After a successful Kickstarter campaign, founders Robb and Tamra Klaty, Jeff and Melissa Rasmussen, Jason Caya, and Janet Van De Winkle opened Tenacity Brewing in February of 2015, immediately developing a cult following and drawing curious beer lovers to the city. Original brewer Jeff Rasmussen learned to brew on the job, creating a local favorite in the form of Basic Bitch Blonde Ale and dipping his toes into more advanced brewing techniques.
Inside, Tenacity seems to have taken a page from the brewhouse playbook: Taps protrude from a tiled wall behind a long bar. Board games populate a small nook. Heyday coffee roaster operates alongside the 2.5 barrel system in the back, while a hair salon, peculiarly, operates in a small space adjoining the brewpub, doubling as a space for musicians and comedians on weekends. Outside, the popular Vehicle City Po' Boys truck -- co-owned by Caya -- draws a hungry late-lunch crowd. If you didn't know any better, you might think you're in Portland. It was an instant hit among Downtown office workers, college students from nearby Kettering and the University of Michigan-Flint, old-timers from the factory days, and suburbanites looking to reconnect with Downtown.
"I was really happy that the beer was good. If it was Flint's one and only brewery and the beer wasn't up to par, I would have been sorely disappointed,” says Scott Atkinson, a journalist and University of Michigan-Flint writing instructor who hits Tenacity's Monday trivia nights. “Is it going to save the city? Of course not. But it certainly isn't going to hurt anything, and if anything it's going to bring more people and more dollars Downtown.”
There was, of course, cause for concern with the water upon opening -- though the crisis at that point was still simmering, poised to explode -- which the brewery met through an extra careful filtration process and constant testing. But a rapid-fire series of revelations that the city had cut corners, resulting in the poisoning of Flint's entire water supply, sent all food and drink operations into varying degrees of tailspin.
As the population of Flint struggled with a new reality where their drinking water had to be obtained from bottled water stations and parents feared the consequences of bathing their children, restaurants, naturally, took a huge hit. Flint has always been a city that struggled with trust -- that'll happen when the primary economic driver abandons the city it built like a deadbeat dad, and when elected officials offer assurances despite allegedly knowing about the poison in the water. A drop-off in patronizing businesses where water is an essential part of the product was inevitable.
"There was some flatlining of growth," says Klaty. "But it could have been a lot more given the hysteria."