Although her journey did not begin in the state, Kim Collins found a place to call home here in West Michigan. Taking the parts of her life she loved, she turned them into passions and followed through on making her dream job a reality.
Collins is the founder of Guardian Brewing Company in Saugatuck, and one of the few woman brewers in the industry. Although Guardian has only been open since 2018, Collins has been ambitious and driven to make it a real part of the community. Complimenting how kind and supportive the community has been, she strives to return the neighborly love, while canoeing, hiking and camping in her spare time.
You’re not native to Saugatuck. What drew you here?
I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and the Indiana national lakeshore, depending on which parent and which time of the year. When I was very young, we used to travel up here by boat and put our boat up in Holland and stop into Saugatuck. It was one of the few towns that actually had restaurants and bars on the water. I’ve lived in most of the other Midwestern states and just found Michigan to have more outdoorsy things to do and a strong beer culture. Saugatuck was the perfect combination of all those things, including arts and culture, but not being in the city.
How did your journey bring you to Guardian Brewing Company?
My partner Kate and I — when she was working on her Ph.D. and I had just finished my master’s at Indiana State University — we were both studying outdoor recreation, hospitality and tourism. But we are both homebrewers. I was looking for the next step in my career, not quite sure what I wanted to do next. I thought, ‘Well, I love craft beer, and the industry is amazing, and the people are awesome. So why not trying being a brewer?’
Where did you begin professional brewing?
We figured Colorado was the perfect place for me to learn to brew professionally, because I didn’t want to start brewing without having professional experience. It’s just really different than homebrewing. She said to me, ‘You’ve got five years to figure out if this is what you want to do and open your own brewery,’ and I did it in six. I brewed for five breweries out there and gained a lot of practical knowledge and also went to school for different educational portions.
What do you see on the horizon for you and your company?
Right now, we are interested in sinking into our 12,000-square-foot building, so we’ve only built out about 8,000 square feet of it. We want to first open a really nice patio for the summertime and build two yurts on the property so people can stay overnight and then from there we have a lot of phases. We own 23 acres across the street, so we’re picturing trails and recreation spaces. Maybe we’ll be able to put in a little brew hut, some taps over there. Anywhere we can mix our recreation with the brewery, really being a part of the community is the best part.
What is the driving force that pushes your success?
The passion for creating something unique but long-lasting. I want to create something that lasts beyond us. I don’t have children and I don’t plan to, so it’s not like I can pass this off to my own kids in the future. So eventually we want to make this an employee-owned business; that way Guardian is something that can persist well beyond our lifetime. So my driving passion is creating something that outlasts time and fills the needs that the community has and kind of morphs and changes over time to be what it needs to be.
Do you have a favorite kind of beer?
I am a certified cicerone. So I love all kinds of beer, different beer with different meals, different beers at different times of the day and seasons. I would say that my favorite kind of beer, generally speaking, is coffee beer or barrel-aged beer.