Puerto Rico

Michigan beer lovers vacationing in Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico, can get their fix by visiting a former Michigander’s craft beer haven, La Taberna Lúpulo. Situated between two famous forts in the heart of the colonial section of the city, this oasis serves Founders and Bell’s goodness to local residents as well as tourists looking for refreshment. The building has an inviting open air atmosphere that allows for an occasional visit from one of the city’s many friendly wandering cats while you enjoy your beverage and the island breezes.

Puerto Rico

Getting there is easy, it’s accessible by foot from many sightseeing origins and destinations including the cruise ship port on the southern shore. If your timing is right, you may be able to save a few steps by catching one of the free local trolleys that circle the perimeter of the neighborhood and stops nearby.

La Taberna is partly owned by General Manager Milton Soto, who was born and raised in Royal Oak, Michigan and is now living in Puerto Rico.

“I came down to study and just stayed. Fell in love with Puerto Rico. Never thought in a million years I would be here almost twelve years later,” he said. “I think my friends thought I was insane. My dad is Puerto Rican and my mother is Cuban but I came on my own and figured it out on my own. Now everybody wants to move down here,” he said. Visit his part of paradise and you’ll begin to understand why.

Soto has been working diligently to develop the seven year old bar into a craft beer destination. They’ve carried Michigan brews for over five of those years. He says he has partially convinced brewery representatives to get on board with his ideas by escorting them around the main island and encouraging them to feel the pulse of the vibrant territory. There is much to love about the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s varied topography of beaches, mountains, dry desert-like areas, and rainforests. Soto speaks highly of time spent showing folks from Founders around his adopted home. “Jeremy’s a hoot. We had a good time in the rainforest!” Soto said of Jeremy Kosmicki, Head Brewer at Founders, who visited to check out the scene. It paid off for both companies.

During this writer’s visit in December a good chunk of the Bartender Favorites board had Founders listed. “We don’t force anybody to like Founders, those bartender favorites are literally what they like — and people love Founders,” Soto said, accounting for the brewery’s presence on eleven of the fifty taps. “Our local brews are good but they’re still up and coming, they’re still starting,” he said. “Here in Puerto Rico the craft beer market is really only 6 or 7 years old. We were the ones that started this movement,” he added.

Puerto Rico

Of the many bars and restaurants competing for customer attention, La Taberna was “the first one to have a tap system in Puerto Rico, and we started as a small, hole in the wall bar”, Soto claims. It progressed rapidly to its current popular status and larger space. “People love good beer, and we get so many great people coming through here all the time.” Puerto Rico is “a small place but we know how to drink, we definitely know how to drink!” he laughed.

Puerto Rico“The Puerto Rican palate, in the last six years, has gone through an extreme array of changes. Traditionally we were used to pilsner lager type beers, going into more amber, pale ales, wheat beers then IPAs, then to the point where you have people drinking stouts in the middle of summer like it’s going out of business. It’s like ‘wow it’s kind of warm for that’ but they love it here. A lot of Puerto Ricans grew up with this drink called Malta which is a malt beverage and it almost tastes like a stout but it’s non-alcoholic,” Soto said. Malta is brewed with barley, hops, and water and resembles beer that hasn’t been fermented. Kids take it to school in their lunches and it is widely enjoyed in social gatherings. Soto thinks this could be a contributing factor to the immense popularity of Bell’s Kalamazoo and Expedition stouts and Founders Imperial Stout and Porter in the bar in spite of the tropical temperatures.

IPAs are also appreciated there, cans of Founders Centennial and All Day IPA are sold as fast they can be stocked. On tap you might find such gems as Devil Dancer when it’s in season. “Because we’re the main craft beer bar in Puerto Rico we get all the special releases allocated to us,” Soto said, including Bell’s Hopslam when it hit distribution recently.

The list of Michigan breweries Soto dreams he’ll eventually have on tap in the future is topped by Witch’s Hat, not only because he considers them one of the up and coming Michigan breweries to watch, but also due to his friendship with the company’s founders and owners Ryan and Erin Cottingim. “I moved out to South Lyon right after high school and that’s when I met both of them,” he said. “They’ve always been fucking amazing people and that’s what makes amazing beer,” he added.

