Electric Brewing in Chassell offers classes, equipment, ingredients for DIY brewing

CHASSELL – From home brewing kits and supplies for small-batch home brewers to custom-built electric control panels, Electric Brewing Supply in Chassell meets a range of brewing needs.

Owner and Keweenaw native Ryan Gray started the company in 2012 in Houston. After a downturn in the oil industry and a round of cuts at his wife’s company, they began looking at other options.

“At that point, we started thinking, ‘Why are we in Houston? We don’t want to be in Houston,'” he said.

The Grays moved back to Chassell, opening Electric Brewing. The shop is located in the former building of The Einerlei.

What started with components such as LED lights and switches quickly progressed to designing and building systems for automated brewing. The control panels vary in price with their complexity – prices on its website range from $550 to $2,400. Smaller panels take about eight hours to assemble, Gray said.

The company is transitioning to vertical integration, where they bring in raw materials and do in-house wiring and designs.

“It’s to the point where once the product sits here, we’re the only ones touching it, and it’s going out the door once we’re done with it,” Gray said. “We don’t outsource anymore.”

Many of the customers like the hands-on experience of assembling their kits themselves, said Carl Carter, who came on as an employee last year. They ship with a 200-page guidebook, including illustrations and diagrams. He pointed out a room carrying spools of many colors of wire.

“When you give us a call, we can say, ‘OK, let’s follow this wire from the source to where it goes, and make sure there’s not a missed connection,'” he said. “Because a lot of times people do build these kits themselves, we’ll say, ‘Shoot us a picture, and we can figure out what’s going on.'”

The panels and components account for most of the business, done mostly over the web.

For home brewers in the area, the Chassell location also has a home-brew shop. It will carry about 30 grain varieties and 20 hops. Gray said they’re also working to bring in more local- and Michigan-grown products, including fresh liquid yeast from Craft Cultures in Hancock.

“Most home brewers aren’t going to have two grand or three grand for a system,” he said. “If we can get them grain at half of what they’re going to pay online for it, or if we can have fresh hops and fresh yeast, sitting on the shelf here, they can go, ‘Oh, I forgot this for my recipe. I need to go grab it.’

“That sure beats, ‘Oh, crap, we’re not brewing today because we forgot our yeast.'”

The business is also moving towards full package deals or original equipment manufacturer agreements with companies that will sell product.

“The goal is they’re going to have stuff on the shelf waiting to go, and we’ll just be making sure that shelf stays stocked,” Gray said. “Whereas ourselves, we’re telling our customers, ‘There’s still lead time. You’re going to have to wait for it.'”

Electric Brewing will also offer weekend classes for everyone from beginners to advanced brewers. They set aside a room to serve as a classroom, demo brewery and featuring an entertainment system and sound system – the “classic man cave,” Gray said.

“It’s kind of something for everyone,” he said. “This space is intended to be a space for ourselves to relax and also have fun.”