51 North was born in the year 1932. It was opened as a gas station. It has a
domed roof, which gives it character like few buildings have. If you look at the picture of
the gas station, you can see the sign out front that says "7 gallons of gas - $1.00". It was
highly touted at the time. The gas station was turned into a car dealership in the 50s, and
remained one for a number of years.
In 1995, it was subdivided into multiple suites, and has housed amongst other businesses a cleaning company, tee shirt businesses, and a Royal Radio store. At one point, a business apparently just occupied a suite and started selling tee shirts.
In 2005, it was purchased by the Village of Lake Orion, and has housed the Downtown Development Authority and other township related offices since.
In February of 2011, Don Gindhart, who had been looking a various places in SE Michigan, came to look in Lake Orion per the advice of a fellow brewer who had looked at Lake Orion for a potential site the previous year. He contacted the DDA head, Suzanne Perreault, and asked for suggestions. Suzanne gave him several, including the building she was in.
It was love at first site. The charm, character, and historical nature of the building were all compelling. At 4700 square feet, it is the perfect start for the small town brewery that 51 North will become.
Don Gindhart's first seminal moments in this adventure came in 1982. Two things
happened which forever changed the course of his life:
1. At a bar called Charlies in New Jersey, Don tried his first Samuel Adams lager. It was at that very moment when Don realized that Michelob was NOT the ultimate beer made in the world! Since his father always had Michelob on tap at the home when Don was in college, the importance of it was not forgotten, but it became apparent to Don that a whole world of great beer was out there to be explored.
2. Don teamed up with a group of college buddies, led by a gentleman named Jim Pericles, and brewed a batch of gnarly brown ale. At a subsequent Halloween party, a bunch of unknowing college students drank the beer like it was Old Milwaukee, and soon found out that this was another beer entirely. It was hazy, dark, had way more flavor than anyone had experienced before, and it was STRONG! Jim Pericles went on to become the brewer at the Sam Adams Pub in Philadelphia, and eventually was employed as a Brew Master at the Boston Beer company from the late 1990s to early 2000s.
Don dabbled in home brewing for years, making mostly bad beers. Beer in a bag kit anybody? In 1997, The Detroit Brew Factory (DBF), a brew on premise (BOP) operation, opened up in East Detroit. Don was a part of a group of friends who were early customers, and eventually became very regular customers. He brewed with Pat Scanlon in his early days at DBF. Pat went on to brew at Rochester Mills, The Royal Oak Brewing Company, and Detroit Brewing Company. At one point, there was discussion of going into business with the owners of DBF, but after some review, it was declined.
In 2000, the Khunhenns Brewery in Warren Mi started up. Don and a group of friends started utilizing their brew on premise equipment, and made manybeers with Eric and Brett Khunhenn in the early days. That relationship has since blossomed considerably, with the brothers Khunhenn and their father, affectionately known as "senior" being very supportive of Dons efforts. They employed Don at the Brewing World home brew shop for about a year, consulted on all phases of the brewing process, and the business of brewing, and have allowed Don to shadow them in every aspect of the brewing process. Eric and Brett are not only incredible brewers, but great men as well. 51 North humbly thanks these fine gentlemen! Without their help, support, and inspiration, 51North would not be opening.
In 2003, Don led a group of potential partners in starting up a brew on premise operation in Ferndale. The potential business fell apart when the partners all had significant life changes which caused them to leave the group, so it was shelved. Don teamed up with Paul Makowski, Kelly Tyrrell, and Matt Charbonneau three years ago, and have been home brewing mad men since, brewing and making wines and meads on a regular basis. It was during one of these brewings that the 51 north concept was again revisited, and it was decided to move forward with the business. Many of the recipes being executed at the brewery were born during the past three years.
Don is also an accomplished musician, playing guitar, bass, and singing in the bands Velvet Krush and Dm3. Don will head up he live entertainment at 51 North. In fact, there will always be a band set up at the brewery, allowing for impromptu jams when the situation arises.
Mary Gindhart has been cooking since an early age, when she cooked with here family for
large weekly dinners, She cooked with her grandmothers, aunts, and her mom, all who reveled in cooking.
Mary has taken that comfort food background and added new techniques and ideas which take then to a whole
new level. Mary is also very good at restricted diet foods, having been a personal chef for a families
with restricted diets for 7 years. Have you ever had a gluten free soft tortilla? Mary makes awesome
Mary prepares unpretentious, healthy food using fresh ingredients. You may notice that there are no deep fried foods on the menu. It's all about the feel good healthy comfort food experience at a much higher level. Mary takes the food you are very familiar with and adds her own unique twists that are interesting and delicious. The 51 North menu will have chicken, pork, and beef sandwiches. Nothing new there, but Mary takes these sandwiches and makes them her own by employing distinctive spreads and sauces. For classics such as chicken Soup, which begins with a whole chicken in the pot, Mary lets the fresh ingredients and preparation with love do the talking.
Mary has been mentoring at Willsons Pub & Grill in Commerce township under chef Rick Ormsby of "Lark" fame. Rick is not only one of Michigans' premier chefs, but he has enthusiastically taken Mary under his wing. The kindness and expertise that has been provided will not be soon forgotten. Also not forgotten are the direction and advice given by Dean Bach, owner of Dino's Bar & Grill in Ferndale, and Executive chef Dan Giroux of the Detroit Golf Club. Both have given very valuable consultation to 51 North.
Mary has also gotten very adept in introducing beer into the menu. From her fall sugar cookies made with our pumpkin ale, the best cookies in the world made with our stout, or pesto made with our IPA, if beer can be effectively added to food, it is!
Mary will also host "Mary's Choice" nights, where she will cook one of her fantastic offerings not on the menu, and offer it until it has been sold out. This will quickly become a fan favorite at 51 North!
Adam Beratta, has been an avid home brewer for over 10 years, and has taken his game to
the professional level for the past 4. His journey began in 2008 with a job at Redwood lodge brewing
company in Flint, MI. doing all of the hard labor – the cold room work, endless cleaning, dealing with
kegs, and repairs. His apprenticeship was under the direction of Bill Wamby and Konrad Conner, both
multiple Award winning brewers.
Adam has moved on since then, taking the brewing duties at the Great Baraboo brewing company in Clinton Township, MI. He had an immediate impact, shoring up a brewing operation, and the system itself. The quality the core line up got noticeably better after Adam arrived on the scene. Taking bronze and the peoples' choice award at his first major competition (the World Expo of Beer) in 2011 provided a glimpse of the excellence Adam brings to this craft. A silver medal in 2012 confirms the rise to greatness continues.
With the opening of 51 north, Adam quickly make a name for himself with is first shot at running the beer brewing operation.
Adam is well known in the Michigan brewing community, and folks who know him have applauded our landing of him as the brewer at 51 North. We look forward to unleashing his brewing talents with the opening line up of Lake Orion Light (American Light Ale) (Paint Creek Wheat (American Wheat Beer), Wind walker Brown (Northern English Brown Ale), Spencer Island Rye Pale Ale (Rye Ale), Dogway IPA (For the hop heads out there), and Velvet Moose (Chocolate oatmeal Stout)..
We went out to Ventura, California and purchased a used JVNW system. We took a long
look at the various Chinese offerings, but after close inspection, we felt gong with the American
made system was a clear choice. Instead of buying the new Geely, we went with the used Cadillac!
Click here for a youtube video of beer being brewed on the system we have purchased.