BRIGHTON — The staff at Brewery Becker greeted me with an warm and enthusiastic reception as soon as I walked through the door. Matt Becker, owner and brewer, could not have been more welcoming, sharing information freely, allowing me to learn not just about the phenomenal beer, but the unique history of the brewpub itself.
Becker went to Germany when he was 16, and got a taste of real beer early. “Germany did several things for me,” he said. “It showed me what good beer was. At the time, America’s beer was not exactly known around the world for its quality. Secondly, it showed me the small breweries could exist.”
From those experiences, and through skills and knowledge gleaned from over 20 years of home brewing, came Brewery Becker.
Much of the 38 month project revolved around the restoration of the 1870s era building where the brewery is located. The three story building started as a hotel and ended as upstairs apartments and offices on the first floor before the brewery renovation.
Initially unfinished in many areas, you would never know this today. The brewery invokes the feel of the late 1800s, staying true to the original design of the building. Matt and his family gutted the building, and “everything is new”. The floors are solid hickory and reflect the outside light that floods the place through the windows. Old wood found onsite was used for the bar, and the old stud walls make up the bar-top. The French doors are 140 years old, and the door to the brewhouse is from the 1880s, originally from a home in Ypsilanti. Becker’s wife, an artist, hand stenciled the walls with period appropriate designs. The beer garden features 1890 era Parisian street lamps.
A beautiful wrought iron staircase leads you to the second and third floors, where more natural light floods in. Chairs, tables, a couch and another wooden bar wait for the weekend crowds.
The historic preservation theme carries itself into Becker’s beer recipes as well, to great success. There’s an understanding that not every beer needs barrels of hops to be unique, that IBUs can be toned down and still produce body, flavor and interesting brews.
Vargdricka: This Scandinavian farmhouse ale is based on the daily drink of the Vikings. The 6.2% ABV beer is brewed with juniper berries branches, rye, wheat and then bittered with Bog Myrtle. The nose reminds me of a really good Scotch. The first taste is that of the juniper berries and an underlying smokiness. It then mellowed into a sweet finish of light rye. This is why the Vikings ruled — because they drank stuff like this.
Victorian Export Stout: The recipe is from the 1870s, so it is possible that both your great grandpa and great-grandpa Siegel drank something like this. For their sake, I sincerely hope so. The smooth beer has a velvety mouth feel and chocolate finish. The 8.5% ABV brew was surprising, as it went down nice and creamy.
North German Wheat: This 5.2% ABV beer is a very light, easy drinking beer with a bit of a tart finish. While it is too high in alcohol to be a lawnmower beer, I could most definitely see myself on the riding lawnmower with this.
English IPA: This is one of my favorite styles of beer, and it is hard to find at a lot of places. This beer is brewed with Golden Promise barley, which, according to Becker, is floor malted with rakes and is more expensive than other barleys. In some cases, more money does not equal better, but the extra care really shines through in this beer. It is not as aggressively hopped as an American IPA, but is a great example of hops from our friends across the pond.
Entire Butt: This was the big winner. I’ve honestly never had anything like this beer, which recipe comes from the 1750s. The style is the precursor to stouts and porters and is a hearty and hale 8.5% ABV. It has a nose and taste of roasted coffee, with a touch of chocolate. This beer remembers that it’s a coffee stout, there are no adjuncts in it and you can taste more than just the chocolate. As Becker said, “you can get a lot of flavors from the right yeast and grains.”
Pop, sausage and light snacks round out the menu. A shuffleboard table and ample seating make space for meeting new friends and great conversation.
Becker has big plans for the future. “I hope to bring more of the hotels history into the beers as well,” he said. “For example, there was once a runaway elephant hiding in the basement here. So, I’ll have something like The Elephant Downstairs ale. We would also like to do historic brewing demos.”
The 38 month journey from an unfinished building to a beautiful brewpub is over. They say that good things come to those who wait — and friends, Brewery Becker was well worth it.