“I think New Holland would be a contender. Shorts would be awesome, I would cry if I could get them,” Soto said frankly. Jolly Pumpkin previously had a presence in Puerto Rico some time ago but has since exited the market. Soto believes they may have a better reception now that consumers have opened their minds a little more to the idea of sour beer. “Every time I go home I’m in Ann Arbor drinking Jolly Pumpkin, I’d love to see it come back,” he said.

“Michigan is super important down here. We have a lot of people from the midwest that live here,” he added. Soto sees similarities in the cultural attitudes of midwestern mainland USA and the island territory, especially the willingness of people to go out of their way to be helpful and pleasant. The team at La Taberna Lúpulo takes care to exemplify those values. Perhaps our mutual love of Michigan beer has something to do with that joviality. Go visit them and experience it for yourself. Tell them MittenBrew.com sent you.

new holland

New Holland Brewing Company, firmly established near the southeastern shore of Lake Macatawa in Holland, is rapidly progressing on their latest addition near the west bank of the Grand River in Grand Rapids’ West Side neighborhood. Aiming to open in September 2016, this location will offer an unparalleled opportunity to revel in life’s finer points of good drink, food, and conversation by showcasing the company’s Stop and Taste philosophy.

new holland
“This has been a process; it’s been a long arc, if you will,” President and Co-Founder Brett VanderKamp said. Over the decade that his company had been contemplating adding a physical presence in the Grand Rapids area, three serious potential locations arose before the perfect one clicked and allowed them to go forward with their intentions.

The winning proposal came from Mike VanGessel, owner and CEO of Rockford Construction whose headquarters are a few blocks away from the new development.

“We’ve all got deep ties to Grand Rapids; it’s somewhere where we’ve always been. We’ve got a solid following there with huge fans, and we’ve been wanting to be closer to them obviously for quite some time now,” said Joel Petersen, vice president of marketing.

“We wanted what is an area that we think over the next 10 to 20 years will develop in an absolutely beautiful enhanced investment part of Grand Rapids,” he added. “We couldn’t be more excited about Harmony Hall being down the street, with Atwater coming in, and The Black Heron across the street. All of the different businesses that either currently have plans or are looking at plans along that corridor. I mean, one block away you’ve got Mitten, and you’ve got Two Scotts BBQ. It’s palpable in that area right now. There’s a lot of new businesses going down there and we loved that!” 

new hollandNew Holland Brewing Company believes in spending time, money, and effort wisely. Fred Bueltmann, partner and Vice President of Brand and Lifestyle, asserts: “We didn’t want to expand just to expand. We didn’t want to go to Grand Rapids just to add seats. We wanted to go when an opportunity presented something that we couldn’t do in our existing places.”

With the intensity of craft fans in the Grand Rapids market he knew their contribution had to be outstanding. “Our mission is to enhance people’s lives with remarkable choices, remarkable experiences, and I think that’s about providing them choices. So we put it through that litmus test, too, that if we’re not contributing something to the neighborhood, if we’re not contributing something to the city, if we’re not providing quality choices for people that make the overall whole better, then we don’t need to go,” said Bueltmann.

According to VanderKamp, the new place is nearly double the size of the Holland pub and will need the participation of the neighborhood to be successful. “We’re really counting on the West Side. It’s not something where we’re running in thinking we’re saving the West Side, the West Side has really got to come out to support us,” he said.

Moving forward with the Grand Rapids location won’t lead to New Holland Brewing Company abandoning their birthplace. Holland is in their name and in their blood; that’s where it all started. The city will continue to be the heartbeat of the company for many years to come. Their downtown pub on 8th Street will remain a strong presence for the brand, and long-term expansion plans ensure the headquarters of operations will stay at the production campus across town.



Since opening in 1997 New Holland Brewing Company has earned their share of the market through hard work and steadfast commitment to their vision. They’ve gathered a loyal following across their distribution footprint, as well as at their downtown Holland pub where Steve “Bert” Berthel will continue brewing his exclusive pub-only offerings. Having the Grand Rapids location, according to VanderKamp, “is going to allow us, really, these pilot batches that we can then bring immediately to a broader audience.”

There will be an indoor-outdoor beer hall open year-round. VanderKamp is proud to say they fought hard in spite of expense to keep the elements of the beer hall. The team feels it will be impactful as part of the entrance to the west side of town from the city center.

