By Scott Sullivan
Should you think the Pegacorn greeting you at the grand opening of Guardian Brewing Co. in Saugatuck’s former Red Barn Theatre Friday, Jan. 11, is fanciful, you’d be part right.
Kim Collins and Katie Bishop — owners of the brewery and taproom, plus soon-to-open yurt-rental business and event center at 3657 63rd St. — enjoy creatures, such as Pegasus-Unicorn hybrid that is their venture’s logo, which may or may not be real.
“You can imagine yourself into what they could be,” said head brewer Collins. “I’ve loved unicorns since I was a kid, just not the frilly white ones. So ours is sort of a bad-ass black one, with Pegasus wings to boot.
“We dream big,” she went on, “then plan thoughtfully, taking slow steps and learning as we go.”
Collins, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, developed a love for Lake Michigan and the outdoors during trips to Miller Beach. She studied outdoor recreation at Indiana University, where she played for the woman’s rugby club.
As a professor who taught recreation health there, Collins developed a passion for home brewing that led her to acquire a Master Brewers Association malting and brewing certificate. She and business manager Bishop, a professor and Ph.D., met at IU and formed Guardian Brewing Co. in Colorado in 2012 while eyeing their own establishment.
Their vision included a restaurant/brewpub, education offerings and rental of yurts: round, traditionally-portable structures with collapsible wood frames and fabric coverings.
“There wasn’t enough water in Colorado to supply the brewing we had in mind,” said Collins. “That’s not a problem in Michigan. We looked at properties from Muskegon to New Buffalo, but Saugatuck was the clear winner.
“We love that it’s hyper-local, has a vibrant arts scene, outdoors and character. We can’t wait,” she said.
Guardian broke ground at the 3-acre site north of Blue Star Highway and east of the I-196 Exit 41 bridge in June, and held a “soft” opening early last month.
The existing complex, still being updated, includes the historic 12,672-square-foot Red Barn, built in 1900 and converted into a theatre 50-some years ago; plus a 6,000-square-foot steel building constructed in 2004. The parcel hosts onsite parking for roughly 100 vehicles.
Guardian has also acquired the 23 acres across the street and is working with Laketown Township to determine the transformation of the existing farm field there.
Guests attending next week’s “hard” opening can see fruits of Phase 1 construction including the brewery, taproom with music theme, and limited-menu auxiliary kitchen.
They can expect live music, tours of the building and brewing complex (in the eastern steel structure), auxiliary kitchen treats and at least six beers, all bearing names of cryptids: creatures believed by some to exist, but not based on proven evidence.
Among them: a Gold Phoenix IPA, Chimera Pale Ale, Gator Bait (named after Collins’ grandfather’s fishing boat), Pegacorn Porter and Coffee Porter, Tengu Wit (a Belgian named after a Japanese mythological creature) and Nauhal (“Narwhal” was already taken) Mexican chocolate brew using Simpatico-brand coffee.
Collins’ and Bishop’s vision includes cooperative events with neighbor craft breweries. Guardian offers Saugatuck Brewing Co.’s Bonfire Brown on tap and with SBC last fall jointly released Project Blue Star, a light-bodied cherry vanilla cream ale.
“We’re also friends and work with the owners of WayPost Brewing in Glenn and The Mitten in downtown Saugatuck,” Collins said.
Phase 2 will include a full kitchen with high-heat ovens, fryers and four times the existing space. “But we have plenty going now,” Collins said.
Appetizers and snacks run from basics to Cheese and Charcuterie, Korean Barbecue Wings and Stuffed Piquillo Peppers. Soups, salads, tacos, paninis, dogs, desserts and more round out the menu.
The next phase will also involve transforming the old barn/theatre into an event space, outdoor patio and yurt rentals. Yurts and beer? More simpatico than you think.
Had some brews, need a nearby, affordable place to stay on a busy weekend when most lodging establishments are booked? The Pegacorn has an answer.
More changes to the property are in planning stages, but may include vegetable and herb gardens, walking paths and landscaped spaces to explore.
Hours are Sundays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., plus Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. “We may extend those in summer,” said Collins. “We’re playing by ear as we go.”
For more information, visit guardianbrewingco.com.
By Scott Sullivan