Dark Horse Brewing

DETROIT – HopCat Detroit and Dark Horse Brewing Co., of Marshall joined forces this weekend to produce a World Record Tap Takeover featuring 130 unique Dark Horse brews.

The event, dubbed Dark Saturday, broke a record set at HopCat Detroit’s grand opening on Dec. 13, 2014, which featured 120 Short’s Brewing Company beers.

By 11 a.m., a line wrapped around the front of the building as fans waited to try the huge variety of Dark Horse brews.

For HopCat and Dark Horse staff, the day began much earlier.

“It was all hands on deck to get this event together,” Trevor Mapes, captain of beer research at Hopcat, said. “A lot of the logistical elements were planned early on, and barbacks and food runners provided muscle late into the night and early in the morning before opening.”.

The bar filled up quickly as attendees anticipated rare and hard-to-find Dark Horse Brews.

“It’s great to see Dark Horse and HopCat tackling this event in Detroit,” said Damon Ward, Detroit resident and craft beer enthusiast. “It signifies how supportive they are of the local beer community.” Of the 130 beers on tap, Ward was most excited to try the 2014 and 2015 Bourbon Barrel Plead the 5th stout.

The all-day event included a special one-day renaming of HopCat Detroit’s Huma Room into the Crooked Tree Room. TV screens showed college football throughout the afternoon, and live music began at 7 p.m. to close out the evening.

“We love Detroit and want to be part of its ongoing renaissance,” said Bryan Wiggs, head of brewery operations and token hippie at Dark Horse. Yes, his business card really says that.

“It is a privilege and it is exciting to be breaking the world record here in Detroit,” Wiggs added.

“We came up with the idea for the tap takeover with HopCat at the Winter Beer Fest in February of 2014, and have been brewing beers specifically for this event since them,” said Aaron Morse, founder and owner of Dark Horse.

On the 12-acre Dark Horse compound in Marshall, Morse makes honey and maple syrup, he grows hops and fruit, and he uses all these elements in his beer.

“We have fun pushing the envelope and doing things people say you can’t,” Morse added.

For a must-try beer, Morse suggested the Rubescent Zhaftig Ghastly, which has all the roasty, creamy characteristics one would expect in a stout, but pours a vibrant red color.

“It is a brain teaser,” he said.

Atwater Brewery

DETROIT, MI – Atwater Brewery celebrated the opening of its new Taphouse and Biergarten in the Rivertown district of Detroit this week.

The 5,000 square-foot location is adjacent to the Atwater Brewery and includes a 25-seat bar that spans the length of the brewery. The brewery’s state-of-the-art brewing equipment is on display through a wall-to-wall window behind the bar.

The venue has a total capacity of 125 with community seating available and 20 beers on tap.  Atwater’s spirits, wines and hard cider will also be available.

“We’re especially excited with this new space because it’s an opportunity to connect with customers in our home market and it also allows us to showcase our main brewery,” said Atwater Owner Mark Rieth.

Led by its Dirty Blonde Ale and Vanilla Java Porter, Atwater now offers more than two dozen labels and has launched a new original Rivertown Porter and Lebkuchen Christmas Ale in conjunction with the Grand Opening celebration at the new location.

The new biergarten food menu which will feature items like Gourmet Pizzas, White Bean Shredded Chicken Chili and Fish Tacos. Private dining space is also available.

“This new facility is a signature location for an Atwater biergarten,” said Rieth.  “We’ve said all along that we want to ‘bring Detroit everywhere,’ and now we’re bringing it to the most important place of all – home!  We’ve incorporated our heritage into the DNA of the place and we look forward to sharing our home with all of metro Detroit over the coming years.”

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Not that long ago, pumpkin spice did not invade every aspect of our society. Oh, sure, there were pumpkin pies, pumpkin muffins, and the occasional pumpkin cheesecake. But one couldn’t get pumpkin spice lattes or pumpkin spice Oreos.

Now, of course, that flavor is everywhere—including in our beer. Pumpkin spice signals fall and all of its glories—colorful leaves, football games, warm hoodies, apple cider. Another sure sign of fall is the Michigan Brewers Guild’s Detroit Fall Beer Festival. Along with thousands of others, MittenBrew attended the festival to sample the best fall beers around, as well as to get some expert opinions on the ubiquitous pumpkin spice.

