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Beertown: Detroit

Slick newcomers and tenacious mainstays prove that the Motor City’s beer scene has both style and sticking power.
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Slows Bar BQ

Slows Bar BQ, Photo by Emily Berger

With its 2013 municipal bankruptcy in the rearview, Detroit is no longer the butt of jokes. A generation of young, creative entrepreneurs has primed the city for a beer renaissance that celebrates its hardworking, industrial roots. Hometown pride runs deep here, so drinking local is the way to go.

MIDTOWN/CASS CORRIDOR

8° Plato Beer Co.
This second location of the bottle shop and bar (the original is 15 minutes from downtown in Ferndale) opened in September 2015 with 16 taps of beer, cider and mead, plus hundreds of bottles and cans lining the walls of the historic building, a former antique store. Swing by on Fridays for tap features that often include rare releases from Michigan breweries.
3409 Cass Ave., 8degreesplato.com

Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria & Brewery
Each of the brewery’s three pubs has a unique feel; this 100-seat, wood- and communal table-decked outpost down the block from the Shinola store is all about the pizza. Twenty-nine taps pour Jolly Pumpkin faves like Bam Bière farmhouse ale and Oro de Calabaza wild Belgian golden ale, plus hoppy, American-style brews from sister brands North Peak and Grizzly Peak.
441 W. Canfield St., jollypumpkin.com

The Peterboro
A neon tiger sign guards the entrance to this contemporary Chinese-American eatery whose dining room blends traditional red paper lanterns with a slick, charcoal-colored bar. Though known for cocktails, this spot’s nine-bottle beer list is also smart, spanning food-friendly American, Belgian and German styles. One blow-your-mind pairing: Duvel Belgian golden ale with Crab Rangoon.
420 Peterboro St., thepeterboro.com

Motor City Brewing Works
A seat inside the taproom will get you closer to the pizza oven, but the picnic table-specked beer garden and second-floor deck are where you’ll catch the sunshine. A small pilot system yields a steady stream of taproom one-offs, but Ghettoblaster “Detroit-style” mild ale is the best-seller.
470 W. Canfield St., motorcitybeer.com

HopCat
What started as one beer bar is now a Midwest empire; this location stands apart with an events space that hosts everything from beer dinners to concerts. The 130 taps include 30 local lines; expect Atwater D-light kölsch, Griffin Claw El Rojo amber and Dragonhead Castlebrite Apricot Ale. Save room for beer-battered Crack Fries with cheese sauce.
4265 Woodward Ave., hopcat.com/detroit

CORKTOWN

Batch Brewing Co.
When it opened in February 2015, Batch’s tiny setup looked like a glorified homebrew kit with a kitchen tacked on. (It’s since added equipment.) Inside the no-frills taproom lined with windows and white subway tiles, look for 16 rotating drafts including summertime favorite Handsome Stranger, a hibiscus saison.
1400 Porter St., batchbrewingcompany.com

Slows Bar BQ
A Detroit institution since 2005, the energetic, brick-walled restaurant added a second bar, bringing its total to 56 taps (with growler fills!). Michigan breweries rule, with rarities from Perrin, Brewery Vivant and Right Brain. The real star, though, is the ’cue: beef brisket, pulled pork and glazed chicken topped with your favorite style of housemade sauce.
2138 Michigan Ave., slowsbarbq.com

Mudgies- Michelle and Chris Gerard

Mudgie’s Brooklyn sandwich, Photo by Michelle and Chris Gerard

Mudgie’s
This ivy-covered, brick-laden deli has 100-plus bottled beers and four taps, many from the Mitten State. The choice among from-scratch sandwiches made with house-roasted meats isn’t easy, but owner Greg Mudge says the corned beef reuben is a best-seller.
1300 Porter St., mudgiesdeli.com

Brew Detroit
A contract brewery with a taproom is a bit unusual, but this spot has increasingly focused on its bar, pouring 10 taps that include Detroit’s own Atwater Dirty Blonde, BADASS American Lager and rotating house brews. Challenge your friends to a round of darts, foosball or an arcade game; catch local musicians on Saturday nights.
1401 Abbott St., brewdetroit.com

Mercury Burger & Bar
The kitchen is open till 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, so make a late night run for this retro diner-style eatery’s fare like The Juicy, a cheddar cheese-stuffed burger. Sixteen taps always include 14 local breweries such as Dragonhead and Greenbush, although it’s hard to resist the boozy milkshakes, like the one blended with Atwater Vanilla Java Porter.
2163 Michigan Ave., mercuryburgerbar.com

Townhouse

Townhouse’s atrium, Photo by Michelle and Chris Gerard

DOWNTOWN

Townhouse
Come for the lively Sunday brunch party in this spot’s stunning 2,400-square-foot atrium, and don’t miss the namesake burger: a blend of 28-day-aged cuts topped with bourbon-glazed onions and white cheddar. Wash it down with Bell’s Oberon or a chaser from the bar’s sizable whiskey collection.
500 Woodward Ave., eatattownhouse.com

Grand Trunk Pub
Interiors don’t get much more visually impressive than the early 20th century former Grand Trunk Railway ticketing station, which retains its 25-foot vaulted ceilings and brass chandeliers. Dim and cozy, the bar stocks 170 bottled beers with 21 all-Michigan taps from breweries including Axle, Bell’s, New Holland and Wolverine State. Heading to your hotel room? The bar offers mixed sixers to go.
612 Woodward Ave., grandtrunkpub.com

RIVERTOWN

Atwater Brewery Biergarten and Taphouse
Detroit’s largest brewery debuted a 5,000-square-foot taproom in November within its historic building near the Detroit River, increasing seating from a handful of bar stools to 125. A 25-seat wooden bar offers views into the brewhouse where flagships Vanilla Java Porter and Dirty Blonde Ale are created, while a spiffed-up kitchen turns out pub food like white bean chicken chili and fish tacos.
237 Joseph Campau Ave., atwaterbeer.com

Coming Soon: Detroit Shipping Co.

A few years ago, three Michigan natives sketched a small shipping container development on loose-leaf paper: five containers arranged in a U-shape. It has since morphed into a 22-container, 8,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor compound hoping to debut in Midtown sometime after late summer. Developers plan to include five restaurants, two beer-focused bars, four art galleries, a music stage and a 20-foot projection screen.
474 Peterboro St., detroitshipyard.com

HUNT THESE TAPS:

Michigan’s summer brews are all about easy drinking wheat beers. If you’ve never had Bell’s Oberon wheat ale, it’s a rite of passage (and mighty delicious). Kalamazoo’s Arcadia Ales produces another Mitten favorite English-style pale wheat ale, Whitsun. Also watch for Shorts’ Nicie, a crisp wheat with orange and lemon zest, coriander and peppercorn accents.

 

Author
Kate Bernot is DRAFT’s beer editor. Reach her at kate.bernot[at]draftmag.com.

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