Wednesday kicked off the Great Lakes segment of the Summer Tour, which is a two-week run through the “upper” Great Lakes region... hitting Michigan's Upper Peninsula (UP), Minnesota, and and northern Wisconsin. This is my first time in this region, so I've been looking forward to seeing what the area has to offer.
The drive to the UP is about 11 hours, so I luckily managed to break it up by kicking off the run at Atwater In the Park, a rather cool brewery in the Grosse Pointe Park section of Detroit. Atwater Brewing has been a well established brewer in the region for many years, and they opened the “In the Park” brewery and taproom about five years ago. The facility is a gorgeous re-purposed church, with the main sanctuary serving as the taproom, the brewing facilities are up on the altar area, and the courtyard serves as the beer garden. They also have a kitchen serving meals, and the extremely helpful night manager Emma might be willing to hear confessions if you ask nicely.
Atwater In the Park - Grosse Pointe Park, MI
(other locations downtown Detroit, at the airport, and in Grand Rapids, MI) https://www.atwaterbeer.com/
Extensive selection of beers available on tap at the taproom. Beers are also distributed widely in bottles, cans, and kegs, and to regional restaurants and drinking establishments. You can find their beer here
Atwater has a significant beer selection, with some beers brewed at the church, and the rest at the larger brewing facility downtown. The taproom carries them all, and the menu lets you know what is brewed where. The selection was wide enough that it made choices difficult, so I deferred to the experienced expertise of the aforementioned Emma to help me with my selections.
It being a hot day, we started with the Ledergosen (4.5%) Cherry Gose. Golden hued, crisp, and with a lighter body and medium carbonation level, the cherry was present in the aroma, and much more sour than I expected. It wasn't stupid sour, but as the recent craze in goses , kettle sours, etc. go this is a pretty sour brew. I like reasonably sour beers, so it worked for me, but I could see it being a bit much for some people. Later in the night, though, I had a pint of the Cherry Cream Tart (5.1%) lactose kettle sour, had essentially the same concept and flavor, but with the lactose to give it a bit more of creamier texture, which I thought worked very well with the cherry.... so I preferred the Cherry Cream Tart a bit more than the Ledergosen, but they were both fine beers, and really it comes down to whether you prefer a creamier or thinner texture.
Next up was the amusingly named Better Life Choices (6.5%) American pale ale, the Atwater default for people who like heavily hopped pale ales. Light amber in color and crisp and clear, this one was fairly lightly carbonated, piney, with a slight citrus/grapefruit sweetness and a BIG bitter finish. The bold hop flavor blends with a maltiness that helps balance it out, but bottom like is this is a beer for people like bold, hoppy beers.
Continuing down my path towards the darker beers, I sipped on the Wired Blonde (5.9%) coffee blonde with lactose. The combination of coffee with a blonde ale is interesting, as it seems coffee is usually brewed with darker and/or heavier beers, such as stouts, porters, browns, and on... so matching it with a blonde is, at least in my experience, a little different. The coffee is sourced from a local brewer, it brings a rich coffee aroma and flavor to the beer. There seem to be two camps of people who like coffee beers: those who like bold, rather dominant coffee flavor, and those who just want the aroma and only a hint of the coffee to come through. Wired Blonde is for the former, as the coffee flavor is rather dominant. It's a nice rich, dark, somewhat nutty coffee, and that blends well with the blonde, providing you'd rather taste more of the coffee than the blonde. Lactose, of course, is typically added to provide a little extra body or creaminess to a beer, and I didn't really notice a lactose effect in this one... in fact I thought that, despite the bold flavor, the texture seemed a little thinner that I'd prefer.... but again, I generally drink coffee porters or stouts... so if you're looking for a bold coffee flavor without the heft of a stout or porter, this is your beer!
As is often the case, there were so many other beers on the menu that I wanted to try, but just couldn't for obvious logistical reasons. They had, for example, an usually healthy selection of lagers and pilsners, which really demands a visit of it's own to tackle, as I could see trying a good lagers in a visit w/out confusing the palate with IPAs and browns and sours and such. I did get to try just a sip of a beer that hadn't been officially unveiled yet, and we weren't sure what exactly it was... but the complexity was intriguing... I thought I perhaps detected rye, but there was also a spice in there that I couldn't quite pin down... it was almost minty, as it left a sort of cool sensation in your mouth afterward. I don't know what it was, but I was told they were tapping it this weekend at a party, so you might ask for it based on that.
I should also mention that Atwater also distills it's own vodka, gin, and whiskey... and they make a wine! I had a small sample of the whiskey, and it reminded me of an Irish whiskey... smooth.
On this night the crowd was a mix of all ages, with some dogs on hand, but I don't recall any young children... although it was a Wednesday evening. I was told that on the weekends they often have many families with younger kids, as well as dogs... so the beer garden gets rather festive!
The atmosphere of the renovated church is quite cool, especially at night when it is lit and the stonework is accented but the lighting and shadows. There was also a sizable back room that looked like it might be for private events.
Atwater (and Grosse Pointe Park) have a real gem with this location, and I'd be interested in checking out another location to see how it compares, and to perhaps dive deeper into a more focused sampling of the beers. Thanks again to Emma for her guidance and help!
Next stop... Supreme Culture, Marquette, MI....
Have you grabbed a t-shirt or CD yet? The Great Brewery Tour is a completely grass roots operation, and your support is appreciated!