Monday, November 30, 2015

Northern Oak- Bringing Craft Beer to Holly

Written by  Erik Smith
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Add Holly to the list of Michigan cities that now have their own hometown microbrewery with September’s opening on Northern Oak Brewery. Situated with near downtown Holly, with a gorgeous view of Bevins Lake, the brewery is the realization of a decade-old dream of co-owner Ed Kruppa.
“I bought the property eight years ago, and hired an architect when I retired four years ago,” Kruppa says. After running an ad for investors in the Michigan Beer Guide, a partnership was formed with Jim & Denise Fortin. “That gave us the motivation and capital to finish the project.”

As with most Michigan breweries, however, things were not that simple. Various state and city delays ensued. “We also had some delays on the building project since we were doing much of the work ourselves,” Kruppa says. Finally, their dream and perseverance paid off in September as the community joined the partners to celebrate the grand opening.

The partners wanted to make sure quality beer would be the backbone of the business, so they hired Jeff Coon, formerly of Frankenmuth Brewing Company and Michigan Brewing Company, to bring his brewing talents and experience to their fledgling brewery. “We hired a serious professional,” Kruppa says of the hiring of the head brewer. Coon studied at the Siebel Institute in Chicago, and had a great reputation for brewing Belgian and German styles. The brewery has a 10 barrel system, and hopes in the future to try their hand at barrel aging some of their beers.

They hope to maintain 5 of their taps with their staple beers, and use the other 3 for seasonal or specialty batch beers. Their IPA, called Battle Alley IPA takes it’s name from a local legend. In 1880, there was a brawl on a nearby street, then known as Martha Street, between ‘local rowdies and workers of a traveling circus’ left so many of the participants injured or jailed that the street was renamed Battle Alley. Other of the brewery’s staple beers are a Kolsch called Alger Ale, Hatchet Amber Ale, and JT Pale Ale.

I had an opportunity to try some of their specialty beers as well including Seeing Dubbel, which was a nice representation of this traditional Belgian style, the sweetly malty bock Old Man Winter, and a German porter named Feire Porter, a smooth dark beer with chocolate notes.

Northern Oak also serves food, from appetizers to Mac and Cheese to flatbread pizza, with nothing being deep fried. They also offer a ‘mug-less’ mug club offering benefits, such as half-price growler fills on Mondays, for $50 for a year and $250 for a lifetime membership.

I asked Kruppa where the name Northern Oak came from. “We certainly considered a few names, but we settled on Northern Oak because we are in Northern Oakland country, and we liked the logo of an acorn, which grows from something small into something big and majestic”. It’s easy to see this small brewery continuing to grow into a staple of the community.
Erik Smith

Erik Smith

Erik Smith is a relative newcomer to craft beer, having first been turned on to the scene by a chance encounter with "The End of The World" (Unibroue's La Fin du Monde) during the summer of 2011. Since then, he has increased that love of beer by serving as the 'un-official' photographer for the many beer events at Ashley's in Westland, MI. His goal is to visit every Michigan brewery. An avid traveler, beer tourism has played a prominent role in his travels since 2012. 

Find him on Untapped at eriksmithdotcom and at his blog at