The story of Harbor Light Brewing is one that began by accident. In fact, it was a mistake that led us here, but life has a funny way of turning mistakes into learning experiences and learning experiences into successes. A few years back, Bill and I were brought together for a somber occasion, a mutual friend’s visitation. We were set to go together with our wives, but somehow I got my days jumbled up and we missed it. Bill so graciously called me a “dumbass” and invited my wife and I back to his home for a few beers.
When we got to Bill’s place he offered both my wife and I a beer as promised. This was quite the risk for Sigrid who tries to stick to light, tangy, citrus beers. Sure enough, the first thing Bill brought out was a dark coffee stout. My wife look terrified. There was no way that she would like it, but she was polite and accepted it anyway.
The four of us get to shooting the bull for awhile until Bill offers up another round. To my surprise, my wife’s glass is empty and she’s actually willing to try another mystery drink. This time, Bill brings out a maple syrup brew. Another dark beer, another look of terror from my wife, but ultimately another empty glass.
This same pattern continued on as we tried two more beers, a blue spruce and a lemongrass ale. By the end of the night, I knew these brews were meant to be shared. Not long after, Bill and I decided to go into business together opening a brewery in South Haven, MI and the rest is history. And by history I mean eight years of permits, structural problems, and business meetings that eventually led us here… but hey, the beer is good.
The Story of How I Learned to Love Craft Beer (With Notes1)
I guess it all started back in 1986. I was in my last year of service in the Air Force and decided to visit an old rugby friend of mine2 in Seattle, Washington. Bob and I spent one afternoon and evening visiting a few local wineries and breweries. I was not very excited about wineries but the local craft beer was amazing. After many beers I said Bob, “West Michigan would be a perfect place to start a brewery.” When I returned to Michigan, I inquired about what it would take to start a brewery. Well, being a 24-year-old man with no experience in brewing or running a business3 my thoughts of brewing quickly died. Years past and every time I heard of a new brewery opening I thought to myself, “That was my idea all those years ago.”
I never forgot the great beer I had experienced in Seattle so right after I was married in 19894. I picked up a homebrew kit and started homebrewing. With no experience or help5 I fumbled through my first years brewing mail order beer kits. Although simple to brew6 the beer was better than any big brewery beer7.
Once it was possible to buy ingredients, and get help through online resources and homebrew clubs, my beer started to become better. Although sometimes it got worse8. Fast forward 29 years and I’ve gone through many techniques, brewing systems and recipes. All leading to great beer and finally a fulfillment of my dreams of opening my own brewery to share what I have learned and what I brew with a community that we can call our own.
 The notes are a nod to my good friend Andy Bach, whom I owe a beer. I think. Or does he owe me one?
 Bob Adams, if you are reading this, I apologize for losing touch and the first round is on me.
 And no money, business plan, equipment, location, etc.
 Big thanks to my wife, Jean, who has supported me (most of the time) through the years of brewing.
 Before the internet access, homebrew clubs or friends to get help.
 The first instructions were supplied on a 3×5 card.
 Budweiser, Miller, Strohs, Blatz, Red White and Blue, etc.
 Oh, I’ve brewed some crap beer but it has all led to the learning process that has allowed me perfect my craft.