Butchers, Bakers, & Candy Makers
Locals aim for a slice of the food industry pie
(page 4 of 10)
Company: The Brinery
Products: Sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, and other fermented products
Distribution: Farmers markets, retail outlets (Plum Market, Zingerman’s, Whole Foods, and more) in Michigan and beyond, restaurants, plus online at thebrinery.com
Back story: Cultures around the world have discovered that barrels and bacteria make a great combination. “Once you start looking, every culture has some kind of fermented food,” says David Klingenberger, the “Chief Fermenting Officer” of The Brinery.
His journey began with a field of autumn cabbages at Tantré Farm in Chelsea. Where it ends upis anyone’s guess.
He made his first batch of sauerkraut more than a decade ago, but didn’t really think about selling it. More recently, he started distributing “bootleg kraut” to friends and family out of the back of a car. No real business plan. More like: “Hey, I just make money selling kraut!” he says.
After he went a bit more “formal” at some farmers markets, it sort of snowballed. “Stores started calling us,” Klingenberger says. Stores like Whole Foods. “I don’t know if I’m a brilliant businessman or just lucky.”
What he is for sure: an awfully good fermenter. The goal is to use as much Michigan product as possible (ingredients such as ginger root are sourced from afar). They buy from a half-dozen large and small farms.
If the dozen or so full- and part-time employees can keep up with production, The Brinery will be in even more stores. They’ve moved to larger facilities at the Washtenaw Food Hub, an offshoot of Tantré Farm.
“We’ve got the manic energy and ambition,” for more growth, Klingenberger says.
Recognition from outside of Michigan also lends credibility. The Brinery won a 2014 Good Food Award in San Francisco — sort of like the Oscars of certain food categories.