August 16, 2022 - 8:28 am
Founders’ Story: Earthen Ales
We recently spoke with Jamie and Andrew Jamie Kidwell-Brix, co-founders of Earthen Ales to learn their journey as founders of this sustainability-focused brewery in Traverse City. Earthen Ales is also a 20Fathoms sponsor, providing beer for our coworking space.
It all started over a growler and a shared love of beer
Jamie and Andrew had been working in the same office together for a while when they met, helping to share the mission of sustainability for the City of Ann Arbor. They became friends and realized one day when Jamie brought Andrew a growler from Shorts, they both really REALLY liked beer. They thought they’d try their hand at creating their own beer, and so they started making it together. Soon the conversation moved from doing this as a hobby, to doing it professionally. Interestingly, another conversation brewed alongside this one as well, and soon they also started dating.
When asked about advice for other entrepreneurs, Jamie shared advice once given to her, “Don’t quit your day job.” Andrew took this advice to heart, and while he said he was eager to leave a life of cubicles, it didn’t happen for him right away. There were many things to figure out, where, when, and how can this be done? What did they want it to look like and how did they want it to go? Any entrepreneur knows that these questions take time, so they made sure they took their time, too. Andrew even farmed in Northport for a couple of seasons, along with a few other gigs, before eventually going fulltime into beer creation.
A sustainable beer business venture
A mission supporting sustainability is very important to Andrew and Jamie, and it shows. They were quick to point out that all beer is from the Earth, as well as all ingredients (hence, Earthen Ales). It doesn’t stop there, however. The two Earth advocates made sure that the entire brewing process encapsulates their mission as well. This means recapturing water to use for cleaning, future brewing, or livestock feeding and also eating meat that has been consciously raised and fed their grain. They also pay attention to the seasons and make beer that takes advantage of warmer temperatures, like Norwegian beer strains. This allows less electric energy for chilling water, for example.
Plus, as Andrew pointed out, brewing a lager in the middle of summer just doesn’t really make sense. The water in the bay is warmer in the summer, so why not use a yeast strain that works with it instead of against it? By working with the environment, seasonal brewing allows for sustainable outcomes throughout the entire cycle. This cycle has led to 300+ different beers in six years. Each year they are dedicated to exploring and finding new ways to continue their mission. Pro tip: Every Sunday they put on a small batch beer that you can try!
Andrew is from Chicago, Jamie is from the south. Both love to travel and use inspiration from home and from places that they have visited. They bring that inspiration to the way that they create their beer and the ingredients. They love to use local ingredients like rye that remind them of walking through a pine forest, and Jamie is excited about a new beer coming soon, a German porter, that will honor her roots by use of a mesquite smoked malt. They love combining the north and south ingredients for a special taste that customers enjoy.
As Jamie points out, beer has a history of being influenced by the place from which it comes. Before her work in sustainability, she had a background in urban planning. She enjoys thinking about a place and what makes it special and memorable. Many styles of beer have evolved out of local water or local ingredient availability. Therefore the beer created at Earthen Ales tells different aspects of places they have lived or worked. They make sure to spend time creating a beer that represents the place it came from by using the ingredients from those places.
Sponsoring the 20Fathoms Beer Supply
Entrepreneurship means a lot to these two owners of Earthen Ales.
When Jamie was in grad school, she spent a lot of time working in breweries and going somewhere with a laptop and getting a soft drink to start and maybe a beer. One of the things they wanted to do when establishing Earthen Ales, was provide space that includes wifi and a taproom where you would be comfortable bringing a laptop and sitting down and working.
Because of that reason, stepping into 20Fathoms feels comfortable and familiar, as it’s a coworking space supporting entrepreneurs and those in the tech industry. When 20Fathoms reached out to them, Andrew felt that yes, this is definitely a group that fits our mission and brand. Both Andrew and Jamie have been to several tech meet-ups, and have a build-guild that meets on location every month. They felt 20Fathoms is a perfect fit for supporting a community that they are adjacent to and in support of.
Visit the 20Fathoms office to check out their tap, available at any time to coworking space members!