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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.”

 

On Saturday,  crisp, chilly weather didn’t keep fans away from Grand Rapids Brewing Co.’s 2nd Anniversary Party.

The line of people stretched down Ionia Avenue nearing HopCat before the 11 a.m. opening, with many rushing toward the back bar to buy the limited run of bottling for the brewery’s Polish Eagle and the Philanthropist.

The bourbon barrel aged imperial porter and barleywine barrels went for $15 each, with just 150 bottles available of each. Staff expected the bottles to last well into the afternoon, however many of the first patrons in the door took liberty and bought the maximum of two bottles of each.

Also on tap were last year’s Philanthropist and an amped-up version of the brewery’s Rosalynn Bliss Blonde called Empress Bliss.

A full taproom also took advantage of a $15 brunch buffet and a $2 Bloody Mary bar.

GRAND RAPIDS — A line was forming outside on the morning of HopCat’s sixth anniversary, but owner Mark Sellers was concerned first of all with the crowd inside.

“When we opened,” he told the congregation of about 25 employees, “I didn’t even know if we’d make it to one year. Now we’ve made it six years, and we’re setting records every year, and that’s thanks to all of you.

“Now get to work!” he added wryly, and opened the doors for the anniversary celebration. The all-day event featured limited release stouts, free “crack fries,” and a crack fry eating contest so intense that an impromptu halftime was needed to help the kitchen keep up.

It was clearly a successful day for one of the most celebrated beer bars in the country. But while success has become the standard outcome for everything HopCat does, it wasn’t exactly what Sellers planned for at the beginning.

Sellers just wanted the place to stay afloat at first. He didn’t anticipate the craft beer craze. He wasn’t thinking that far ahead. “I told my manager,” he recalled, “that my goal [for the first year] was to break even so I could have a bar to hang out in.” 

The vision was a place for “the true beer geeks,” a place that emphasized craft and kept out corporatized macrobrews. People told Sellers it would never work. “I got lucky, I guess,” he said.

Whatever caused it — luck, intuition or maybe just good taste — Sellers isn’t too concerned about his personal success with HopCat. He’s most gratified by the prosperity it has brought to others. Between HopCat and the other bars he owns (under the umbrella of Barfly Ventures), Sellers employs more than 430 people who have made over $7 million in wages since he opened HopCat in 2008. “It really gives me a sense of pride that I’ve given that many people a way to make a living,” he said.

Two of the staff making their living at HopCat are Ernest Richards and Bobby Edgcomb, the brewers behind the spectrum of stouts released for the anniversary. Both enjoy the challenge of brewing for a place where the in-house beers aren’t the only option or even the main attraction. Edgcomb said that, because their beers face more competition, the brewers “have to bring their best” in order to get any attention. 

Their best on this occasion was the Oil Rigger, a rich but smooth Russian imperial stout, plus six flavor-infused variations on it: Chocolate raspberry, coffee marshmallow, crème brûlée, molé, orange brandy and vanilla bourbon.

The stout’s full body offered a nice backdrop to each of these flavors, the most popular of which seemed to be the molé, a beer that smells a little like French Toast but finishes with heat from ancho and chipotle chili peppers. Special edition bottles of the standard Oil Rigger were sold to a limited number of customers, but all the flavors (plus 2012 and 2013 brews of the Oil Rigger) were available on draft.

You can expect more crack fries, more brews, and more people to be on hand this time next year for the seventh anniversary. If you can’t wait that long for a HopCat party, though, you’re in luck. Sellers plans to announce the opening of a third HopCat restaurant soon. He wouldn’t say where, exactly, but he would say this: “If you keep going east past East Lansing, you eventually hit another city.”