Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Wednesday

April 23, 2014

Glenn Puit: Right Brain owner had a vision

TRAVERSE CITY — Russell Springsteen’s mindset about beer changed during a trip to Germany.

The owner of Traverse City’s Right Brain Brewery was 17 and swilling beer to get drunk at a German bar -- you can apparently do that in Germany at 17 -- when a German approached and asked what the heck he was doing.

“‘Why are you doing that? Why are you trying to get drunk?’” the man asked Springsteen.

The question seemed strange but left a lasting impression: Beer was to be savored and cherished.

“You had to treat it respectfully,” Springsteen said. “Be respectful to the alcohol and the beer.”

Respect for beer served Springsteen well in the last seven years as Right Brain blossomed from a novel place to have a craft brew to today’s business with statewide reach. Right Brain, now headquartered on E. 16th St., employs more than 30 people and is witnessing heavy demand for bottling, canning and distribution as the likes of Meijer’s and Costco come calling.

“We produced a few barrels short of 3,000 last year,” Springsteen said. “This year we expect 5,000 barrels.”

Springsteen heavily invested in production this winter, and bought new tanks and equipment.

“We are building assets,” Springsteen said. “We went from a $250,000 budget to ... probably $3 or $4 million in assets right now.

“We have this demand in the market, so it’s a good time for us,” Springsteen said. “If you don’t meet your demand in the market, you start to lose share and lose what you’ve built up, so right now we are learning how to produce larger batches and be consistent.”

Springsteen’s dream started in Colorado home brewing with family members. He moved to Traverse City so his wife could be closer to her native northern Michigan. He landed his first brewing job at the now defunct Traverse Brewing Co. in Williamsburg, where he watched a fledgling brewery fight for survival in what turned out to be a valuable learning experience. Timing, novelty and ambition came together at the right time for Springsteen when he launched Right Brain in 2007 with his sister and brother-in-law.

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