Q&A with Ellison Brewery's Oscar Pena
Celebrating OktoberForest in Michigan
Local Guys Using Local Products to Make Pure Michigan Beer
Walking into Ellison Brewery + Spirits in East Lansing, Michigan is like stepping back in time. Its location feels like a speakeasy, hidden behind a row of warehouses at the end of a small street between a muffler shop and a forgotten vacant restaurant. But once you find and open the door, your eyes wash over beautiful dark wood from floor to ceiling nestling the bar like an old log cabin before meeting shining new metal vats in back. For Oscar Pena, Ellison’s head cellarman, taking care of the brewery and the guys who built it feels like coming home to help his brew brothers. His consideration for nature and the brewery is the same: “This is your home,” he said. “Why would you track in mud?”
nature.org: What do you think people know about the connection of forests to water to beer?
Oscar: People are looking for more local connections, things made from products grown around here. The owners, Aaron and Eric, are both from mid-Michigan and care a lot about local crops and jobs. We’ve got a food truck out front right now and the guy over there at the bar is here to bring us our coffee beans from a local roaster for our stout beer. The best way for us to be more sustainable is to interact with other local businesses. Caring for our forests and nature here in Michigan and the Great Lakes is just another extension of that.
nature.org: What do you know about your water and how important is it to your beer?
Oscar: Water is the start. I’ve tasted the difference in other breweries, but they’re not the same. I can tell a dramatic difference because of the water, that’s the base. And here in the middle of the Great Lakes, we’re in the middle of the best water in the world.
nature.org: How is this issue personal to you?
Oscar: We’ve been talking a lot and trying to figure out more ways to be sustainable and show how much we care about Michigan. I mean, the Capitol is in our logo, we want to represent our home, we enjoy making our own things. For me, I grew up seeing things go by the wayside -- I want to change that and take care of things. The forests may seem like they’re far away, but they’re right here.