Jim Sima has fond memories of his youthful days spent in the vast wetlands of the Louis J. Sima Great Lakes Marsh — boating, frogging, fishing and telling ghost stories of supernatural activity on Ghost Island.
Lately, Jim has been busy making new memories there since he and his family opened Ghost Isle Brewery, which overlooks the 156 acres of wetlands that are home to the legend of Ghost Island.
The Sima family has owned the 3.5-acre parcel between Red Arrow Highway and the Amtrak tracks since 1950 when Jim’s grandfather purchased hundreds of acres in New Buffalo, Michigan. In 2012, when the Sima family was contemplating what to do with the land, the concept for a brewery and restaurant emerged as the front runner.
Bob Sima, also part owner with his parents, Jim and Elizabeth Sima, then headed off to attend the Master Brewer Program at The Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago. After completing the program, Bob spent years honing his craft at several breweries in the area before the family decided it was time to bring the idea for Ghost Isle Brewery out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.
Since most of Bob’s time now is spent on general operations, he is appreciative of head brewer Danny Moeller.
“Danny brings great experience to Ghost Isle with his laid-back style as ‘shepherd of the yeast’ and incredible work ethic,” Bob says.
Danny focuses on brewing lighter, easy drinking, session-style beers to appeal to the summer crowd as well as the non-craft drinkers.
“I believe we are different from a lot of local breweries because instead of brewing crazy off the wall beers or filling our taps with IPAs, we are focused on producing the best examples of classics that have been around for ages,” Danny says.
For those not aboard the craft beer bandwagon, Ghost Isle offers a full bar including cider, wine and specialty cocktails featuring local and small craft liquors from family-run distilleries in the tri-state area.
What further sets Ghost Isle apart from other breweries in the area is a fascinating, exotically diverse food menu.
Chef Brent Dopp and Sous Chef Corey Tilly, armed with their combined decades of experience in the industry, have curated a menu that is an intriguing amalgam of Mediterranean, Asian and Midwestern fare — journeying from the streets of Japan and Korea all the way to shores of Turkey and North Africa. Fresh and local is the name of the game in the kitchen at Ghost Isle, which is why Brent and Corey also make all of the sauces and dressings completely from scratch, including the Ghost Isle Ale BBQ sauce, yuzu dressing, rice wine gastrique, peri peri sauce and the Ghost Isle Ketchup — made from ghost peppers — which already has some talk of bottling and selling.
“At the end of the day, our goal is to use fresh, local, high quality ingredients to create surprising dishes you wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere,” Brent says.
Another thing you will not find elsewhere: the sweeping views from the patio at Ghost Isle Brewery.
“We have a partially-covered outdoor patio with a fire pit and amazing views of the wetlands that can’t be beat,” Jim says. “We also have live music outside on weekends to complete the experience.”
Although live music is only scheduled on the weekends, Ghost Isle Brewery is one of the best spots in Michiana to see Mother Nature’s nightly show — a blaze of fiery oranges, pearly pinks and dusky purples that paint the clouds before disappearing into Lake Michigan and punctuating an idyllic summer day spent in New Buffalo. χ