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Posted on Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Entrepreneur to launch new brewery in downtown Chelsea

By Lizzy Alfs


Chris Martinson, who plans to open the Chelsea Alehouse Brewery by summer 2012 in downtown Chelsea, at a homebrewing demonstration at the Chelsea District Library in 2010.

Photo from Sara Wedell

A local homebrewer has decided to pursue his passion for craft beer and plans to open Chelsea’s only downtown brewery by summer 2012.

Chris Martinson, an associate scientist at Cayman Chemical, said that after gauging public interest and getting investors during the past two years, he’s finally close to signing a lease for a space to launch his first business, the Chelsea Alehouse Brewery.

Martinson is still concluding negotiations for a space and he will not disclose the exact location, but he said he wants the alehouse to be on Main Street.

“My goal is by the end of the month to have a lease signed,” he said.

Although the brewery will be the only one in downtown Chelsea, it won’t be the first that has opened in the city, Martinson said.

In 1982, the Chelsea Real Ale Company became the first microbrewery in the state of Michigan, but that business only lasted in Chelsea for a year. Then, a few years ago, a start-up microbrewer targeted Chelsea to open a business but those plans fell through.

“Chelsea actually has a sort of renaissance microbrewery history to it, which is interesting,” Martinson said. “But there isn’t one now and there really is a need and a demand.”

Martinson, who lives in Grass Lake and works in Pittsfield Township, said he zeroed in on Chelsea for a brewery location because it’s a “vibrant community” that could use a good downtown alehouse.

It helped that his wife used to work in the city as the executive director for the Chelsea Center for the Arts and had plenty of local ties, he said.

“We are really immersed in the Chelsea community even though we don’t live here,” he said. “Chelsea is a great community and there is room for more growth. A brewery fits really well with what’s happening in the city.”

Aside from being a community-based business, Martinson’s vision for the Chelsea Alehouse is to have a large variety of ales that will include seasonal selections, a small, deli-style kitchen menu and live music.

He suspects local residents are his target demographic and he wants them to feel like the alehouse has “always been around.”

“I expect a lot of locals,” he said. “There are a lot of families in Chelsea and also a lot of empty-nesters. My goal for the brand and the space is to have an old, downtown feel.”

In terms of price-point, Martinson said the Chelsea Alehouse will be similar to local pubs around Ann Arbor and Chelsea, and he’ll also offer townie memberships.

Martinson has launched a website and a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter to get the word out about his brewery, and so far, he said the community response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Craig Common, owner of The Common Grill in Chelsea, said he “absolutely” welcomes the Chelsea Alehouse to downtown and fully supports Martinson’s business plan.

“I welcome everybody,” Common said. “I think it’s good to have different things that appeal to a bunch of people. It brings more foot traffic downtown. The brewery would bring in some new people downtown.”

Although Martinson is focused on opening his brewery first, he said down the road he plans to expand the Chelsea Alehouse brand by bottling his products.

“The long-term plan is to build a really strong downtown pub and build a brand, and then expand in several years to an outside production facility,” he said.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at


Lets Get Real

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 12:23 p.m.

Good Luck to the new venture. Look into those confusing Michigan liquor laws and ownership restrictions before you start thinking larget scale production for distribution. And, oh yes, crawl, then walk before you run with those BIG ideas. There are reasons why two other brew pubs have failed in the past. Learn from their mistakes so you don't have to make them too. Running a small business sounds like fun - and it is for most people, like Chris, a driving passion. But the devil is in the details: plan, implement, and execute. Best of luck.

Patti Smith

Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 10:15 p.m.

Before Prohibition, most towns had their own breweries and it was fine. It can and will be that way again. Rock on, Chris!!!!

Bob Martel

Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 4:49 p.m.

Good luck and welcome to Chelsea!

Beth Kirton

Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 3:54 p.m.

Go Aubrey and Chris! Can't wait to experience the beer and the hang in Chelsea!

Dr. Webster

Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 12:57 p.m.

There is no such thing as too many brewries. One of the things I so loved about the small German villages was the local brews, the people that frequented them and the food that went with it. Build it and they will come.

sun runner

Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 12:20 p.m.

I won't care how much a pint costs; if it's on Main St in Chelsea, I will be able to walk there from my house, and I will quickly become a regular. Best of luck to Chris!


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 12:18 p.m.

That photo: serious men at work! Beer is serious business, ain't it


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 10:39 a.m.

hey chris, just recently went to the wolverine brewery, loved the beer but couldn't afford but one beer, 5.50-7.00 ++per beer, if you can price point your beer competitively( under four dollars) they will come in droves. .

Chelsea Alehouse

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 10:35 a.m.

Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions. We will definitely have our own version of a mug club.


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

If you want 3.50 miller lite to have several, don't go to a craft brewery. Or, enjoy your one beer if that's all you want, it is more than twice a good. And often twice the ABV. Quality craft beer is expensive to brew. High quality ingredients and lots of them. Smaller batches. Can't just dump in an extra 100 gallons of water and get more beer. The Michigan craft beer industry is very vibrant (aka crowded) and Chris M here will have to turn out a high quality product to get noticed and have any chance of statewide distribution.


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 12:28 p.m.

Wolverine - like most brewery/pubs frequently has specials: MONDAY: $2 BOTTLES OF PREMIUM LAGER ALL DAY TUESDAY: $1 OFF TALLS (22 OZ) 4-7 PM WEDNEDSAY: $1 OFF PITCHERS 4-7 PM THURSDAY: Slugger's Prerogative MUG CLUB SPECIAL 4-7 PM FRIDAY: $3.50 PREMIUM AND DARK TALLS (22 OZ) 4-7 PM And for the ridiculously priced $65 lifetime mug club membership - you get 16 oz mugs or the price o a small! - among other things The wise BeerDrinker..


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 11:17 a.m.

If the beer is similar price as Wolverine you can expect me to visit once a month, maybe.