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Beaver Island’s Whiskey Point Brewing To Be State’s First Island Brewery

Craft beer is big business in Michigan and until now it has been a mainland industry. Soon that won’t be the case as Beaver Island gets their very own brewery.

Whiskey Point Brewing Company started as an idea five years ago, a business plan three years ago and is now on the verge of becoming a reality, adding to the identity and culture of the Emerald Isle.

“Everyone’s really excited about it,” says part time islander Suzanne Lang.

“This will be their brewery and as this product goes forward to the rest of Michigan at some point, everybody will see this as Beaver Island’s beer,” says founder and head brewer Patrick McGinnity.

It is not unusual to see a new brewery popping up in Michigan. But it is unusual to see one in a place like Beaver Island, Whiskey Point Brewing will be the first island based brewery in Michigan.

“If I wasn’t on Beaver Island, I wouldn’t be starting a brewery,” says McGinnity, “My interest is in starting a brewery here, not just starting a brewery. This is the only place it was going to happen for me.”

McGinnity is the mind behind the venture. He moved to Beaver Island at the age of eight and only left for college and a few years of teaching. He moved back with his family in 2013, where he is now a librarian and officially the island’s first brewer.

“Just because I want good beer,” says McGinnity, “And not that there isn’t good beer here but home brewed beer or fresh beer is an amazing thing.”

McGinnity was able to find about 15 investors to chip in on the project and next was a location.

“It’s hard to beat this location as far as foot traffic,” says McGinnity, “It’s the only road to get to the Point. There’s no way to get to the Point without driving past us.”

Then spent two years renovating the building for the brewery needs. Volunteers chipped in to help build and decorate the taproom and they will help with the beer and the service.

“It’s interesting and it actually seems to work ,” says McGinnity.

Now that they are officially brewing, there is still a learning curve to the equipment and that’s to be expected in any brewery. But beyond making good beer, their biggest hurdle will be the isolation. A 20-minute plane ride or a 2-hour ferry ride, you choose to get to Beaver Island and it isn’t cheap.

“Beaver Island is a place where things are special,” says McGinnity, “It may cost a little more to get here to enjoy them but it’s really worth it.”

It’s going to be more expensive to make, everything is on Beaver Island.

“Everything is at a cost. There’s so many layers to it, every ounce of grain we bring in, unless it is brought by the US postal service, it costs more to get here,” says McGinnity.

Shipments have to be scheduled wisely to get the best bang for the buck. Whiskey Point can sometimes see a 40% upcharge to get their materials on to the island.

“You know it’s going to cost a little more and it’s going to be a little less profitable as it would be in Charlevoix,” says McGinnity, “especially given once September hits and our population drops.”

McGinnity understands he will have to make his money in the five months of the tourist season to then survive the winter. On top of converting some of those full timers to the craft beer world.

“Even though the macro brew lagers are still the king on Beaver Island, much like they are in most places, I think people are a lot more open to it,” says McGinnity.

It won’t be easy but McGinnity knows that. That doesn’t mean it won’t be successful, in high demand and be a hit. McGinnity and his crew are ready to finally try.

“It’s a little scary,” says McGinnity, “It feels great to finally have what has been a dream for so long.”

Early returns on interest and hype are trending up.

“Everytime I talk with my son he’s like ‘When are they going to open up that brewery?’” says Lang, “He is very geeked about coming to Beaver Island and checking that place out.”

“I’m really excited for the island because I think it is going to be good boost to the local economy,” says McGinnity.

Now it’s time to just finish off the fermenters, tap the kegs and open the doors to Michigan’s most isolated brewery.

“The constant question is, ‘When’s it going to open?’ and I’m really looking forward to when we are actually open to say, ‘It opens at 11 and closes at 9,” says McGinnity.

The plan is to have a soft open later this week so they are open for that big Fourth of July rush, their only fear is that they made enough beer.