A Labor of Love: Urbanrest Brewing
A few years ago Mary Typinski bought a home brewing kit for her now-husband, Zach. It was a porter kit from the Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. in Warren, and it was the first beer Zach had ever brewed. It was a sign of things to come.
Fast forward to 2017 when they opened their Ferndale brewery Urbanrest Brewing Company along with business partner Scott O’Keefe. A rendition of that porter, the Prince Junior Porter, is on the menu, along with other organic, open fermented farmhousestyle beers such as the Belgian Golden Strong, All Galaxy DIPA and Galaxy Centennial Fog Life. In addition to the beer, the brewery offers kombucha, which Mary brews, featuring Michigan ingredients such as local tea, honey, beets and strawberries.
The brewery started with a 125-barrel-a-year capacity and quickly scaled up to 250 with plans to double capacity again. Urbanrest launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2015 with the goal to raise $25,000. They raised nearly $30,000.
Mary and Zach’s interest in opening a brewery dates back to when they were in college at Western Michigan University. Zach studied business while Mary studied fine arts. It was there they had their first taste of craft beer including two of Bell’s beers: Oberon and Two Hearted. When they got married six years ago at Bowers Harbor Vineyards in Traverse City, they brought their own beer—about five or six batches—and ran out in 3½ hours.
Over the next few years, Zach honed his craft as a home brewer. Eventually he met future business partner Scott O’Keefe on a plane. “He was reading a book about water, and I [said] ‘You’re a home brewer. You have to be a brewer of some sort,’” Zach says. Another serendipitous sign came when they found their new home on Wolcott in Ferndale. “We looked everywhere,” Zach says, “up to Imlay City, down to the river. Other breweries started opening up in buildings we formerly looked at, and so we were on the right track. We just need to find the right establishment.”
Ferndale officials introduced them to the developer of a promising building. At the time, the Typisinkis called their business the Neighborhood Brewing Company, but once they realized that the neighborhood they were considering used to be called Urbanrest in the early 1900s, they knew they had found their home.
In addition to beer, Urbanrest Brewing hosts food trucks and pop-ups featuring local chefs and cooks. The only food they make on premises are charcuterie boards featuring locally sourced products.
Before opening the brewery, the couple ran a small urban farm in Center Line on a friend’s small plot of land. They started with the intention of growing fresh, organic produce as well as different hop varieties for their beer business.
They planned to use some of the produce such as beets to pickle and feature on their charcuterie boards. Sadly, the farm suffered last year when their full attention was on launching the brewery, which officially opened its doors on June 30.
The farm grows only enough hops to brew one batch of beer a year, so the harvest from the farm is used for pilot recipes or wet hop beers.
Even with the changes from their original vision, they have never wavered in their mission. “Our goal is to serve the community, and once we get to that point, we can branch out,” Zach says.
They are waiting to enter into the distribution business, because they want to stay connected to their customers. They’re at the brewery most of the time, tending bar, sweeping floors and getting to know their neighbors.
“I still pinch myself every day with [the brewery] happening,” Zach says. “We just pushed and pushed and had this vision. And to see it come to fruition and look back … that means a lot to us now, to see people enjoying and responding well to the beer and kombucha and who we are as a company. I’m really just flabbergasted; it’s just incredible.”
Find out more at Urbanrest