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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Pizza Cat Vol. 3
Deirdre Northrup-RiestererFebruary 26, 2024

Blackrocks Brewery sets can production in motion

In 2010, David Manson and Andy Langois began a humble brewing operation in a two-story, orange-skittle colored residential home on North Third Street in Marquette.The business, Blackrocks Brewery, began as a one-barrel brewing operation, but soon escalated to a three-barrel system.

Three years later, co-owners Langois and Manson are expanding once again, this time to a 20-barrel system, the production of cans and a facility big enough to make it all possible.“It felt that we were growing organically and to the point where we needed to make more beer,” Manson said. “We looked at getting a bigger system so we can both get (our beer) out into the public and also help work off our humble little beginnings here.”ReSize-AVblackrocks

By taking a “pretty big bite” that Manson is questionable about being able to chew or not, Blackrocks’ once humble operation is in the process of rocketing to UP-wide distribution with three of their most well-loved — and scrutinized — beer selections.

“The people that come in and those that have been involved with us from the beginning are very excited to see our slow and steady growth,” Manson said. “We’re not necessarily biting off more than we can chew, though this (expansion) feels like a pretty big bite.”

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Manson said Blackrocks’ cans will be available within the next few weeks, with their 51K India Pale Ale (IPA), Coconut Brown Ale and Grand Rabbits Dry-Hopped Cream Ale making the cut for canning.

He added that specialty brews in 22-ounce cans will make a limited appearance on a quarterly basis, with the Flying Hippo Imperial Belgian IPA taking the inaugural spot.

“We sell a lot of beers and ultimately all beers that we like, but they’re also kind of inadvertent testing grounds for what could eventually go into cans,” Manson said. “We wanted to have something approachable (so we chose the) dry-hopped cream ale. We wanted something a little darker, and that’s the Coconut Brown, and we wanted to go with an IPA, so we went with the 51K IPA that we’ve kind of been formulating and serving under different names just to see what people’s reactions would be.”

According to Manson, the expansion required to can has led them to a location on West Washington Street, which will serve as their production area while their current location on Third Street will be opened up for more seating.

Manson said their production center at 950 West Washington was not actually their first choice, however their original plan to purchase the Delft Theater in downtown Marquette was unsuccessful.

Still, the new brewhouse will provide for Blackrocks’ current needs and, according to Manson, will make the possibility of U.P.-wide can distribution a reality, though distribution beyond the boundaries of the U.P. is still up in the air.

“The one bummer is that we are still kind of small,” he said. “There’s been a lot of fans that live downstate and come in and enjoy and say ‘When can I get your beer downstate?’ but that’s going to be a while because of the small production center.”

According to Manson, the Third Street location will be undergoing expansion within the month, after the production center business is taken care of.

Manson said he expects cans to hit shelves by the end of the month, and is satisfied both with their avoidance of “mundane” beer selections, and with the simple and colorful can designs by local graphic artist Erin Ellingson.

But even the use of cans over glass bottles was a move that had to be decided on by the whole Blackrocks crew.

“There’s a lot of science of why beer should be in cans,” he said. “It’s very packable and very recyclable. We’ve got a couple different fronts — both the ecological and the convenience, and also the integrity of the beer was why we went with cans.

“We’re really happy with our decision and the craft beer market is really gravitating towards that.”

But while Manson and the Blackrocks crew has never been about necessarily following the rest of the craft beer brewing crowd, they’ve created a concrete foundation of fans both in the U.P. and throughout the region, most of which are embracing the changes excitedly. Re-SizeAVblackrocks2

Student Ethan Vanlente, a junior outdoor recreation major, who is a homebrewer and a musician who plays on Monday nights at Blackrocks, is happy with the canning and expansion decisions made by the Blackrocks owners.

“I’m excited,” Vanlente said. “They’ve only been open for just over two-and-a-half years, so it’s awesome to see a small business take off that rapidly.

“There’s a big enough fan base in this area so I think their distribution will take off pretty well.

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