Traverse City Beer: Tina Schuett, Rare Bird Brewpub

To celebrate Traverse City Beer Week, MyNorth will be running a daily interview with brewers and pub owners in the Northern Michigan microbrew scene. Today we check in with the only female brewer in Northern Michigan, Tina Schuett, Head Brewer and Co-Owner of Rare Bird Brewpub.


How would you describe Rare bird to somebody who has never been? What was your intended vibe?

It’s a really warm feel, it’s a rustic warehouse. And you might not necessarily think it’s warm considering it is a warehouse but we wanted it to feel warm and welcoming. We used a lot of wood and reclaimed materials for the interior, which adds to the coziness.

Can you talk about the decorations? In particular the bird paintings?

The bird hangings were a gift from Tim Nielsen from Nielsen Design Group [who designed the rare bird logo.] We really like the rare bird and it’s something that Nate and I have in common, rare birds and local beer. I mean meeting a female brewer is sort of a rare bird. And we are letting people know through the name that we are definitely doing something different.

How long have you been brewing?

I started home brewing in college. So I have about 8 or 9 years of home brewing under my belt. I’ve been brewing professionally for 5 years, I started out at a brewery in Wisconsin called Sand Creek Brewery.

So what was it that attracted you to brewing?

Brewing has always been just one of those things I could do on my own. I started my own garden when I was 16 and I remember being really stoked that I could produce something edible. I think it’s really cool when you can create things and I just love beer and the obsession just kind of stuck. I am always searching for perfection and coming up with something new all the time.

Can you talk about your menu? Where did you come up with it? What was the idea behind it?

That came out of the marriage between the chef and then Nate and I wanting what we wanted. Our chef, Brad Phillips came in and we said we have to have certain staples like chicken wings and nachos. But then we told him to take those staples and put a spin on it. He took the menu and he killed it.

You lived in Germany and that’s when you say you discovered your love for beer. Can you compare that brewery scene to the one in the U.S.?

Every little town there has a brewery and that never changed. It’s more of what it would have looked like pre prohibition in the U.S. where every town has a little brewery and Germany never had Prohibition screw them up. Breweries are everywhere and they are just a part of life there. It would be weird to seek out a specific beer. It’s expected that you are going to drink the town’s beer.

I definitely try to take that type of thought process and apply it. I expect really high quality stuff to come out of here. I like to pretend that I distribute to the whole U.S. but you can only get it here.

What does a typical brewing day look like for you?

I start really early, like 6 in the morning. I start with mashing in (adding the crushed grains to hot water.) And then the day is a lot of hurry up and wait and checking on things and a lot of cleaning, I am basically a glorified janitor.

Do you ever get experimental with your beer?

Not really, I am more of a traditional brewer. I keep all of my recipes within BJCP standards. If I am calling it a Pale Ale then it will be in every sense of the word.

Why do you think that brewing is a more male dominated career? Do you think that brewing will start to be more interesting to women now that the brewery world is making a comeback?

You know I don’t really know because back in ancient times it was a woman’s job. I’d say it was in the 1900s that it really changed. If you look back in the 80s there was just a handful of brewers and it was totally male dominated. I mean it’s hard grueling work and sometimes it’s hot, sometimes it’s cold or wet and I have to haul stuff. But I think it’s starting to open up a bit. There’s a group called Fermenta that’s a Michigan woman’s brewing group. That group consists of women from all over Michigan in the brewery industry, they might be in sales, the brewhouse or another department. And there is also another organization called The Pink Boots Society and that’s worldwide. I am a member of both, but I haven’t had much time to attend meetings yet.

How was the IPA Challenge?

We got second best IPA in Traverse City. It’s called Pterodact Ale IPA. It was a collaboration with Brewery Terra Firma (who got first place). We are pretty stoked about that since we are the new kids on the block and we beat out a lot of the big dogs.

What are you looking forward to about TC Beer Week?

It’s all been really cool. On Tuesday we are having an event with Atwater [Rare Beers at Rare Bird] and some of those beers have never been out of the brew pub before. Wednesday we are taking some of the profits from that event and those are going to Wings of Wonder. Thursday we are pairing with Brewery Vivant and releasing a collaborative beer called “Rare Rooster” and on Friday we are having a Founders Party.

What else is going on at Rare Bird?

We’ve got music on Monday nights with Joshua Davis and on Thursdays we have Levi Britton. We also started Trivia on Tuesday nights. As far as the menu goes, we have got the same base to it, but we will have rotating specials and some different items. We have our Fall/Winter menu which is overall the same, we’ve got the same staples but we have switched things out like instead of edamame we have deviled eggs, we now have mac n’ cheese and more.


More Traverse City Beer:

Joe Short, Short’s Brewing

Matt Cozzens, 7 Monks Taproom

Pete Kirkwood, The Workshop