The New Brewers on the Nautical Mile

St. Clair Shores’ first brewpub aiming to be ‘community-centric’


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Brewery owners (from left) Evan Feringa, Joe VanderMarliere, and Joe Dowd discuss the brewing process.
Photograph by Frank Accavitti III.

Community. When talking to the founders of Baffin Brewing Company - Evan Feringa, Joe Dowd, and Joe VanderMarliere - you’ll hear that word frequently. Like any business, Baffin will succeed or fail based on the response from the locals. But a focus on community was also the reason for opening the brewery in the first place.

Feringa and Dowd drew their inspiration from a microbrewery tour they took in Maine. They found that almost every major town had its own brewery that the locals claimed as their own, as a point of pride.

Baffin is located on Jefferson at 10 Mile in St. Clair Shores, near where VanderMarliere grew up. In a city that favors friendly local faces far more than franchises, it’s easy to see why they are calling this place home.

When the founders began renovations on the building, much of which they’ve completed themselves, they often left the doors open for ventilation. But they didn’t anticipate the early connection this helped them establish in the community.

Located along the Nautical Mile, Baffin is on the path of many walkers and bike riders, and many of them were intrigued by the nearby construction project. According to Feringa, several poked their heads in every day during construction, and the owners happily answered questions from the passersby.

When the new kettles and fermenting tanks were dropped off outside of the loading dock, a community resident loaned them his Bobcat 4x4 so that they could get the tanks inside of the brewery.

Breweries in Southeast Michigan are popping up faster than weeds. High traffic areas such as Royal Oak are becoming densely packed — several are within a stone’s throw of each other. Luckily for Baffin, there are no other breweries within several miles. Atwater in the Park is located down Jefferson, and Falling Down Brewery is located farther west on 10 Mile. Behind the brewery is Pat O’Briens, a popular local area bar and seafood restaurant. The area is prime for an upstart young brewery to come in and get a foothold.

The brewery focuses on reuse and sustainability. The building is one of the oldest in the city — the former site of Bennett’s Market, and more recently, Mike’s Marine. The taproom walls feature reclaimed brick from 1920s-era Detroit buildings that a local mason installed, and the bar is built with 100+ year-old reclaimed lumber. The two giant sliding wooden doors that section off the brewing area and loading dock are also made from the building’s original ceiling joists.

The founders extend their eco-friendly focus outside of the brewery’s walls as well, bypartnering with local farmers on Harsen’s Island so that spent grains from the brewery can be used as feed for livestock, and with plans to donate to the Pints for Pints program to provide fresh water to cities in Africa.

Although Baffin shares its name with William Baffin, the 17th century English naval officer and explorer for whom Baffin Island in Canada is named (appropriate given the Nautical Mile location) that’s a few steps removed from the real origin of Baffin’s name: a Bernese mountain dog, whose likeness adorns both the brewery logo and a large canvas print on the wall of the brewery.

After a clearing a cavalcade of licensing hurdles, Baffin Brewing Company will open their doors to the public on Friday, January 30 at 11 a.m. The former homebrewers will feature some of their tried-and-true recipes, such as a mango pale ale and oatmeal stout, among others. While the brewery does not offer food on-site, patrons are welcome to bring in carry-out from nearby restaurants, including the neighboring Pat O’Brien’s Tavern.

If the community loves Baffin Brewing Company half as much as Baffin loves the community, the brewery will do just fine.

Baffin Brewing Company is located at 25113 Jefferson Ave. in St. Clair Shores. Visit them on Facebook at facebook.com/baffinbrewing for more information.

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