The Austin family discovered Alpena about 10 years ago while on a month long family road trip in a motor home. Leaving their hometown just outside of San Diego, California, Dana and Julie Austin, along with their two sons Blake and Brant hit the road. During their travels they stopped at the Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio, and decided to travel through Michigan on their route back towards the west coast. Never having been in Michigan before, the Austin’s opted to take the scenic route along Lake Huron as they ventured north.
As the daylight grew dim, the family pulled off and camped at an RV park just south of Alpena. The next morning they explored the little city that they had come across by pure chance. The Austin’s quickly became enamored with Alpena’s unique features; especially beautiful Lake Huron, the Thunder Bay River that flows through the city, and the charming Second Avenue drawbridge over the river downtown. They decided to stay in Alpena for several days before resuming their travels back towards the west. After they returned to California, Dana asked his sons where their favorite place was out of all of the places they had visited while traveling across the United States. Brant said that he liked the little northern Michigan town with the drawbridge the best.
The following year they did another month long road trip, making sure they included a visit to Alpena. They had fallen in love with the water, the small town charm, and the friendliness of the people. Soon Dana purchased property in Alpena so that they could return regularly.
One year while on vacation in Alpena, Brant decided that when he returned home he was going to take up making beer as a hobby with his dad’s old home brewing equipment. The Austins realized that there weren’t many breweries in northeast Lower Michigan and they saw a need for the type of brew pub they enjoyed on the west coast. Brant realized that he could either continue to pursue nursing school, or he could pursue brewing school. Older brother Blake had been a PGA golf pro and had many years’ experience in business and management of large golf courses. Father Dana was nearing retirement, and the close-knit family of outdoor enthusiasts had been pondering relocating. Their small town on the outskirts of San Diego had tripled in size in a matter of years, and the family didn’t find it appealing anymore.
The Austin family’s daydream started to feel like it could become a reality. Brant enrolled in the Siebel Institute of Technology brewing school, after taking a brief online course to prep for the program. He then spent time in Chicago and Germany through the World Brewing Association. Brant was quickly hired at a large brewery in San Diego called Ballast Point Brewing Company, known as one of the top 25 breweries in the United States. After working there about a year and a half, he moved to a smaller brewery called Mother Earth Brewing Company. Brant was working to gain and expand his experience in facilities similar to what the Austin’s hoped to open in Alpena.
During the summer of 2014, the Austin family packed up with their wives and Blake’s young daughter, and traveled from California to Alpena for good. Once they moved to Alpena the next step was to find a suitable location for their production brewery. They found it near downtown; located off of Miller Street. The Austin Brothers Beer Company is within walking distance to downtown attractions, has 18 ft. tall ceilings for the large equipment, a covered porch and a large outdoor area.
With a spring of 2015 opening, the family has put their plans in motion to create a large and inviting outdoor beer garden comparable to what you would find in Germany, an indoor tasting room with a small kitchen, and a production room for the beers that will be distributed throughout Michigan. Within the first year, visitors to the brewery can enjoy about 12 beers on tap, including lagers, blondes, pale ales, west coast IPA’s, porters, and stouts. The Austin’s even create lighter beers to suit other tastes.
The Austin Brothers Beer Company’s kitchen offers a small, seasonal, rotating menu, with all items made from scratch by a professional chef. It is important to the Austins that their ingredients are fresh, organic, and locally sourced. They are strong believers in “support your own and they will support you”, and they look forward to working with other local businesses within the community. They strive to provide their customers with a true experience of the area, right down to the ingredients used in their product. Their vision provides a relaxed and casual atmosphere, offering craft beer with craft style food. They know that people go out of their way for special places, and we know visitors to Alpena will certainly enjoy this special place.