It is said necessity is the mother of invention and for the family trio of Chris, Chad & Cynthia Andrews, one of the bookmarks of civilization is the opportunity to experience a truly distinct, fresh, and home-crafted beer in the type of atmosphere that author Ernest Hemingway captured so memorably in his short story, A Clean Well Lighted Place.
As the proprietors of the newly opened Loggers Brewing Company, located at 1214 South River Rd. in Shields, this robust clan of familial entrepreneurs have managed to create the first microbrewery to open in Saginaw for over 75-years, since the late Schemm Brewery that once brewed over 75,000 barrels of beer annually at their peak and existed on the banks of the Saginaw River, finally closed their doors for good.
According to Chris Andrews, assistant brewer at the new enterprise, the inspiration behind their new venture came when he returned from Grand Rapids to his hometown of Saginaw and was dismayed when he could find no place to drink a good craft beer.
“Can you think of a better place to put a brewery than in a town where there’s 50,000 people and no brewery? A good brewery is a good step in the right direction for this area,” he proudly states.
“The inspiration for Loggers started a few years ago when we attended a family event and not seeing my brother in awhile, decided to hang out and have a few beers,” relates Cynthia Andrews. “We loved doing flights of beers so agreed to go find a brewery where we could lift some glasses, only realized that Saginaw did not have a micro-brewery. At that point we all agreed to jump into this venture together.”
Chris says that he’s been making beer & wine at his home for the past 25 years and once his brother & sister agreed to join forces with the venture, they set their sites upon transforming a former church into the type of place where people could relax, enjoy a craft beer or wine, and socialize in an atmosphere that celebrated Saginaw’s rich logging history.
After enlisting the professional expertise of Tyler Michael as Head Brew-master, the Andrews’ set about defining their goals about what types of beers to produce and how to best distinguish what they were offering.
“We wanted to satisfy everybody’s tastes, so decided to develop nine flavors that we currently feature now on tap. We can go up to 15 or 16 flavors, but wanted to start with an array of nine flavors that would bring something to Saginaw that people could enjoy. Tyler previously worked at Grand Rapid’s Hideout Brewing Co. for three-and-a-half years, and has proven to be an invaluable ally in our endeavors.”
With so many microbreweries occupying other regions throughout the State of Michigan, Cynthia notes how one of their pivotal goals was to develop a theme and name for their product that strongly reflected the Saginaw area’s history.
“Back in the day this was a logging town, with all the white pine that existed, so we decided to adopt the name Loggers to tie in with the heritage of the lumbering era,” she explains. “Once we decided upon the theme, we developed similarly themed brands, such as Woodtick Stout and Tree Toppler Golden Ale, and Tittabawassee Coffee Brown Ale, that would align with the region. We offer a wide selection of beer types and have a way to go in terms of the varieties we want to offer to the public, but you start slow.”
“Currently we have some hard cider going in the basement that takes six months to ferment; and with the wine we’re looking at a year,” adds Chad.
With the particular styles of beers they offer, Tyler categorizes both their brewing & beer style as “a more modern interpretation of classic styles.
“With our Coffee Brown Ale for example we’ll take a Northern English Brown and add Columbian, Nicaraguan, and Guatemalan coffee roasted locally in Midland into the mix, which pours dark and is medium to full bodied. It’s also brewed with a moderate amount of oats and wheat to give it a slightly creamy softness, so this is truly a breakfast beer for any time of the day with its smooth coffee aroma and flavor. And all of our pale ales and IPA’s are very hazy and hops forward, which is more of a modern New School East Coast interpretation of classic Pale Ale style.”
As for the most challenging components involved with their new venture, for Chris it’s the process of making new recipes up, followed by cleaning the brewing vessels; while Cynthia references the importance of keeping everybody pleased. “That’s an almost impossible task because everybody has a different taste and beer is totally subjective,” she explains. “One person’s taste always differs from another’s.”
To satisfy those divergent tastes, the importance of developing new recipes becomes apparent.
“Brewing beer is a scientific process, but also a very creative process,” continues Tyler. “Beer can be scientifically and mathematically correct, but also needs a creative aspect to it. I’ve written all the recipes thus far and can envision every ingredient and how its going to portray in beer; so for example, I can do simple things like make grey teas and get a good idea of how that’s going to impart into the beer. But the other half, honestly, it that it’s a wild science experiment that involves throwing things together and putting it out there”
“Everything that we brew on a large scale has been brewed multiple times on a small scale,” adds Chris. “We have eight or nine small scale batches going right now, so that’s one part of the challenge. As for cleaning the vats, this must be done after every use right away and each vat brews 10 barrels, so our maximum capacity is 310 gallons. We tried on our first batch to brew at maximum capacity, but had mash spilling over, so we turned it down to 9 barrels per vat and do anywhere from 290-300 gallons.”
“Some styles have different shelf lives and some will change flavors over time,” he continues, “and usually tastes die down almost immediately, whereas with others you will add things and they’ll change flavor into something you don’t want; but as a general rule, you don’t want to keep anything over 90 days. After that the only reason to hold onto it is for scientific purposes.”
When it came to deciding upon a location to build Loggers Brewing Company, Cynthia explains how when they first came to town, she and Chris started looking at properties both in the Downtown and Old Town Saginaw commercial districts, but found the rent and lease fees prohibitive, so started looking elsewhere.
“We found this location on South River Road, which was an old church with a large amount of space and lots of parking,” she continues, “and decided that even if it was nestled away off the main drag of Gratiot in a residential area, if we came up with a good product people would come. Because we’re near the Rail Trail, we’ve been getting a lot of bikers and with the Shield’s Festival coming up, business should build throughout the summer. We opened officially on March 5th, so have only been open around four months now.” In addition to offering nine different varieties of microbrew, food is also available at Loggers through food trucks and they are looking to add more, although currently offer a decent variety of sandwiches.
As for current specials, Logger’s feature their Mug Club Day on Tuesdays whereby you can purchase a Loggers Beer Mug and get 50 cents off per pour daily, except for Tuesdays when you can get $1.00 off. Plus, they feature 20 oz. mugs; not 16 oz., which is a definite value. On Thursdays they feature a piano players and other local artists such as Andy Braun; and recently they featured the Jim Pagel Trio. You can check out their entertainment and weekly specials online at loggersbrewingcompany.com or by visiting their facebook page.
Happy Hour runs from 6:00 – 8:00 pm and the Andrews’ say they are kicking around many varied promotional ideas, ranging from Paint & Pints where customers can dabble at painting while drinking beer, and they even had a Yoga Class come in one Saturday morning. People can also contact them about special occasions and gatherings and they do allow you to bring outside food into the establishment.
Loggers Brewing Company is open seven days a week and their Summer Hours are Monday – Thursday from 3:00 – 10:00 pm; Friday – Saturday from Noon – 11:00 pm; and Sunday from Noon – 8:00 pm.
You can also reach Loggers Brewing Company by phoning 989-401-3085.