Tri-City Brewing Company featured many non-pumpkin beers, but did release their Scarecrow Spiced Brown on Saturday. Self-described “brewery ninja” at Tri-City, Jay Green, indicated that while he is not a fan of the spice himself, the pumpkin beer is a big seller. But, he adds, “you have to keep it balanced. It has to taste like pumpkin spice, but you’d better taste the base beer underneath. Like any good beer, balance is key.”

Gabi Palmer, head brewer of Schmohz Brewery Company in Grand Rapids, agreed.

“It’s the season for all things pumpkin, but you have to balance it,” she said.

Palmer loves pumpkin spice and recommended Griffin Claw’s  Screaming Pumpkin and Liberty Street’s Punkin’ Pie Ale.

“Both are great examples of well- balanced beers that still give you spice.”

CRAFT Homebrew Club President Tracy Broomfield also loves pumpkin spice.

“I hate this meme that is going around,” Broomfield said as she enjoyed Dark Horse Brewing Company’s Cocoa Bourbon Nibbler. “It says to enjoy pumpkin beer, you should throw it in the trash. Pumpkin spice beer can be great, especially when the brewer restrains herself a little and lets the base beer come through.”

Both pumpkin spice lovers and non-lovers could enjoy plenty of both kinds of beer at the festival. Over 80 breweries featured more than 675 beers for thirsty attendees.

Pumpkin Spice Standouts:

Northville’s North Center Brewing Company’s Headless Horseman Pumpkin Pie Ale, like the examples cited by Palmer, did an excellent job of providing a taste of the pumpkin spice but not overpowering the beer. Truly tasted like pumpkin pie in fermented form.

Muskegon’s Unruly Brewing Company came through with an excellent pumpkin beer called Punk’n’Rock. The real pumpkin taste stood out, but not to the exclusion of the tasty spices.

Shelby Township’s Sherwood Brewing Company featured its Smoked Pumpkin Porter. The addition of smoked pumpkin gave this dry porter a wonderful taste.

Non Pumpkin Spice Standouts:

There is a reason that Tri-City’s Brownhoist has won three gold medals at the World Expo of Beer—it’s a darn fine brown ale. Some browns tend to taste like plain beer, the malts being hidden under adjuncts or too many hops. Not this beer. It is a creamy blend of five grains and two hops, resulting in a creamy mouthfeel and smooth finish.

Lansing’s Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale had a huge winner in their Hazed and Confused coffee brown ale. One of my friends described it as “Nutella in a glass.” I took a drink and said, “Yes. If Nutella actually tasted good.” So just the fact that a Nutella fan and non-fan can agree should indicate how terrific this beer is.

Milford’s River’s Edge Brewing Company featured a beer called Karate Bonfire, a coconut vanilla stout. Sometimes vanilla beers taste like a bottle of vanilla extract. This beer, however, perfectly married coconut, vanilla, and coffee. Warm as a bonfire, but much tastier.

South Lyon’s Witch’s Brewing Company treated us to its Furious Ginger. This milk stout was aged in bourbon barrels and spiced with ginger and peppers. Would it be cheesy to say that one could not possibly be furious after drinking this wonderful beer? Too bad, because I am saying it anyway.

As always, the Fall Beer Festival had something for everyone—Oktoberfests to stouts to smoked porters to IPAs and yes, plenty of pumpkin spice. Maybe the pumpkin spice invasion isn’t such a bad thing after all.

DETROIT – Five Detroit breweries will pour their own Weizenbock this week as part of a collaboration that is being called the Detroit Beer Experiment.

You can try the individual recipes on tap at Atwater Brewery, Batch Brewing Company, Brew Detroit, Detroit Beer Company, and Motor City Brewing Works. They will also be featured Friday and Saturday during the Michigan Brewers Guild Fall Beer Festival at Eastern Market in Detroit.

As with many ideas in the brewing community, this one was developed over a few shared pints.

The brewers agreed on the Weizenbock style and all developed their own recipes utilizing the same Michigan-grown hops from Hop Head Farms.

The malty, German-style dark beer usually clocks in between 4-6% ABV.

“After 12 years of brewing beer in the city of Detroit, Detroit Beer Company is thrilled to beworking together with all of our friends at the other Detroit breweries,” said Justin Riopelle, head brewer at Detroit Beer Company.

“It’s a fun way to showcase the great beer made in this city,” Riopelle added.

According to the breweries, the “Detroit Beer Experiment” name comes from the 2002 musical collaboration between Carl Craig and Marcus Belgrave, called The Detroit Experiment. The brewers hope to turn their collaboration into an annual tradition.

“We’re excited to see the Detroit brewing scene become even more collaborative,” said Stephen Roginson, founder and head brewer at Batch Brewing Company.

