The Rolling Oak Brewing Company opens in Grayling
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
I just kept keeping on doing it and getting more equipment and putting recipes together, and finally I was making really good beer." – Jason Malone, President and Brewmaster of Rolling Oak Brewing Company LLC
The sky is the limit for a Grayling man who turned a beer making hobby into a new business in the community, with plans for expansion.
Jason Malone, the president and brewmaster of Rolling Oak Brewing Company LLC, located at 509 Norway St., opened his doors for business during the Thanksgiving Day weekend.
Malone started experimenting eight years ago when he learned about fermentation and tried to make a batch of wine.
“I just got some grape juice and wine yeast and fermented it and the outcome was terrible,” he said.
He kept dabbling with making wine and then moved on to hard cider, and came up with better results.
Malone then went into making his own beer, and after a year of trial and error, came up with something that had a good taste.
“I just kept keeping on doing it and getting more equipment and putting recipes together, and finally I was making really good beer,” he said.
Malone skipped the home brewing beer kit process and developed his own systems and brewing set ups.
“I learned everything the hard way,” he said.
Malone named his first beer Rolling Oak Ale, inspired by a hops garden he maintains at home, where he also makes his own maple syrup. The name stuck to a basement brewing operation and to the brew pub in Grayling.
“I’ve brewed lots of beer there,” he said. “I had a little brewery going in my basement before I started here.”
Malone provided the beer for the wedding reception when he tied the knot with his wife, Heather, as well as for wedding celebrations for family members and friends.
The Malones looked at several building options and ultimately chose the location at 509 Norway St. in Grayling.
“The location, the history, and the unique layout of the building were all key selling points,” Heather said.
The original building was used to store blocks of ice, which were cut from Lake Margrethe for use by the railroad to keep food shipments cold.
The original wood from the upper level of the icehouse was used for the decor of the brew pub.
“I just took all the boards off and repurposed them down here,” Jason said.
Jason crafted his own bar top and used electric reels for tables in other seating areas. The brew pub is decorated with random pieces of scrap metal that Jason crafted into art, historic photos, and items such as ice tongs, snowshoes, and saws.
“I have been collecting antiques and all this rustic stuff,” Jason said.
Cheryl Lowes makes custom etched glasses for customers at the brew pub.
The Rolling Oak Brewing Company offers a custom made root beer, and has 11 other taps to provide a variety of beers. The beers are named to honor local significant locations in the area such as North Down Brown, after military firing ranges and a local hunting group.
The Malones have no intentions of adding a restaurant to the operation, so customers are encouraged to bring in their own food or they can order from local eateries. Menus are on hand for food deliveries from Tinker’s Junction, and meals can also be ordered from Spike’s Keg O’ Nails.
“If we’re not busy, we go get it, and if they’re not busy, they bring it here,” Jason said about the food from Spike’s Keg O’ Nails.
Customers who may prefer wine over beer can bring in their own bottle of wine to the brew pub for a small uncorking fee.
“I’d rather have both of them come and pay $5 to uncork the wine, and the other one drinks beer,” Heather said. “Cool, we’re all having a good time now.”
Another unique aspect to the Rolling Oak Brewing Company is bingo played on Wednesday nights. Bingo cards are made available for a donation to a local charity, and items from the business such as glassware and T-shirts are given away as prizes.
In December, $108 was raised for the AuSable Valley Animal Shelter, $40 went to the Jason Potter Memorial, and $38 was donated to the Grayling High School’s Class of 2017 Project Graduation.
“The animal shelter gets to move to January and go for round two, and we will pick two new charities,” Heather said.
Jason said he is proud that the brew pub can complement other businesses and help support local charities with bingo.
“Everybody thinks it’s fun for sure,” he said. “It’s just been getting bigger and bigger and we had a packed house in here this week.”
The Malones hope that the addition of the Rolling Oak Brewing Company to the two other breweries already established in Grayling will make the community a destination for beer connoisseurs.
“When people travel to a craft brewery, chances are they will sample every brewery nearby, then stay for dinner, maybe see a movie, rent a hotel room, go out for breakfast and so on,” Heather said. “If only one brewery were available, they may just not make the trip at all.”
The Rolling Oak Brewing Company is open from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. On days the brew pub is not open to customers, Jason is still crafting beer with his three-barrel brew system.
“It’s helping me keep up with the supply of beer,” he said.
The brew pub plans to expand its production to offer kegs of beer that will be on tap at other local establishments. Jason has a license to make wine, and will start that process once he gets the equipment.
The Rolling Oak Brewing Company hopes to grow to point where is can offer a variety of beers through distributors.
“We’re just looking to expand at a nice pace and see how it goes,” Jason said.
The Malones are also planning to open a facility where they can malt their own barley, which is grown on a family farm in Cheboygan County.
“The more self-sufficient we can be, the cooler it will be,” Jason said.