BUCHANAN — Down on the farm will have a new meaning when River Saint Joe at Flatwater Farms opens this summer.
What Brian Dougherty, co-founder and chief executive officer, describes as “a brewery that serves food” will be on a certified organic farm, with most of the hops, barley and other grains used for making the beer being grown on the farm.
Water for making the beer will come from a well on the farm.
Many of the ingredients for the food – potentially fruit, vegetables and grains for bread – will be grown on the farm.
River Saint Joe will be on a hill on a 180-acre farm at 15475 Walton Road in Buchanan Township, just across the St. Joseph River from the Buchanan city limits, northeast of the city.
Dougherty is a partner in the venture with Frances Tuite, who bought the farm in 2014. There also are other investors. Tuite, who works in business and finance, lives and works in Chicago – as does Dougherty. Both own homes in Buchanan.
Tuite bought what is now named Flatwater Farms, with the intention of converting it to an organic operation, Doughtery said.
Tuite then had the vision for the brewery/restaurant and asked Doughtery to become involved. He said they began discussions with Buchanan Township officials about the concept in 2014.
Dougherty said Matthew Gies, who has experience in organic agriculture, was hired as farm manager and moved there. Gies is also an owner.
Construction of the first River Saint Joe building recently started, according to Dougherty. It will house the beer-making operation, office and seating for 50.
Coming in 2020 will be a second building housing food service, more seating and space for events, such as weddings, corporate retreats and music performances.
Dougherty said a head brewer was recently hired. Still to come are kitchen, serving and events staff. He and Tuite anticipate eventually having 30-40 employees, full- and part-time.
Dougherty said delivery of brewing equipment is expected in May, with brewing to start in June, though beer won’t be sold until River Saint Joe opens. Non-alcoholic beverages are also planned.
River Saint Joe may eventually sell beer to area retail stores and bars, Dougherty said.
What will be licensed as a microbrewery already has required permits from the township and federal government, but is still awaiting licensing from the state, Doughery said.
The restaurant part of the operation still needs approval from the Berrien County Health Department.
Dougherty said River Saint Joe will be open year-round and more than a place to enjoy beer and food. In the summer, there will be opportunities to learn about growing food and making beer. In the winter, Dougherty said cross-country skiing and a skating rink are possibilities.
In addition to the St. Joseph River being nearby, he said part of the inspiration for the name comes from the poem, “The River St. Joe,” by famed St. Joseph poet Ben King.
“It speaks to what we want to accomplish on the farm,” Dougherty said, “where people can enjoy the farm on the weekend and relax.”