The new building’s impact extends beyond the visual aspect. The planned business model will take patrons on a journey through the full range of the craft movement. Every aspect is addressed thoughtfully and thoroughly.

The restaurant’s menu will focus on rustic traditions presented in a current way, according to Bueltmann. A whole animal butchery within the complex will allow every part of an animal to be used to make stocks, soups, rillettes, charcuterie and sausage in addition to typical meat dishes.

Rocktoberfest (10)

The on-site brewing and distilling will be of the same caliber New Holland fans have come to expect. The new space will allow for more room to be creative and take on projects that have been waiting in the wings.

“We’re going to focus on gin production and other botanical spirits,” Bueltmann said. He plans to undertake extensive exploration of gins, cordials, and liqueurs to complement the company’s existing cocktail program.

The beers in planning will be a “Euro-American wide range of beautiful and comfortable beers that celebrate some of the Old World traditions that may not get a whole lot of daylight,” Bueltmann said.

New Holland Brewing Company’s standard lineup will also be available at this location. Mainstays will draw long time customers in, and experimental brews will keep them coming back. “We are continual students of balance, so I think we’ll always want to see a good balance between the comfort level of things you know and encouraging you to stretch and invite you to adventure and try something new,” Bueltmann said.

“New Holland’s Stop and Taste Philosophy is about remembering and encouraging people to take a minute to enjoy what this is all about––which is connecting, communing over food and drink,” Bueltmann said. “This project is very much in line with that philosophy in that we’re trying to build the space that is a community gathering place where people can come in and set aside the distractions of the day and connect over a meal, connect over a drink, connect over a story, and enjoy themselves and enjoy what this is all about.”

You can find a full-length multimedia version of this article here, as Episode One of New Holland Brewing Company’s Storyteller Series.

Photography: Steph Harding

butchery

Harmony Hall, the companion to the flagship Harmony Brewing Company in Eastown, Grand Rapids, knows a thing or two about craft.

A smaller brewery in our saturated beer city, Harmony recognized right away the need to produce quality product, and that went beyond just the beer. From the beginning, it was about sourcing locally and providing craft food to compliment the craft beer. In the instance of the Eastown locale, it was about the pizza — fresh toppings, local farms, and a wood fired oven.

For the Westside location, Harmony Brewing dug into neighborhood roots and drew inspiration from the building itself. Harmony Hall is the former Rauser Quality Sausage Co., built in 1908. German, Polish, and Irish immigrants defined the vibe of the Westside of Grand Rapids, and brought cultural heritage as well as plenty of delicious food options, including locally made sausage.

Talking with Gabe Araujo, head Chef at Harmony Hall, he reiterates this point. “Anyone who knows Harmony [Brewing Company] know they have always been very adamant about using sustainable resources and keeping everything local and fresh.” Sausage and beer? Well, that just makes sense.

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Beyond the revitalization of the past and nod to the architecture of the building, Harmony Hall chooses not to just serve sausage, but to source its own product, butchering its pigs in-house and making all their sausages from scratch.

“All of the pigs come from local farms.” says Araujo, “currently Heffron Farms, and we’ll be working with Rakowski Family Farms as well soon. We’re in contact with Provision Family Farms, which raise all heritage hogs like red wattle. They are adorable and delicious.”

There is a renaissance beyond just the craft nature of the beer, and more and more places are realizing that the quality of the food they offer needs to stand with and compliment the quality of beer they provide. Harmony Hall is one of these early influencers, recognizing that the consumer who chooses craft over mass market probably isn’t one who will settle for frozen french fries and something dipped in ranch.

There’s a beauty in butchery, and it’s easy to see. We’ll just let these pictures speak for themselves.

Photography: Steph Harding

GRAND RAPIDS – Grand Rapids Beer Tours is once again offering outings combining beer and art for the city’s ArtPrize event.

Since beginning operations in June 2014, they’ve been giving locals and visitors a way to experience Beer City’s lively craft beverage scene with a personal aspect.

Brian Haik, Owner and Tour Guide, is a born and raised Grand Rapidian. He attended Grand Valley State University with the intention of becoming a history teacher, but decided that teaching people about the history of beer was a more desirable ambition.

