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Posted on Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 5:59 a.m.

Wolverine State Brewing Co. hopes to open west Ann Arbor microbrewery by fall

By Wendy Ochoa


E.T. Crowe stands in the middle of what soon will be the Wolverine State Brewing Co. on West Stadium Boulevard in Ann Arbor. Crowe and her partners plan on opening the brewery in September.

Lon Horwedel |

The owners of Wolverine State Brewing Co. had expected to be open at their new location on West Stadium Boulevard on Ann Arbor's West Side by now. Partners Matt RoyTrevor Thrall, and E.T. Crowe signed the lease in January and at that time projected an April opening

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."

Ron Jeffries, owner and master brewer of The Jolly Pumpkin, said that not having a full food menu could be a challenge for the brewery.

"Whether it's successful depends on two things," said Jeffries.  "One, good beer; and two -- the environment and service aspect."

Jefferies said mass market beer sales have declined a little while craft beer sales have seen an uptick. 

"People see value in it and so in turn more craft beer is being sold.  That bodes well for anybody who wants to open a micro brewery."

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.



Wed, Oct 20, 2010 : 9:04 a.m.

Thanks for the update, JML. My colleagues and I were just wondering this morning as to whether or not this place had opened yet. Too bad it looks like they'll miss the home football season business this year, but hope they can open soon. A lot of folks on the westside are looking forward to it!

J. Michael Lenninger

Sun, Sep 26, 2010 : 2:38 p.m.

Went by there last weekend after the U-M game - still no activity whatsoever. Rule of thumb: If they mention a timeframe to open; double it. So, I'm thinking February now? If you still want to enjoy a Wolverine brew, stop in exit 122 on I-96 at Webberville at Michigan Brewing Co. and their tap room. For my money, the best beer AND food is found at Redwood Lodge in Flint. Steak tip chili is outstanding. Half-price bar appetizers 4-6 pm M-Thurs in Sequoia Lounge (now non-smoking).


Mon, Jul 26, 2010 : 12:03 p.m.

best of luck. the location should be good, there is a lack of anything like this on the west side. I have been to the pub in plymouth that was mentioned and its nice (and they have a very limited food menu, not NO food menu) and it works.

Somewhat Concerned

Mon, Jul 26, 2010 : 9:16 a.m.

If there is one thing Ann Arbor needs, it's more beer. More beer in more places. That's what makes us great. If we can keep this going, we might catch up with Columbus or Ft. Wayne.

Top Cat

Mon, Jul 26, 2010 : 8:29 a.m.

A new brewpub is always great news. Also glad to see one in a location other than downtown. The lack of food is a legitimate concern. Corner Brewery has evolved to a pretty full menu. I like the lager focus, but lagers take longer to brew than ales and thus tie up the tanks longer. We'll see how that does as well. Best of luck to them! Maybe Mr. Briegel will buy me a beer.

Patti Smith

Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 7:58 p.m.

The Baltic Porter was awesome. Looking forward to the opening!!


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 4:42 p.m.

We can't wait! Such a good idea and love the twist of having the arrangement with Izzy's and pizza places; it keeps everything local. I don't think it's a big deal to not be a brewpub with food - servers have a tendency to hurry people through because of table wait time and tip gathering when sometimes people just want to sit and hang out with good beer.

David Briegel

Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 2:29 p.m.

Tavern, Pub, Bar, Coffee Shop. Call them what you want, just come! Y'all Come!! Escape!! I can walk home!!

free form

Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 1:46 p.m.

Had some Wolverine at beerfest yesterday. Definitely excited for the tap room to open! Good luck!


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 1:39 p.m.

The Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti, and Liberty Street Brewing in Plymouth, both allow outside food to be delivered, and have since they opened. For many people this is a major draw.


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 1:09 p.m.

Awesome! I believe the comment about not having food being a challenge is not valid. Kuhnhenn's and Dragonmead in Warren have limited food menus and let people bring in food or have food delivered. The beer should be the primary focus. The food can follow in time if that's where you want to go. I'm looking forward to visiting this fall.

ET Crowe

Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 12:27 p.m.

Definitely a "bar", since we will be serving beer...but a feel of a coffee shop with plenty of seating including couches, chairs, tables, bar stools, plenty of outlets along the bar for your laptops and phone chargers and just a great neighborhood atmosphere! See you ALL there! (we will have coffee, too!)


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 11:46 a.m.

>>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.

John Alan

Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 7:22 a.m.

Great idea/concept... I am looking forward to their opening... Good luck guys.

Hot Sam

Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 7:10 a.m.

Looking forward to Wolverine. As for not serving food...I have no problem with that. Think of all the added costs. Staff, waste, bureaucracy...who needs it. I frequent a pub in Grand Rapids called Schmohz...they have a self serve popcorn machine and free peanuts. They sell a ton of beer, and beer is where you make your money. The atmosphere at Schmohz is what I believe the Wolverine folks envision. Lot's of locals stopping by, great conversation, and a friendly and inviting feel. Yes the beer needs to shine, but don't forget the snacks!!!