Prepare to raise your glasses, Muskegon: Rake Beer Project is gearing up for its soft opening in mid-August and a grand opening that will be celebrated with a two-day music festival on Friday, Sept. 6 and Saturday, Sept. 7.
“It’s surreal; this has been my dream for such a long time,” Josh Rake said while standing inside his brewery last Friday. “Now we’re so close to that dream becoming a reality. If you were to tell me two years ago I would be opening a brewery at this point, I would’ve never believed it.”
But that is exactly what Rake is doing. After years of experience working in the world of beer—including at Old Nation Brewing Co., Jolly Pumpkin, New Holland Brewing, and The Gallery Brewery— the 2010 Mona Shores High School graduate is partnering with his parents, Todd and Kim Rake, to open the city’s newest brewery at 794 Pine St. in downtown Muskegon.
This debut, Rake emphasized, is not only an ode to the beer he’s passionate about creating (specifically, progressive farmhouse ales), but to the city where he was raised—to its people, its brewers, its artists, its musicians, its growth.
“Muskegon’s at a pivotal point; we’re gearing up to be a destination city on Lake Michigan, and we’re incredibly fortunate to be a part of that,” said Rake, who was born in Muskegon, grew up here, and now lives with his girlfriend, Jacqueline Martin, at downtown’s HighPoint Flats.
Located on the garden floor of the NorthTown 794 complex—where Redmon’s Kitchen & Bar recently opened and where Aldea Coffee and Capone’s Speakeasy and Pizzeria will be, Rake Beer Project is heavily rooted in supporting Muskegon’s culinary and creative landscapes. It has collaborated with numerous local brewers, including Pigeon Hill; its interior features a mural by Muskegon artist Jimmy Cobb; its beer can labels are illustrated by another local artist, Jesse Korndorfer, and designed by the Muskegon-based Low Rez Labs.
And, now, as the brewery prepares to open its doors to the public, it has announced a two-day festival, the “Rake Awakening Fest,” that boasts an entire lineup of local bands, beer releases, yard games, an artist panel, local food vendors, and more. The event will take place on Friday, Sept. 6 from 4pm to midnight and Saturday, Sept. 7 from 12pm to midnight. Tickets will be $12 per day or $18 for to attend both Friday and Saturday.
“We’re shutting down our whole parking lot and beer garden area for the music festival; we’re really excited,” Rake said of the event that will feature such bands as: Ghost of None, The Deputies, Jesse Ray & Carolina Catfish, Flexadecibel, The Dead Shepherds, and Desmond Jones. Vendors will include Lively Up Kombucha, Aldea Coffee, Rolling Stone Pizza, and Fatty Lumpkins.
The Rake Awakening Fest is, the brewery owner explained, a chance to celebrate Muskegon’s creative forces—and the role he wants his business to play in the city.
“We’re here as a piece of the community beyond the fact that we’re a brewery,” Rake said. “We always hope to be a business leader in the community and do things to benefit the town, like the beach cleanups we’ve done with Aldea and our hiking club.”
“Doing these things, it helps us to change the narrative of Muskegon,” Rake continued. “If we focus on the positive, like the hiking club and beach cleanups, it shows people the good side of Muskegon. One thing my dad has always instilled in me is you should always try to make where you live better. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Rake will soon announce more specific details about the mid-August soft opening, but, so far we know it will include the release of about five or six beers and, of course, a chance for the public to get a glimpse of the expansive finished interior and beer garden for the first time.
Meant to evoke the sense that you’re sitting in the woods while at Rake, the brewery’s interior includes furniture made from beer barrels, a four-foot-by-20-foot frame with tree branches—from which they’ll hang placards to show what’s on draft, Cobb’s floral mural, and more.
As for the drafts that will be available during the soft opening, Rake said they will focus on “light beers you can drink all day when it’s hot.”
“My favorite right now is the Vibes; that’s our tart, rustic, petite saison,” he said. “It’s 3.5 percent, very crisp, and very full of flavor. It’s really something you want to keep going back to when it’s hot outside.”
When it comes to the public’s favorite, Rake said people who’ve gotten the chance to sample his beer have gravitated to the “Dead and Dreaming,” a tart farmhouse ale made with blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries.
Now, as Rake puts the finishing touches on the brewery he, his family, and his friends are creating—a world of beer and music and art and community—he too is preparing to raise a perpetual glass to Muskegon.
“It used to be there was this negative stigma about Muskegon, but now it’s, ‘Oh, Muskegon, isn’t that where so much is opening up?” Rake said. “This city is amazing.”
Story and photos by Anna Gustafson, the publisher and editor of Muskegon Times. Photos by Anna Gustafson, unless otherwise noted. You can connect with her by emailing MuskegonTimes@gmail.com or on Facebook, Twitterand Instagram.