If April is the cruelest month, then February must be the nastiest — unrelenting cold, unattractive snow banks and black ice where you least expect it. But this February looked a lot brighter at the corner of State and Maynard Street in Ann Arbor, where the most recent branch of HopCat opened.

Over 100 beers are available on tap — everything from Kuhnhenn’s Fluffer to Arbor Brewing Company’s Ypsi Gypsi, and B. Nektar’s Zombie Killer to Founders’ Canadian Breakfast Stout (which we’re assuming ran out in a mere 10 seconds). There will also be a focus on providing a wide selection of bottled beers as well.

General manager Nick Filimon pointed out that of the 100 possible beers, 70 or so will be in constant rotation. “By Monday, we will probably have 30 or 40 completely different beers on tap, and then a new dozen or so every day after that.”

Undoubtedly, the beer will go quickly at this location. “It is an epicenter of the city,” Filimon said. “We hope to attract the commuter base, the students, and folks who live within walking distance.”

Additionally, Filimon touted the closeness of the nearby transit center.

During its VIP opening on Friday the 13th, over two dozen local beers were available on tap. There was also a nice sampling of food dishes, including the legendary crack fries. The service was outstanding, especially our waitress named Erin. She was attentive without being overbearing, and she clearly knew her beer, partly because of the emphasis HopCat places on beer education for its employees.

“The employees spend four days in five hour sessions, learning about beer,” Filimon said.

A training manager develops and trains the employees, using original materials that are created in-house.

“We hire passionate people,” Filimon added. “But not everyone starts off knowing a lot about beer, and it’s awesome to watch them get into it.”

Additionally, Filimon says that 95% of HopCat’s waste is composted or recycled, following the lead of other HopCat locations. The bar has a sustainability manager who ensures that the napkins and straws are biodegradable, and seeks local foods for the menu.

“We could be offered the perfect space for free,” Filimon said. “But if it doesn’t allow for recycling and composting, then we won’t take it. It’s non-negotiable.”

On my way out that night, I noticed an abandoned macro brew bottle wedged in a snow bank. I stared at the bottle and thought of how this was the antithesis of HopCat — bland beer, unsustainable practices and unsightly litter. Then I turned back around and saw the bright, gleaming black cat and knew that everything that is good about the beer scene lurked just inside.

Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery