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7.5% ABV, Draft

Appearance: Medium head, golden hue.
Aroma: Slight hops, sweet malts.
Taste: Sweet upfront. Fruity in the middle. Crisp finish.
Mouthfeel: Light all around. Clean finish.

Sherwood’s Hellacious B Maibock tends to be deceiving on many fronts with its appearance. The light look and presence give way to a sweet nose and taste. The malty offering is sweet all around, almost giving it a mild bitterness. The body is light and refreshing, and at 7.5% ABV, the brew holds true to the Bock style.  Hellacious B has the perfect makings of a spring brew.

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.”

6.5% ABV, Draft

Appearance: Black with a thick brown, creamy head.
Aroma: Toasted grains and malts.
Taste: Rich and roasty. Bitter at the end.
Mouthfeel: Creamy but not too heavy. Dry finish.

Described as “the love child of an American stout and an IPA,” this mash-up has all the qualities of what you want from a stout and a few IPA qualities to top it off. The appearance and aroma say stout to your eyes and nose, but the taste makes you second guess what you’re drinking. A few sweet notes poke their head out from time to time. That sweetness on the palate is only pulled back by the strong hop profile. The body isn’t terribly thick like some stouts. The finish is slightly tart and dry. This off-center stout is sure to please lovers of all styles, light and dark alike.

6% ABV, Draft

Appearance: Jet black, slight head.
Aroma: Strong coffee and chocolate notes.
Taste: Bitter coffee mellowed by maltiness.
Mouthfeel: Creamy body all around.

Blackjack Coffee Stout is a classic dry Irish stout. It has a nice aromatic coffee presence right off the bat. The taste is roasty. Upfront, it’s slightly bitter for a stout, but balanced. Coffee beans are added post-fermentation, giving the stout a smooth finish. The brew ends up drinking well and satisfying like a meal.

6% ABV, Draft

Appearance: Light and clear. Minimal head.
Aroma: Earthy smell. Slight sweetness.
Taste: Twinge of bitterness upfront. Smooth and sweet on the backend.
Mouthfeel: Light and crisp.

A long time staple of Sherwood, this Copper American Ale provides refreshment through its crispness from front to back. Slight earthy tones throughout are provided by the toasted hemp, giving it a twist. The bitterness from dry hopping balances the hemp and make this ale a great go-to for anytime of the year.

6% ABV, Draft

Appearance: Light and clear. Minimal head.
Aroma: Earthy smell. Slight sweetness.
Taste: Twinge of bitterness upfront. Smooth and sweet on the backend.
Mouthfeel: Light and crisp.

A long time staple of Sherwood, this Copper American Ale provides refreshment through its crispness from front to back. Slight earthy tones throughout are provided by the toasted hemp, giving it a twist. The bitterness from dry hopping balances the hemp and make this ale a great go-to for anytime of the year.

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.”

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