When asked, “What would be the one thing you would want people to know about this space?” Janelle Buttery, “The Herder & Acquirer of all Things” (aka Operations Manager) at Kognisjon Bryggeri, paused for a second before responding. “The space itself is just a more relaxed and comfortable gathering space where people can really sit down and have a conversation. And that’s kind of what we were going for in the physical space. But the beer is why people really come here.”
After an eventful year of construction and licensing delays, Kognisjon Bryggeri has opened its doors at 1034 North 3rd. Last year, we got a sneak peek with Jay Clancy (owner) and Kris Thompson (head brewer). At the time, they’d just moved in some of the brewing equipment and had exposed the strong bones of this 1957 building, which had once been an A & P Grocery Store.
Walking into “The Kog ” as the locals call it, you are greeted by a large, inviting hall with a massive bar facing the seating area. Large garage doors open the hall up to a small patio. The tall ceilings, combined with an abundance of natural light, create a cheerful and welcoming ambiance.
The bar makes a statement. The backdrop displays a replica of the Cliffs Shaft mine in Ishpeming – a salute to the former home of Cognition Brewery, which had been in the old bar at the Mather Inn. As we admired the bar, Janelle reminisced, “The old cog was just such a unique location, you know. The history there, that building. I mean, just the small, dark, like, comfy corner bar hangout feel of it.”
While the location has changed for Kognisjon, the communal nature of the brewery remains. Old friends from Ishpeming continue to visit for happy hour. A stammtisch table sits beside the bar to ensure they always have a seat. “We often have a bar full of Ishpeming folks that come in for the usual happy hour,” added Janelle.
An Iconic Taproom
I couldn’t help thinking of other iconic bars I’ve seen, like Shutes bar in Calumet with its green stained glass and warm walnut-colored wood. At Kognisjon, the feeling is grand and iconic with its amalgam of iron, steel, wood, and concrete.
Jay shared insights about the bar, “Every two feet all along the bar, there’s a big six-inch wide piece of plate steel. The only wood is the very top of the block. I sunk those plates into that board and routed them out so they would fit flat in there. Then bolted the cement board with that. It’s super sturdy; that’s never going to move. I pity the person who tries to demo that. We got rods down into the concrete every four feet or so.”
With the sturdy bar and all the Nordic runes decorating the walls, pint glasses, and shirts, Kognisjon is really Himinbjorg. In Norse mythology, Himinbjorg is a castle found at the point where the rainbow bridge (Bifrost) meets Asgard. Here you find Heimdallr, guardian of the Bifrost, the every watchful god drinking his mead.
In case you were curious, head brewer Kris Thompson designed the artwork, runes, and logo lettering used on Kognisjon’s glassware, t-shirts, and other merchandise.
New Brew House
Speaking of head brewer Kris Thompson, we asked what he likes best about the new brew house. Kris replied, “Everything’s close together and easy to get connected,” Kognisjon has two brewing systems – a three-and-half-barrel system with roughly 100 gallons in a batch, and the other is a seven-barrel system. Jay said, “Having two separate brew houses is pretty unique. It’s given us quite a bit of flexibility.”
How did that change things for you? Jay replied, “It’s changed things for the brewers because now they can whip out small batches to try something. We’ll see how they go over and if it sells out fast.”
Kris continued, “In Ishpeming (old Cognition site), it was one barrel at a time, and now here we’re doing it at three and a half. So it’s all the fun, weird, small batch beers, trying out ideas to bring up to the big system (seven-barrel). We started on the three and a half with our cheesecake sours, and they flew out of here in like 20 days. Both times, we made them on the small system. Now we do all those on the seven-barrel.”
Wait a minute, did Kris just say they have a Cheesecake sour? Did I hear that right? We asked Kris to clarify what this mind-bending brew could be. “The cheesecake sours is like a Berliner Weisse base idea. We added a little different character malt to it, like a graham cracker bread crumb crust. Then throw in some lactose, then mash a little warm so it stays a little sweeter. Then, we back it up with fruit flavors. We’ve done black cherry and lingonberry. We have a raspberry on tap right now.”