Danielle Haik, Brian’s wife, helps run the walking tours. They have three additional tour guides and drivers to handle the burgeoning business.

This is the second year they’re scheduling ArtPrize tours. They begin with a walking tour taking place on the first day of the competition, Wednesday, September 23rd, from 3pm to 6pm.

“The walking tour has you going to four venues this year—Founders, HopCat, Grand Rapids Brewing Company, and BOB’s Brewery,” said Brian Haik.

“The driving tour goes to Founders, Mitten Brewing Company off of Leonard and then Grand Rapids brewing Company,” he added.

If you’re contemplating joining them on one of their popular tours, you’ll need to make your reservation soon. Spaces are limited and many tour sessions are already booked solid.

“There are a lot of extra people in town who want to drink beer and who want to do ArtPrize,” said Haik.

Grand Rapids Beer Tours specializes in providing an intimate experience.

“It’s not like a giant party bus,— we’re not like some companies where their specialty is just transportation. Our specialty is taking people to places and experiencing the breweries. We prefer to keep it smaller, that’s why we have a fifteen-passenger van.”

People appreciate having a responsible driver for a day of drinking with friends.

“On a four hour driving tour, for example, samples equal about a pitcher of beer per person. That’s a good amount, and they don’t have to worry about driving at all!” he said.

“What separates us is we educate people on the tours. It’s not going to be a booze cruise,” said Haik. “You’re going to be learning about the breweries you go to, learning about the beers, and you’ll get a behind-the-scenes brewery tour at one of the stops.”

“I’m passionate about what I do. I have love for the culture and Grand Rapids, it’s my home,” he added.

Future plans include tours to areas of the lakeshore from Saugatuck to Traverse City. They’re entertaining the idea of doing a cider tour, and possibly a gluten-free tour that includes mead if there’s enough interest to support it.

Private tours are available in addition to public tours shown online.

“Sixty to seventy percent of our tours are private tours. Bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, birthday parties, business groups,” said Haik. “We’ve had people from pretty much every continent already. From China, Guatemala, Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand, all over the whole world really.”

They’re capable of filling a gap in public transportation, sometimes driving from the city to the lake shore to pick up a tour group for a day of brewery-hopping. They can also offer hotel pickup and drop off in many places, ask for availability when you book your tour.

GRAND RAPIDS — What do dilapidated buildings, shipping containers and craft beer all have in common?

The Sovengard.

Grand Rapids’ first official outdoor beer garden is slated to open late this summer on the west side. As with any bar in Beer City USA, you’ll find plenty of craft beer, along with craft spirits, cider and wines. But that’s where the similarities end.

The brainchild of Rick Muschiana, The Sovengard will be a European-style beer garden that will feature plenty of green space, some indoor seating, and a bar housed in a used shipping container.

“It’ll be about three-quarters outside, and then we’ll have some indoor seating for about 99 people. Our total capacity is going to be around 227 seats. We’re really excited about that, and using sustainable and reclaimed building materials,” said Muschiana, pointing to his former position with Brewery Vivant for instilling that mindset in him.

“That’s what makes Michigan great, is the seasons, the outdoors, the nature and the lakes — sometimes you can lose sight of that when you’re living in an urban environment,” he said. “Our thought process was, ‘what can we do to rejoin that and really be an asset for urban living?'”

The atmosphere won’t be the only unique aspect, either. Muschiana plans on channeling some Scandinavian influence in all aspects of the business, specifically the New Nordic Movement.

“There’s a group of now-renowned chefs in those Scandinavian countries doing some amazing things and promoting self-sufficiency and agricultural sustainability. I think that’s all important to us, and craft beer, cider, spirits and small production wine — they all fit in there.”

[tw-parallax image=”https://mittenbrew.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/soven-middle.jpg” target=”self” lightbox=”yes” link=”https://mittenbrew.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/soven-middle.jpg” ][/tw-parallax]

Click above to view the entire site plan

Additionally, The Sovengard is aiming to become the first bar in Grand Rapids with a fully-dedicated crowler system, which is also in use by White Flame and Perrin Brewing. The system allows guests to can beers to take home, rather than put them in standard growlers.

The bar is going so far as to offer a Crowler Club, allowing members to fill three crowlers per month.

