'Micro- brewery planned in Harbor Country
By Ray Gudas
News Associate Editor
Thursday, November 11, 2010
HARBOR COUNTRY — Harbor Country may indeed be on the edge of "wine country," considering the number of vineyards and wineries in the area, but it will likely soon be home to both a new microbrewery and a new microdistillery.
Greenbush Brewing Company in Sawyer and Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks could soon be producing handcrafted artisanal ales and spirits for the local market.
Thirty-somethings Scott Sullivan, a furniture maker by trade (and the son of River Valley teacher and coach Rich Sullivan), and his business partner and lifelong buddy, banker Justin Heckathorn (the brother of Jason Heckathorn of Harbor Country Insurance), are the guys behind Greenbush Brewing Company, which is setting up shop in downtown Sawyer in what used to be Localboy Laundry.
Conversion of the building from a laundromat to a brewery and tasting room is already underway, and it's only a matter of months before the "suds" start flowing.
"It mostly depends on when we get our license from the (State Liquor Commission)," Sullivan told the News. "Right now, we're thinking late January or February."
The "buzz" about Greenbush has been fermenting since last year, when Sullivan participated in a beer-tasting event at Three Oaks' Acorn Theater and received a lot of serious encouragement from the beer aficionados he encountered there.
But friends of Sullivan, a longtime devoted home-brewer, have been telling him for years that he could — and in fact should — sell the various beers he makes.
He and Heckathorn first started kicking around the idea of starting a microbrewery in 2008. When a porter that Sullivan made at home started routinely beating other porters the two men liked in blind tastings, they began to suspect they were truly on to something.
"That's when we started thinking, 'Hey, maybe we really can do this,'" Sullivan said.
And now, at last, they are doing it. When the brewery finally opens its doors to the public, six types of beers will be on tap, or available in six-packs or half-gallon "growlers," year-round: "Distorter," the aforementioned porter; "Anger," an India Pale Ale made with a less bitter dark malt; "Retribution," a strong (8.7 percent alcohol) ale flavored with pureed dates and golden raisins; "Dunegrass," which Sullivan described as "a straight-up IPA"; "Traktor," a golden ale that he termed "a great lawnmower beer" for its easy drinkability; "Red Bud Ale," a hybrid copper-wheat-pale ale that is predicted to become Greenbush's most popular beer — and the one that will likely be made available to local bars (as well as a number of bars in Chicago that have already expressed an interest); and "1825," which Sullivan described as a strong Belgium ale.
"All of my beers tend to be strong," shrugged the largely self-taught brewmaster. "I have a hard time keeping them below 6 percent (alcohol)."
In addition to the company's six mainstay beers, Greenbush will also be offering at least two seasonal beers at an given time, along with several experimental beers.
"I like the idea of the brewery serving as a kind of laboratory where we can try different things and get direct feedback from our customers," Sullivan said.
Not much thought has been given to entertainment in the tasting room (beyond the obvious), but large windows that will installed there will allow the public to see what's going on in the brewery at any given time.
If you're wondering where the name "Greenbush" comes from, Sullivan said it's the former name of a long-gone train stop in what is now Harbert, Sawyer's neighbor to the south.
"Justin came up with it as a possible name," he said. "Somehow, it just sounded right."