Social Media Brews Up Excitement for Chelsea Alehouse

By Noelle Sciarini on February 3rd, 2013 / Comments

Hey Michigan, there’s a new microbrewery in town. After a soft opening in December, the Chelsea Alehouse is now officially open for business in downtown Chelsea, just a hop skip and a jump from Ann Arbor. The owner, Chris Martinson, could not be more excited.

“So far we’ve had a really great response and gotten a lot of buzz,” Martinson said. “And we haven’t run out of beer yet, so that’s a good thing too.”

The menu features tasty pub-style food made with local ingredients and an unique sampling of ales on tap that range from the Broad Reach IPA to the Winter Wind Oatmeal Stout, and all of them are brewed on-site.

The decision to open his own microbrewery came at a time when the beer industry is enjoying some popularity in the Mitten state. According to the January-February edition of the Michigan Beer Guide, there are currently 128 licensed breweries operating in Michigan, including such heavy-hitters as Founders, Bell’s, and Short’s.

The Alehouse in particular is the culmination of years of planning (and brewing) by Martinson and his family, going all the way back to Martinson’s undergraduate years at Albion College where he got into the craft and microbrew world through homebrewing.

“I started homebrewing beer about 10 years ago,” Martinson said. “It’s a really great hobby to because most of the equipment is pretty inexpensive and you can take your production and brewing capabilities as far as you want.” In Martinson’s case, it took him to Chelsea.

After relocating a few years after graduation, he got a chance to get involved with the local community through his wife’s connections with the Chelsea Center for the Arts. Starting with word of mouth through community members and fellow homebrewers, it became clear that there was interest in opening a brewery in the downtown area.

“For a lot of places, having a brewery is almost like a status symbol,” Martinson said. “ It’s a different kind of vibe than just your regular old bar…it’s more homey and there’s more of a communal feel to it.”

Eventually Martinson built up enough buzz about opening a microbrewery right there in town into a social media campaign complete with a website and a “Mug Club” mailing list of about 800 members. From there it was just a matter of finding funding for the project via loans and silent partners, creating a business strategy and then eventually signing a lease for their current location on Main Street. And of course, brewing beer.

“Social media was key to getting this thing built,” Martinson said. “It took a lot of time to get all of these different parts of the project ready to go, and to brew enough beer for an opening and so on. Doing things like sending out email updates and posting photos on Facebook and Twitter were a great way to keep our members up-to-date on what we were doing.”

Now that the Alehouse is officially in business, Martinson’s goals include closely monitoring beer production so that they can eventually expand their hours (they’re currently open Thursday-Sunday), continuing to revamp their space with such amenities as a stage for live music, and eventually working their way into beer distribution throughout Michigan.

“We’re hoping to make this place into something the whole community can enjoy. I think Michigan is excited about craft beer and in a few years we could have the same kind of followings that bigger names out on the West Coast have.”

For more information on Chelsea Alehouse, please visit their website (http://www.chelseaalehouse.com/) or find them on Facebook and Twitter (@ChelseaAlehouse), or just stop in for a pint.

About the Author

Noelle Sciarini

Noelle Sciarini is a recent graduate from Michigan State University. Now an Ann Arbor resident, she fills her spare time with reading, writing, and the occasional road race. Find her on Twitter: @NoelleSci.