DETROIT – Craft beer officially arrived in Detroit this weekend with the grand opening of HopCat in Midtown.
The bar’s delayed, but carefully crafted opening time of 11 a.m. on 12/13/14 went off without a hitch Saturday. Patrons lined the building several hours before the doors opened.
“This was the result of more than a year’s worth of work from the team at HopCat and Short’s,” said Chris Knape, Marketing & Communications Director for BarFly Ventures. “We had an incredible crowd that gathered starting at 5:30 a.m. They were in incredible spirits.”
The first 200 people in line received official punch cards for a free years-worth of crack fries, limited to one order per week.
Although he didn’t plan on being the first in line, Grand Rapids native and Wayne State University student Reed Bramble didn’t want to take a chance of missing out on his favorite part of HopCat.
“I love crack fries,” he said. “I’m from Grand Rapids and that’s the thing to get when you go.”
HopCat and Short’s Brewing Company broke their own tap takeover world record with 120 Short’s specialties offered at the opening. The original record was set by both companies at the HopCat East Lansing opening in 2013.
Joe Short, CEO and Creative Engineer of Short’s Brewing Company, said everyone was excited to break the record with 120 beers.
“It’s really exciting anytime we can get this many beers in one place,” he said. “It’s unheard of.”
The tap list featured some of Short’s most exclusive brews including highlights like Whiskey Sour, Bourbon Carrot Cake, Double Barrel Bourbon Wizard, Richard in the Dirt and OMGWTFBBQ.
“Our entire portfolio is around 300, probably 400,” Short said. “As soon as we know something like this is going to happen, we start saving beers. We started a HopCat stash.”
At 11 a.m. on the dot, the doors opened and the cold crowd filed in until capacity was reached. The bar would stay at capacity for the duration of the day, sporting a line outside into the evening hours.
For Short, the day was special not only because of the beers, but more because of the people and the experiences shared.
“It has been a really unique opportunity for us to get to know the people who have been supporting us all of these years, up close and personal,” he said. “The most rewarding part about being a brewer is having that direct impact. You’ve affected somebody somehow, some way in a positive way.”
HopCat, located on the corner of Woodward Avenue and West Canfield Street, is a two story building that is nearly a century old.
“It was empty for almost eight years,” Knape said. “We spent more than four million dollars on the renovation.”
Capacity tops 700 people when all is said and done. The main floor features a large bar with table tops all around it. Several leather half-booths (also dubbed “mafia booths”) face the windows lining Woodward and leading upstairs. The artwork throughout the bar features custom paintings of Detroit musical icons such as Bob Seger and Stevie Wonder.
The second floor known as The Huma Room, is named after owner Mark Sellers favorite Short’s flagship beer Huma Lupa Licious. The large and open room features another large bar with half a 1968 Fleetwood Brougham hanging above it. Several of the walls are covered with concert posters of Detroit and Michigan shows. The Huma Room also doubles as concert venue, which hosted Detroit’s own Howling Diablos on Saturday evening.
Moving forward after the opening, Knape hopes the bar will be one of the catalysts to a positive revitalization in Detroit.
“Detroit is the center of the action in Michigan. There’s a lot of positive going on in the city,” he said. “We hope it serves as a magnet to people. A hub of craft beer in the city.”
Scott Newman-Bale, Partner President of Business Development for Short’s Brewing Company, spoke about both Short’s and HopCat supporting Detroit and Michigan.
“We’re a Michigan-only company. One of our slogans is Michigan only, Michigan forever,” he said. “When you look at Detroit, it’s been an exciting year. I think when you’re in Detroit, there’s a new sense of optimism of where we’re going.”
Short, a Bellaire native, also echoed the important of a thriving Detroit.
“In a city like Detroit this is a huge win. This is the heartbeat of our state,” he said. “We had to run the defibrillators. And this is the start of that defibrillation. We’re happy to have this presence down here because forever, Detroit has not only been the heartbeat of Michigan, but the Midwest.”
Knape stressed the opening of HopCat would not have happened without a lot of support, including and especially the customers.
“Having the incredible positivity and the warm welcome was really the validation about being in Detroit,” he said. “There’s a bright future ahead for HopCat and the city.”