DETROIT — Sticks hitting the ice. Chanting and cheering. That loud siren blasting as the home team scores the game-winning goal. These are sounds often heard at Joe Louis Arena on a mid-April afternoon. However, on this particular Saturday in Downtown Detroit, one can hear something entirely different: Craft beer enthusiasts enjoying some tasty beers and food truck-inspired cuisine.
The first ever Hockeytown BrewHaHa was underway at the Joe, bringing Detroiters together to enjoy beer, food and some Red Wings flair. The first major event of its kind took place at ice-level, with 20 beer tents set up along the boards. The event provided patrons six beer tickets, good for 6 oz. pours at beer tents that included Michigan favorites like Bell’s, Founders, New Holland and Arcadia as well as out-of-state and international breweries.
In addition to the beer, there were food stations set up around the arena showcasing a new trend in the culinary world: Street Eats. Patrons were given tickets to try six Detroit-owned food truck companies with a wide range of culinary treats including mini-tacos, sliders with fries, house-cut chips with Oberon cheese sauce and Salted Caramel ice cream with chocolate stout hot fudge.
One of the crowned jewels of the show was Founders KBS. This beautifully crafted bourbon stout has a sweet bourbon nose which is translated to a sweet bourbon taste up front followed by a nice roasty finish. At 11% ABV, the beer’s smoothness hides the alcohol quite well. Needless to say, there’s a reason this beer ran out in about an hour.
Bell’s Black Note Stout also made an appearance at the show. The other showcase bourbon stout of the day had a sweet bourbon and vanilla taste up front with a smooth and creamy mouth feel. As it warmed up, some of the coffee and roasted malt came through. This beer is thick, rich and most importantly, delicious. Another beer that was called on early and often, the Black Note keg ran out in about an hour as well.
After the Black Note ran out, Bell’s put another beer in its place: Roundhouse Ale. This beer was a bit of a surprise. It was tough to tell whether it’s more of a malty IPA or a hoppy red ale. However you want to slice it, this beer is another good one in Bell’s repertoire.
Saugatuck had several beers available to choose from, but the Singapore IPA was the most popular. This IPA had sweet forefront gives way to classic citrusy, grapefruit hoppiness. A good IPA that was refreshing and flavorful, but not overwhelmingly memorable.
The most exciting part about the event was that it wasn’t just about beer and food — it was also about the Red Wings.
Every person who purchased a ticket to the event had the opportunity to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of Joe. Groups of 20-30 people were escorted by an usher through the inner workings of the arena, seeing things that the average person doesn’t get to see when they come to a game or concert.
The tour included trips through the Red Wings Players’ Lounge, the exclusive Legends’ Suite and finally, the Visitors’ Locker Room (team not included).
In the Player’s Lounge, people could see Red Wings memorabilia, game worn gear and even sit at the bar and in the booths like so many Red Wings had done before. The next stop on the tour was the Legends’ Suite where patrons could sit in comfy seats, check out more memorabilia and get a bird’s eye view of the whole arena. The tour ended in the Visitors’ Locker Room, which is surprisingly plain. But one would assume that is the idea: Don’t let the other team get too comfortable away from home!
Combining people’s love for craft beer, street food and the Red Wings, the first Hockeytown BrewHaHa was a smashing success. The food was good, the beer was great and the behind-the-scenes tour of the Joe was awesome. It may be over, but the good news? Look for the Hockeytown BrewHaHa next year, too.
Photography provided by Matt Keeler