DETROIT—Bicycling and craft beer brewing are two pastimes that get a lot of love in Detroit. Motown is home to several popular microbreweries and a vibrant cycling community that's growing every day.
Now, two brothers who grew up in Grosse Pointe want to combine their passion for both by opening up a nano-brewery that makes “pedal-powered beer” in the city.
That’s right. Beer made with bicycles!
The two entrepreneurs, Aaron and Shawn Grose, have dubbed their bike-powered brewing operation Windmill Pointe Brewing. They have yet to decide which Detroit neighborhood they will make its home, but they have resolved to make the brewhouse as eco-friendly as possible.
“No fossil fuels [will be] used in the brewing of beer,” said Shawn Grose, a 44-year-old school teacher from Redford and the brother who’s most knowledgeable about the technical aspects of the venture.
Energy will be collected from pedal-powered generator bikes, he told Mode Shift, as well as from wind turbines and solar panels. Together, these green power sources will provide the electricity to run the brewing operation.
While Shawn and Aaron plan to do quite a bit of the cycling themselves when the facility opens, they’re also hoping to get some additional legwork from the community. Their plans call for between five and 10 generator-rigged bicycles to be set up in both the front and back of the brewhouse so people can come in off the street and ride them.
As an incentive, visitors will be able to join a club that will allow them to earn perks like beer and T-shirts for helping power the facility. The most dedicated pedaller could even have a yearly party thrown in their honor, according to Aaron.
“We’re not there to take everyone’s power,” he told Mode Shift. “We really want get to community involvement -- get everyone into the process of brewing -- so somebody can say ‘I assisted in that!’”
The kilowatts that club members generate will be measured electronically and displayed on a board for all to see. Teams will even be able to compete by taking stations in different rooms. The hope is that the camaraderie created by the bikes will help bond the brewhouse with the local community while increasing awareness about sustainable environmental practices.
Not surprisingly, the Grose brothers also expect that their unique business model will get people talking. While there are plenty of examples of pubs on wheels that get around by pedal power and even a Denver brewery that’s used a stationary bike to mill barley for a contest, those innovations are miles away from what Aaron and Shawn have in mind.
In fact, they’re so confident that Windmill Pointe will be the first green brewhouse of its kind in the United States, they now have a patent pending on their system.
Their passion for beer is nothing new, the Grose brothers been homebrewing together since 2002. The idea for their bike brewery, however, is more recent. It sprang out of a conversation they had last year after they decided to get back into bicycling after a hiatus of many years.
For Aaron, a 42-year-old Grosse Pointe resident, the new brewing company isn’t that much of a career leap either. He has a background in the brewing industry working in sales and marketing that dates back to late nineties. During that decade, he also took his first swing at entrepreneurship, running a T-shirt business called the Spiral Clothing Company.
Now Aaron is thrilled about the opportunity to put his know-how to work again and overjoyed about brewing up a whole new slew of beers with his brother.
“We want to develop things that we find and love,” he said. “We’re not going to chase after a certain taste profile. Were trying to create things that are unique to us and hopefully find that everyone else appreciates too.”
Windmill Pointe is slotted to carry an initial offering of 10 different beers. Production during the first year should reach about 500 barrels, increasing to 1,200 the year after that.
That may sound like a tall order for two brothers, but they’re not completely alone in this.
Right now, they’re getting leads on potential brewery locations from Green Garage, a local green business incubator. ASE Power, an Arizona-based alternative energy firm, has been assisting them on technical elements of the venture.
Their next step is more test batching so they can develop the arsenal of beers they’ll need to establish their name. After that, they’ll have to secure financing for their start up, which they plan to get through a combination of personal resources, crowdfunding and angel investment.
If all goes well, the brewery could open it’s doors as early as next fall, with Aaron and Shawn running things themselves at first and hiring additional staff as needed.
There’s a lot of work ahead of them both, but Shawn is feeling good about the prospects of their pedal-powered enterprise.
“People are jumping on board with this, because were trying to build community around this idea of people participating in the actual making of our beer,” he said. “When you ride our bikes, you’re going to get rewards and really have something different and unique around brewing beer.”