Cotton fits comfortably into Michigan's craft beer market

  • Cotton-Brewing-6

    Brett and Krista Cotton own Cotton Brewing in Adrian, Mich.

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  • ADRIAN — Craft beer was an unknown world for Brett Cotton until he found himself working in the nation’s capital in 2008.

    “I didn’t know much about it, but my friends were into that scene. We’d go visit breweries around D.C. on the weekends,” Cotton says.

    When the recession forced him out of the corporate world, Cotton returned to Michigan. He and his now wife Krista went to a home brewing store in Taylor, Mich., and picked up a 3-gallon system, taking an early crack at an orange wheat beer, wondering if they could make money off Michigan’s growing beer industry.

    “We didn’t have any bad experiences or beers, really. I think that’s why we kept going,” Krista Cotton says.

    The tap room of Cotton Brewing in Adrian typically has 16 beers and ciders to choose from.
    The tap room of Cotton Brewing in Adrian typically has 16 beers and ciders to choose from.

    Those early brew sessions turned into a part-time job. Krista was doing accounting work for Adrian’s Meyers Boat Co., and she convinced the owners to let the couple use a small area of the company’s building to launch what is now Cotton Brewing Co. That business opened in February, 2011, initially selling to bars and restaurants around the area. The couple somehow managed to find time to marry four months later.

    After working with Adrian officials to change zoning laws, the Cottons opened a tap room at 626 Oak St. on Jan. 1, 2016.

    “We make a product that people love. Some people deal with angry people all day. With beer, that’s not the case,” Krista Cotton says. “A lot of people don’t get to make things. We are manufacturing a product. It’s a creative outlet. It’s fun.”

    Brett and Krista each have a master’s degree from Siena Heights University, giving them a business base to successfully run the brewery. Krista’s strength in math and science has proved useful in developing beer recipes. She has created more than 250 beers, punching in numbers and experimenting with hops and other ingredients. Some of the beer is infused with food from the brewery’s food menu.

    At one point, Krista and Brett shared brewing duties, but Brett and an assistant now do the brewing on 7-barrel fermenters that allow for a 1,000-barrel annual capacity. Krista runs the daily operations, leaning on her accounting background. Cotton Brewing usually has an extensive beverage board that includes beers, ciders, mead, wine, even nonalcoholic root beer and cream soda. The beer lineup has a little bit of everything, ranging from a New England IPA and double IPA to stouts and a kolsch.

    Brett and Krista Cotton own Cotton Brewing in Adrian, Mich.
    Brett and Krista Cotton own Cotton Brewing in Adrian, Mich.

    “I like high-gravity dark beers. Brett is the polar opposite. He could drink our kolsch all day,” Krista says, chuckling.

    By the end of the month, the Cottons are also hoping to open the Rice & Barley Taphouse in downtown Adrian. That location will have 12 taps and a full pan-Asian menu. In January, they are targeting the opening of a roastery/​coffee shop in town. They have been to Portland, Ore., and Peru to do research on coffee beans.

    “We are entrepreneurs,” Krista says.

    Yes, but entrepreneurs still only have 24 hours in a day. Brew days sometimes consume 16 of those hours. It seems hard to imagine carving out the time needed to open two additional businesses. Krista, though, is effusive with her praise of their employees, saying many of them are ready to step into bigger roles.

    But what about fun in any free time?

    Brett ponders that question for a moment, then quickly responds, laughing: “For fun? I’m not even sure I know what that is anymore.”

    Earnest ‘Hoptoberfest’

    Earnest Brew Works, 4342 S. Detroit Ave., will celebrate its “Hoptoberfest” beginning Thursday and going through this weekend. The event will kick off with a firkin of German Chocolate Cake Dunkel. A Sauerkraut Kolsch, an Apple Streusel Oktoberfest, and an Orange Creamsicle Kolsch will also be tapped. Several other German beers have been brewed for the event.

    Saturday will feature a Masskrugstemmen competition, a German Stein-holding contest.

    BGSU alumni brewers

    Bowling Green State University is hosting a beer sampling event at Slater Family Ice Arena on Friday as part of Homecoming weekend events. The event begins at 8 p.m. Admission is $15. The participating breweries are the Phoenix Brewing Co. from Mansfield, Ohio, Laird Arcade Brewery from Tiffin and Municipal Brew Works from Hamilton. The owners and/​or brewers are BGSU alumni.

    Wild Side kitchen

    The Wild Side Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids will begin limited food service this weekend, before introducing a full menu the following weekend.

    Wild Side is one of the more unique breweries in the area, focusing on wild fruit ales brewed with local fruit. The menu will also not be your standard tasting room fare. Owner Nicholas Scott will incorporate Wild Side beer in many of the offerings. The options available initially will be marinated and smoked wings, a wild game sausage board, a bacon sampler that includes smoked duck paired with a beer, Wild Side bread, and build-your-own flatbread pizzas that can include wild game toppings.

    Contact Brian Dugger at bdugger@theblade.com or on Twitter @DuggerBlade.