When you witness the happiness generated seemingly every night at Stevensville’s Watermark Brewing Company, it’s scary to realize that the team that put it all together was precariously close to going out of business before they could even open their doors. Fortunately for craft beer fans in Michigan’s Great Southwest, they not only overcame extreme adversity and righted the ship, they have sailed their way in just two short years into joining the elite ranks of the Moody on the Market Fifteen Under 15.
Actually, their arrival on this coveted list is doubled down by the fact that co-owner and key marketing guru Chris Mason was dubbed a member of the prestigious Moody on the Market 40 Under 40. That was an individual honor, and this award is a collective honor for everyone who has made Watermark the overnight sensation it has become.
It certainly hasn’t always been a high seas adventure. Faced with a variety of challenges prior to opening up shop, the ship nearly sank under the over-budget build-out costs, the behind schedule roll outs, and the impact of defective beer making equipment that pushed them to the brink. The brewmaster was even forced to create an entirely new method of brewing just to generate beer for the opening run.
Watermark Brewing Company was founded in 2016 at 5781 St. Joseph Avenue in downtown Stevensville and the crowds seem to grow exponentially with every passing week. The nominator cites the huge impact that Watermark has had on the entire Village of Stevensville. The impact was almost instantaneous not only for their immediate neighborhood, but for all of Michigan’s Great Southwest.
Team Watermark has opened their doors to virtually every organization in search of fundraising assistance. More importantly to their bottom line, Watermark Brewing Co. has set the standard for good beer, good vibes and the ability to establish itself as a destination in Southwest Michigan. As the nomination form suggests, “The co-owners have created a culture where laughter and great memories thrive in the sleepy village of Stevensville.”
David, Justin and Chris are the founders of Watermark who all met in 2014. The three actually started their brewing journey on a pilot system on a farm. However, they moved quickly to build a business plan and raise capital in order to start their own brewery, and now they sport 15 employees on the job.
Watermark opened for business in July of 2016 after overcoming those critical equipment and build-out challenges, and recently successfully celebrated their second year in business. By now, they have mastered the art of creating a culture best be described as “laid back and approachable.”
Chris Mason, Justin Schaul and David Cockell took center stage in the middle of Craft Beer Month and showcased what their hard work had produced. The trio of buddies all quit their jobs at the end of 2015 to take up the task of crafting the latest stop on the Southwest Michigan Craft Brewing Trail, and they’ve done a remarkable job ever since.
The 5,250-square foot building, housing the brewhouse, taproom, rest rooms and a massive 20-by-17 foot walk-in cooler blend seamlessly into a first-class experience utilizing a slick urban feel utilizing reclaimed barn wood and rusting corrugated aluminum panels that create a great welcoming feel. All of the materials came from the tear down of a couple of old barns provided by friends. The patio beer garden puts another 1900-square feet under roof.
Arriving guests are greeted with a massive Watermark logo on the entry wall which is backed by reclaimed wood from a former chicken coop. Stacked wooden crates accent the corner topped by a brass diver’s bell-helmet opposite the greeter’s stand. From there it’s a wide open space with a massive, rough-hewn, cherry-wood bar top that runs more than 52-feet in two sections. The high-gloss, furniture quality finish on the bar top, made with the help of Lakeshore Stair Company, makes for a very rich feel. The tap wall pulls craft beers directly from the icy cooler. The bar front and garage door bay walls are accented by a hand-crafted mosaic of multi-hued sections of two-by-fours.
Pendant lamps hang from the ceiling and strings of Edison-style filament bulbs run the length and breadth of the taproom as well as under the canopy of the beer garden patio out front which can be accessed from the front walkway, from doors at each end of the taproom, or from virtually anywhere else in the house when the four, floor-to-ceiling garage-bay doors are raised for a full open air feel. All the oak table tops were also created with the help of Lakeshore Stair using a steel wool and vinegar finish
The nomination form identified the core values of Watermark as simply: Good beer, Good vibes and Good people,” and concludes, “You combine those three and you’ve created a culture to make memories!”
The brewery is certainly making its mark, having attained honors as the Cornerstone Chamber Small Business of the Year the local Reader’s Choice as “Best Brewery” for two years running. Additionally, Watermark consistently opens its doors to a wide variety of companies and non-profits in assisting them with their fundraising needs. The event conduct a variety of monthly charitable events.
Two of their events in particular have turned into huge community draws. The “Village Charcuterie Fest,” benefiting the Humane Society and the “Fest in the Southwest,” benefiting the Domestic Abuse Shelter of SW Michigan have been huge hits with the public. Each event has netted upwards of $16,000 benefiting each charity.
As they continue to make their mark in the region, keep tabs with what’s new by following them on Facebook, and by tapping their website at this link any time: http://watermarkbrewing.com