THREE RIVERS — Opening up a new brewery during one of the biggest events of the year in Three Rivers can be seen as a great way to get off the ground.
But, for Evan Monroe, one of the owners of the new Useless Creatures Brewing Company, having their grand opening during HarmonyFest made him just a bit nervous, but said it all worked out in the end throughout a busy opening day.
“We had only been open three hours the day before as a soft opening, but it speaks to our team's skills and hard work that it went so smoothly,” Monroe said. “They all got a big thank you, and I expressed that multiple times. Everything went perfectly.”
Monroe, along with his brother Colin Monroe and his cousin Chase Berry, opened up the new brewery located at 41 N. Main St. on Sunday, Sept. 4 to positive feedback from the community. The brewery offers a wide selection of beers brewed in-house, as well as a small menu of curated bar food items.
The eight beers currently on tap to start include an “Imperial Pils,” an “amped-up German-style” pilsner; the “Taika Wheatiti,” a wheat ale brewed with New Zealand and Motueka hops; a cream ale called “Cutting Lines;” and “You’re Turning Violet,” a slightly tart wheat ale brewed with blueberries locally sourced from Corey Lake Orchards, just outside of Three Rivers.
“We have a wide selection of beers we brew here, branching across all styles and colors and flavors to try and have a little something for everybody,” Evan said. He added those who have been to the brewery so far have been receptive to the blueberry beer and explained how it was made.
“I brewed it with this new yeast that sours as it ferments the beer, so rather than having to do a separate kettle sour, it does it all in one step which is pretty convenient,” Evan said. “We added 120 pounds of Michigan blueberries that we got from Corey Lake Orchards that we hand-pureed and pasteurized and put into the beer while it was fermenting.”
Evan added that the brewery will try to use as much local product in their beers “as much as we can going forward.”
There will also be ciders and wines available, with some of the bar food including three types of grilled cheese sandwiches, two types of burgers, a couple of chicken “sammiches,” soft pretzels, feta dip, and a falafel wrap.
Useless Creatures opens just six years after Evan got his start in brewing by winning the 2016 Bell’s Brewery Homebrew Competition with, as he described in a 2016 YouTube interview with the brewery, a saison beer aged on fresh peaches and dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin hops, mainly using peaches his parents had grown that year. From there, he completed Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Sustainable Brewing program, and then spent a few years as an assistant brewer at Powder Keg Brewing in Niwot, Colo., and a summer at North Channel Brewing in Manistee.
“I started home brewing in my early 20s, I won the 2016 Bell's Homebrew competition, which I guess kickstarted my professional interest in it,” Evan said.
The opportunity to open up a brewery in his hometown, Evan said, felt “really good,” calling the downtown area “unique.”
“I've lived on this Main Street for 15 years, except for the few years here and there when I was out west. It feels really good to be a part of this community that I think is really unique,” Evan said. “There are a lot of other people that do a lot of hard work here to make this downtown as cool as it is, so I'm glad to be a part of that.”
However, the opportunity might not have happened if it weren’t for a conversation he had with Jerry Barkley, the owner of the former Kelsey Block Brewery, which had the space Useless Creatures now resides in.
“The opportunity just kind of presented itself. I was having a discussion with Jerry Barkley, the owner of Kelsey Block, kind of in all the middle of COVID shutdowns, and he expressed an interest in selling. I expressed in buying, so we just kind of went from there,” Evan said. “If it wasn't in this particular location, I don't know if I would have gone for it when I did.”
The process to get the business up and running, Evan admitted, was a little bit “complicated,” and they didn’t officially start work on the space until they got their liquor license in February of this year, months past their target opening date at the 2021 HarmonyFest. However, he said it was “a relief” to finally open their doors.
“We've been working at this for a long time, but we're really just at the starting line now,” Evan said.
Although it took longer than expected, Evan said opening during HarmonyFest was a boon for initial exposure for the Useless Creatures.
“Lots of people that aren't necessarily in downtown Three Rivers often got to check us out, and from what I heard, people had a good time and enjoyed everything,” Evan said. “We got a lot of good feedback, and really got to test everybody right off the bat. I don't think it'll be that crazy for a little while.”
Looking ahead, Evan said he hopes to bring in events in the future, including trivia night, and “hopefully” hosting beer releases and a mug club, which he hopes to start up at the beginning of next year.
Overall, Evan said he hopes Useless Creatures can become a staple downtown.
“I hope we can be a spot that's known for having great quality food and drinks, a good spot for people to come and relax and enjoy a couple beers and a nice meal, have fun and get to know us,” Evan said. “Just a nice hang-out spot.”
Useless Creatures is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 4-10 p.m.
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
124 North Main Street Box 130 Three Rivers, MI 49093
Telephone: 269-279-7488 Fax: 269-279-6007 General email: email@example.com