Apparently, this bodacious brew called “Crimson Decadence” was spawned from the mind of Lewis Nye, a former crew member at the original Cognision in Ishpeming. Evidently, he’d tried a similar beer during a trip to Montana and brought the idea home. Kris turned it into a reality. We had a pint, and the name is fitting for this delicious brew. Lusciously red to purple in color, this beer has a hint of sweetness with the richness of cheesecake. The raspberry adds a bit of tartness and refreshment to this vivacious concoction.
Marquette is Thirsty
Evidently, the folks in Marquette are quite thirsty. “We got double the amount of taps to keep up on. People drink a lot more beer in Marquette than in Ishpeming. People in Ishpeming drink a lot of beer; there are just more people in Marquette to drink the beer. We’ll make seven barrels of beer, which in Ishpeming would last a fair chunk. Depending on the beer, it’s gone in two and a half, three weeks here.” Kris said.
You can’t really blame the folks of Marquette (or Ishpeming, for that matter) for putting a hurt on the beers at Kognisjon. The beers are fabulous and cover a range of styles to suit any palate. During our visit to Marquette, we sampled each of these tasty beers from Kognisjon:
- Cultish IPA – a classic West Coast IPA that is bright and tight.
- Forgotten Rites – a devious and savory Rauchbier (smoked beer)
- Mango Norway – a masterful hazy that leans into the mango without being astringent.
- Oktötenfest – a feisty Märzen that became a staple beer for each visit
- False Icon – a pumpkin spiced latte imperial brown ale. I typically can’t stand pumpkin spice, but this was super nice.
- Desert Grave – a tantalizing Mexican lager that was exceptionally well-balanced and refreshing.
Did you wonder how Kognisjon names their beers? We did, too. It turns out that they are musically inspired. The brewers at the Kog enjoy music while they work, which inspires the creation of the brews. You’ll find the music reflected in the beer names, from dark ambient to heavy industrial to black metal.
Collaboration with Brian from North Peak
Brewing collaboration beers is part of what makes Kognisjon special. They will team up with another brewery, a worthy cause, or a band to create a beer that defines their relationship. In the case of “Evil Never Sleeps,” a limoncello coffee stout, the collaboration was with former head brewer Brian Richards.
It was with Brian that Kris learned the ropes at the original Cognition. When Brian moved downstate to Traverse City, Kris took the helm with help from assistant brewer Justin “Bolde” Boldeman. Brian is now brewing at the mighty North Peak Brewing in Traverse.
The Buried Note
The story behind “Evil Never Sleeps” is as intriguing as the brew. You see, the idea was found on a Post-it note. Kris was cleaning out the brewing desk at the old Cognition. Under layer upon layer of notes and various papers, Kris found a note tucked away in Brian’s fancy cursive (per Kris). He shared this long-lost note with Brian. They then made plans to brew this beer the next time Brian was up in Marquette.
The genesis of Limoncello coffee stout came from a family tradition on Brian’s mother’s side. Her family enjoyed having limoncello with their coffee during family gatherings. Inspired by this, they create a brew that features several gallons of cold coffee extract infused with lemon peel to mimic a spritz of limoncello in your coffee. It is an extravaganza of taste in every pint. The coffee element is the strongest in taste and color, with the lemon notes subtly dancing into the finish.
Collaboration with Marquest
During one of our visits to Kognisjon, Kris and Bolde were busy creating a rustic Finnish farmhouse beer known as Sahti as a celebratory collaboration beer with Marquest. Marquest is a live action role playing (LARP) group in the Marquette area.
On September 23rd, Marquest hosted their inaugural “The Battle of Banded Iron” at Halfway Village between Marquette and Big Bay. The event allows participants to immerse themselves in a medieval world called Ferӧs. Here, they can engage in quests, practice skills such as archery, play games, take part in a large-scale battle, and celebrate with beer at the tavern. Of course, the tavern at the Battle of Banded Iron featured the Sahti brewed by Kognisjon, which they aptly named “Ferӧs.”
