washtenaw county

Washtenaw County is blessed with many things—beautiful downtowns, spacious parks, green space, and a wide variety of brewpubs for our drinking pleasure. This article will examine the six non-Ann Arbor pubs—Chelsea Alehouse, Original Gravity, Ypsi Alehouse, Arbor Brewing Company Microbrewery (the Corner), Salt Springs, and Stony Lake Brewing Company (I’m including Jolly Pumpkin in part two, don’t worry!)
To keep things organized, I looked at six different factors

  • The standout beer (very subjective, of course)
  • The noise level (standard: could you have a first date here and hear the person?)
  • Overall comfort (things like whether the bathrooms are clean, variety of places to sit, friendly bartenders, would I wear my jeans that ripped over the summer but hey the 90s are back or would I put on something nicer)
  • Food (not rated for taste necessarily—just what they have)
  • Special Events (music, trivia, etc.)
  • The beer a newbie craft beer drinker should have—in other words, what would my dad get?

Note that I visited these brewpubs over the span of several weeks and beer selections may have changed. Similarly, the noise level may differ depending on when you go.
 
Chelsea Alehouse:

  • Standout Beer: The Holz Hausen Smoked Porter. Brewed with cherry wood smoked malt, this robust porter hits the drinker with smoke and then mellows into a rich porter. If this were a song, it would be a jazz standard sung in a jazz bar before the Michigan smoking ban.
  • Noise Level: At midday on a sunny Saturday, the brewpub had a lot of people in it but managed not to be extremely noisy so one could comfortably have met a first date here or had a business meeting. My friend and I went outside and there were only two other people there so it was perfect for us to shoot the breeze.
  • Overall Comfort: Short wait to get bartenders’ attention, bathrooms very clean, lots of booths and spots at the bar along with delightful outdoor patio. Air conditioning level optimal. Ripped jeans would be fine but so would a skirt or dress.
  • Food: Variety of appetizers, sandwiches, with a couple of entrees and salads. The soft pretzels come straight from the Chelsea Bakery and pair nicely with the pub cheese.
  • Special Events: First and third Tuesdays feature trivia, the bluegrass band Thunderwude plays on Wednesdays, live music on Fridays, Sundays feature Celtic jam sessions, live jazz or a song circle where one can enjoy local musicians or join in and play along with them!
  • Newbie Beer: Session IPA. Many newcomers to craft beer gravitate to IPAs, and this session beer has a lower ABV (4.5%) that offers the drinker just enough hoppiness with low alcohol.  My dad would drink this with only a small grimace, asking again about why this place doesn’t have Miller.

 
Original Gravity Brewing Company:

  • Standout Beer: 440 Pepper Smoker. The first smoked beer I ever had and still one of the best. Its base is an amber ale made with smoked German malt. Jalapenos are added at various stages in the brewing process giving this beer the perfect amount of heat.
  • Noise Level: On the day that I went, it was the OG anniversary party so the inside and outside patio were packed. The noise level varies, with the pub being very crowded during special events (e.g. we haven’t been able to get into the Ugly Sweater/Christmas Vacation party at least twice) to very mellow around happy hour.
  • Overall Comfort: Assortment of small and large tables, nice bar top, even a couple of recliners back by the video game console. Bathrooms always very clean. Bartenders have never been anything less than friendly and attentive. TVs above the bar and a screen in the back for when they show movies. The ripped jeans would be fine.
  • Food: Sandwiches, snacks, also Sprecher soda on tap and Calder Dairy ice cream
  • Special Events: On Wednesdays you can find the Original Gravity Farmer’s Market featuring Zilke Vegetable Farms. Thursdays have Sporacle Live trivia and there is live music on Fridays during the summer months.
  • Newbie Beer: If it’s on tap, have your friend (or dad) try the Eazy-Duz-It IPA. It’s 4.8% so on the low side as far as craft beer goes but very easy drinking (as the name implies). I think of this beer as a lawnmower beer and I think even Dad would agree that he might have been able to drink one of these back in his mowing days. (He’d still be muttering about Miller though)

 
Stony Lake Brewing Company:

  • Standout Beer: Ole 50 Weight. What a Russian Imperial Stout should be—rich, thick, dark and brimming with chocolate yumminess.
  • Noise Level: Perfect to have a conversation with my husband.
  • Overall Comfort: Clean, friendly, would feel comfortable going in any time. We sat at the bar, but the tables looked nice. There were some outdoor tables as well.
  • Food: Carry in or order out; sometimes have food trucks on site.
  • Special Events: Live music and food trucks!
  • Newbie Beer: Working Man. A blonde ale with some hop profile that my dad would enjoy and manage to find all of the other UAW retirees in the immediate vicinity, instantly making friends with them all.