“It’s a tight-knit community of great brewers that was just begging for a project like this,”

All logo work crafted by Detroit Beer Press Senior Designer, Ian Burk

DETROIT – Three-dollar pints and the funky sounds of Detroit band Sound Proof fueled a lively 12th anniversary party at the Detroit Beer Company.

Mug club members and fans of the brewery also enjoyed food specials and the chance to mingle with brewers, owners, and staff during the celebration.

The brewpub, located just steps from Comerica Park, Ford Field, and the Detroit Opera House, usually sees a good mix of regulars and out-of-towners stopping in for pre- or post-event dining and drinks.

“We are a destination brewpub with a neighborhood feel,” said Josh Guitar, general manager. “We want to be a cool place to hang out while giving the best service and the best beer possible, whether you are stopping in before a game or after work.”

As a neighborhood brewpub, mug club memberships are an important aspect of the business, Guitar added. “We wanted to celebrate the community that gathers here on a regular basis,” he said.

The brewpub has seen a number of different brewmasters over its 12 years, but many of the same customers have met at the bar since day one.

“Recipes have been handed down from brewer to brewer, with each putting his or her own unique spin on the lineup,” said Brewmaster Justin Riopelle. “We also get a lot of feedback from customers who have been here from the beginning,” he added.

Riopelle spent three years as an assistant brewer before becoming brewmaster in January of this year. He is making a notable move towards local hop and malt suppliers for an upcoming brew—a Michigan Pale Ale.

“We aim to create local flavor rooted in tradition,” Riopelle said.

Catch the Detroit Beer Co. next time you are downtown for a game or at the Michigan Brewer’s Guild Fall Beer Festival at Eastern Market in Detroit on Oct. 23 and 24, where they will release a beer brewed in collaboration with Batch Brewing Company and Motor City Brewing Works.

DETROIT – An homage to traditional German beer, food, and music was served up at Batch Brewing Company in Detroit this past weekend. Many guests donned Dirndl and Lederhosen as they drank from commemorative beer steins at the brewery’s first Oktoberfest celebration.

“We have a lot of love for German beer, and this is the time of year that you get to worship at that altar,” said Stephen Roginson, Founder and Head Brewer at Batch Brewing Company.

Roginson, inspired by a 2010 trip to Munich’s Oktoberfest, set out to create an alter ego for the brewery for the duration of the festival. The transformation into Batch Brauerei was complete with themed decor, a take on Oktoberfest food by Chef Matt Johnson, and four German-style beers on tap: a Fest Bier, Dunkel, Hefeweizen, and Kolsch.

One hundred forty tickets were pre-sold for each day, and the brewery saw 300 people in attendance on Saturday, and 225 people on Sunday. Ticket-holders began their celebration as early as 1 p.m. and carried on until the festival closed at 1 a.m. Saturday and 10 p.m. Sunday.

Fest-goers gathered outside the brewery in a large beer tent that was decked out in Bavarian blue and white decor. They dined on a traditional menu of Bavarian pretzels, roast chicken, spaetzle with Gruyere cheese, sauerkraut, and spiral sliced radishes. In addition to a meal, ticket-holders received a commemorative one-liter stein and a fill-up of their choice.

Dick Wagner & Die Rhinelander band provided a soundtrack of lively German classics throughout both days, and a DJ carried the party atmosphere late into the night.

Though the weekend’s celebration is over, Batch will host an Oktoberfest Stein Club through Oct. 2, offering stein fills at a reduced cost for those who purchased traditional glassware at the festival.

As for next year, Roginson hinted at plans for a bigger celebration.

“I am excited for how Oktoberfest will be developing in Detroit for the broader beer community,” he said.

Two nanobreweries from opposite sides of the Detroit-Windsor border have teamed up to revisit a long-forgotten American beer style.

Together with Motor Craft Ales, Batch Brewing Company launched the Canucky Common. The beer is a spin on the Kentucky Common, an obscure historical beer brewed in Kentucky from the Civil War through Prohibition.

“There is an undeniable sisterhood between our two cities,” said Gino Gesuale, owner of Motor Craft Ales in Windsor, Ontario. “Both Detroit and Windsor have a working-class feel, they are tied to automotive, and they reside along a shared border.”

The idea to collaborate came when Gesuale visited Batch Brewing Company and learned that the brewers were already fans of Motor Craft Ales. The brewing teams exchanged ideas, and settled on a style.

