MittenBrew had a chance to sit down with Ray Sherwood and Corey Paul from Sherwood Brewing Co. to pick their brains on— what else — beer! From favorite beers to brewing process and beer in general, Ray and Corey told us why they’re all about beer. 

What did you do prior to brewing?

Ray Sherwood: “My degree is in telecommunications, video and audio production, so I worked at a production house for about two years. There were a lot of aspects I liked about it but overall at the end of the day I wasn’t like, ‘I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow!’ It didn’t really grab me. I wasn’t really cut out for long and thinkless hours.”

When did you fall in love with beer?

RS: “I was never a Bud Light or Miller Lite guy. I have a brother who’s about four years older than me. And he was always had bottles of Guinness laying around. Even then, it was extraordinarily bitter and I didn’t have the pallet for it. When I did start drinking beer, I didn’t have the apprehension to try new beers. I was always interested in trying new beers. By the time it got to my 21st birthday, I wasn’t doing shots at the bar. I was going out and getting some beers at the party store, going back to a buddy’s dorm room and trying all these new beers. I probably had my first homebrew when I was about 18 so I was aware of the homemade beer at that point as well.”

What’s your favorite style to brew?

RS: “There’s different aspects of it. One of my favorite beers to mash in is the (Alaskan) Sister Wit. It’s a Belgian white ale. It has wheat malt, oatmeal malt. To me, it has the best smell. Overall, I really like the challenge of brewing lagers. It’s one of those styles of beers where the nuance and the dark and balance of all the flavors are so important. Some people out there gravitate towards IPAs. And IPAs are great but they’re really one dimensional beers if you think about it. It’s all hops. Something like a lager and trying to balance each flavor and making sure you go through the proper aging steps, to get rid of any diacetyl or off flavors so at the end of the day you’ve got a beer that has a nice malt flavor and hop presence and is well-balanced. There are lot more things happening in a lager than a basic ale.”

Corey Paul: “That’s why I like brewing Pale Ales. That’s my favorite. Achieving the proper balance of a pale ale. So many people say they brew a pale ale but really they just give you an IPA. Brewing a well-balance English or American style pale ale and achieving that proper malt and hop balance I think is almost as hard to brew as a lager.” 

What’s your favorite style to drink?

RS: “That’s kind of seasonal for me. I always like dark beers, porters, stouts. I always like pale ales. If I go to a new brewery or something that’s one of the first beers I want to try. How’s your balance? You can learn a lot. You should be able to taste the yeast flavor, get the balance of the bitterness level. The pale ale uses a good amount of all the ingredients. You could try their lightest beer but it might be their slowest mover depending on where the brewery is. A pale ale is probably a pretty good seller no matter where you go.”

Do you have a favorite beer of all time?

RS: “That’s the all-time question. Your pallet, it matures. It just changes so much. I always like that I could get Sierra Nevada almost anywhere. Great beer, classic beer style. In terms of big beers, marquee beers that people wait in line for and silly stuff like that, the other one that has impressed me is Pliny the Elder. That really impressed me that they were able to capture a lot of flavors and make it so drinkable and well-balanced.”

CP: “Probably the first one I ever drank because it landed me in a position of brewing beer for a living.” 

You touched on waiting in line for beer releases. How do you feel about that?

RS: “It’s interesting. I don’t know how I feel about that as far as the industry goes. I suppose it’s great for Michigan beer because there are several Michigan breweries that are successful with that. I don’t see that being something we ever do here, but I also don’t feel like it’s something I would ever do on a personal level. It’s a very unique thing. I think on some level it creates separation. I don’t think that’s the direction I would want to see the industry go in. You know, everyone creating these extreme beers and being a super-exclusive type of thing.”

What is your favorite Michigan beer or brewery?

CP: “I like Lilly’s Seafood out in Royal Oak. I think he makes great products. He’s a restaurant first. He’s got a small little brew system in the back and he’s got everything in the basement in the cellar. It’s not all about beer, its seafood first. But he makes great beer. I think it’s one of the best in the state, for sure. I’ve never had a bad beer there. I think it’s fantastic.”

RS: “There’s so many different breweries out there. It’s hard for me to keep track of all the breweries. I go to all of these beer festivals and I feel like a beginner. We were right around 70 (brewery in Michigan) and now I think it’s right around 160-something and it’ll be 200 before the end of the year. I’ve always like New Holland and Founders consistently. Their Centennial Pale Ale. There’s just almost too many to touch on.”

MittenBrew had a chance to sit down with Ray Sherwood and Corey Paul from Sherwood Brewing Co. to pick their brains on— what else — beer! From favorite beers to brewing process and beer in general, Ray and Corey told us why they’re all about beer. 

What did you do prior to brewing?