 
Salt Springs Brewery:

  • Standout beer: Oktoberfest. Perfectly to style and malty as all get out, this is the beer for me!
  • Noise level: It’s been noisy and crowded every time I have been there, which is good! Can make it a little hard to hear your date, so sit at the bar.
  • Overall Comfort: Absolutely gorgeous space! The attention to detail is second to none—just lovely! Everything is clean and sparkling. Much more restaurant aesthetic. The ripped jeans would have to live in the drawer with their tracksuit friends.
  • Food: Okay I know I said I wasn’t rating for taste but the food here is incredible. Full lunch and dinner menu includes poutine, truffle fries, flatbread pizzas, strip steak, sandwiches and desserts. I would put this up against most non-brewpub restaurants.
  • Special Events: Live music in the Biergarten on most Friday nights, Sporacle trivia on Thursdays, monthly Brushes & Brews (painting lessons by local aritsts)
  • Newbie Beer: The Kick Axe Kolsch. Light touch of honey and bit of hops in this crisp beer. My dad would start googling “Kolsch” in his phone at this point, possibly complaining that the phone I gave him doesn’t work right (it does, he’s just not on the wi-fi)

washtenaw county

Salt Springs Brewery


 
ABC Microbrewery/Corner:

  • Standout Beer: Will always be Espresso Love. The first coffee stout that I drank and still one of my favorites.
  • Noise Level: The beer garden is almost always a comfortable place to hang out and chat with, say, your new beau or new friend. Inside can get noisy, especially when there is live music playing.
  • Overall Comfort: The bartenders here are top notch but I may be biased since I know many of them. My ripped jeans would fit in perfectly as would most anything you show up in. While I do miss the couches and mismatches tables and chairs from the old days, I still enjoy sitting by the fireplace. There are games and books, too.
  • Food: The absolute best sandwich ever to ever exist is the TeacherPatti House Reuben—ha ha, just kidding. It is a good sandwich though. Since the kitchen makeover of a few years ago, the food game was upped quite a bit. Now in addition to the amazing Reuben, you can enjoy other sandwiches named after patrons (such as the IP-Amy’s Onion Rings and Archie’s Hog-Gobbler Club) along with salads, burgers, entrees, and pizza.
  • Special Events (music, trivia, etc.): live music on Mondays, live trivia on Wednesdays plus various weekend events
  • Newbie Beer: I imagine we’d start my dad on the Bollywood Blonde, a refreshing beer with a nice hint of orange to it. At this point, my dad would be more open to trying new beers and probably not notice the higher ABV and would now be making friends with people at the bar, showing them what his Smart Phone can do. He would also be sharing his vast trivia knowledge with our fellow patrons, whether they want him to or not.

 
Ypsilanti Ale House:

  • Standout Beer: Blue Racer. This honeywheat beer is made with all Michigan grown ingredients—blueberries, honey, wheat, barley, hops. Some fruit beers can get too heavy and syrupy and forget their base beer but not this one.
  • Noise Level: The main room is a pleasant level and there is also a smaller room one can go into for more intimate conversations. Music sounds great in here!
  • Overall Comfort: Clean and comfortable, very nice and experienced bartenders, would be comfortable in my jeans or a dressier outfit.
  • Food: A nice variety of bar snacks, burgers, sandwiches, small plates
  • Special Events (music, trivia, etc.): Dart league on Wednesdays, live music on Sundays (bluegrass, Irish jam), trivia on Sundays is paired with a weekly dinner special!
  • Newbie Beer: Pottawatomi Trail Ale. This light session pale ale has local hops and is low enough in ABV such that one can drink several. My dad has now purchased the bar. We all go home happy.

