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ST. CLAIR SHORES — The Wine Garden celebrated the much anticipated release of its Big Tony’s Imperial Stout this past Saturday.

Eager patrons snaked the inside the store for a sample of the limited stout and the opportunity to purchase bottles of the small-batch brew. Over 50 cases were sold within 45 minutes of being released.

“I expected a lot of people to be here,” said owner Tony Batou. “I’ve been talking about it the last few years.”

The American Imperial Stout is an original recipe brewed by Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. exclusively for The Wine Garden. The stout was then aged in Buffalo Trace barrels, hand-selected by Batou, for 18 months. The final ABV clocks in at 12.9%.

The idea for the exclusive brew happened by chance one night when Kuhnhenn owner Bret Kuhnhenn visited Batou’s shop a couple of years back based on a friend’s recommendation.

“I finally made it over and Tony happened to be here. We tried some stuff and I noticed he had this whole pile of Buffalo Trace bottles,” Kuhnhenn recalled. “I told him I was a huge fan and he told me he had the barrels.”

Kuhnhenn was excited to find out about Batou’s barrel selection.

“We use bourbon barrels all the time but we don’t get Buffalo Trace barrels,” Kuhnhenn said. “So we tried [the bourbon] and we talked about what kind of beer we would like. Do we want to do a barley wine? Do we want an imperial stout?”

Ultimately, the two decided on an American Imperial Stout.

“We thought the marriage would be perfect with it, so that’s what we did,” Kuhnhenn said. “We thought it would add a little vanilla character from the bourbon barrel and it came out phenomenal.”

The nose on the brew is strong bourbon, identical to the Buffalo Trace bourbon. The stout is full of cocoa, espresso and vanilla notes throughout and finishes smooth while leaving a little spice from the bourbon.

Batou recalled wanting to make a collaboration happen with a local brewery for many years.

“I wanted to make a bad ass beer and I’ve been in his brewery many times,” he said. “Every time I went to Kuhnhenn’s and I tried any stout or anything dark like Michigan Mud, Crème Brule, anything like that, I said, ‘This is amazing.’ And all I could think about was that beer going into those barrels.”

Batou also gushed proudly about how the beer ideation and creation all happened in Macomb County, including the bottle labels designed by local artist Katie Alfonsi.

“This beer is beyond just making beer,” Batou said. “It’s the passion of a brewer, the passion of a shop owner and the passion of an artist.”

Batou hopes to continue collaborating with Kuhnhenn in the future on similar projects.

“I don’t think I’ve done anything else that makes me this happy other than having my kids,” he said. “Twenty years in business and I’ve never done anything more exciting than this. And I couldn’t have done it without Bret and Kuhnhenn.”

WARREN — As the last kegs were tapped and the final mugs were filled during the closing weekend of Munich’s Oktoberfest, another celebration was happening closer to home — Kuhnhenn-style.

Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. in Warren held its own Oktoberfest celebration on Saturday, complete with a tented biergarten, German food, live entertainment and plenty of festbier.

“What’s cool about our Oktoberfest is, well, everything,” said Jon Piepenbrok, Kuhnhenn Director of Marketing and Sales, adding that the brewery tries to schedule the annual event a little later in the season, after other metro Detroit breweries have held their own festivities.

“We don’t like to directly compete with our friends who do Oktoberfest,” he said.

Kuhnhenn’s staff members were decked out in dirndl dresses and lederhosen as they poured and served the brewery’s diverse selection of beer, wine and mead. Kuhnhenn Fest, a traditional märzen-style beer, was especially popular, and visitors even had a chance to take a sip (or two) out of a communal, two-liter glass drinking horn that made its way around the crowd.

Piepenbrok noted that Kuhnhenn Fest is unique in that it’s brewed year-round rather than seasonally, so it can be enjoyed any time. It was one of a few beers, along with Fluffer IPA and Oatmeal Stout, that could be purchased in the biergarten during the daylong celebration.

Oktoberfest also featured food from Dan the Smokin’ Man, who put his own spin on traditional German fare. The menu included bratwurst, krautwurst, weisswurst, knackwurst and eisbein (a smoked pork shank), as well as German potato salad, sauerkraut, red cabbage and apple dumplings.

The day’s revelry continued into the evening, with musical performances by George Heritier and the Orbitsuns.

Kuhnhenn fans can expect even more events down the road, including off-site “tap assaults,” special bottle releases at its popular Winter Solstice celebration and the opening of the brewery’s new production facility in Clinton Township.

“I’d like to have (the production facility) open prior to St. Patrick’s Day,” said Piepenbrok. “Our plan is to have the production facility online at the end of February.”

Next up, Kuhnhenn will release its All Hallows Ale, brewed with locally-grown Michigan pie pumpkins, on Oct. 20.

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