The Blue Cow is opening a new brewery on North Michigan Avenue called Raven Brewing, which will be located next to the Blue Cow in the old Pepper’s building. It is currently being renovated and is expected to open in the fall, featuring the Blue Cow’s signature beers and a unique menu of barbecued food.
Originally called Big Rapids Brewing Company, the Blue Cow started brewing their own beer back in 2010 by Blue Cow chefs and owners Chuck and Connie Freiberg.
“We always asked ourselves in the kitchen, ‘Why are we buying beer? Why don’t we just make our own?’” said Connie Freiberg “So we started making really good beer and people started coming in to buy our beer.”
Ferris student Caleb Campbell, a sophomore in business administration, has become one of the main brewers. Campbell started as a dishwasher at 16 and now, at age 19, he’s the brain behind many of the Blue Cow’s signature brews.
Freiberg said the idea behind opening a brewery was to satisfy her more casual customers.
“People would come in dressed casually and would take one look around at the décor and say, ‘this isn’t a brew pub,’” said Freiberg. “They were intimidated by the space and so I thought it would be really nice if one day, we could give the beer its own space.”
When Pepper’s went out of business in November of 2014, the Freibergs saw the opportunity to expand their brewing operation. The Blue Cow bought the building and immediately began renovating the space. The biggest renovation cost so far has been the beer system, which includes 18 taps. Freiberg estimates that the Blue Cow will spend $200,000 in renovations.
Altogether, the Raven will have 91 seats and booths for people to dine in, 22 seats at the bar and two TVs. In addition to the 18 taps and BBQ menu, the Raven new pub will feature classic billiard tables, board games and live music on Fridays and Saturdays. According to Freiberg, the BBQ food and beer will be around the $10 range to assure affordability for Ferris students.
The name “Raven Brewing” jumped out at Freiberg while looking through historical photographs of the building. Constructed in 1884, it used to be called the Raven Building.
“I’m going for a vibe that’s more hip, more fun,” said Freiberg. “My son teases me and tells me it’s going to be a hipster hangout and I said, ‘good, I’m totally down with that,’ because we don’t really have a good hipster hangout in town. It’s a place for people who really care about beer and the quality of it.”
The Brewery will be the only bar in Big Rapids that uses nitrogen driven taps. According to Freiberg, the tap hoses will run down to the basement coolers, which will make beer served at the perfect temperature.
“We’re not going to be like Shooters,” said Freiberg. “We’re going to have a classic brew pub atmosphere. We’re adding Steampunk elements and colors, kind of an industrial modern atmosphere. This is a totally different experience.”