We looked on with Caben McKendrick from Marquest as Kris inspected the wort as it passed through a kuurna filled with juniper on its way to the brew kettle. For those who aren’t Finnish, a kuurna is a trough. In this case, it is made from an Aspen log, which was cleverly rigged between the mash tun and the brew kettle. The juniper and Aspen are the key to a great Sahti, providing bittering as well as earthy notes to the beer. Each pull from the pint imbues the calm majesty of the north woods. Just as in LARPing, seeking authenticity in creating a beer is key.
Teaming up with Marquest
Kognisjon Bryggeri has a weekly game night which includes role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, so supporting the Marquest and creating a beer for them is only natural. However, we wanted to get the inside scoop from Callen on how this partnership emerged.
“Well, I had reached out to Bolde (Justin Boldeman – assistant brewer) a while ago about doing a collab, just because I feel like the medieval attitude and LARPing and the tavern just goes along so well that working with the Kog (Kognisjon Bryggeri) on events at first would be fun. And then I came over here (Kognisjon), and he (Bolde) was like, well, it’d be super easy to collab on a beer, too. We’re currently working on this Sahti, which is around a 900, 1100 AD style beer, which is perfect for what we’re doing.”
Mark your calendars for next year’s Marquest event, and keep an eye on their website and social media for updates as they host smaller gatherings all year. They are happy to introduce you to LARPing and share a brew, too.
While Kognisjon Byrggeri has no kitchen, that does not mean you will go hungry. Outside food is welcome, and two outstanding food options are available in the Third Street Marketplace (where Kognisjon calls home).
Fish Express has a pass-through window directly into Kognisjon. Here, you can order savory whitefish and chips or a spicy jerked chicken sandwich along with other assorted bites such as cheese curds and chili fries. The fish and chips are superb, with a very light breading that is crisp, not soggy. Pair this with a “Deep Mirage” cream ale for a marvelous meal.
Moving down from Fish Express, you’ll find Pizza@Marquette. You can order pizza, calzone, stromboli, wings, and salads here. The pizzas have a terrific light crust and are made fresh. Order online, and they will text you when it is ready. To save on boxes, you can take the pizza tray to Kognisjon and drop it into tray return tubs after devouring your pie. We enjoyed an outstanding pepperoni and bacon pizza with onions and banana peppers. The crust was nicely balanced with toppings and plenty of sauce to ensure your pie wasn’t dry. Any beer goes with pizza; on this occasion, the “Desert Grave” Mexican lager was a perfect companion.
Live at The Kog
On top of trivia and game nights, Kognisjon Bryggeri hosts live music in two forms. The first is a weekly Open Mic on Sundays. Bolde not only brews beer, but he also plays guitar. You can find him and bartender Brian McLean on stage during the open mic performances, lending a hand on guitar or vocals while encouraging others to join in the merriment.
The second form of music is from local and touring bands sharing their talents on stage. The scheduling of bands is a work in progress, with the ultimate goal of hosting weekly gigs on Friday and/or Saturday nights. While visiting, we had the good fortune to see Soul Responsibility.
Soul Responsibility gave a scintillating performance to a very full house at Kognisjon. Their set included an intoxicating mix of originals and covers. As you may expect from their name, the music is soulful, funky, and vibrant. Imagine Stevie Wonder, Prince, Chick Corea, and Stevie Wonder sharing the stage, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how this band sounds. Featuring tight groove driven drums and bass underneath brilliant horns, shimmering guitar, and evocative vocals, Soul Responsibility turned a night at Kognisjon into a party.
Kognisjon Bryggeri: Another Outstanding Brewery on Third Street
Coming home to Ann Arbor, I quickly missed being at Kognisjon Bryggeri. After spending a couple of weeks in Marquette and many visits to The Kog, we fell in love with this place. There is no doubt that the quality of the beers draws people in. However, there is a welcoming atmosphere that instills a need to return. We felt at home as if we’d lived there our entire lives. Everyone, from patrons to bar staff, was friendly and inviting. The Kognisjon staff are also on point to get you a beer you will love. You sense they care about you and want your experience to be grand. In all my travels and beer experiences, it is a rare thing to find a brewery that makes outstanding beer and provides a space that embraces you completely. I very much wish that Kognisjon Bryggeri was my local pub.
We’ve got more pictures from our visit to Kognisjon Bryggeri in our gallery.
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