Mar 22, 2012

Dark Horse, Marshall Michigan

Hello! First off, let me apologize for being absent as of late. A combination of computer problems, sickness, and the unexpected news that there is going to be another little Beer Czar arriving in the fall has made things a little busy around here! Alas, we are back, and ready to go!
So check out the latest installment from our intrepid report in Mich, Uncle Gary. His latest stop on his whirlwind (and at this point, probably slightly blurry) tour of Michigan Brewery's finds him at Dark Horse Brewing in Marshall Michigan!!!

Keeping Up With Demand A Priority For Dark Horseby Gary Morrison

Dark Horse Tap Room
The first question I asked Travis Glenn, the taproom manager of Dark Horse Brewing Company in Marshall, Michigan, was: “What is the height requirement for your job?”

It is an understandable question. When you walk into Dark Horse’s tap house your eyes are immediately drawn upwards where almost 4,000 ceramic mugs hang from hooks on rafters.

That's a lot of mugs!!!
“Those are our members’ mugs,” said Travis who sometimes has to stand on his toes to reach a mug. “Not all are on rafters. We ran out of room so about 20 are on the walls.”

The hanging mugs and the brewery’s eclectic look that includes walls adorned with posters and vintage advertisements and its food menu may help draw customers, but it’s really about the beer.

Aunt Linda with her Tres Blueberry Stout
Dark Horse is well known for its selection of fine beers. Its Bourbon Barrel Plead the 5th Imperial Stout is listed 38th on's best top 50 beers of 2012. However, my wife Linda would insist that Tres Blueberry Stout with flavors of chocolate and light blueberry taste is a top reason to visit Dark Horse. I like IPAs and was drawn to Crooked Tree IPA, a high octane beer with big hops balanced with tons of malt that gives this beer a huge body.

At the time of my visit, the menu listed 18 beers with nine available on tap. Those beers not on tap were either seasonals or were beers percolating in the taproom’s brew house almost ready to go on line.

Regulars Dave and Linda Smith
Dark Horse’s varied selection of beer has made local residents Linda and Dave Smith avid drinkers of craft beers.

“We come here quite a bit,” Dave said. “We just enjoy the freshness of the beer.”

Linda Smith was not a craft beer drinker when she first visited Dark Horse. It was not her style, she said, but now she is a convert.

“I asked for a Bud Light or something close to that,’ she said. “The server said: ‘I don’t think I can help you.’”

VIP Lounge
To accommodate customers who want a quieter environment to drink their beer, Dark Horse owners added an upper level VIP room to the taproom.

VIP members have to be beer club members. The room is also used for corporate and private events as well and an additional entertainment venue.

Dark Horse got its start in 1997 when Bill “Wacky” Morris bought a garage and opened a C-store that grew into three stores and a restaurant in the area. Soon after, his son Aaron joined the fold and suggested they open a brew pub. After experiencing some growing pains, Bill and Aaron (along with Aaron’s wife Kristy and brewer Brian Wiggs) converted Dark Horse to the brew pub that it is now with a few exceptions.

The original seven-barrel system was capable of putting out almost 6,200 barrels a year, Bill said. But it was not enough to keep up with demand that includes distribution to nine states and the country of Denmark.

“Some bar owners from Denmark happen to visit us one time and like our beer,” Bill said. “They now order 400 barrels from us at a time. They use plastic barrels and ship those to us that we fill and ship back.”

To meet growing demand, the owners bought an adjacent building and added a new brewing area with a 20-barrel system, Bill said. The original system is still in full time use and is used to produce all the beers for the taproom as well as test beers that may or may not hit the market. The new system is used to meet its distribution demands.

Initially, their goal was to brew 8,000 barrels a year. Now they are surpassing 9,000 barrels and have the ability to pump out 15,000 barrels, Bill said.

The Dark Horse compound now includes the taproom, brewery, general store, skate shop, and tattoo parlor. In the works are a motorcycle shop, creamery, candy shop, and distillery; but no winery, Bill adds.

“Aaron began brewing beer in his bathtub,” Bill said. “We were originally a restaurant that sold our beers and other beers.

“Now we just sell our beer,” he said. “Our customers come first and we make sure that we don’t run out of what they want.”
If you would like to check out Dark Horse (tell them Uncle Gary sent you....), they are located at...
511 S. Kalamazoo Ave,
Marshall, Michigan 49068
Phone: 269-781-9940

Office: 269-558-4915
Fax: 269-558-4624
General Store:269-558-4909
Taproom 269-781-9940

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