A Small Business is Still Brewing on Fort Street in Lincoln Park

February 26, 2015

By Bre'Anna Tinsley

Photo Credit: Bre'Anna Tinsley

Pete Romain opened the Fort Street Brewery on Valentine’s Day 2005. The timing was perfect for him. The economy seemed stable and the location in Lincoln Park on Fort Street near Southfield Road was right in heart of the Downriver area’s first business district.

“I couldn’t have done this in a whole lot of other places. I certainly couldn’t have done it in Royal Oak,” Romain said.

But it was right after the brewery opened that the economy started to turn. Ten years later Romain says he still doesn’t know what it’s like to run a business in a good economy. He also says Michigan’s new higher minimum wage and sick pay requirements put a strain on finances.

“I think there is an assault on small business right now on the government and the people think we are millionaires,” Romain said.

“I don’t think people understand how small businesses work. They assume we are all millionaires and we don’t have loans to pay back. Or maybe we are independent we don’t have to make a living out of the place. They want guarantees for all your employees but we have no guarantees.”

Romain says the perception that if you own a business you rake in the big bucks couldn’t be further from the truth.

But, this doesn’t keep him away from the business. And Bartender Ashlei Dang says business is good as far as she can tell.

“Well you got the Monday crew that come in have beers and play poker on our play makers and things,” Dang said.

“Or you have the two high tops, there’s Terry he always comes in and waits for two other friends and they all hang out and play on the play maker. I mean…everyone just gets along.”

Romain says there were fewer than 50 breweries in Michigan before he opened Fort Street. Now there are three times as many in the state. And Romain believes craft breweries are the wave of the future. He says many “mainstream” beer drinkers are converting to craft beer and he’s proud of his role in that.

Beer is the heart of the Brewery and Doug Beedy is the Brewmaster. All the beer is brewed on site. It takes 14 hours to brew a batch and 3-4 weeks to ferment until it’s ready to drink. Every Thursday a new beer is released and a guest has the honor to tap the cask.

“We release a new beer every week. It could be one of three ways we release it. It could be a big bath brewed on the big system here. It could be little batch and we have a smaller brewing system,” Beedy said.

“Or it could be these, which are cask condition beers. So the way that you tap it you are actually pounding the tap into. And sometimes that why you get the mess like you see in the pictures.” The pictures he’s referring to are posted in the back of the Brewery on the Wall of Foam, a display of the many customers who have tapped a new cask of beer.

The most popular beer is the Lincoln Lager…a light American lager that’s always in stock. It’s Efrain Lozoya’s favorite beer. But it is not the only thing that brings this Lincoln Park resident back to Fort Street.

“I guess it’s kind of cool…since this our so-called quote ‘downtown’ unquote. But you know I’m saying it’s very nice. You know, I like it. I mean I like different locations and different restaurants and this probably one of my favorites in this city, you know,” Lozoya said.

Owner Pete Romain says Fort Street has had its ups and downs during Lincoln Park’s financial crisis, but his passion for craft beer and his loyal customers are what keep him and the Brewery going.