Stylish New Brewpub Could Be in Dexter’s Future

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Developers of Mill Creek Brewery hope to accentuate Dexter’s feel for the outdoors. Image: Nate Pound.

By Doug Marrin, STN Reporter

Note: Nov. 29, 3:30 pm: This article has been amended to reflect a rescheduling of the public hearing date from Dec. 6 to Jan. 4.

Plans have begun in earnest to bring a fashionable new nanobrewery to the banks of Dexter’s scenic Mill Creek.

Mill Creek Brewery is the name developers Nate Pound and Justin Dalenberg have given their plans for the empty parcel on Mill Creek across from the fire station and Mill Creek Park North. The concept is for a 9,500 sq. ft. single-story restaurant and nanobrewery with outdoor patio seating, accessory retail, a bike shop offering rental and repair, and hiking/biking snacks.

A bridge from the park to the brewery/bike shop would prevent families from having to use the raised sidewalk on the busy Main Street bridge. Image: Nate Pound.

“We plan to have a brewery and also a bicycle shop and other amenities,” says Nate. “With the Border-to-Border Trail (B2B) that is expanding in and around Dexter, people are looking for ways to expand their outdoor experience. More practically, there is also a need for a shop in Dexter that rents and repairs bikes.”

Nate lives in Dexter but has a dental practice in Jackson. Many area residents may already know one of Nate’s business ventures—Skip’s Canoe Livery, which he bought in 2018. Nate plans on using his enthusiasm for outdoor recreation with his proposed brewery.

While Mill Creek Brewery would not provide river access, across the creek in the park is a public launch for canoes and kayaks, about 700 yards up Mill Creek from the Huron River. The B2B trailhead in Mill Creek Park North has proven itself a destination for out-of-towners to stretch their legs and wheels. With the water trails and paved trails drawing people in from all over, Mill Creek Brewery hopes to provide another option to the question asked at the end of most outdoor outings—“Well, what do you want to do now?”

Nate Pound (L) and Justin Dalenburg in front of Justin’s butcher shop in the Manchester Market. Photo: Doug Marrin.

Justin brings a lot of food service experience to the partnership. He was Executive Chef at Zingerman’s Roadhouse, helped open Cornman Farms, consulted the opening of two microbreweries—Salt Springs in Saline and Grand River Brewing in Jackson. Before moving to Ann Arbor, Justin was Executive Chef at the Amway Hotel in Grand Rapids and The Little Nell Hotel in Aspen, CO. Justin owns the butcher and bakery operations in the new Manchester Market. He has opened two locations of his new burger concept—Doll n’ Burgers. This guy knows how to make food that people like to eat and has a lot of fine culinary DNA he hopes to bring into Dexter.

If the City approves plans, Justin intends to venture into a new style of brewing for him. “It’s a Saison system,” says Justin. “It uses open-barrel fermenters. We’re going to brew beer in a kettle and then put it into a big open-top barrel where it will naturally ferment.”

They have chosen the style of brewing intentionally. “This will be a farmhouse-style beer,” adds Justin. “Dexter’s roots are as a farming community. That’s why we chose to brew this beer here.”

The parcel was the site of Mill Creek Sporting goods. Upon purchase of the land and demolition of the structures, Nate has spent time and money restoring it to be environmentally friendly. Photo: Nate Pound.

In line with the same farm-to-table business model Justin uses in his other ventures, he says, “We’ll brew with 100% Michigan barley and 100% Michigan hops.”

The duo would like to build a bridge from the park to their location so that trail users and their families can avoid using Main Street’s bridge to stop over for a break or get a flat fixed.

And so, the journey of navigating the City’s zoning ordinances for approval has begun. On January 4, the Planning Commission is scheduled to conduct a public hearing to consider a conditional rezoning application submitted by Mill Creek Brewery to approve a conditional rezoning from Village Commercial to Central Business District.

The now empty lot at 8180 Main St. waiting for its next life. Photo: Doug Marrin.

Challenges they are facing include tapping into the City’s water system, which the City estimates to be around $250,000 by the time the water line is extended across Mill Creek. Dexter’s DPW has expressed concern over the increased demand a brewery, even a nano one, would put on the City’s water system. Justin and Nate would rather spend that money on the pedestrian bridge, something the City Council has shown initial hesitancy with at a November 22 discussion. And, of course, there is funding for the entire project. Nate and Justin are exploring MEDC grant possibilities to help with that.

Nate and Justin understand the sometimes lengthy process of getting plans in compliance with codes and ordinances, but the two hope the City sees the value Mill Creek Brewery can add to Dexter.

“Dexter is already a destination for many reasons,” says Nate. “We hope to add to that by promoting the walkability of downtown. Mill Creek Brewery extends the downtown, which is an objective of the City’s Master Plan.”

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