits another picturesque town on the shores of Lake Superior, the town of Munising. Long known for its National Park Lakeshore and as a winter wonderland destination for snowmobiling and the Michigan Ice Fest, it’s now poised to build itself a niche in the U.P. craft beer industry. There’s a new brewer in town and he’s crafting up some excellent beers under the name Pictured Rocks Brewing Company served up exclusively at Shooters Firehouse Brewpub in downtown Munising.
Chris Gethers was introduced to the art of homebrewing years ago through a colleague from the paper mill where he works. Having graduated with a degree in pulp and paper chemistry he discovered that the chemistry behind brewing is very similar to the science behind his degree and being a self-proclaimed “chemistry nerd” he was immediately hooked saying with smile, “There’s brewing beer with the knowledge I learned in college and there’s making paper with the knowledge I learned in college so, they’re very similar. Beer is just a tad more exciting!”
After homebrewing with his wife Jill for the past 15-16 years and becoming highly engaged with the Marquette Home Brewers, Gethers decided they were ready to take things to the next level. In 2014 they entered into a symbiotic relationship with the Shooters Firehouse Brewpub which owns the facilities where they brew and the necessary permits. The Pictured Rocks Brewing Company retains ownership of all equipment, supplies, recipes, and beer; allowing them to, “Take a low risk approach to getting in the craft beer industry,” he says.
He also shares in the passion for beer and brewing with wife Jill, an advantage that allows them to divide responsibilities of brewing, business, and parenting between the two. These unique arrangements permit Gethers to brew 20-30 hours a week honing his skills while still maintaining a full-time job at the paper mill. Yet, don’t let this heavy schedule fool you into thinking he’s less than 110% committed to his passion for making good beer!
Gethers has high standards and big dreams for the Pictured Rocks Brewing Company and is dedicated to working day and night to get it, as he says, “Done right and done well.” So, what is the right way? In Gethers’ opinion it’s not enough to create quality beer, you also need to ensure a great customer experience. For him that means creating a place in the Munising area where locals can have a place to eat good food, drink good beer and be entertained, while still having the overflow capacity to support the heavy flow of seasonal tourists. While off to a great start, in order to meet his expectations at their current location some upgrades will be in order for the future such as, expanding the kitchen capacity beyond its simple pub fare and moving the brewing facilities into view on premises so customers can see where and how the beer in their glasses is made.
Until then, Gethers is focused on developing his nano brewed beer, refining recipes and perfecting his craft. Says Gethers, “With every new brewer it’s an opportunity to experience different types of styles, processes, and philosophies on how they want to present the beer.” Gethers’ revels in brewing classic beers with modern twists. He combines methodic processes with symphonic flare while brewing as he mixes and mashes to carefully selected music that embodies the spirit of the brew at hand. In fact, he has a song for every recipe, sometimes even two!
Since starting brewing production at Shooters he has expanded the number of craft beers available on tap at Shooters from 4 taps to 8 putting together a healthy breadth which includes a variety of ales and lagers. Popular brews have been the milk stout (a sweeter chocolatey version), blueberry wheat (approached differently from other brewers in the area to give his version of this U.P. favorite its own unique characteristics), the Citra-Raz IPA, and the Mustang Lager (new recipe named after the town mascot and a personal favorite of mine). An additional item on tap well worth mentioning is their daughter’s recipe Hannah’s Old Fashioned Root Beer. They have a dedication to making sure there is something enjoyable on hand for the kids as well so family’s can have a great experience together.
If you’re new to drinking craft beer Gethers has this to say, “Don’t bring any preconceived conceptions with you. Just because you tried a particular style once and didn’t like it doesn’t mean that something similar at another brewery will be the same experience. It all depends on what the brewer was going for and how well they executed that.” He recommends that folks try a sampler saying, “Drink what you like, but sample them all!”
Once you’ve stopped by Shooters to try some of the Pictured Rocks Brewing Company’s craft beers, be sure to let them know what you think. Gethers welcomes and appreciates honest feedback from customers stating simply that he doesn’t want to brew beer people aren’t enjoying just because they’re too shy to say what they really think. Ultimately, Gethers wants to brew what the people like and brew it well for them.
Says Gethers, “The exciting thing for us is that people can see that the beer we produce is good and continues to get better over time. Certainly, it’s going to lead to an expansion of craft beer in the form of another brewpub or an expansion of the brewpub we’re in now.” In the future perhaps he’ll even realize his dream of a second career of creating a full production micro-brewery for distribution with a taproom for tasting. “We have the attractions: Pictured Rocks, boat cruises, shipwrecks, waterfalls we have all that here. This is certainly a stop for many people and I think we can build on that and run successfully.”
I’ll drink to that, there’s nothing like rounding out a day enjoying the scenic outdoors with a good beer and Munising has got both!
Check out these great articles on craft beer & homebrewing by the Marquette Home Brewers:
- How To Get Started In Home Brewing
- 3 Basic Homebrewing Methods
- A Sustainable Approach To Homebrewing
- Exploring Belgium Beer
- Why To Try a “Craft Beer”
- So You’re Not a Hop Head
- Cellaring Beer: Good Things Come To Those Who Wait
- Yeast And Beer: What’s The Big Deal?
Read About Breweries In The Upper Peninsula
For Info About Marquette Home Brewers Events: