WHEN WE FIRST heard about vague plans for a “beer-cooperative” in Marquette a couple of years ago, we gotta admit we were skeptical.
It was a cute idea. It combined two endearing trends–craft breweries and the co-op movement–but seriously? These guys and gals were gonna find the financing and venue in Marquette for a new business model that was working in only about a dozen places across the entire country?
Well, color us wrong. One hundred percent wrong.
Drifa Brewing Company (Drifa means snowfall or snowdrift in Norse) is opening in south Marquette any day now. David Gill, the co-op board president, says they are now awaiting final approval from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. It could come as early as next Wednesday. He’s certain they’ll get it before the UP Fall Beer Festival on September 7th.
“We’re all set. We’re ready to rock and roll,” says Gill, who’s a schoolteacher by trade. “We’re just waiting on the state to give us the final word.”
Take a look inside Drifa. A remarkable transformation of a onetime, lackluster office building in the shadow of the Shiras Hills Power Plant into a cool, urban chic space with a few rustic touches. Room for 51 drinkers at a bar, along with high tops, and a comfy living room area with a sofa and chairs.
A $300,000 investment. The financing came from 350 true believers who forked out $99 apiece, along with major help from Northern Initiatives–which helps regional businesses that can’t find conventional financing, and from Shared Capital Cooperative, a national group that provides funding for cooperatives.
When it’s up and running, Drifa will have 13 taps for 13 different brews. “We’ll brew as much as people are drinking,” Gill tells us.
A brewmaster has just been hired, according to Gill, but the person’s name can’t be disclosed yet
The co-op’s general manager is Heather Ludwig, who has extensive experience in the business. Interviews for bartenders are underway.
Sounds like maybe Gill is being a teensy bit overly optimistic about an imminent opening, given that they don’t have the license yet, they haven’t hired the full staff, and they haven’t yet brewed their first barrel, but by now we’ve learned not to doubt these guys and gals.
Drifa is the real deal. It’ll be the first operating beer cooperative in Michigan when it opens.