 
So as you can see, no matter where you go you will find friendly people and great beer! Come on down to the Washtenaw county and check it out!
 

ARMADA, MI – Blake’s Hard Cider located at Blake Farms is gearing up for its 3rd Annual Cider Dayze Festival on August 26 and 27.  In partnership with the Armada Lions Club, this beer, wine and cider festival is one of the largest of its kind in Michigan.  “Its really about raising money for a great organization that focuses on giving back and community; we’re thrilled to be able to achieve this, while hosting a fun and local event” says Lions President, Steve Jerzewski.
Although the festival is only going on its 3rd year, it has grown organically through word of mouth to over 50 breweries, wineries, and cideries. Some of the biggest breweries in the country will attend this year’s event, from well-known names like Founder’s and Ballast Point, to new comers like Fillmore 13 of Pontiac. “We love that this is a predominantly “Michigan-made” festival and that it’s not exclusive to only craft beer like many others are. As the second largest apple producing state in the world, we take pride in our state’s ciders” says Marketing Manager, Chelsea Iadipaolo.
The festival has not only added more craft beverages, but more outdoor games too.  The Fowling Warehouse is providing boards for free play all day, along with free yoga classes for ticket holders both Saturday and Sunday. The Silent Disco tent is a crowd favorite, and with live music all day, there’s something for everyone.
Tickets are available at the door, rain or shine, must be 21 or over to attend. Designated driver tickets also online at www.ciderdayze.com.
SPECIAL DISCOUNT CODE: Use MITTENBREW during your ticket purchase and receive $10 off!

ARMADA, MI – Blake’s Hard Cider located at Blake Farms is gearing up for its 3rd Annual Cider Dayze Festival on August 26 and 27.  In partnership with the Armada Lions Club, this beer, wine and cider festival is one of the largest of its kind in Michigan.  “Its really about raising money for a great organization that focuses on giving back and community; we’re thrilled to be able to achieve this, while hosting a fun and local event” says Lions President, Steve Jerzewski.

Although the festival is only going on its 3rd year, it has grown organically through word of mouth to over 50 breweries, wineries, and cideries. Some of the biggest breweries in the country will attend this year’s event, from well-known names like Founder’s and Ballast Point, to new comers like Fillmore 13 of Pontiac. “We love that this is a predominantly “Michigan-made” festival and that it’s not exclusive to only craft beer like many others are. As the second largest apple producing state in the world, we take pride in our state’s ciders” says Marketing Manager, Chelsea Iadipaolo.

The festival has not only added more craft beverages, but more outdoor games too.  The Fowling Warehouse is providing boards for free play all day, along with free yoga classes for ticket holders both Saturday and Sunday. The Silent Disco tent is a crowd favorite, and with live music all day, there’s something for everyone.

Tickets are available at the door, rain or shine, must be 21 or over to attend. Designated driver tickets also online at www.ciderdayze.com.

SPECIAL DISCOUNT CODE: Use MITTENBREW during your ticket purchase and receive $10 off!

cellarmen's

Cellarmen’s first-ever bottled release, Beet Your Meade, is a Beet and Black Currant Saison Mead that will be sold at their Hazel Park taproom on August 5th in celebration of National Mead Day. The magenta hued honey wine is made with all-Michigan ingredients, including a red beet varietal that was brought over by Cadillac and his landing party when they arrived in Detroit, and is now grown Biodynamically in the city. The mead also is made with Michigan Wildflower Honey and Black Currants from Coons Farm in Coleman, MI.

Beet Your Meade is the first in Cellarmen’s “Farm-to-Glass” series celebrating Michigan-grown produce and honey. The beets are sourced from ROI Urban Farms, Detroit’s first Biodynamic farm, orchard and compost operation. Biodynamic agriculture is a type of organic farming that uses holistic and self-sustaining methods to achieve ecological, social, and economic sustainability.

“By incorporating Biodynamic produce, Cellarmen’s is reaching for the highest standards in their products” said Jamie Meyers, owner at ROI Urban Farms. “The payoff is higher quality and better nutrition. It’s pure, unadulterated Michigan fruits, vegetables and honey.”