Ray Sherwood: “My degree is in telecommunications, video and audio production, so I worked at a production house for about two years. There were a lot of aspects I liked about it but overall at the end of the day I wasn’t like, ‘I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow!’ It didn’t really grab me. I wasn’t really cut out for long and thinkless hours.”

When did you fall in love with beer?

RS: “I was never a Bud Light or Miller Lite guy. I have a brother who’s about four years older than me. And he was always had bottles of Guinness laying around. Even then, it was extraordinarily bitter and I didn’t have the pallet for it. When I did start drinking beer, I didn’t have the apprehension to try new beers. I was always interested in trying new beers. By the time it got to my 21st birthday, I wasn’t doing shots at the bar. I was going out and getting some beers at the party store, going back to a buddy’s dorm room and trying all these new beers. I probably had my first homebrew when I was about 18 so I was aware of the homemade beer at that point as well.”

What’s your favorite style to brew?

RS: “There’s different aspects of it. One of my favorite beers to mash in is the (Alaskan) Sister Wit. It’s a Belgian white ale. It has wheat malt, oatmeal malt. To me, it has the best smell. Overall, I really like the challenge of brewing lagers. It’s one of those styles of beers where the nuance and the dark and balance of all the flavors are so important. Some people out there gravitate towards IPAs. And IPAs are great but they’re really one dimensional beers if you think about it. It’s all hops. Something like a lager and trying to balance each flavor and making sure you go through the proper aging steps, to get rid of any diacetyl or off flavors so at the end of the day you’ve got a beer that has a nice malt flavor and hop presence and is well-balanced. There are lot more things happening in a lager than a basic ale.”

Corey Paul: “That’s why I like brewing Pale Ales. That’s my favorite. Achieving the proper balance of a pale ale. So many people say they brew a pale ale but really they just give you an IPA. Brewing a well-balance English or American style pale ale and achieving that proper malt and hop balance I think is almost as hard to brew as a lager.” 

What’s your favorite style to drink?

RS: “That’s kind of seasonal for me. I always like dark beers, porters, stouts. I always like pale ales. If I go to a new brewery or something that’s one of the first beers I want to try. How’s your balance? You can learn a lot. You should be able to taste the yeast flavor, get the balance of the bitterness level. The pale ale uses a good amount of all the ingredients. You could try their lightest beer but it might be their slowest mover depending on where the brewery is. A pale ale is probably a pretty good seller no matter where you go.”

Do you have a favorite beer of all time?

RS: “That’s the all-time question. Your pallet, it matures. It just changes so much. I always like that I could get Sierra Nevada almost anywhere. Great beer, classic beer style. In terms of big beers, marquee beers that people wait in line for and silly stuff like that, the other one that has impressed me is Pliny the Elder. That really impressed me that they were able to capture a lot of flavors and make it so drinkable and well-balanced.”

CP: “Probably the first one I ever drank because it landed me in a position of brewing beer for a living.” 

You touched on waiting in line for beer releases. How do you feel about that?

RS: “It’s interesting. I don’t know how I feel about that as far as the industry goes. I suppose it’s great for Michigan beer because there are several Michigan breweries that are successful with that. I don’t see that being something we ever do here, but I also don’t feel like it’s something I would ever do on a personal level. It’s a very unique thing. I think on some level it creates separation. I don’t think that’s the direction I would want to see the industry go in. You know, everyone creating these extreme beers and being a super-exclusive type of thing.”

What is your favorite Michigan beer or brewery?

CP: “I like Lilly’s Seafood out in Royal Oak. I think he makes great products. He’s a restaurant first. He’s got a small little brew system in the back and he’s got everything in the basement in the cellar. It’s not all about beer, its seafood first. But he makes great beer. I think it’s one of the best in the state, for sure. I’ve never had a bad beer there. I think it’s fantastic.”

RS: “There’s so many different breweries out there. It’s hard for me to keep track of all the breweries. I go to all of these beer festivals and I feel like a beginner. We were right around 70 (brewery in Michigan) and now I think it’s right around 160-something and it’ll be 200 before the end of the year. I’ve always like New Holland and Founders consistently. Their Centennial Pale Ale. There’s just almost too many to touch on.”

For going on eight years, Sherwood Brewing Company has been making obnoxiously unpretentious beers on the corner of Hayes and Hall Road in Shelby Township.

Obnoxiously unpretentious beers. What might that mean, you ask? Owner Ray Sherwood explains. 

“We’re not trying to elevate ourselves to that elitist status,” he said. “We make beer and we try to make the best beer. We’re almost obnoxious about not being pretentious.”

Sherwood has roots in home brewing from back in the ’90s while helping out a friend brew in college.

Eventually Sherwood purchased his own equipment and began making his own batches.

“For me, I had a kind of do-it-yourself mentality. It was easy enough to do and I really enjoyed the process and the creative aspect,” he said.

