Like many businesses, Handmap Brewing had to slam on the brakes during the pandemic, but now it's full speed ahead!

Chris McCleary and Jen Brown, both Harper Creek High School grads, moved back to the area in 2019 to start a brewery and were set for their grand opening on March 17th, 2020.  McCleary, a former brewer at Chicago’s renowned Goose Island Brewery, recalled “I ended my job in Chicago on about the second week in March of 2020.  I was thinking it was perfect timing to open on Saint Patrick's Day.”  That didn’t happen.

Handmap Brewing has been open on a sporadic basis, as state regulations allowed, on the first floor of the historic Record Box Building in downtown Battle Creek.   That grand opening is finally happening on, Friday, July 9th, and Saturday, July 10th.

The festivities coincide with a big announcement.  Handmap Brewing and Atlas Sales Inc., both located in Battle Creek, have formed a partnership that will expand the brewery’s reach to bars and restaurants throughout Calhoun County. Handmap Brewing’s Rye of Sunshine, a rye IPA, and Spreadsheet Blood Orange, a wheat beer brewed with blood oranges, will be available at select locations beginning this week.

Handmap Brewing logo-BCU
Handmap Brewing logo-BCU

“We’re thrilled to introduce our beers, made right here in Battle Creek, to craft beer lovers’ throughout Calhoun County and we couldn’t think of a better distributor to partner with than Atlas Sales,” said Chris McCleary, co-owner of Handmap Brewing. “These first two beers distributed to bars and restaurants are a great first encounter to our style and pair perfectly with Michigan summers.”

“Chris McCleary and Jennifer Brown are producing high-quality beer at Handmap Brewing and we are excited to partner with them and help tell their story beyond the walls of their brewery,” said Bud Dunn, vice president of Atlas Sales Inc. “We’re proud to help promote growth, choices, and competition by working hand-in-glove with breweries like Handmap Brewing to help them succeed today and into the future.”

Joe Sobieralski, Jennifer Brown, Chris McCreary-Handmap Brewing-TSM Photo
Joe Sobieralski, Jennifer Brown, Chris McCreary-Handmap Brewing-TSM Photo

Handmap used the downtime during the pandemic to install a beer canning operation, which allowed them to take advantage of take-out business.   “Well, we bought a small canning line just move product,” said McCleary.  “ We were ready to open. We had lots of beer ready to go.  Just getting cans at that time was going to be difficult, and it's still kind of difficult in certain package sizes.   But we bought that little canning line and we started canning beer.”  McCleary says they had lots of help too. “You know, a lot of people were not working at the time, and our friends helped a lot.” Right now, they have about 14 different beers to offer.

So how did the brewery get its name?   Brown said, “Chris had a brewery in his basement called ‘Holidays Brewing’ and that's what this was going to be.  But we didn't get the trademark and were nameless for about four months.  Every name we tried was already taken.  We were at Goose Island one night after work and a friend of our dad was there and he asked where we were from in Michigan.  And of course, I pulled out my hand and pointed to Battle Creek, and we laughed about everybody from Michigan using the hand map. Chris and I looked at each other and said, that's it. That's the name.”

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McCleary and Brown say they plan to have some type of live entertainment every weekend and have a comedy group from Chicago coming as well, on August 6th.

The Battle Creek Chamber of Commerce will kick off the grand opening on Friday with a ribbon-cutting at 2:30 pm.  They’ll open at 2 pm so that everybody can have a beer in hand during the ribbon cutting.  Carlyle Street will be blocked off for two days, and bands will play outside during the day and inside in the evening.  Because of Battle Creek’s new social district, you’ll be able to drink a beer and walk all around the downtown area.   There will be food trucks down there too.

  • Who: Handmap Brewing
  • What: Grand Opening
  • When:  Friday July 9th  2:30pm-10pm;  Saturday July 10th 3pm-9:30pm
  • Where: The Record Box/Handmap Brewing, 15 Carlyle Street, Battle Creek Michigan
  • Why: To drink beer, listen to music, and have fun!
Record Box Rear 2020-TSM
Record Box Rear 2020-TSM

 McCleary said they have 14 beers right now.  So where do those ideas come from?

“Sometimes it's things that I've been working on for a long time.  Sometimes it's following what's what's going on in the market and trying to be innovative at the same time.  We're constantly touching on a lot of traditional recipes, but yet maybe giving them our own flair and then looking for new ways. Sometimes the ideas happen in the middle of the night. Sometimes it happens on a bike ride, sometimes it happens while I'm sitting at the brewery having a conversation.  Inspiration comes from a lot of different directions.”

So if Chris had to pick one beer out of Handmap’s whole lineup that people should try, what would it be?

“Probably the Otis. It's a Belgian Saison DuPont strain barrel-aged beer that's in red wine casks, and there's a lot going on with that beer. The beer is nice and delicate and kind of wine-like in some ways and it has a lot of different banana notes and clove and some wild yeast. It's a very good beer.”

The Bands

  • Friday 3 pm-6 pm Ray of Light, a duo. “They'll be playing outside so feel free to bring lawn chairs.   It's all the social district now, so you can sit outside and we'll be selling beer outside and inside”.
  • Friday 7 pm-10 pm Pice Project, from Grand Rapids, inside Handmap Brewery.
  • Saturday 3pm-6pm  Rusty & the Nails.
  • Saturday 7:30 pm-9:30 pm Sam Luna Band inside Handmap Brewery.
Handmap Grand Opening
Handmap Grand Opening

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