Ryan Kavanagh & Shawn MacDonell


We’re pleased to feature the latest Lang Cooking team of Ryan Kavanagh and Shawn MacDonell with Heights Brewing in Farmington Michigan. Ryan and his wife Shawn were working at Costco for 18 years, both as key holding managers for the last 12 years. They figured if they were working that much for Costco why not take what they learned from Costco and open their own place.

Heights Brewery is both a barbeque joint and brewery and offers a true uniqueness; an entirely gluten-free kitchen located in a brick-and-mortar facility. They also make a variety of gluten-free beverages including a few Gluten-Free beers. Ryan has been cooking BBQ for the past 14 years.

“Right now we are still shiny and new. We have a line out the door every night for the dinner rush. So it’s having enough food prepped and ready to go. The most challenging thing about the business is finding vendors who are reliable and are able to get our product to us on time and with good quality,” Ryan noted.

You gotta believe

In order to launch they applied for an SBA loan to start up the business. “We knew we didn’t want too many hands in the cookie jar, so we didn’t ask a bunch of people to help us out. We cashed out our 401k’s and made the leap. The city of Farmington has been such a great help to us as well. They have told us about different grants and programs that helped us get started,” Ryan said.

Ryan’s wife Shawn was diagnosed with celiac’s disease roughly four years ago. Based on that diagnosis they had to make a few changes in lifestyle. Ryan started to make gluten free beers but needed to find some celiac friendly places to eat. They quickly realized that those places are very hard to come by. So, when they were coming up with plans to open the business they knew they wanted to be a brewery that offers a safe place for anyone living a gluten free lifestyle. The barbeque was the easiest part to make gluten free, as smoked meat is already naturally gluten free. They use their recipes for home and just needed to find a bakery with a safe, good tasting gluten free bun.

Lang smoker cookerThey first purchased a Lang-84 in 2022 and asked for a few customizations to it. Knowing it was going to go into the kitchen, they asked to have it put on a kitchen cart. They also wanted only one door because the other side would be against a wall. With the other kitchen equipment there was a problem with the fire box opening from the side, so they had the fire box turned to open from the front. That did create a few issues though; two of the baffles are now under the belly of the smoker and the other two are next to a large piece of kitchen equipment, but the hood is powerful enough to draw oxygen through the smoker.

They use the 84 Lang in the kitchen every day to smoke everything; the meats, breadcrumbs, tomatoes and anything else they like. They pack out the Lang every day and keep it running.

And due to the reverse flow there is no chance of an ember going from the fire box through the under baffle into the smoke chamber and up the stack into the hood to potentially start a fire. As the fat is rendering from the meat and dripping onto the pan it’s creating flavors as if the meat was being cooked directly over fire. It’s also giving a more even heat to the smoke chamber. Ryan cooks exclusively on cherry wood because the flavor it packs into the wood is not a harsh smoke flavor, but gives that touch of sweetness without adding it into the spices.

“From the time I made the call to order our Lang to now, Lang has been a pleasure to work with. They were so understanding of the customizations we needed to make to the 84, and they were completely on board with it too. The delivery of the smoker was easy and the two gentlemen who did the delivery were helpful and informative.

“Now we are open and using the Lang every day, it’s a complete beast of a smoker. Every week after we opened we were asking how we could push it more and what we could put on it to add to our menu. The Lang 84 is amazing, and I would tell anyone to get a Lang if they are looking to make the best barbeque,” Ryan added.


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