Wolverine State Brewing Co. hopes to open west Ann Arbor microbrewery by fall
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
But after financing and construction delays slowed progress, the partners now are setting their sights on a fall opening to coincide with the University of Michigan football season.
Initial development of the brewery was slowed because the proprietors say they had a hard time securing a loan amid the credit crisis.
“We did receive a financial package, but with too many restrictions,” said Roy, who is chief counsel for Daimler Financial. They decided instead to self-fund the brewery's construction.
“It slowed the process down and scaled back the project,” Roy said.
However, they're also now moving forward without having to cover the overhead of financing debt: “We stand or fall on our own,” said Roy.
Wolverine Brewing wants to be the beer version of a coffee shop - a neighborhood place to hang out and socialize. It will have two large flat-screen televisions, darts, karaoke, scheduled trivia and movie nights and wireless Internet.
Converting the nearly 7,000-square-foot building — which previously was a portion of Big George's Home Appliance Mart — into a brewery also has taken a bit longer than expected.
“Plans don’t always go the way you hope," said Thrall, a professor of political science at University of Michigan-Dearborn. "A contractor may not finish when he says, and then the next one can’t get in until he’s gone. It’s not been anything dramatic, it’s just another two weeks here another two weeks there."
Crowe, a Realtor with the Charles Reinhart Co., said one setback involved delivery of a boiler that was slightly too large. Resolving that issue slowed the process down of installing the brewing and fermentation tanks.
Wolverine Brewing also needs to finalize its micro brewers license from the state. Crowe said that the license cannot be awarded until the building is complete.
“We started the process in the winter. We’ve gone as far as we can go with getting approved until we are ready to be opened and can be inspected,” Crowe said.
When Wolverine Brewing opens this fall, it will be unlike Ann Arbor’s other area micro breweries, mainly because of the fact that it will not be a brewpub. The location will house the brewery and a tap room, which will have capacity for about 150 people, but will not have a food menu. The owners will have only snacks like pretzels and popcorn on hand.
However, they've made delivery arrangements with several Stadium Boulevard-area restaurants, including Gourmet Garden, Izzy’s Hoagie Shop, and several pizza places.
Wolverine Brewing will focus primarily on lagers, which refers to cold-fermented beer, as opposed to ales or warm-fermented brew. The new brewery will start out only brewing Wolverine Beer and add several new creations from head brewer Oliver Roberts as time goes on.
Roberts, who won several awards in the Arbor Brewing Co. home brewing competition, studied fermentation science - one of only a few programs in the country - at Oregon State University. His goal is to have Wolverine Brewing be a learning and teaching brewery.
“Patrons will leave with a better understanding of beers and their history,” Roberts said.
He plans to make at least five beers aside from Wolverine Brew, including Golden Hopportunity; The Pride of Biscuitville, which will use a biscuit malt from Belgium; and Faustian Stout, a Baltic porter made with a lager yeast.
Wolverine Beer, the company's only beer now in production, is brewed under a contract arrangement with Michigan Brewing in Webberville, east of Lansing and is available in bottles at area grocery stores. The beer is also available on tap from several local bars across Ann Arbor, including Packard Pub, Banfield's Westside, and the Applebee's on Green Road.
Roberts is also planning to launch what he's calling Liquid Soundtrack, in which he will collaborate with home brewers and invite them in for discussions about what they’d like to see next at the brewery.
Craft brewing, specialized small scale brewing used by microbreweries and homebrewers alike, “is a grass roots effort ,” said Roy. “This is our attempt to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s going on in those circles."
When it comes to staying in business, Roberts has a similar philosophy.
“If you brew it they will come,” Roberts said.
Wendy Ochoa is a journalism student at Washtenaw Community College where she writes for the Washtenaw Voice and an summer intern on the Community Team. She is also an English teacher at Plymouth High School. E-mail her with news and events in Ann Arbor's West Side.