Friday, August 01, 2014

Calumet’s Brewing Tradition Lives on at Michigan House/Red Jacket Brewery

Written by  Jane Nordberg
Rate this item
(1 Vote)

mi house cafe brew pub 

In 2000, Tim and Sue Bies eyed a brick-and-sandstone building at Oak and Sixth Streets in Calumet with dreams of opening the Michigan House Café and Brew Pub – a combination of the building’s roots as a restaurant and brewery in the western Upper Peninsula.
The structure was the original home for the Bosch Brewing Company in 1905, and later served as the Michigan House hotel and restaurant in the 1920s. The name was a nod to the original Michigan House that stood on the site in the 1890s, before the brewery was built. It remained a bar and restaurant until the 1980s, but suffered sporadic periods of use until 1996.

The couple’s tireless efforts to restore the structure were rewarded with the opening of the restaurant on Labor Day of 2001. But it took another four years for the brewing to begin. Tim dubbed the brewing portion of the business the Red Jacket Brewing Company, in honor of Calumet’s former mining moniker, Red Jacket. Tim released the first brew in 2005, the Oatmeal Espress Stout made from malt, barley, oat flakes, hops and espresso beans from local establishment Twin Lakes Java.

Using locally made ingredients and dubbing his beer after interesting local characters is Tim’s trademark. 

“Here in Calumet, we’re especially rich with local characters, and I like to honor them when I make a new beer,” he said.

The beer lineup over the years has included the Taxi Pete Wheat, the Good Ivan Pale Ale and the Queen Abbey Ale. Ivan was a reindeer who became particularly fond of the leftover grain Tim donated to a reindeer farm in nearby Kearsarge. Taxi Pete, meanwhile, was reputedly a curmudgeonly cabbie who operated his “office” from the end of the Michigan House bar in the 1960s.

Most recently, three other beers have joined the Red Jacket Brewery’s flagship brew Oatmeal Espress Stout: The Downtown Brown, Cold Hearted Ale and the Keweenaw Cowboy IPA.

In addition to the Red Jacket Brewery’s selections, the Michigan House also boasts a wide variety of bottled Michigan craft beers including selections from its neighbor breweries Keweenaw Brewing Company (Houghton/South Range) and Brickside Brewing (Copper Harbor), Bell’s (Kalamazoo), Founder’s (Grand Rapids), Dark Horse (Marshall), Jolly Pumpkin (Dexter), Latitude 42 (Portage), and New Holland Brewing.

Tim’s foray into brewing began with three kegs on a wheeled cart that had a capacity for brewing a half-barrel or 15.5 gallons. Demand soon exceeded supply, and he upgraded to a 3.5-barrel system in 2009. In the “little brewery that could,” Tim said he sees the Michigan House beer as a sideline, after the food.

“We’re cooks who brew beer, not brewmasters for a restaurant,” he said. But in providing good food with a good local beer, the enterprising couple has brought that corner of Calumet full circle. For more information, visit

Jane Nordberg

Jane Nordberg

Jane Nordberg comes from a long line of beer lovers, culminating in the title of her master’s thesis being “Get Me a Couple of Stroh’s: Dialect Sustainability Among Brits in Detroit.” Until recently, she resided in the Upper Peninsula where, as a reporter and managing editor, she wrote about Michigan beer whenever possible. She has written about the Western U.P.’s microbrew scene, among other topics, for Lake Superior Magazine. She is currently a freelance writer living in the Lansing area with her husband, Erik, who enjoys riding shotgun on trips to brew pubs.