“We brewed one batch on the Windsor side, and one batch on the Detroit side,” said Gesuale. “In addition to avoiding the headache of trying to transport beer across the border, we had the added benefit of getting to work on another brewer’s equipment.”

The resulting beer is described as a porter-like cream ale. It is distinguished by roasty, caramel notes and a sweetness due to the large amount of corn included in the recipe.

The Kentucky Common style was rediscovered through word-of-mouth and was registered to the Beer Judge Certification Program style guide just this year.

“Customers love the idea of discovering a new indigenous American beer style,” said Stephen Roginson, owner and head brewer of Batch Brewing Company in Detroit, Mich.

“I’ve sat in classes where the instructor has stated that the Steam beer or the California Common is the only indigenous American style, so there is an educational component to this beer,” Roginson added.

The Canucky Common is poured with a special tap handle which features both the Canadian and American flag. It is available on draught at Batch Brewing Company, but you will have to get there fast to try it.

“We had it on tap at Motor, as well,” said Gesuale. “But we blew through the keg pretty quickly.”

For those who missed out, there could already be another collaboration beer in the works.

“We’re trying to get over there to brew something for the Windsor Craft Beer Festival,” said Roginson.

In addition to collaborating on beer, Batch Brewing Company is known for teaming up with community partners that are focused on the city of Detroit.

“We got a lot of support from the community to get our doors open,” said Roginson. “In return, supporting the community has been part of our business model from the start.”

With this mindset, Batch developed the Feelgood Tap. Each month, Batch partners with a local non-profit, creates a unique beer to honor that partner, and donates $2.00 from every pint sold. Recent partners include the Motown Museum and Hostel Detroit, with next month’s featured tap benefiting the Riverfront Conservancy.

Seven months after opening, Batch is now looking to expand.

“We want to get our beer outside these four walls,” said Roginson. “We started hand-bottling this week, and we’re adding 15-bbl tanks.”

“I guess that means we will no longer be considered ‘nano’,” Roginson added.

Canucky Common is available at Batch Brewing Company while supplies last.

There’s this phenomenon occurring right now on Canfield in Detroit. On one corner representing an older, distinguished Detroit, there’s Traffic Jam and Snug, the first brew-pub in Michigan. On the other corner, there’s the new HopCat Detroit, bringing over one hundred taps from around the world. And now sandwiched in the middle is Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria and Brewery.

It’s the perfect evening for an opening — it’s the end of a long work week, and the spring sun is actually shining, making the Michigan weather seem much warmer than it is for a moment. One can envision the casual, outdoor seating buzzing during the upcoming summer season. Inside it’s cozy and welcoming — I’ve barely said hello when multiple servers hand me food and drink to sample.

“Shaved Brussel sprout salad?” Yes please.

“Margherita pizza?” Yes please!

“May I bring you another beer? Yes. Always. Please!

It’s classic hospitality at its best, fusing together excellent service with the artisan concept that has always defined Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. Everyone is smiling and having a great time — and brewmaster Ron Jeffries, the Captain Ron, just keeps saying “super excited.”

“Super excited” seems to define the evening. Tonight the conversation is all about the celebration of present successes and future possibilities, for both the region and the brewing company. Michigan has always been enthusiastic about expanding the craft industry, and the Jolly Pumpkin Detroit opening definitely signifies the local support and teamwork that goes into the continued development.

This venture combined the determined powers of Northern United Brewing Company, Midtown Detroit Incorporated as well as numerous other Detroit institutions.

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales has always been a proud Michigan brand, with locations in Dexter, Ann Arbor and Traverse City. Adding Midtown Detroit to this list was ideal.

“We’re always looking for new places, and we’ve been looking at Detroit for awhile,” says Jeffries. “We thought this would be a great addition to the neighborhood.”

I have to admit as a huge craft fan that this stretch of city-block gets me “super excited.” Within walking distance there are so many Michigan craft possibilities offering a slew of varying atmospheres and experiences.

One attendee commented, “Can you imagine being a Wayne State student right now? With all of this around? There would be no studying!”

Indeed, with 32 taps and a mouth-watering menu, there’s plenty of delicious distractions. And locals will be happy to recognize familiar products from Avalon International Breads, McClure’s pickles, The Brinery, Guernsey Dairy and plenty of others.

“It’s about being Michigan-based. Our chefs, our owners, everyone recognizes how important it is to use local product to fit the region,” says Jeffries.

“We’re just super excited,” he continues. “It’s a great spot. Our staff is excited. And so far a lot of people have come in and enjoyed our food and our beer.”