51 North Brewing Company expects to open its doors before the end of December.
At 4,700 square feet, the capacity of the building at 51 North Broadway in downtown Lake Orion is just 99 people, so owner Don Gindhart plans to open quietly as soon as he has all his official permissions.
A recent tour of the former gas station, which most recently housed the office of the Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority, revealed a major transformation. Smooth, dark wood and concrete provide a modern feel, while windows that look like garage doors reference the building’s history.
Gindhart said it was the historic look of the oddly shaped building that got his attention the first time he saw it. “My wife and I, when we came to look at this building, we just fell in love with it,” he said.
One thing he loved was the vertical space. It allowed for the brewing room to be stacked with tall stainless steel tanks. He’s revamped the public space into two rooms, one quieter, the other with the bar, kitchen window and stage.
A Troy resident, Gindhart has been working toward opening his own brewery for years. He’s made homebrew, started a brew-on-premises shop and studied with other brewers. His wife Mary will be the chef. She plans to offer healthy comfort food from fresh ingredients, nothing deep fried. Some recipes will incorporate beer.
Their brewer is Adam Beratta, who has worked at Redwood Lodge Brewing Co. in Flint and Great Baraboo Brewing Company in Clinton Township. He won a bronze medal and the peoples' choice award at his first major competition, the World Expo of Beer, in 2011 and a silver medal in 2012.
“At the end of the day, a microbrewery has got to have great product,” Gindhart said. “Adam’s signature is on every one of these beers. He has his own recipes.” He plans to open with six beers, “everything from a very light beer to a stout.”
Don Gindhart plays in two bands, Velvet Krush (dance/pop) and Dm3 (classic rock). Music will be scheduled on weekends but “the stage will have a full setup for playing” at all times, he said.
During the years that have led up to the opening of 51 North, Gindhart has visited 45 of the 100 microbrews in Michigan. He said they can become tourist destinations.
“Microbreweries are really kind of a regional phenomenon,” he said. “So we’re going to bring a lot of people in here that wouldn’t come in otherwise. Lake Orion can become more and more of a destination. We can all feed off of that.”
It’s been a long process, and Gindhart is as anxious as anyone for his doors to finally open.
“We’re sorry it’s taking so long; we’re trying to do everything right,” he said. “I think once we open the doors, everyone will think it was worth the wait.”