Former Northwoods Supper Club to reopen as brewery
Published by The Mining Journal on Jan. 20, 2018
MARQUETTE — When Nick VanCourt and Marina Dupler first bought the former Northwoods Supper Club building, it was crumbling and being taken over by nature, VanCourt said.
Even though it’s only been a little over a year since the married couple purchased the property at 260 Northwoods Road in Marquette Township, the dilapidated building that sat idle for nearly 11 years has been brought back to life and turned into the Barrel and Beam, a brewery that focuses mostly on bottle-conditioned and barrel-aged farmhouse and bier d’garde ales.
The refurbished building includes an upstairs room that can be used for community or private events and a tasting-room. The building’s decor pays homage to its history as large wooden logs from the original structure are noted around the fresh-smelling establishment.
VanCourt said the layout is “ultimately very similar” to the supper club, which was in business for roughly 60 years.
After recently throwing a couple of “soft opening” parties for close friends, partners and family, the brewery will open its tasting-room to the public for the first time from noon to 8 p.m. Jan. 27.
“We have a tasting-room. We’re not calling it a taproom because we don’t have taps. If we want people to taste what they can buy, it has to be a bottle-conditioned beer,” VanCourt said. “We’re super excited. We bought this property a year and three weeks ago and here we are already opening our doors.”
Barrel and Beam uses a traditional brewing method where time is a crucial part of the process. From the initial brew day, some beers take four months to more than a year to fully cultivate. The bottle-conditioning process is one characteristic that makes Barrel and Beam stand apart from other breweries in the area. However, like any other process, there are certainly pros and cons, VanCourt said.
“We do (bottle-conditioning) because No. 1, it is definitely the authentic last finishing touch on these styles,” he said. “The time in the bottle brings out more complexity and dries the beer out further. We can have a beer that’s high in carbonation, such as a saison, that doesn’t have a harshness in CO2. When you force-carbonate a beer to that pressure, it’s generally not that smooth when you drink it. What we’re going for is another fermentation, another transformation in the bottle. The big thing the beer benefits with that, is that any oxygen that was trapped in gets consumed by that fermentation. Oxygen is our enemy. Oxygen is what’s going to stale the beer and limit its shelf life. So when you bottle-condition, you have the benefit of a much extended shelf life. The beer will stay fresher longer and age gracefully. It won’t oxidize and have that cardboard and honey character.”
Since the process takes longer than others, it can become a little more costly, which VanCourt said was one of the cons.
Although he admittedly enjoys most styles of beer, VanCourt says he favors farmhouse styles, which are more commonly pegged as saison ales.
“It’s dry, which means it’s refreshing … I think, one thing great about beer is it’s carbonated, as far as alcoholic beverages go. It has a really rich complexity but without being cloying or sweet,” he said. “So these are the things that make me think saison is kind of the pinnacle ale, you know? Not that I don’t like all types of beer, to be honest, I really do.”
As the new brewery prepares to open its doors to the public soon, VanCourt said they’re planning to self-distribute beers around February throughout Marquette and the Upper Peninsula. Eventually, the brewery plans to go through a distributor but at the moment VanCourt said they want to work on their relationships throughout the community and get feedback.
For the time being, the brewery’s tasting-room will only be open from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturdays. However, the space can be rented for community events or personal gatherings when the brewery is closed for business.
To keep updated or learn more about Barrel and Beam, visit the brewery’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/barrelandbeam/.