Business is brewing

Downtown Oxford’s old Vets Hall is going to find new life as a beer hall.
Addison Township residents John and Marie Powers are in the process of finalizing a lease agreement for the Oxford Veterans Memorial Civic Center, located at 28 N. Washington St., that will enable them to create their dream ? the HomeGrown Brewing Company.
Set to open in 2016, this microbrewery will feature 12 of its craft beers on tap at all times ? six ‘flagship? brews, plus six experimental recipes that will rotate on a seasonal basis.
‘We’re going to try to appeal to everyone, from your craft beer novice all the way up to the aficionados,? John said. ‘We’ll have something that appeals to the guy who likes Bud Light (as well as) the guy who likes a really hoppy IPA (India Pale Ale).?
The establishment will also contain a full restaurant offering house-made, fresh food ranging from hamburgers and kids? favorites to gluten-free dishes and ‘small plates? specifically designed for pairings with various craft beers.
‘We’re going to use as much local produce and ingredients (as possible) both in our beers and in our food,? John noted. ‘There’s quite a few new hop farms popping up in Oakland County and north of us here towards Caro.?
Their plan is for the HomeGrown Brewing Company to become a professionally-run extension of John’s passion for brewing ? a hobby he’s engaged in for more than 10 years now ‘and the couple’s mutual love of inviting people into their home to enjoy fine food and craft beers.
‘I’m very gung ho,? John said. ‘It’s something we’ve talked about (doing) for years and years. I’m getting very close to retirement at my current job (as an engineer at General Motors) and I’m looking for something exciting and fun to do. This has really, really got me excited.?
Married nearly 36 years, the couple will be leasing the 5,318-square-foot, two-story Vets Hall in the northeast quadrant from Dave Parker, who purchased it, along with the 43-space parking lot behind it, from Oxford Township for $450,000. The sale closed Aug. 4.
John believes the building, constructed in 1952, is perfect for their purposes.
‘It’s a main street building,? he said. ‘It’s got a lot of character. It’s got the big hall in the back.?
They also love the ‘hometown feeling? that Oxford offers and they’ve enjoyed for the last 25 years.
‘We love downtown Oxford,? John said. ‘It’s the ideal place to open (a business).?
The Powerses plan to start renovations as soon as possible.
‘We’d like to turn it around in under a year, but time will tell,? John said.
John and Marie have a definite vision for the building, both inside and out. ‘We want it to be a family-friendly-type place,? he said.
Marie wants the atmosphere and decor to be ‘warm and inviting,? like their own home, with ‘lots of natural materials like brick and wood.? She plans to create an acoustical environment that’s conducive to conversation. An artist’s concept shows cozy fireplaces and a games area with dart boards.
For the interior, they plan to create a large dining area, comfortable sitting room and eventually, an event hall on the second floor.
‘We’re looking at using the upstairs for private parties, special events, possibly meetings for different groups (like) homebrew groups, (and) putting on classes,? John said. ‘There’s a lot of different ways we can expand it.?
Outside, they plan to create a relaxing beer garden featuring a mix of natural features.
Initially, they hope to be able to accommodate approximately 100 patrons between the interior and outside seating areas.
With regard to beer production, John indicated the equipment they plan to install will be capable of brewing 300 to 750 barrels annually.
A barrel equals 31 gallons.
‘It’s not going to be a huge system, but it will have some great flexibility as far as the size of batches that we brew, how quickly we can turn them around and how quickly we can expand,? he said.
John, who grows his own hops for homebrewing, noted he’s committed to using natural ingredients as much as possible in his beer recipes.
‘When I (brew) a beer, I do not like to use artificial flavors and stuff like that,? he said. ‘My pumpkin beer actually has pumpkin in it.?
‘That he roasted himself,? added Marie.
John’s beers have earned him a few awards over the years at various homebrewing competitions. Several years ago, his brown ale garnered a gold medal at the Michigan Renaissance Festival’s Beer Baron Brew Brawl. His witbier (a Belgian-style wheat beer) won bronze medals at both the Michigan Beer Cup and a competition in Ohio.
An estimated 16 to 20 full-time and part-time employees will be needed to operate the HomeGrown Brewing Company.
‘We plan to have a very well-trained staff that can assist people in selecting the beer they would most likely (want) to drink and also be able to help them pair that beer with food,? Marie said. ‘We want it to be a very interactive approach to food and beer with pairings and education. That’s the concept we’re working on.?
With regard to the food, Marie noted she plans to have as much of it as possible, from salad dressings to sauces, made in house using ‘a lot of fresh ingredients? and from-scratch recipes.
Managing the business will be a true family affair. John will be head brewer, while Marie will serve as culinary manager.
Even their children are getting into the act.
Eldest son Joe will hold the position of assistant brewer, while his wife Kate will assist as media liaison. Son Jeff will head up sales and marketing as well as oversee the front-of-the-house operations. Youngest child Katie will lead the social media campaign.
When it opens, HomeGrown Brewing Company will be downtown Oxford’s second microbrewery.
Later this year, the Warren-based Falling Down Beer Company is planning to open a second location just a few doors to the south at 14 N. Washington St. The facility will have a taproom that seats 60 and is expected to produce about 2,000 gallons of craft beer annually as well wine and spirits.
John isn’t concerned about the competition because he believes this community can ‘definitely? support two microbreweries.
The couple met with Falling Down Beer Co. owners Mark Larson and George Lang to discuss their respective business plans.
‘We’ve got two different ideas as far as which way we’re going (and) what we’re doing,? John said. ‘We wished each other well.?
He noted there was even some discussion about the two microbreweries potentially collaborating when it comes to local events and charitable causes. ‘I see us working well side-by-side,? John said.

Comments are closed.