Northport Brewing, (near Grand Traverse Bay) a main attraction in the quaint town, closed abruptly in early July. Grand Rapids-based brewery, Mitten Brewing Company, opened in its place at 112 W. Nagonaba.
"It wasn’t something that was really in our short term plans," said Max Trierweiler, who co-owns The Mitten in Grand Rapids with Chris Andrus.
But the two wanted to help when they heard from their longtime friend Kevin Murphy in May that the small brewery and taproom likely couldn't stay open much longer.
"He told us about the situation at Northport," Trierweiler said. "There were no brewers there anymore and the partners had left the business. They were waiting until the last keg of beer was gone to close, and there was no plan after that."
Trierweiler and Andrus were soon in talks with a former Northport Brewing owner, Karl Wizinsky, to buy the brewery and transform it into a Mitten taproom.
"It’s a hugely important part of town," Trierweiler said. "We know how truly important it is for the area to have its own neighborhood brewery and what the impact would be if it was gone."
The Mitten had already been contract brewing for Northport Brewing during its last few months of operation, in which the brewery began to limit its business hours. Northport Brewing, which hadn't brewed since the fall, was relying on its remaining beer supply to stay in business, Trierweiler said.
He and Andrus took over the brewery and its four-person staff with lofty goals of opening The Mitten's tasting room by summertime.
"The summer is the lion's share of business there — the town quintuples in size — but also we wanted to keep the workers there employed." Trierweiler said. "The people were our main priority."
Trierweiler and Andrus worked with state senators and local government officials to help accelerate the process of transferring Northport Brewing's license to The Mitten by their July deadline. It was the most challenging part of the process for both owners.
The Mitten in Northport now serves nine of the Grand Rapids brewery's beers on tap, including its two bestsellers, Triple Crown Brown — a silver medalist in the World Beer Cup — and Country Strong IPA.
The two plan to bring a brewer into the Northport location's facilities to make sour and barrel aged beers once the busy summer season subsides, Trierweiler said