When Pigeon Hill Brewing Company owners Michael Brower, Joel Kamp and Chad Doane look out at their brewery’s expansive new production facility into which they’re moving this week, there is, of course, a sense of anticipation and excitement. But there’s another word that seems to surface time and again when they think of their new home in downtown Muskegon: surreal.
“We just wanted to brew beer, and now people will stop us and want to get their pictures taken with us,” Kamp says Monday afternoon. “It’s totally surreal.”
That sense of surrealness is understandable: after all, it was just five years ago that Kamp, Brower and Doane opened Pigeon Hill in downtown Muskegon, and, now the brewery is celebrating the debut of its $2 million, 15,000-square-foot production facility at 895 Fourth Street. On Monday, April 22, the brewery began moving equipment from its former 7,000-square-foot production facility at 441 W. Western Ave. into the Fourth Street venue, and it’s set to begin brewing in the facility as of May 2. The city sold the 77,000-square-foot Fourth Street property to Pigeon Hill for $98,400.
The new venue, situated along the shores of Muskegon Lake and across the street from the L.C. Walker Arena, will soon offer a taproom in addition to brewing space, and it will also include a kitchen. It too houses Pigeon Hill’s offices and storage space. Until the brewery opens the Fourth Street taproom, it will continue operating its current taproom at 500 W. Western Avenue.
“For business growth, we had to make a move,” Kamp says of the inspiration behind the new facility, which they broke ground on this past August. “We’ll have room to add more tanks, more production, more packaging here.”
The Fourth Street facility is at first expected to annually make about 5,000 to 6,000 barrels of beer, as well as ready-to-drink cocktails. Pigeon Hill and McClure’s Pickles, which is based in Detroit and Brooklyn, just announced the launch of a major partnership between the two companies: they will produce a ready-to-drink bloody Mary cocktail. Currently, Pigeon Hill offers a ready-to-drink rum cocktail.
Plus, Brower noted in a previous interview, the added space will allow them to continue to be adventurous with their brews, such as growing their sour beer offerings.
And, with about 60,000 square feet of property surrounding Pigeon Hill’s new facility, as well its cavernous indoors space, Brower and Kamp said they expect to be able to host numerous events. To kick things off, Catholic Charities West Michigan will be holding its Holy Smokes BBQ competition—which raises money for the nonprofit—at the new Pigeon Hill location on May 11.
“Once that’s a success, I think other entities will see that and brainstorm what they can do with Pigeon Hill,” Kamp says.
Emblematic of Pigeon Hill’s own growth—the brewery not only sells its beer and cocktails at its downtown Muskegon taproom but in about 1,150 locations throughout Michigan—the company’s new home too is representative of a growing Muskegon. It’s this Fourth Street venue that was one of six local initiatives that landed Muskegon County on Site Selection Magazine’s list of the country’s top 10 metro areas with the most economic development projects.
“It’s completely surreal,” Brower said in a recent interview of the growth that has happened for both Pigeon Hill and downtown Muskegon over the past five years. “It was slow that first year [that Pigeon Hill was open]. Maybe that first summer, it went from pockets of people being at Unruly, at Pigeon Hill, at Racquets to people walking up and down the streets and parking in places that hadn’t been used in a decade. All of a sudden, I’m having trouble keeping up with what’s happening downtown. Every time I turn around, it seems like there’s a new project being announced.”
All of this: the growth and the new partnerships and the Pigeon Hill fans asking the owners for photos—it’s rooted in a place of hometown pride, and of an often emotional understanding of what it has meant to struggle, and, now, to see once empty streets and storefronts filled with people and businesses.
“It affects a lot of people’s lives in a lot of positive ways,” Kamp says of the brewery’s, and city’s, growth.
Brower too emphasizes this.
“We don’t just get to do what we love, we get to have a positive impact on the community,” he says.