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Aug 29, 2014

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East Detroit

July, 2000

By Bobby Bush

Last year I made two trips to Detroit and covered the central, north and west suburbs fairly well. So, with another opportunity to visit motor city, it was eastward we went, following the contour of Lake St. Claire. Unfortunately we missed the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Festival by three days, though we heard tales of the 30 brewery event almost everywhere we traveled.

From Detroit Metro Wayne County Airport we headed east on I-94 and then south to Wyandotte. This chemical town is home to many blue collar workers and Sports Bar & Grill. My experience with sports-theme brewpubs in the past overshadowed this particular stop. Expecting immense emphasis on televised sports and a wall covered with athletic memorabilia with little concern for the beer being served, we were somewhat surprised with what we discovered. A 50s-style diner with oldies blaring from the jukebox, we took note of the ample display of framed sports photos and an array of tap handles behind the glittery turquoise vinyl upholstered bar

The cute bartender didn’t need to explain that she was new on the job, she obviously was not beer savvy. But she did russell up a sampler tray of all six beers. Maple Street Wheat started with a fruity profile modified gently by a bitter rumble. Bobby’s Blonde was a thin lawnmower brew. Caramel met orange flavor in the dry finishing Brickyard Red, made from crystal malt and wheat. Second Street IPA was nice though lacking in sufficient bitterness for style while nitro-smooth B.C. Victory Pale Ale was less hoppier and mild. Also on nitro, Timmy’s Tough Guy Stout was rich, dark and delicious. A creamy tan head floated atop the pitch black brew. Dark chocolate caressed my tongue without a hint of sweetness. The sensation dissipated quickly, yet left a craving for another swallow. Hmmm. Out of politeness, we tried a sip of Brown Bomber Root Beer.

Sports Grill was founded in 1990 by John Grzywa. John Jr. installed the brewery in 1998. Based on our findings, its a pretty successful father and son team.

Time to move on, we headed north skirting Windsor, Canada (check your atlas) to the town of Eastpointe. Our map was misleading and we searched to find our target in the tangle of streets surrounding a major mall. Detroit Brew Factory wasn’t exactly what we had expected. Open since 1997, this East Eight Mile Road storefront is a homebrew supply and brew-on-premises business with a bar. They’ll help you make brew-it-yourself beer or wine and serve you some of their own production.

Heck, a bar’s a bar, so with a row of small brew kettles behind us, we sat down at the bar and introduced ourselves to brewer Bob Fradeneck, whose sister Sandra Harville owns the place. A neighborhood hangout with a mug club for regulars, this was a not-so-cozy taproom with six beers to try. Hefeweizen was too Bavarian for my taste, it’s clove and yeasty flavor over-powering any hint of barley and wheat. Cherry Wheat, however, had a malty background with cherry aroma and flavor in proper proportion. Dutch Golden sported medium body and delightful hop finish, while dry-hopped Michigan Lakes IPA was bitter from mid-taste to aftertaste with a berry-like middle. An unusual one hop recipe, Centennial Ale had a green hops nose and floral hops flavor. Semi-sweet chocolate dominated the short dry-finishing Stout. With over 70 BOP recipes, Detroit Brew Factory’s beers are ever rotating. They do big business in kegs to go.

I had planned to swing through Warren and stop at an amazing little microbrewery called Dragonmead. This hole-in-the-wall brewery, housed in a grungy old warehouse of a building just off I-696, makes astonishingly original beers like Earl Spit Stout, Final Absolution Belgian Style Tripple, Dead Monk Abbey Ale, Positively Woody’s Porter, Archangel NA, Breath of the Dragon English Bitter and Final Absolution. Every beer has an interesting story. Most are a recreation or adaptation of an ancient or neglected beer style. I’d been to Dragonmead before but longed to go back just to see what 14 beers were on tap this time. Our itinerary, in search of undiscovered brewpubs, did not allow such a detour.

Hang on, we have five more Greater Detroit brewpubs to hit. See Great Baraboo.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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