The Rapidian

Schmohz Brewery engineers beer, fun, community

Built and equipped to produce large quantities, Schmohz Brewery employs a model tailored for distribution. But their reach doesn't interfere with their passion for the local community.

/Marie Orttenburger

Schmohz Brewery Weekly Pub Events

Monday Member Night, $3 pints for members*, 2-10 p.m. 
Tuesday Growl-n-Gulp, $1.25 pint with a growler fill, 2-10 p.m.
Wednesday Brewer's Choice, $3 pints*, 2 p.m.-midnight
Thursday $11 pitchers, $16 premiums, 2 p.m.-midnight
Friday 50 cents off, noon-3 p.m.
Saturday Schmohz Gear Day and Root Beer Floats, noon-midnight

*Premium Drafts are slightly higher in price

Schmohz Brewery bar

Schmohz Brewery bar /Marie Orttenburger

Michigan Tech University graduate and senior staff member at Schmohz Brewery Chas Thompson calls himself a Beer Engineer.

"In our minds, beer is not art. Beer is engineering. You engineer beer," he says. "With our Michigan Tech heritage, Beer Engineer was a lot better title. And it portrayed our technical approach to things."

The brewery, located just off of 28th Street in a large building equipped with a system capable of brewing a large capacity of beer, aims to achieve productivity and efficiency.The Schmohz brewers approach their beer with a science to achieve both flavor consistency and cost-effectiveness.

"One of our base theories is that we will always make beers where somebody wants another one," says Thompson. "Our model is production and distribution. We have a big bottling machine that bottles really fast, and that I have to hook up to a big tank. Where am I going to sell all of those if it's not something that somebody will drink more of?"

Schmohz Brewery has six staff members and, by the end of this year, together they will have produced around 1600 barrels.

"I don't know any brewery in the state that's that efficient with that many employees," says Thompson.

But don't let their technical business sense fool you—the Schmohz family, nearly all graduates from Michigan Tech, is a tight-knit group. Schmohz Brewery encourages camaraderie among its customers as well.

"A lot of times people will come in and they start to hang out, they'll say to us, 'You know, I've been here two or three times, everybody talks to me but nobody knows my name!' and we say, 'Well you have to get a handle on it!' because then they'll start calling you by your mug name," says Thompson.

Thompson says the brewpub is a space where customers can relax and be comfortable.

"You don't have to worry, you know, because our chairs don't match," says Thompson. "I mean, our garden is cheap fencing with picnic tables and wood chips that you know, are not fancy wood chips. I get them free from people who grind up trees."

Thompson says the inexpensive, hodge-podge decor is in part an effort to save money to use on grains for beer, but part of it is so customers can feel at ease when they walk in the brewpub.

"You can hang out. You don't worry that you spilled a little beer," Thompson says, "You don't have to worry that you're leaving a beer ring on the table."

Schmohz also works to establish a comfortable community for the female audience of craft brewing. In early January 2014, Schmohz will host another one of their recurring events: the Ladies Ale Society.

At the event, Thompson gives attendees a tasting sheet and walks them through a selection of different brews. It's a ladies-only event, so women can try different beers and decide what they like with their girlfriends.

"We do a structured beer testing, I take them from light to dark through usually somewhere around 12 to 16 different beers," says Thompson. "They're not under the pressure of having a dominant male presence telling them 'You should drink this, I love double, triple IPAs,' and all that craziness."

Schmohz Brewery's laidback, community-oriented attitude extends beyond the doors of the brewpub. The brewery sponsors a number of local events, one of which is the women's roller derby.

Both Schmohz Brewery and New Holland Brewing Company sponsor roller derby teams from the Grand Raggidy Roller Girls. In the past they have had tournaments against one another, but they have since invited other cities' teams to participate so long as they are sponsored by a brewery.

"To increase attendance and awareness of it, we invited other cities' teams in, if they're sponsored by a brewery," says Thompson. "Last year we had the Ann Arbor girls come in. Arbor Brewing and Corner Brewery sponsored them to come in, and so we poured Corner Brewery products, as well as Schmohz and New Holland products, at the event."

Now, Schmohz Brewery, New Holland Brewing Company and others habitually attend the games, and tailgate beforehand, to support their team, the Schmohz Bonecrushers. The games give employees at different breweries a chance to hang out with one another, and the sponsorship has created a relationship with the roller derby team. Members of the Schmohz Bonecrushers team have mugs at the brewpub with their numbers and skate names on them.

Schmohz Brewery focuses some of their efforts on supporting charity as well. Every year, they host the Achilles Ale 5K, a race that benefits the Special Olympics. The race has a history of selling out, and it has a twist that might attract beer enthusiasts:

"We kind of threw the rule book out the window when we said we would have beer available during the race," says Thompson. "You do three laps and you can stop for water. Or beer."

Schmohz Brewery will maintain their combination laidback and practical approach as they move forward. The brewery intends to keep a slow-paced rate of growth. 

"We're not even up to a third of the capacity we have," Thompson says. "We're growing at a comfortable pace." 

In the meantime, Thompson says, "Come on over and just drink about it. Sit down and just talk to whoever's next to you."

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