High Five invites members and public to share favorite beers and home brews

GRAND RAPIDS — High Five Co-op Brewery hosted its first official membership event and “sixer mixer” this past Saturday.

Members and non-members alike met in The Factory, a collaborative workspace, and brought along their favorite and homemade brews to share and taste. Attendees sipped on samples while engaging in light discussion.

The event was the first of what will be several sixer mixers and was an opportunity for members to meet each other and discuss their own brewing and beer enthusiasm. Prospective members could attend to learn more about the co-op’s goals and operations. Everyone sipped on a brew they selected from coolers filled with snow instead of cubed ice — which has to be one of the more resourceful uses of the surplus of snow with which Grand Rapids has been inundated.

Attendees could enter their beer selections in a competition for Oldest Cellared Beer, Highest ABV, Lowest ABV and Honorable Homebrew. Those who were selected won a free High Five Co-op Brewery T-shirt. Each title was taken by a home brew.

Andrew Brouwers, High Five member of two months as well as the recipient of the Lowest ABV award, said he joined because he likes the small, personal side of the cooperative.

“I like brewing beer and I like the idea of a smaller organization geared towards people’s desires more than the commercial side of it,” he said.

Brouwers said he’s looking forward to watching the process of the brewery’s start from the ground up.

“I think the initial opening is really interesting — like the procurement of a property, and trying to understand where they want to go and then raising the capital to do it,” he said. 

Rachel Weaver came to the event with Brouwers as a non-member. She said she may be interested in investing in a membership in the future, but for now, sharing a membership with Brouwers will do.

“When it gets bigger and if it were to get limited to members only, maybe that would spur me to purchase one, but until then I’m just kind of along for the ride,” she said.

In its second year, High Five has already made strides in breaking ground as the first co-op brewery in Michigan. Much of its struggle has been rooted in meeting legal requirements. President Nick LaVelle said the co-op’s hard work is making the project come together more quickly than its predecessors in other parts of the country and will make it easier for future co-op breweries to start up in Michigan.

The co-op currently boasts 88 members and is working on diversifying its methods of funding the project. High Five is currently searching for investors who are interested in supporting the cooperative. A Kickstarter campaign is also in the works.

“We’ve been in contact with a few different individuals and are currently working out a good collaborative strategy for their interests,” says High Five board member Josh Smith. “One thing we’ve been discussing is allowing our first phase of investors to purchase our building and equipment and leasing those items to the co-op.”

In the meantime, High Five is seeking to strengthen the community in the 88 members they’ve accrued since the beginning and the people who are just interested in learning more about the co-op.

“By hosting events like the sixer mixer we’re really hoping to create a strong community of homebrewers, beer enthusiasts, and community advocates that enjoy coming together, sharing brews, meeting new people, and supporting the goal of creating a co-operative brewery to call their own,” said Smith.

Marie Orttenburger

Marie Orttenburger

An Upper Peninsula native, Marie’s passion for both Michigan and its beer is as bottomless as you wish your next pint to be. Relocating to Grand Rapids in 2010, her love for community, journalism and photography has played an integral role in shaping her professional and daily life. By day, Marie is currently employed as a technical writer/marketer. By night, her dreams are occupied by fields of hops filled with puppies and permeated by the melodies of local music.

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