The Sovengard started an IndieGoGo campaign on Tuesday, which will run throughout the end of June. It is trying to raise $25,000, offering not only its own perks, but some from businesses like Citizenshirt, BenchDog Studio, Detroit Bikes and more. The Crowler Club is also available as a perk.

When all is said and done, Muschiana hopes that he can offer a unique beer garden to the otherwise urban environment, as well as offer food and libations that guests wouldn’t otherwise be able to find locally.

“Lord knows we have enough bars and restaurants in the city. I think the underlying theme is that there is a movement happening — people want to eat better, drink better. They want their dollars to count for something, and be more than just filling up the tank,” said Muschiana. “We really want to be a part of that movement and offer something new and different, and be original —  embrace the community. We want it to be as much of a hang out and community space as we do a business space and beer garden.”

“It’s adding another layer to flavor, to interest and destination, and really making Grand Rapids as a city, a hub.”

Muschiana plans for The Sovengard to open late summer or early fall at its 443 Bridge Street location.

The Ada Pour House Gastropub has already developed the moniker ‘The People’s Pub’ in the small town of Ada, and the pub isn’t scheduled to even open until today.

Despite that, it already has a reputation of being friendly, real, accessible and approachable to its new clientele.

Rob Aldridge, owner, has been in the industry for 22 years, owning his own little bistro on the east side of the state, then transitioning to the corporate world after selling the place.  Ever since, he always wanted to go back into the restaurant business as an owner.

“I wanted a pub style restaurant, serving comfort food with a twist,” says Aldridge. “[The town of Ada] was kind of begging for it. There are very few restaurants here. ”

Without blending into the over-saturation of pubs and bars in a place like downtown Grand Rapids, The Pour House is bringing something new and unique to Ada — a place serving a variety of Michigan beer and spirits, classical, accessible food and a staff who very much wants to be embedded into the local community.

Combining two locations, a former ice cream store and a tanning salon, the Pour House is an open, inviting space, full of natural light from the many windows and comfortable corners to sit in. Throughout construction, there was never paper on the windows or locked doors. Facebook posts showed the transition, and if anyone happened to wander by, they were always welcome to come in.

“We were always taking in people’s ideas, and we grew from there,” shares Aldridge.

From the get-go, it was important for them to stay as local as possible, from the builder, the sign marker, to the food and, of course, the beer. Thirteen out of the sixteen taps and around 40 out of the 60 bottles feature Michigan brews everything from Founders to Short’s to smaller breweries like Cellar Brewing out of Sparta and Ada’s own Sietsema Orchards hard apple cider.

Jake Stankowski, the Bar Service Manager, works to not only select a good mix of beverages and options for the Pour House’s customers, but worked hard to select the right staff mix of talent and personality behind the bar as well.

Education and training for the staff is part of the game plan, on not only the beers that are carried, but wine and mixed drinks as well. Hand crafted, in-house made recipes for traditional mixed drinks like an old fashioned will be on the menu when they open.

“We’ve stuffed our front of house with great personality and a basis of knowledge. We can teach anyone how to make a drink or understand beer, but we wanted a likeable, approachable serve staff as well, that will give you, the customer, a good experience when you come here,” says Stankowski.

The menu complements the vibe and incorporates the beer, for instance in an appetizer like mussels, using whatever beer works best for the season.

Patrick McKay, the Executive Chef, has developed a concept menu that focuses on quality product and craft method. With 17 years in the industry, he understands the complexity and skill needed to make something tasty, something as simple as their burger — which isn’t that simple at all.

“I want the food to be approachable, but the way in which it is delivered and prepared that’s where we focus. We fold in classical technique and method, and this goes unseen, which is fine. As long as the final product is delicious, we are happy,” he says.

The biggest takeaway from the Ada Pour House? Approachability. If you have a suggestion for a beer you wanna see on tap, give it to them. If you have questions about the food, the service, anything at all — Aldridge wants you to ask. Service and accessibility, focusing on local and providing a family atmosphere are what Ada Pour House wants to become.

“We have a phenomenal product, the right processes in place and talented and friendly employees,” says Aldridge. “These are all pieces of a big puzzle, and we think it will work out well. Hugs and high fives, that’s what we’re about.”

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.”

Revitalizing Midtown

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.”

 

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.”

Revitalizing Midtown

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.”
 


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