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Zack Bigelow and Joe Kesselring (L to R), co-owners of Ram­shackle Brewery, pose together for a picture. Joe Kesselring | Courtesy

 

After six years of planning and preparing, co-owners Zack Bigelow, 37, and Joe Kesselring, 31, have announced ground­breaking for Ram­shackle Brewing Company will begin in April, once the Small Business Admin­is­tration loan has been processed. It will ten­ta­tively open around Sep­tember.

Located on 208 E Chicago St. in Jonesville, Ram­shackle will be a family-friendly envi­ronment spe­cial­izing in old-fash­ioned craft beers.

“We’ve been home­brewing for quite a while and we really developed a passion for the craft, and everyone that’s tried our beer said they wanted to buy it,” Bigelow said. “We decided we’d take the plunge.”

Bigelow and Kesselring decided they wanted to open a brewery in 2011 but didn’t begin flushing out their plans until a few years later. When the Michigan Invests Locally Exemption leg­is­lation was passed in October 2014, allowing small busi­nesses in Michigan to raise capital for their busi­nesses by finding com­munity investors, Bigelow and Kesselring seized the oppor­tunity.

“A brewery will bring the com­munity together, and what better way to do that than to offer own­ership so the com­munity grows with us?” Bigelow said.

The partners aimed for 49 percent com­munity own­ership, but Bigelow said because the law was so new, many people con­fused the invest­ments as GoFundMe and other fundraising ideas. Ram­shackle did not receive enough support, and the two were forced to return money to everyone and put the project on hold.

In 2016, Bigelow and Kesselring decided to try again, with much greater success. They com­pleted their goal within three months with 19 investors who own about 47.5 percent of the company, a total investment amounting to $200,000. The fur­thest investors live in Grand Rapids, but all have ties to Hillsdale or Jonesville, Bigelow said.

“There are some people we know and some people that we met along the way, and they have become great friends,” Bigelow said.

Both Bigelow and Kesselring have retained their full-time jobs while estab­lishing Ram­shackle.

Jonesville City Manager Jeff Gray has been inter­ested in helping them since he received an email from Bigelow in 2013. He said Bigelow and Kesselring have helped educate Hillsdale cit­izens about MILE leg­is­lation and have built own­ership and excitement in the city about the brewery, even before breaking ground.

“It’s obvi­ously a really new concept for the state, and a concept they’ve helped educate folks in Hillsdale about how that works and what it is. It’s a really exciting concept that they’ve described them­selves as being a community’s brewery,” Gray said. “We have some of the pre­miere food ser­vices estab­lished now, so it really is a com­plement to what exists in Jonesville. They hope this is the start of a long-term business plan that will allow them to even­tually get to big pro­duction and dis­tri­b­ution, and we hope to see the next round of expansion in Jonesville, too.”

Expanding the business would allow for more jobs and invest­ments within Jonesville, as well as to help build recog­nition of the city around the country, Gray said.

“Craft brewery is a big, growing industry in Michigan and people will travel from brewery to brewery to expe­rience dif­ferent craft brews in the state,” Gray said.

The brewery will have five to eight dif­ferent taps, with four of them as main­stays that will ten­ta­tively sell for four to five dollars a pint — a price slightly lower than the spe­cialty beers. Patrons should be able to buy two beers and a snack for $20, Bigelow said.

Bigelow said Ram­shackle will offer food, but patrons are welcome to bring in their own food as well.

“Most of our beers have a history behind them. Some of them are beers that are no longer being made com­mer­cially that we’ve kind of stumbled across — recipes, flavors, descrip­tions, and old texts that we’ve read,” Bigelow said.

Many of the beers that interest them — such as the Ken­tucky Commons or the French Farm­house Ale — dis­ap­peared early during the twen­tieth century during the pro­hi­bition or World War I. Beers that used to be extremely popular are now only made by select brew­eries, such as Ram­shackle.

Ramshackle’s brewing process is fairly straight­forward, though they some­times opt for older styles of brewing, pre­ferring to “emulate the way they would have been doing it years and years ago” to the faster, modern method, according to Bigelow. Most beers are made with two-row barley and occa­sionally corn. Other ingre­dients are grown locally when pos­sible.

Kesselring said he thought Ram­shackle would stand out for its unique product — the most important aspect, in his opinion, since people always rec­ognize quality.

“The brewing industry is a very high-risk and high-reward investment industry. Our margins are extremely low because we’re taking a bulk grain and turning it into a prof­itable craft drink,” Bigelow said.

The building will be dec­o­rated with a full-wall mural by a local artist. Rather than car­rying bar hours, Ram­shackle will most likely close around 11 p.m. but will most likely feature trivia nights and board games. Bigelow and Kesselring are also exper­i­menting with soda for patrons unin­ter­ested in beer.

“It’s kind of an every­thing goes, welcome-to-everybody type envi­ronment,” Kesselring said. “We have a lot of very eclectic tastes whether it be in food, music, art, all that stuff, we try to embrace that in everybody and to get everybody else involved too. We want to be a com­munity-owned brewery where everyone can come in, feel welcome, and those who have been investing can take pride in what we’re doing.”

He and Bigelow orig­i­nally met through a mutual friend and bonded over a shared love of craft beer. They’ve been brewing beer almost every Sunday for nearly seven years.

“We’re just a couple of big nerds. We dive into these really intricate things; beer, obvi­ously, cre­ating music back and forth, exploring new things,” Kesselring said.

Located on the main strip in Jonesville between Olivia’s Chop­house and a hardware store, the brewery will be made of masonry con­struction with exposed wood rafters, according to architect Scott Mor­rison of S Allen Designs, who has been working with them for several years.

“The biggest chal­lenge there is the urban infield, trying to fit the building between two buildings. It’s a small brew­house, so the guest occupant load is close to 50,” Mor­rison said. “They’ve given me spe­cific details for the brew­house and then the rest of the decor will be quite simple and sim­plistic.”

Gray said he’s excited to be so close to con­struction.

“They have had a lot of per­se­verance and tenacity and they’ve really seen the ups and downs of this through the fundraisers,” Gray said. “I’m excited to have them downtown for many years of success here.”