The 13.5%abv 375ml bottles cost $60 and will be available at Cellarmen’s on August 5th. In addition to the bottled release, Cellarmen’s plans to release up to a dozen new meads and ciders on draft that day. The TruckShuka food truck will also be on site for the event.

summer beer fest

In the beginning, 1997 to be precise, there were approximately 30 breweries with membership in the newly minted Michigan Brewers Guild. The purpose of their inception was to form an alliance to promote our state’s emerging beer industry and advocate in legislative matters. Two decades later, with their support and guidance, that number is 239 and growing. More than half of the current members helped celebrate this milestone anniversary at the 20th edition of Summer Beer Festival in Depot Town.

The Guild’s first sanctioned beer festival took place in their inaugural year with a couple dozen breweries and approximately 600 attendees. Eleven of those original participating breweries have returned for this year’s festival, although not all of them have been present at every festival in between.


This weekend’s celebration nearly broke the perimeter of Riverside Park and exemplified the exponential growth realized over twenty years, with more than 145 breweries serving over 1,140 beers, and a two day total crowd of 12,000 people enjoying the wealth of choices.

Several of the breweries participating in last weekend’s edition were also celebrating their 20th anniversary and have grown alongside the Guild. In 1997, Founders Brewing Company was a relatively small operation whose back door read “Canal Street Brewing.” Dark Horse Brewing Co began its first incarnation in downtown Marshall as a now-closed gastropub that would blossom into an entire compound of craft businesses in it’s second life. Dragonmead Microbrewery was formed and preparing to open. Atwater Brewery began producing German style lagers in Detroit’s historic Rivertown district, adding more locations as their range of beers expanded. CJ’s Brewing Company set up shop in Commerce Township, later opening a second location in Plymouth. Woodward Avenue Brewers began “putting the ‘ale’ in Ferndale” and hasn’t stopped. The list of breweries with proven staying power goes on.



Inevitably not every beer business succeeds. As the years have come and gone, so have some of the breweries. Fortunately for enthusiasts there’s a steady stream of new breweries willing to take their place in the game. Those new to the MBG festival circuit this summer include Transient Artisan Ales, Greyline Brewing Company, Speciation Artisan Ales, and several others. Breweries are able to participate as members when they’ve satisfied the Guild’s requirements including a waiting period.

The seasonal festivals planned in 2018 are sure to impress with steadily bigger numbers representing the ever-expanding beer scene as the Michigan Brewers Guild reaches the equivalent years of the legal drinking age in our Great Beer State. In the meantime, enjoy the remainder of Michigan Craft Beer Month and toast a hearty cheers to 20 years!

 

belgian beer week

WESTLAND, Mich. – The seventh annual North American Belgian Beer Festival (NABBF), the largest exclusively Belgian-made beer festival in the US, leads off a new national Belgian Beer Week. The event, sponsored by the Consulate General of Belgium/Flanders Investment and Trade and major importers, will be held near Westland Shopping Center. This year there will be two sessions; one on Friday July 14 and a second session Saturday July 15.

This year’s event will have its largest contingent of brewers in from Belgium to the US at one place and time. “One would have to go to Belgium to meet this many Belgian brewers and even then it would be hard to talk with so many,” said the Festival’s Michigan-based organizer Roy More. Belgian beer experts will be on hand representing over forty Belgian craft breweries to discuss the 160 beers being offered. “This event is for those who care about what they drink and want to learn or to learn more about some of the best beers in the world,” said More.

Belgium is recognized by many experts as one of the world’s top beer nations, with Belgian brewers creating more recognized styles of beer per capita than any other country. The Michigan festival is the start of a national Belgian Beer Week. After Michigan’s group gathering, brewers individually will fan out across the country for other showcase events from California to New York, from Texas to Vermont. “The U.S. Belgian Beer Week aims to garner appreciation for arguably the best brewers in the world. These are the original, authentic craft brewers who started brewing beer generations ago for their village, and today export their brews to countries all over the world. One week of recognition for these pioneers in brewing is a long time coming here in the U.S.” – Steve Villani President, Global Beer Network

Tickets and more Festival information are available online.

