By Bobby Bush
This was my second trip to the Detroit area in three weeks, though this time my day job drove me westward rather than downtown. Local Color Brewing Company, situated in an expansive shopping center on the outskirts of suburban Novi, opened for business in December 1997. The first thing I noticed as I settled in behind the long wood and stone bar was the mandatory sign stating occupancy capacity. 585 people is a lot, but this three level building, as I would find later, was quite capable of handling that crowd. And the brewery, up high behind glass walls on the second floor, looked as though it was amply proportioned also.
And then there was the beer, nine to try on this particular afternoon. Along with a delicious turkey pastrami sandwich, I tipped a tiny mug of each. Straw colored Smooth Talker Pilsner presented pleasant hop flavor and left a tangy bitter finish. Social Climber Light Lager was nice but effortless- no challenge for anything more than a tricycle beer. At 5.5% alcohol the seasonal Hefe Weizen- cloudy, spicy and yeasty -was a bit strong for style. Tomboy Red was a thin but malty copper hued lager, while Corporate Jim's Pale Ale was just as thin yet offered little flavor until its short bitter finish.
With that familiar lager yeast taste, seasonal Maibock was strong (6.5% abv) and a tinge more bitter than usual for this German style. Though the sampler placemat claimed otherwise, the malty smooth No. VI Brown Ale showed no evidence of chocolate malt inclusion. All of that chocolate malt must have found its way to Old Friend Stout, which was extremely smooth (nitro), departing with a roasted malt aftertaste. The Rugrat Rootbeer was pleasant as well.
Local Color's IPA, a seasonal and my favorite of the bunch, packed 6.5% alcohol into an equally hoppy strong, medium body ale. This beer was worthy of pint dosage, which I carried with me while perusing the second floor bar and third level cigar bar, catching glimpses of activity in the brewery and bottling line nearby. The main floor bar is prepared for action as well. Semi-circular dining booths rest on wheels, easily rolled away at night to reveal a varnished dance floor.
Good food, decent beer, great facilities - Local Color is a party waiting to happen.
My other stop in the west Detroit territory, in the town of Westland, was unique but not as interesting from a beer standpoint. George and Mike, their website lists only first names, served the local fire department with honor. When they retired from public service, they decided to serve the public in a different manner.
Fire Academy Brewery & Grill was founded in December 1997. Every square inch of wall and ceiling space in this single floor structure was embellished with some sort of fire fighting gear. A fire engine, light flashing, greets arriving patrons in the parking lot. Mannequins, suited with breathing apparatus and ready for action, hung from the ceiling, It's a bit disturbing, but what do you expect from a brewpub whose internet homepage (www.fireacademy.com) includes fire safety tips and arson awareness information.
Though their message is sincere, their beers could use a little rescue. Golden Axe Ale was light, as intended, and malty with a hint of bitter near the end. Smoke-Eater Wheat, served with lemon slice, was thankfully not as yeasty and estery as its Bavarian style dictates. The mild Maltese Cross Beer was not good, leaving a strange aftertaste. Sweetness overpowered both Chief's Amber Ale and Springfest. The former was thin with quick bitter finish, while the latter had only high alcohol content in its favor. Dispatcher Dunkel Rye Weizen was nice with dry closure. The full-bodied Pike Pole Porter suffered upfront from a burnt coffee effect which gave way to a slow roasted taste. And Pilot Flame Pale Ale was medium body and unexciting, though it did leave an agreeable bitter farewell.
Go to Fire Academy for the education, fire history and a broad selection of appetizers. The beer may tempt you too.
This article first appeared in Focus Magazine of Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush