Beer and Bike Time: Pigeon Hill sets records, Unruly Brewing sells nearly 80 half barrels at festival in Muskegon
Both Pigeon Hill Brewing Company and Unruly Brewing Co. opened earlier this year; which means 2014 was the maiden voyage so to speak when it came to serving the more than 120,000 thirsty bikers who invaded Western Avenue July 17-20.
MUSKEGON, MI – The festival lasts just four days, but for the breweries of downtown Muskegon, planning for Bike Time 2014 began months ago.
Both Pigeon Hill Brewing Company and Unruly Brewing Co. opened earlier this year, which means 2014 was the maiden voyage so to speak when it came to serving the more than 120,000 thirsty bikers who invaded Western Avenue July 17-20.
“We started planning before we opened in March,” said Pigeon Hill co-owner Michael Brower. “We expanded our system for this weekend. Our brewers had been keeping every fermenter full at all times. They worked overtime doing double-batch days.”
Before Bike Time, Pigeon Hill, 500 W. Western Ave., was equipped with four 3 1/2-barrel fermenters for beer production, but four 7-barrel fermenters were ordered in preparation for the event. Two of the four arrived two weeks before Bike Time, allowing the brewery to double its beer capacity.
The result was a record-setting weekend for the brewery. Brower said Pigeon Hill set several records when it came to beer sales, including the most pints poured per hour.
“The numbers were very good when compared to a typical weekend,” he said.
Pigeon Hill also extended its hours to 11 p.m. on Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday. Security guards were also placed in front of the brewery.
Jeff Jacobson, co-owner of Unruly Brewing Co., said his team also began planning months in advance by brewing 80 to 85 half barrels of beer and building a cold storage room in preparation for the event. They also produced biker-themed promotions, brought in live music and extended their hours from midnight until 2 a.m. Temporary staff was also hired to deal with the increased traffic.
In addition, Unruly, 360 W. Western Ave., opened its new 30-by-72-foot patio just in time. Jacobson said they received the permit for the patio on Wednesday afternoon, a day before thousands of bikers arrived.
The outdoor space located in the alley adjacent to the building included an outdoor bar and has a capacity of 70 to 80 people. Every bit was needed, including the inside of the building which can fit about 250 people.
“The patio was huge,” Jacobson said. “Really, we wanted to have it open about a month ago so our staff could get used to serving out there. It was nerve-racking up to the last minute, but it really worked out great because it allowed us to spread our customers out.”
Jacobson said Unruly was slower than expected on Friday afternoon, but by 5 p.m. there was a “steady flow” of people coming in. He added that Saturday was “crazy” with staff being consistently busy from open until close.
Both Pigeon Hill and Unruly called the weekend a success and reported no major incidents in regards to patrons fighting or being, well, unruly.
“The biggest issue was keeping smokers off the patio,” Jacobson said.
Brower said he’s looking forward to next year when Pigeon Hill plans to have an outdoor space. He also plans to have an expanded beer menu as opposed to limited options like this year, but overall, he’s very happy with how the weekend went.
“A lot of people told us this wasn’t a craft beer crowd,” he said. “We did have a lot of people asking for domestics, but there were a lot of craft beer drinkers as well. It was really nice to have someone come in and have us recommend something and see them have two or three. We introduced ourselves to a new crowd, which was cool.”
Brower added he was happy with the turnover of patrons. In other words, he liked seeing people come in for one or two beers and then move on.
“We have a limited capacity, so the fact that people were coming and going allowed more people to come in and experience what we have to offer,” he said.
Both Pigeon Hill and Unruly took Monday to regroup and recover. Brower and Jacobson said they have yet to have wrap-up meetings with their respective staffs, but plan to in the near future.
After that, it’s back to business as usual — until planning begins for next year that is.