About Consulate General of Belgium/Flanders Investment and Trade

Flanders Investment and Trade (FIT) promotes international enterprise in Flanders in a sustainable way as a key factor in the social and economic development of the region. FIT does so by supporting the international activities of Flemish companies and by attracting foreign investors to Flanders.

 

Oxford, Mich — Since opening its doors in April this year, HomeGrown Brewing Company has enjoyed enormous success and support from the community. Over 400 people attended the Grand Opening, mug-club pre-sales sold out, and the brewery has sold over 15,000 pints.

“Our biggest sellers seem to be our IPA, Oxford Ale, and Whitbier, but our Whamber – an original style we coined – is also proving very popular,” said Head Brewer Joe Powers.

“We also got a great response to our seasonal Michigan IPA, which we made from all-Michigan ingredients,” Joe said. “To be able to source everything from hops to yeast in our own state is incredible, and makes for a top-quality beer.”

“Now that we are up and running we are able to engage more with some local events and get some feedback on what people want,” said owner John Powers.

HomeGrown Brewing Company has recently begun its outdoor summer concert series. Over 60 people attended the opening performance on July 1, which featured Michigan artist Anthony Christie.  “One thing we got a lot of requests for was live music, so we realized how important that is – especially in the summer,” said General Manager Jeff Powers.

The free “Backyard Concert Series” will run most weekends, with artists playing in the new outdoor addition to the downtown Oxford brewery. Anthony said he was delighted to be the first performer at the brewery, and that support for local artists is important. “It always seemed to me that the people who take the time to appreciate and enjoy a good craft beer also seem to be the ones who are more apt to enjoy good vibes and good music,” said Anthony.

The concerts add ambiance to the beer garden atmosphere of the new patio at HomeGrown, which features fire-pits, bench seats, and picnic tables. “We are really excited about our outdoor area – it’s arrived just in time for summer and it’s such a great spot to relax with a pint,” said John.

HomeGrown is something of a family affair for the Powers clan. Owners John and Marie keep a hand-on approach with John as the Master Brewer. Their eldest son, Joe, has returned from Australia to work as Head Brewer. Second son, Jeff, oversees the front-of-house as General Manager, Joe’s wife Kate assists as Media Liaison, and the youngest sibling Katie leads the Social Media program.

“Between engineers, cooks, artists, managers, and journalists – we feel very lucky to have so much collective knowledge in the family and we love seeing that transform into a great local business,” said Marie.

 

grand river brewery

While growing up in Jackson, MI, I saw tons of businesses come and go in the downtown area. It was always sad watching a memorable place close, but it was intriguing to see what comes next.

grand river breweryAbout 4 years ago Jackson’s next big thing was the opening of Grand River Brewery. They brought a new kind of spunk to Jackson by reviving an 85 year old building and giving it a new unique style. Grand River renovated the entire place and added a kitchen, column still, and a 15-barrel steam powered brew house.

“We see downtown as having a lot of potential and being up and coming,” said John Burtka, owner of Grand River Brewery. “We wanted to be one of the first ones here to help establish new investment in downtown Jackson.”

Grand River’s brew house is home to the award winning Monkey Mouth IPA and several other delicious beers. They also have wine that they make with Michigan grapes grown at local vineyards. Not only that, they also are a craft distillery that distills whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum.

“We didn’t want customers not coming to our taproom because one person out of four in that party wanted a mixed drink. So we started distilling too,” said Burtka

grand river brewery

Grand River Brewery is also planning to expand their beer distributing within Michigan so more people can enjoy their tasty beers.

But don’t wait for the beer to come to you! Go to the beer and bring all your friends because there is something for everyone. Grand River Brewery is a great place to grab some amazing food and drinks, and a great place to see how hard work and determination can have such a positive influence on a city.

On June 28, celebrate GRB’s 4 year anniversary at their Annual Pig Roast and beer release. They’ll be debuting the new Pinky ‘N Da Grain Raspberry Gose. Billy Lewis and The Soulbacks will be playing a live set from 6PM-9PM.

Plates are $16 and include a 1/2 lb. of pork, bbq sauce, slaw, potato salad, corn on the cob, and a slice of watermelon.

grand river brewery