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This Is Your Beer, Rochester: Mills Realizes Dream in Opening of Brewery

Rochester Mills Production Brewery in Auburn Hills will produce 100,000 barrels of beer — for starters.

"On your mark, get set and go now. Got a dream and we just know now. We're gonna make our dream come true."

It's nearly impossible, for me at least, to enter the new 48,000-square-foot Rochester Mills Production Brewery and not have the Lavern & Shirley theme song run through my head.

For it's a dream that's been over five years in the making.

"Five years ago we purchased a canning line," said David Youngman, director of marketing communications at Rochester Mills Beer Co. in downtown Rochester.

"We had a hunch that the craft community would embrace a canned craft beer."

Back then, Rochester Mills made a half-truckload of Lazy Daze, one of its signature brews, as an experiment to see how receptive patrons would be. 

The positive response would set things in motion for what is today becoming a reality.

"People loved being able to get our beer in cans, but Michigan has a three-tier distribution system that does not allow self-distribution, so we had to make other arrangements," Youngman said.

Those other arrangements are pretty impressive.

'Think big, start big'

The new production brewery, located in Auburn Hills just south of The Palace, sits on seven acres with plenty of room for expansion. The building was originally used to make artificial landscape.

It now includes the brew house with 50 state-of-the-art barrels, an automated canning line, a cold storage room and shipping/receiving facilities.

There's also an outdoor grain silo, a private tasting room, two laboratories and office space. 

"We're looking to make quite a lot of beer here," Youngman said.

The expansion allows Rochester Mills to brew an additional 100,000 barrels per year with the potential to increase to more than 200,000 barrels annually in the future.

The brewery will produce Cornerstone IPA, Milkshake Stout and Rochester Red ale in 16-ounce aluminum cans for distribution to local bars, restaurants and beer merchants across the state. Production is expected to begin in this first quarter.

"Our plan is for long-term growth — 25 to 30 years," said Rochester Mills president and founder Mike Plesz. "My vision was big — I needed a facility that mirrored that. Think big, start big."

Plesz's vision wasn't only in his head: he had his hands on every aspect, and designed everything himself. 

"To be successful you have to understand every aspect of your business," Plesz said. "How a machine works, how to design a can, recipes, chemists."

Michigan made, Rochester pride

When it came to designing and building the shiny new fermentation tanks, Plesz didn't look far. The tanks were custom-made in Clarkston by Clawson Tank Company.

"We're Michigan. We make cars, we can make tanks," Plesz said. "I'm not making my beer in tanks from overseas."

Another aspect of Rochester Mills Production Brewery that will be pure Michigan— the water.

"For the layman, we're like a giant coffee machine just with water, yeast, grains and hops. The raw materials are small compared to what goes out. We will be a massive user of water, and yes, the City of Detroit has taken notice," Plesz said.

The facility has a well, too.

"The harder water is good for stouts and IPA," Plesz said. "The naturally softened water —we sit on a big bed of salt — makes perfect pilsner."

"We want to instill a sense of pride for everyone in Rochester that this is our beer," Youngman said.

Plesz agreed.

"It's our local beer. 'Support your local,' I've been beating that drum since 1995," he said.

To keep up with news about the Rochester Mills brewery, sign up for our Patch email newsletter. It's free!

Dano January 04, 2012 at 02:07 PM
You have to admire what Mike Plesz is doing at the Mills. Not only a local brewery but a damn good one. Quality food and great beer in a terrif atmoshphere. What more can you ask for. Drink local beer!
mark January 04, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Why is locally made beer so expensive???
Colleen January 04, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Fantastic, Mike! I wish you great success!

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