After nearly three years of planning, Kelly Rozema Finchem and Luke Finchem have finally realized their dream of opening a craft brewery in West Michigan.
The creators of Dutch Girl Brewing Inc. employed a different startup philosophy than most brewery owners in that they launched their company with plenty of room to grow. Rather than cram a taproom and brewing equipment into a tiny space to save cost up front, the husband-and-wife duo took their time in finding a location that would accommodate the business with an eye to the future.
“We can expand here without having to move to another space,” Rozema Finchem said.
Dutch Girl also took a different approach to the beers it had available at the time the company opened, offering often-overlooked styles such as the Vienna lager, Kolsch and ESB. It was an intentional tactic on their part, said Finchem, who’d been homebrewing since 1993.
With so many companies trying to out-hop one another and create the next radical IPA, Dutch Girl saw an opening for balanced, more traditional European styles of beer.
“It’s really a wonderful time to be in the craft beer business,” he said, noting that there’s plenty of room for companies like Dutch Girl to carve a niche in the local beer scene.
Dutch Girl is operated out of a 7,500-square-foot location at 14964 Cleveland St. in Spring Lake — directly across the street from Vander Mill Cider. The brewhouse and barrel-aging program takes up about 4,500 square feet and is separated from the taproom by roll-up glass doors that allow patrons to get a firsthand glimpse of the beer-making process.
The owners came up with the design after touring breweries across the U.S. and Canada and taking note of what they as patrons liked best. They also intentionally sought a site in their hometown of Spring Lake because of its proximity to great beer ingredients, everything from hops and malted barley to fruits like apples and blueberries, Finchem said.
To that end, Dutch Girl has established relationships with local growers so it can use a high percentage of Michigan-grown ingredients, he said. Look for a blueberry gruit, a cherry saison and fresh-hopped ale to be offered in the taproom later this year.
The best-selling beer so far for Dutch Girl has been its Dirty Boots, an 8.0 percent ABV imperial milk stout. (Just don’t ask for Dirty Boobs, as some patrons have mistakenly called it, quipped Rozema Finchem.)
The success of Dirty Boots has certainly come as a surprise for the owners and head brewer Josh Lentz, given the style is not typically a summer beer. Additionally, its roasted chocolate characteristics come strictly from the grains and not the addition of adjuncts, said Lentz, formerly a brewer at Jolly Pumpkin on Old Mission Peninsula north of Traverse City.
Just One More — a balanced and malty Vienna lager at 5.1 percent ABV — has been the second most-popular brew, followed by Trees, an 8 percent ABV double India Pale Ale made in the West Coast style.
Aside from the 7Mile Smile English-style IPA, Dutch Girl’s beers lean more toward the malty, balanced offerings. The F.T. Banks (as in, “forget the banks” — at least in polite company) is a made-to-style ESB that mixes sweet notes and biscuity malts with an astringent bitterness from the grain bill rather than the hops. The Street Scrubber saison offers peppery notes from the Belgian yeast, and thanks to the addition of copious amounts of malt, is darker than the typical offerings in that style.
Dutch Girl offers Michigan-made pre-packaged snacks and nibbles, but the owners hope to open a full-service kitchen within a year. In the meantime, the brewery is looking to partner with local food trucks to offer more substantial eats.
They also plan to use Michigan Mobile Canning to package their beers for retail distribution in the near future. That said, Dutch Girl has already started to put its beer into kegs. Look for the company’s signature wooden tap handle with a bright orange Dutch wooden shoe at the top. They should be appearing in select beer bars and restaurants around the region, Rozema Finchem said.
In time, Dutch Girl plans to offer live music and events, potentially in the large parking area in front of the building where the brewery could also add an outdoor patio, she added.
“It was in our mission to grow and have a place we could grow into, not out of,” Finchem said.
Dutch Girl Brewery Inc.
Location: 14964 Cleveland St., Suite B, Spring Lake (Located directly across M-104 from Vander Mill Cider)
Contact: (616) 607-2026, dutchgirlbrewery.com
Ambiance: The taproom is adorned with Old World family photos from Kelly Rozema Finchem, a.k.a. the Dutch Girl. The space features a long wooden bar and a mix of low and high-top tables. Glass doors offer views of the brewhouse. The space feels airy with plenty of natural light.
What’s in a name: Dirty Boots is a reference to the owners’ dog, Boots, a German shorthair. F.T. Banks (forget the banks) offers the founders’ opinion of dealing with local financial institutions. Meanwhile, 7Mile Smile is a nod to Spring Lake’s motto, “Where nature smiles for seven miles.”
Looking ahead: Look for Dutch Girl to start packaging and distributing four-packs of 16-ounce cans of its most popular brews. The company already has tap handles in select local beer bars.
Bonus: Detroit Lions fans should plan to stop in this fall and commiserate — er, celebrate — with Rozema Finchem, a diehard fan. “This is their year,” she said. (Uh, huh. Keep dreaming, Kelly!)