LEONI TOWNSHIP — With nearly 100 breweries in the state, chances are no matter where you live in the Mitten there’s at least one craft beermaker near you.
The recently opened Local Pub & Brewery — despite its name — may not be one of them, but if you’re traveling the I-94 corridor near Jackson, it’s a worthy addition to a brewery-rich route that already features potential stops at the likes of Arcadia, Dark Horse and Bell’s breweries.
The Local Pub’s roadside location should be familiar to longtime Michigan beer mavens. It once housed the Jackson Brewing Co. and, more recently, Zig’s Kettle & Brew, the lousiest brewpub I’ve ever been to. When Zig’s shut its doors eight years ago, it was no surprise considering its bad beer trifecta, crummy food and surly service.
Happily, the Local does not suffer from any of the deficiencies of its immediate predecessor — quite the opposite. For starters, the service is prompt and friendly. There were three people manning the bar in front of us, and each was more than happy to make sure we were comfortable and taken care of.
They actually seemed proud to be a part of a new and exciting business, and who can blame them? Craft beer is exciting.
Especially really good craft beer – and the Local has it. There are seven beers pouring at present (two of the bar’s nine taps serve wine), and owner and brewer Phil Wilcox explained his brewing philosophy as I made my way through a sampler of his offerings.
“We specialize in session beers — flavorful but low in alcohol,” he said. “We’re located by the freeway — people drive in here from 94 and they drive out again. We want to make sure they stay safe.”
Maybe it has to do with advancing age and decrepitude, or perhaps it’s my desire to remember my experiences when I sit down to write about them, but more and more I find myself gravitating toward such beers. Lower alcohol content does not need to mean bland. As proof, there’s the Local’s regular lineup:
Lightning Kolsch – 4.5 % ABV, 22 IBU. A classic lager/ale hybrid style from Northern Germany, the Local brews its with pilsner and wheat malts, resulting in a goldish-blonde brew with a light body and lively head. It’s crisp with a subtle sweetness and a surprisingly hoppy finish.
E.H. Pilsner – 4.7 % ABV, 31 IBU. This is brewed in the classic American pilsner (CAP) style, using a pre-Prohibition (read: non-BudMillerCoorsian) recipe and according proper respect to the Czech noble hops that make true pilsners such a delight. A standout.
JaXon IPA – 6.0 % ABV, 60 IBU. Easily the hoppiest and highest-gravity beer on tap, the “IPA” in this case is not what you think. As Wilcox explained, it stands for “imperial pale ale” as a protest against Jackson’s once-largest employer, Consumers Energy, outsourcing a number of jobs to India. This American pale is brewed with pilsner, Vienna, Munich, and, interestingly, biscuit malts to achieve a malt profile solid enough to balance the Amarillo hop infusion.
Cork County Stout – 4.3 % ABV, 18 IBU. Advertised to be “black as night,” it’s really more of a semi-transparent dark brown, but no matter. This true Irish stout follows in the Beamish tradition – dry, roasty, light-bodied and delicious. If you’re expecting a Double X-treme Imperial Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Coffee Banana Stout, you’ll be disappointed.
Lucky Penny Alt – 4 % ABV, 40 IBU. Another Northern German style, the altbier is a darker, bitter beer brewed with generous amounts of Munich malt and Perle and Hallertau hops. I enjoy this style, but something tasted off to me. The more I drank, the more I imagined a dimethyl sulfide (DMS) character, which yields a sort of unpleasant “canned corn” taste. More experienced tongues may differ.
There were also two rotating taps:
Yellow Dog Bit-Her – 4 % ABV, 38 IBU. This beer is the bomb. Anyone who enjoys English bitters can’t fail to appreciate the classic Maris Otter malt and East Kent Golding hop flavors in this brew. (Although it’s not a regular house beer, “I’ve already ordered the ingredients to brew up another batch,” Wilcox told me). It was a no-brainer to take a growler of this home.
Mulligan Wheat – 4.3 % ABV, 28 IBU. American wheat ales admittedly hold no particular charm for me, but the full-bodied flavor of this one made me sit up and take notice, with plenty of spicy notes balanced by a mellow hoppiness. It was so good a growler of this went home with me too.
As a licensed microbrewery, the Local is not a full-fledged restaurant, but its menu includes an assortment of appetizers, salads and sandwiches, all of which sounded pretty delicious. We chose a sampler platter of various sausages, cheeses and soft pretzels (accompanied by mustard made with kolsch), along with some cheddar ale soup, and it was just the thing. Food is served during dinner hours every day and for lunch every day but Monday. Drink-wise, there are plans to add distilled spirits to the pub’s beer and wine selections.
Those local to the Local will be interested in the Mug Club, membership is $30. Bring in your own mug (at least 20 ounces), pick a peg, write your name, and enjoy $1 off pints as well as discounts to events and first dibs on special releases.
And for those who can’t sit still, the Local is also trying to resurrect a tradition of English pub games with names only our friends across the pond could have come up with: Ring the Bull, Shove Half-Penny and Devil Amongst the Tailors. What are those? I don’t know, but there are also dartboards for anyone who wants to stick to the basics.
To sum up: Service good. Beer good. Food good. That should be enough to convince you to support your Local Pub & Brewery.
The Local Pub & Brewery (aka JaXon Beer Co.), 6020 Ann Arbor Rd., Leoni Township (Jackson), 517-395-4156. Hours: Tues. – Sat. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sun. Noon to 7 p.m., closed Monday. Web: http://www.thelocalpubandbrewery.com