Living in the OC: Excitement brews over couple’s new business.

February 15, 2016

Big Hart Brewing - 7Big Hart Brewing Company opens Saturday.

‘Living in the OC’ is sponsored by Springstead Law Offices, with locations in Hart and Fremont, 231-873-4022 (Hart),

By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

SpringsteadVertical_091015HART — Dave and Leslie Hansen are opening the first microbrewery in Oceana County this Saturday, Feb. 20, and their focus is promoting the local area.

Big Hart Brewing - 4“The whole point is to showcase Oceana County,” Leslie said.

In 2009, Dave and Leslie took over the family-business, Hansen Foods. Just down the road from the popular grocery store in the former Schlee Automotive Sales & Service building at 4086 W. Polk Rd., the couple is opening the new Big Hart Brewing Company.

The menu features local, seasonal produce, and the brewery’s decor offers an Oceana County history lesson around every corner. Century-old bricks from the historic Pentwater Brick Company accent the walls. A focal point in the restaurant is an old railroad rail previously located in the Manistee National Forest. A train derailed, causing the steel rail to snap, Dave said. “It took six guys to carry it in,” Leslie said.

The couple hired 50 workers, bolstering the local economy. Master brewer Teo Watson-Ahlbrandt, General Manager Phil Thomson, Executive Chef Quinton Meddles, Assistant General Manager Brad Edwards and Assistant Brewer Dan Bouzis lead their team.

Ahlbrandt comes from their son Walter’s brewery, Bier Camp, in Ann Arbor. “It’s the best beer I’ve ever had,” said Big Hart Brewing - 3Hansen, who is a beer lover himself. “It’s mother’s milk…with a head.”

“At Big Hart Brewing Company our mission is to provide the best beer, the finest in fresh local food and excellent service,” the company’s web site states.

“We will commit ourselves to showcasing the bounty of Hart and Oceana County in our beverages and cuisine. Our goal is to be the best at what we do every time we do it.”

With 12 taps, there is a brew for everyone’s taste that offers “an eclectic mix of New and Old World styles using mostly European malts and, whenever possible, aggressive amounts of American Hops,” the web site states.

“Our brewer first learned the British and German styles before making his way through several Michigan craft breweries to learn the trade from the best in his area. We seek to offer a range of strong, session, hoppy, mild, and local-sourced options that will provide something for every thirsty pilgrim that graces our floors, and inspire craft beer fans to keep coming back for more deliciously fresh frothy fare.”

Big Hart Brewing -1Check out the apple ale, Fleming’s Field, made with Jason Fleming’s local apple cider. Click here for the beer list.

“Our menu will feature an eclectic mix of American regional cuisine, featuring products from local growers and producers.  We will feature familiar dishes as well as items that will showcase the creativity of Chef Quinton Meddles and his staff.”

The menu offers “quality food that goes with beer,” Dave said, such as lamb sliders, cider-brined pork chops, burgers, steaks and raw oysters on the half shell to name a few. Dave describes it as “fine dining in a brewery atmosphere.”

The brewery, which offers an industrial-style decor, has the original cement floor from Schlee Auto. It seats 146 people. The theme is an early canning factory style, which is why they chose the green color for the outside of the building. Most canning factories of the old days were that color, said Leslie who worked third shift at the former Silver Mills canning factory in Hart when she was in high school.

Both Leslie and Dave were born in Hart and graduated from Hart High School.

“No matter where you go, everybody thinks they have the best produce,” Dave said. “Oceana County’s is the best in Big Hart Brewing -2state. Farming is so important here. It is a major food source for the United States.”

This weekend for the “soft opening,” the brewery will be open Saturday  from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Sunday from 4 to 10 p.m.

The brewery will be open for lunch when regular hours begin Monday, Feb. 22. Click here for regular hours

A $12,000 sound system has been installed, and the brewery will eventually add live entertainment, Dave said.

Dave, who has been in the grocery business for 50 years, has also owned a few restaurants in his career. Leslie has been in the catering business for 25 years. “She knows what she’s doing around food,” Dave said.

Big Hart Brewing - 6The couple operated Hansen Foods in Suttons Bay for 20 years, and the store still has that name.

Large windows in the dining area give customers an inside look at the brew house, where they see the gigantic stainless steel fermenters at work.

The brewery has a mug club, which offers all kinds of perks for its members. Click here for mug club info.

As excitement brews for the big day Saturday, Dave and Leslie are confident their staff has what it takes to pull it off. “We believe in hiring the best, and these guys are the experts,” Dave said.

Check out the brewery’s Facebook Page for more information and updates.

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