Latitude 42 Brewing Company CEO Joe Stoddard had been running a restaurant for years, all while having a dream of opening his own brewery with spectacular food. The kitchen aspect of the endeavor was covered, but he was faced with the challenge of finding the next key piece of the puzzle -- the brewer -- before moving on to the business plan.
“The first time [brewer Scott Freitas and I] were introduced was over the phone, and we literally built our relationship over phone conversations," Stoddard said. "After countless hours of conversation, the decision was made to move forward. The idea took years from the creation of the concept to opening day.”
During these conversations, Freitas was the head brewer of Maui Brewing Company in Hawaii and had already proven himself more than capable, increasing production from 1,200 barrels upon his arrival to 20,000bbls during his five years there.
“Joe basically told me I had free reign to do whatever I wanted to do in the brewery,” Freitas said. “One of my decisions in becoming a partner was that freedom, that they focus on the restaurant and I focus on the brewery.”
Originally from Oregon, Freitas takes a lot of inspiration from the west coast style beers, leaning towards the hop-forward presentations.
“People in Portage didn't have anything to call their own,” Frietas said. “Joe is originally from there, and they really wanted to give something back to the community.”
The month prior to opening was filled with constant brewing, preparing for the inevitable onslaught. Latitude 42 began putting beers out into the market in advance, and on Aug. 5, 2013, the brewery opened its doors.
“I had 12 beers on tap when we opened," Fretias said. "Everyone told me we were going to run out, but we didn't because I had been prepared. Opening night was nuts, line out the door, two-and-a-half hour wait – by the end of the weekend, we had gone through about 25bbls of beer.” (That's 838 gallons of beer, or a little more than 6,700 pints)
Latitude 42 maintains three mainstays on tap and in can, Powerline Porter, Lil' Sunshine Golden Ale and Red Beard's India Red Ale.
“I try to keep 20 beers on tap at all times, a lot of rotating stuff. I think up to now, we've done 48 different beers,” Freitas said.
Other beers on tap during my visit included All Night Long Cocoa Milk Stout, Beach Cruiser American Hefeweizen, Double Chin American Strong Ale, Flavor Savor Double IPA and Melon Head Dry Hopped Pale Ale, an American pale dry hopped with the new citrus-driven Melon Hop. Latitude 42 is also working on a barrel aging program, with beers popping into the taproom recently.
Latitude 42's future is already in motion, bringing in new, bigger tanks to support the taproom, as well as distribution efforts. Down the line, there is intent to open more brewpubs. You can enjoy the brews alongside a variety of fantastic food (including some killer blue crab cakes and a healthy kids menu), inside at the 20-tap bar or outside on the patio.
“I try to make something for everyone out there,” Freitas said. “No 10 IPAs or 10 stouts, I try to focus on making beer for everyone – even macro drinkers, I have a beer that you can enjoy.”
BEER OF THE MONTH: Brewery Vivant's Undertaker
Brewery Vivant has just released a brand new mainstay statewide: the Belgian Dark (6%ABV). This beer pours jet black with a dense, brown head that smells of roast. Surprisingly light bodied, this brew goes down smooth and features light malt complexity alongside dark tones of coffee, chocolate and tart black cherry, finished with a very soft tartness over a relaxed, peanut-shell roast.
On July 19, WGRD hosts its annual Summer Craft Beer Fest at John Ball Park. Spend the day with more than 100 national, regional and local brews alongside music and food. Visit summercraftbeerfestival.com for more information.
Michigan Brewer's Guild Summer Beer Festival hits Ypsilanti July 25-26 and features more than 800 beers from more than 80 Michigan craft breweries. Food and music is also on-hand at the two-day festival. Visit mibeer.com/summer-festivalfor more information.
Arktos Meadery isn't open just yet, but it has already won the 2014 Mazer Cup silver medal for its Apple Cyser. Keep an eye on this Grand Rapids meadery, which brews mead and honey wine, by checking its progress on Facebook or at arktosmeadery.com.