After working in his field a short time, Sherwood decided brewing was something he wanted to pursue and moved back to Metro Detroit after taking residence in Lansing for several years. 

While back in the Detroit area, Sherwood began brewing at Kuhnhenn and received some background on what it’s like to work in a family business. He stayed there until opening Sherwood Brewing Company in 2006.

“I kind of had the idea that I rather have my own place than to work and grow somebody else’s,” he said.

Fast forward to 2014. Sherwood Brewing Company is now doing over 550 barrels-worth of beer on an annual basis.

“Our first full year, I would say we did about 250 barrels,” Sherwood said. “Over the last three years we’ve been stuck right around 560 just because that’s as fast as we can get the beer to go through.”

The brewery operates on a seven-barrel brewing system from a former chain of restaurants. It’s a turnkey brew system design to be compact and small.

“We’ve done a lot of different beers on this system that it wasn’t necessarily designed for,” Sherwood said. “The benefit of the system for us is that it is very compact. I think we’ll be able to squeeze three more very large tanks into a room that’s relatively small.”

The vibe of the brewpub is dark and laid back. TVs all around and bottles lining the top of the walls.

“We really let it happen organically over time,” Sherwood said. “Our mindset was, you have to live in it a little bit to make it what it’s going to be. That was achieved more through developing relationships through customers and making it more of a home.”

Corey Paul, Brewer and Manager, said patrons bring in items of contribution to the pub.

“We kind of have a found and scavenged theme,” he said. “Somebody brings this in and they put it up and it’s their bar. Now, they have that personal connection to it.”

Customers have been consistent over the years. With craft beer’s popularity and growth, the customer flow was steady from the start.

“I did expect to have a learning curve for the customer base. But surprisingly in this area, the demographic is pretty positive for it,” Sherwood said.

“There were people who were genuinely looking for something like this in the market. But what we found is, sometimes those guys come and go and they’re always looking for the new brewpub. A lot of them have become our core group of regulars.”

Education of customers is something the brewery has prided itself on. But they’ve also found that education and explanation is something they’ve had to do less of.

“It’s not like it was eight years ago when we opened up,” Sherwood said. “If you didn’t know about it, you had to explain the wheel to people…this beer is made of wholesome ingredients. It’s grain, it’s not rice. It’s malt. It’s supposed to be bitter, it’s supposed to be hoppy. It’s not supposed to look like water.

“My goal is not to achieve Miller Lite. My goal is to achieve flavorful beers. I feel like less and less I have to explain that.”

Paul explained that one of the reasons the brewery has open windows and open doors is to keep an open dialogue with the customers.

“We always brew when we’re open. I don’t come in at six in the morning to brew,” he said. “We keep the doors open so there’s that positive communication between us and the customers. They can come in and ask questions. Education is the biggest thing in our industry.”

The most popular beers you’ll see regulars and mug club members ordering up are the Buxom BlonDDe Ale and the Mistress Jade’s Hemp Ale.

“We try to have those on all the time. They appeal to a wide-range of customers,” Sherwood said. “We’re aware that we constantly have new customers coming in and that they might not have an educated or very sophisticated palate.”

Since the regulars at the brewpub are always voicing their opinions, customer feedback is always taken into consideration. That feedback not only applies to beers, but to the newly revised food menu.

“We work hard to make sure our beer selection is unique and different,” Sherwood said. “We try not to have the same beer selection for more than a week or two at a time. We also feel like the food menu has to evolve.”

To accommodate their highly-acclaimed pizza, they’ve added other items like dips and sandwiches like the BLFGT (Bacon, Lettuce and Fried Green Tomato) sandwich.

“There’s a place for a microwave and that’s with day-old pizza,” Paul said. “But that’s at home or somewhere else. We don’t want to do that here.”

Even though Sherwood has seen tremendous growth over the past eight years, there are always future goals in mind.

“We know with the new tanks we’re not ready to go state-wide, but we do want to help take care of some of the better beer bars that specialize in Michigan beers,” Sherwood said. “We would love to support those guys and give them something different.”

The communal aspect of beer is what continues to drive Sherwood and the brewery into the future.

“It’s better than wine, it’s better than liquor and it’s something that people can enjoy together,” he said. “It brings people together.”

FERNDALE — The “terrible twos” are typically a hectic and dreadful time for most parents. Unless, of course, your child is a craft beer bar. 

One Eyed Betty’s celebrated its two-year anniversary this week by hosting a Barrel-Aged Beer Week.

With nightly tapping’s Monday through Thursday at 6 p.m., the week was chalked full of huge brews and high ABVs.

The idea is credited to Bar Manager and resident “Beer Genius” Michael Fredenburg.

“In the summertime, I was conjuring up ideas on something to do. I wanted to do a barrel-aged night, which was my original plan,” Fredenburg said. “That kind of turned into me hoarding beer enough to do a full week. So it became our birthday celebration.”

