Pure Michigan, Bottled & Canned
A local brewery reveals the secret to its success: variety, community involvement and fun.
Short’s Brewery, one of the favorite breweries in Northern Michigan, was established in 2002 by Joe Short. The then-22-year-old brewer registered Short’s Brewing Company as a business in the state of Michigan. Short had gained significant brewing experience at other Michigan breweries and realized that his style of brewing was best suited to his own business model — where he would not have to answer to anyone for putting a lot of the best possible ingredients into his brews, or for brewing specialty beers that some might consider outrageous.
The microbrewery, located in downtown Bellaire (just outside of Traverse City), began keg and bottle distribution in 2009 from its production facility in nearby Elk Rapids.
With flagship beers and ciders, shandys, seasonal beers, specialty beers, an Imperial Series, a Private Stache and Pub Series, there is definitely something for every discerning palate. In fact, Short’s averages 60-80 on-tap and packaged beverages per year. But Short’s Brewery isn’t just about beer.
The brewery has five flagship ales and three ciders. The crew also creates two specialties per month, seasonals and a couple of shandys. With product names like Huma Lupa Licious, Bellaire Brown, Soft Parade, Psychedelic Cat Grass, Sticky Icky Icky, Juicy Brut, Local’s Light, Magic Eye, Good Humans, Splurge and Spruce Pilsner, it isn’t just the fabulous varieties of ales, ciders and shandys — it’s the creativity that abounds with fun and quirky names, designs and logos.
In fact, all of the beer, cider and shandy label designs are created in-house, as well as by local designer Tanya Whitley.
Short’s Private Stache is a pub-only bottled beer series. Not to be outdone, names include She Uses Tangerines, Go Juice, Hooper in the Cage, Campfire Choir, Set Phasers to Love, Vieux Rouge, Bourbon Carrot Cake ... the list goes on.
Starcut Ciders is a division of Short’s Brewing Company, born from a desire to celebrate the bounty of Michigan orchards, as all apples used are from Michigan. Ciders include Pulsar, Octorock, Magpie and Mosa.
Beaches is the newbie on the block. It is a tropical hard seltzer with real mango, no sugar and just 95 calories. The lime green can with palm leaves mirrors a paradise scene.
Let’s go over a few of the ingredients. For Go Juice, a 6% ABV milkshake IPA made with Mundos Ethiopian Gelana Abaya coffee, marshmallow fluff, milk, sugar and vanilla. Soft Parade Shandy stands at 4.2% ABV with a blend of Short’s flagship fruit ale, Soft Parade and homemade lemonade. This beer is raspberry in color and smells like berry lemonade. And Huma Lupa Licious? It is a “complex hop and malt theme park in your mouth.”
Short’s seasonal packs celebrate the holidays. Last year’s autumn six-pack was adorned with Michigan tree leaves and colors of the season. The Pure Michigan Autumn IPA was created with help from the state’s diverse agricultural industry to include brewed ingredients from three local maltsters (Great Lakes Malting Company, Valley View Farm and Empire Malting Co.), two local hop suppliers (MI Local Hops, Michigan Hop Alliance) and Craft Cultures yeast supplier in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The end result of Pure Michigan Autumn IPA is a well-balanced IPA that allows the malt, hops and yeast character to shine through. Smooth hop flavors combine with fruity notes, along with a blend of pine, citrus and honey-like malt sweetness.
The holiday pack for 2019 contained a variety of six bottles: Huma Lupa Licious, Splurge, Magic Eye, Spruce Pilsner, Yoda’s Blend and Good Human. Another one for the holidays is Juicy Tree (9.8% ABV), an experimental India Pale Ale made with blue spruce tips, juniper berries and cranberries that came out for the holidays.
Automate to Dominate
All machinery on the floor — from bottling and canning lines to labeling and cartoning — is automated. Two depalletizers were installed as well. To date, Short’s manually palletizes but plans to automate in the future.
The facility houses a Kosme/Krones bottling filler, as well as a Krones Checkmat inspection system. The labels are produced via a Kosme machine, with a Videojet printer.
For can filling, the brewery uses a KHS Innofill. A Mumm 450 rotary applied carrier machine applies the ring carriers to the 6- and 12-pack cans.
The brew pub has a seven-barrel system. “A lot of the beer served at the pub is brewed there, and we also do a lot of smaller test batches there,” says Leslie Nagy, production manager.
Some days both bottling and canning lines will run, and other days it will be one or the other. Short wants a larger warehouse space to house a bigger boiler for pasteurization, eventually a pasteurizer, and a new kegger.
Renovation of the 120-year-old hardware store began in January 2003 when Short and several friends and volunteers began renovating the building to what it is today. All of the craftsmanship was done by himself, friends and volunteers — from the trim mold to the bar, right down to mosaic tiled Short’s logo near the pub entrance.
The brewing equipment was purchased used. The original seven barrel pub brewing system came with five fermenters and five serving tanks. After much determination and work, the pub opened 18 months later in April 2004.
The business got off to a slow start but things began to turn around when Short’s girlfriend (now wife) Leah joined the team in 2005. She managed the deli and took responsibility for the creation of the food menu in the pub, which gave Short more time to concentrate on the brewery and business side of things. Soon after, Scott Newman-Bale, a.k.a. the Magician, joined the team, and with his help projects like the 2007 Imperial Beer Series were financed and the brewery finally became a profitable business.
Short’s then purchased an old manufacturing building in Elk Rapids in January 2008. After a year of intense research, fundraising and sweat equity, Short and his crew were able to design, construct and assemble everything to brew the first Elk Rapids batch of beer in January 2009. When the first production batch shipped in March 2009, every bottle on the truck was labeled by hand. The have since continued to fund growth based on past sales to continue to meet the demand for their beer.
The building also incorporates solar panels for energy and has its own wastewater treatment facility.
Many brews, ciders and shandys are available on tap at the pub and in 12 oz. size for purchase. They can be found at Costco, Kroger, Meijer and Spartan stores in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Florida. This summer, it will launch in Colorado as well. Find out more at shortsbrewery.com.