As the Michigan craft beer market expands and accelerates, one notices that there are hubs of activity where the growth seems faster. Detroit has always had a deep and prosperous brewing community; even with the unfortunate closing of Webberville’s Michigan Brewing Company, every map of Michigan breweries has to have a breakout section because of the densely packed breweries around the Motor City. Grand Rapids, Traverse City, and the southwest corner of the state all represent hubs, each area teeming with personality, variety, and flair as the market booms. The center of the state, however, has been light on local breweries, with only one place in Mount Pleasant offering product and a café in Big Rapids focusing more on food than beer. (this statement will probably be out of date before this even gets posted. –ed.) The students of Ferris State University -- as well as the citizens of Big Rapids -- needed a watering hole with locally made beer! Enter Cranker’s Brewery, a brand new and ambitious project offering something completely new to the craft brew market.
|From left: Laura, Betsy, Jim, Adam, Seth. James, and Tony|
The Crank family – Jim and Betsy, as well as sons James and Tony – are a delightful family and owners of the Cranker’s Coney Island in Big Rapids. Jim saw great potential in the craft brewing industry: “I want to have a place for the people who live in big Rapids where they can drink fresh, expertly crafted beer that’s locally made,” he said to us. Construction of the new brewery – which has capacity to produce more than 5,000 barrels annually, showing that Cranker’s was thinking ahead when it came to production – recently finished, and the “addition” to the Coney Island opened in early May. In case you missed the connection, let me be explicit; Cranker’s Brewery is a brewery that is in the same building as a 24 hour diner. When the beer stops flowing and you need a Detroit style coney dog before walking home, Cranker’s has you covered. The idea is so elegant, so brilliant, it’s a little dumbfounding that it took until 2012 for it to happen.
Despite being physically connected, Cranker’s has a completely different personality from the diner; a huge, open space filled with sunlight and family style seating gives a great hall style feel to the place, slightly reminiscent of the chapel area in Brewery Vivant. The artistry and décor keep to a sparse, industrial feel, with the metal work coming directly from members of Ferris State University and artwork created out of engine parts and other industrial elements. The bar has a modern yet old school feel, a glossy concrete top inset with gears, flywheels, and other industrial items. There are televisions present, but they are unobtrusive, so the Tigers fans can watch the game without it being the center of attention. Featured in one corner is the stage area, and the acoustically primed ceiling makes Cranker’s a concert venue in par with Founder’s.
reminded you that the Professor IPA still has a complex malt profile. Side note: I am not sure there is anything cooler than saganaki. It’s flaming cheese that pairs perfectly with beer. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
It’s about time the center of the state began getting some more delicious, local craft beer. With expertly crafted beer from a passionate, dedicated, and extremely intelligent brewer, to a delicious and reasonably priced menu, all with the advantage of a 24 hour Coney Island literally through a gate, this place is the full package. Cranker’s Brewery, located just off 131, isn’t simply a stop on the way up to Traverse City; it’s a destination all its own.
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