MUSKEGON — Rake Beer Project LLC is moving its brewery and taproom across downtown Muskegon to the former Pigeon Hill Brewing Co. space, where owners also plan to debut a new coffee concept.
The Muskegon brewery known for progressive farmhouse ales, smoothie sours and hazy IPAs will serve its last pint at its current 794 Pine St. location on March 26, with plans to reopen at the Noble Building at 500 W. Western Ave. sometime in June.
Founder Josh Rake told MiBiz that the company realized about two years ago that its current site provided the company “a low ceiling to what we could do in the space.”
“We really love our current location, but it’s in the basement of a larger building and is kind of on the outskirts of downtown Muskegon,” Rake said. “We decided that we needed more foot traffic that we just aren’t getting at the space currently.”
Relocating to the heart of downtown Muskegon will give Rake Beer Project the opportunity to benefit from the traffic and visibility along West Western Avenue. As well, the brewery plans to take advantage of the new location’s proximity to Trinity Health Arena to offer happy hour specials around sporting events and other big events.
“Right now, the thing we’re most excited about is having the opportunity to be centrally located in Muskegon’s downtown area,” Rake said. “The city has done an excellent job in building out that corridor and we never really got to participate in any of the big events because we were just outside of that, so we’re excited to be centrally located.”
Pigeon Hill Brewing operated a brewery and taproom from the Noble Building from 2014 through mid 2021, when it moved its taproom to the larger “Brewers Lounge” at its production facility at 895 4th St. near Muskegon Lake.
To go along with its move to the Noble Building, Rake Beer Project also plans to offer customers more options, including an entirely new focus on coffee. The company will open the new Overgrown Coffee Co. concept starting next month in the new location while it awaits final approvals for its liquor licenses.
Rake plans to source coffee from Caledonia-based High Bank Coffee Roasters, and offer higher end fermented coffee selections along with more approachable espresso blend and drip coffee.
The new location will have typical coffee shop hours and transition into more of a bar/brewery atmosphere later in the afternoon, Rake said.
“We’ve noticed a shift in consumer behavior for breweries and beer, and we’re trying to protect ourselves in what we see coming, which is turning away from beer-only taprooms,” Rake said. “We want to offer a space for everyone.”
Non-alcoholic options have existed for a long time, but a growing number of breweries including Monday, Seedlip, Athletic Brewing and Ritual Zero Proof, are producing high quality, non-alcoholic alternatives, as MiBiz previously reported.
Even so, Rake Beer Project expects to maintain its focus on a rotating list of progressive farmhouse ales, while also adding in more “everyday, easy-drinking beers that can be approached by everybody,” Rake said. The company also is working to secure a small winemakers license to produce wine and cider and expects to add a distilling license by the end of 2023.
The new taproom is about the same size as Rake Beer Project’s current location, but the new production room is smaller, requiring the company to streamline its operations and focus on selling draft beer in the taproom. That will require the brewery to shift away from the packaged beer sales that had helped sustain the business during the pandemic, but fell off in recent months, Rake said.
Similarly to when Pigeon Hill occupied the space, Rake Beer Project plans to partner with Top Shelf Liquor Bar & Pizza, also located in the Noble Building, to allow customers to order pizza and eat it in the taproom.
Rake Beer Project also expects to continue offering a robust live music calendar at the new site.
“We spent almost the last four years being a very niche product in a very niche space,” Rake said. “It was great, it was a good way to start, but we realized if we want to be successful we have to add to what we’re doing.”
Rake Beer Project’s move to the new location comes after previous plans fell through to go in with Rolling Stone Wood Fired Pizza Co. on a space in The Leonard building on the corner of Western Avenue and Second Street. Rolling Stone opened March 3 at 2009 Lakeshore Dr. in Muskegon’s Lakeside neighborhood.