GREENVILLE — Castle Brewing Co. has been acquired by a new team hoping to bring brewing experience and possibly a new concept to the Montcalm County brewpub.
Brent Slagell and Jim Zawacki — part of the ownership group of Lowell-based Big Boiler Brewing — last week acquired Castle Brewing in Greenville under the entity Hophog LLC.
Slagell said it’s still early in the process and the new management team may take several months to decide how to take Castle Brewing in a new direction, including rebranding the brewpub and sharing brewing expertise with Big Boiler.
“Overall, we want to elevate the brewing and the dining experience,” Slagell told MiBiz, citing Castle’s “limited success” as it changed concepts and owners in recent years.
Castle Brewing is operating under a conditional license as the Michigan Liquor Control Commission considers the full license transfer. Slagell declined to disclose terms of the deal.
Hophog bought Castle from previous owners Andy Hurst, Jason Maher and Marc Vander Velde, who had acquired the brewpub formerly known as 57 Brew Pub and Bistro in late 2017, as MiBiz previously reported.
Slagell said the latest deal was negotiated in February before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and wreaked havoc on the restaurant industry.
“Also dealing with another brewpub in Lowell really starts to put doubts in your mind about should we be doing this,” Slagell said. “At the end of the day, we made the decision and we don’t think COVID will be here forever. We’re making that investment on the front end for when that day comes.”
However, Slagell said Big Boiler’s sales are “doing fairly well” since restaurants were allowed to reopen for indoor dining at 50-percent capacity. Big Boiler first opened three years ago in a former furniture store in Lowell.
Slagell also hopes to apply the expertise of Big Boiler’s head brewer Matthew Fouts at Castle Brewing, which is a licensed brewpub that can sell beer brewed in-house as well as beer from outside breweries, plus liquor.
Slagell said Big Boiler’s in-house beer sales are almost 400 percent more than Castle’s, even though Castle’s brewing system is twice as big. Under its current license, the two breweries wouldn’t be able to share production capacity and transport product between the two, Slagell said.
“We’re still coming up with a plan,” Slagell said, “but if I can get (Fouts) here brewing some beers, it will help us.”
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