While the high-octane beers reigned supreme and some customers jokingly labeled the list “dangerous,” Owner and Operator Beth Hussey wasn’t worried.

“The people who know about these beers and appreciate them, know how to drink them,” she said.

Hussey said of the 17 beers tapped this week, many have been cellared for over a year.

“I don’t know if everyone quite understands how special some of these beers are, but we do,” Hussey said. “There are some big beauties on that list.”

The biggest beauty of them all was tapped on Thursday evening to a ravenous crowd awaiting their pours of the magical liquid known as Bell’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Batch 9,000.

Hussey described it as “the last of its kind.” Fredenburg proclaimed it as “the star of the show.”

The keg lasted all of 21 minutes and 16 seconds.

“You don’t come across that every day. It was very, very special and we have to thank Bell’s for that,” Fredenburg said.

Other highlighted Michigan beers included Odd Side Ales Barrel Aged Citra Pale Ale and Griffin Claw Brewing Bourbon Imperial Stout. Offerings from Mt. Pleasant Brewing Company, Tri-City Brewing Company and Northville Winery also rounded out the list.

Hussey said the last two years have been “awesome” and can’t believe how much Betty’s has learned in that time.

“Now, the pressure’s on,” she said. “How do we continue to be cool and great? And be the place beer drinkers think of going for good beer?”

Although the pressure is mounting in her eyes, Hussey doesn’t want to veer too far from what’s made them successful.

“We have really high standards,” she said. “Right now, I really believe that we’re right in the sweet spot.”

The Royal Oak Music Theatre is one of metro Detroit’s top concert venues, but it was craft beer that took center stage on Saturday.

The theater hosted the fifth annual Royal Oak Craft Beer Fest, featuring more than 100 craft beers from a combination of more than 40 Michigan and national breweries. The event was presented by Parkway Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, and proceeds benefitted Camp Casey, a Royal Oak-based nonprofit organization that offers horseback-riding programs and therapy for children with cancer, sickle cell anemia and aplastic anemia. 

“We are thrilled to be a part of the Royal Oak Music Theatre Craft Beer Fest again this year since it’s a great way for our supporters to have a fun time while doing good,” said Camp Casey Community Relations Director Jessica Leroux.  

Leroux explained that the funds raised will help Camp Casey continue its three unique, cost-free programs: Horsey House Calls, in which the organization surprises a child with a horse on their doorstep; Cowboy Camp Outs, which are all-expenses-paid horseback-riding vacations; and Outlaw Outings, where new and returning Camp Casey families are treated to a fun night out.

In support of Camp Casey, Beer Fest volunteers donned their country best, complete with plaid shirts and cowboy hats, as they poured beer throughout the evening. 

Festivities kicked off at 6 p.m. for VIP ticket-holders, who had early entry to the event as well as access to theater’s balcony, where they could taste some rare and specialty brews. Some of the VIP offerings included Firestarter from Traverse City’s Right Brain Brewery, Yellow Snow IPA from Oregon’s Rogue Brewery, Palate Wrecker from San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing Co. and Totally Roasted from Spring Lake’s Vander Mill Ciders.

Newcomer Two James Spirits, which recently opened in Detroit’s Corktown, was also on hand with vodka, whiskey and bourbon samples; and Kalamazoo’s Bell’s Brewery had Hopslam available for those who missed out on its limited bottle release. 

Soon after general admission began at 7 p.m., the theater was bustling with enthusiastic craft beer fans, who each received a punch card for 20 samples. Attendees made their way through various levels of the venue — including the stage — trying Michigan favorites, such as Dragonmead’s Final Absolution, New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk and Dark Horse’s Crooked Tree IPA, along with some out-of-state stand-outs like Hard Root Beer from Milwaukee’s Sprecher Brewery and Hairy Eyeball Strong Ale from California’s Lagunitas Brewing Company. 

Festival-goers could also sample B. Nektar Meadery’s newest creation, Kill All The Golfers — a mead made with tea and lemon juice — or even try a beer lover’s twist on a classic cocktail — McClure’s Bloody Mary Mix with Founder’s Centennial IPA, garnished with a pickle. 

Food trucks from StrEAT Detroit, along with music from local acoustic duo Yorg & Sheehan — who played a variety of modern and classic favorites — added to the event’s upbeat ambiance. 

“The event was once again a tremendous success from both and attendance & experience standpoint,” said event coordinator Jason Dritsan of Liquid Events Detroit. “One thing I take great pride in — besides giving our largest donation to Camp Casey to date — is that the venue and setup provide for a more intimate tasting experience. Breweries continually told how much they appreciate the opportunity to interact with the attendees.”

With attendance reaching 1,300 beer enthusiasts, crowds were steady throughout the evening, proving that great beer and a great cause make a perfect pairing.  

To learn more about Camp Casey, visit camp-casey.org.