Old to new: Petoskey Brewing makes its mark on Northern Michigan

PETOSKEY — If you’ve been to Northern Michigan and have ever driven on M-119 north of Petoskey, you’ve passed the building numerous times — whether you were going to Harbor Springs in the summer to shop, the “Tunnel of Trees” in the fall to see the orange and yellow in the leaves or Nub’s Nob in the winter to shred the slopes.

If you looked to the right, it was always there, towering over the highway. For a while, it sat empty — a majestic structure with no purpose; however, after nearly a century, Petoskey Brewing has reclaimed its territory.


It began in the late 1800s. The Old Brewery, as it was called, was used to brew Petoskey Sparkle beer. According to the Petoskey Brewing website, the building was shaped by the brewing process of the time. At four stories tall, the brewery relied on gravity to move water, wort and beer through the production process, starting at the fourth floor with a large water tank, moving to the third floor where fire-brewing took place, and then down to the second and first floor where fermentation and packaging occurred.

In 1915, the brewery closed when the county was voted dry four years prior to prohibition. It’s been a while since then, though, and it was time to restore it to its rightful purpose.

Owners Patrick Dowd and Lou Gostinger met in 2009 after they had both sold their previous businesses and decided to make the Petoskey and Harbor Springs area their full-time residences. Their idea for the brewery grew from their interest in drawing others to the area, along with a couple acts of fate.

“The fact we had one of Michigan’s oldest brewery buildings in our backyard, and it was for sale, only added fuel to our idea,” Dowd said. “The earth, moon and stars aligned in 2012 when we purchased and renovated the ‘old Petoskey brewery’ building and hired our talented head brewer, Brett Emanuel.”

Although the restoration process was challenging, the brewery maintains modernity with the vintage appearance of the old building.

“Our goal was to preserve the natural character of the building while making it a comfortable place to enjoy a beer,” Dowd said.


Petoskey Brewing strives to set themselves apart from the rest of the brewing market in Michigan by focusing on quality. With Emmanuel’s attributing his roots to HopCat — assisting to open the craft beer bar and brew their beer — and also working for Jolly Pumpkin and Arcadia Ales, they are familiar with what quality is.

“We make good beer — period,” Dowd said. “Our commitment from day one has been on quality, consistently.”

Just as the original Petoskey brewery had chosen its location because of the natural artesian water source it sat on, Petoskey Brewing also takes advantage of this resource.

“Lou and I were committed to finding the best water for our beer,” Dowd added. “Our well driller spent the better part of a week, ultimately drilling through three other aquifers, finding our deep artesian well. Our water is pure and unadulterated. It comes from our well, through a particulate filter and into our hot liqueur tank.”

When it comes to the type of beer that is brewed, Petoskey Brewing also makes a conscious effort to set their beer apart from others.

“Northern Michigan does not have a lot of exposure into the craft brew world,” Emanuel said. “For that reason, we try to be as true to the nature and craft of brewing as possible,” noting that they focus on traditional English and Belgian beer styles.


During the first full year in business, Petoskey Brewing produced nearly 3,000 barrels of beer. The brewery is expanding its brew systems in the short-term to raise their production about 30 percent, but are planning to expand their production even more in the long-term.

“We have a larger expansion in planning as we speak which will take us to around the 10,000 barrel mark,” Dowd said. 

Regardless of the plans to expand their production, the brewery has no ambition to go outside of the state of Michigan with distribution.

So where can you find Petoskey beer in the state? With production limitations, the majority of their beer can be found right around the 45th parallel and north — in Gaylord and the greater Traverse City area — although some can be found seeping into the Grand Rapids and Detroit areas.

Right now, Horny Monk Belgian Ale, Mind’s Eye PA (IPA) and North 45 Amber Ale have been released in keg and 16 ounce can formats. Just recently, the brewery released Petoskey Sparkle American Lager in keg format, and plans are to put that and the brewery’s Hopsessed Double IPA in cans this spring.

To see where you can find the nearest Petoskey Brewing beers click here.

Rachel Peterson

Rachel Peterson

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