|Head brewer Konrad Connor hoists a pint of Redwood's award-winning beer.|
It sits in a highly visible location, squatting obviously between the convergence of I-75 and US-23 near Flint. Every Michigander who has taken that route up north and back down always knows exactly what you mean when you mention the Redwood Lodge, but – and there’s always a but – “I’ve never managed to stop there.”
Dear rhetorical traveler, you should stop there. Not only will your beer-loving taste buds thank you, your food-loving ones will, too. (All right, taste buds are taste buds, but you get my drift.)
Founded in 1997, the Redwood Lodge Mesquite Grill & Brewpub began life as an upscale dining destination, but through the years and some ownership shakeups, its current incarnation now sits comfortably somewhere between upscale and casual. The “rustic” interior, accentuated with wall trophies and hardwood floors and rafters, is quite large and spacious, with high ceilings and tables and booths to accommodate parties of all sizes, no matter if the party is wearing suits or t-shirts. The bar is long and roomy, with a full complement of spirits and something in the neighborhood of 10 housemade beers (six standard and up to four seasonals) on tap at any given time, along with a “guest” tap or two.
One thing you’ll notice right away are the numerous banners that hang over the bar, trumpeting awards won in competitions by Redwood’s beers. In 2008, Redwood beers took so many medals at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver that the brewpub also received the “Small Brewery of the Year” award and then-head brewer Bill Wamby was named “Small Brewer of the Year.”
Current head brewer Konrad Connor, an assistant under Wamby, continues to maintain the quality of the beers that put Redwood on the map. Those beers included, at the time of my visit (mid-July), the six regular beers – Redwood Light, Kolsch, Munich Helles, Pale Ale, American IPA and Cream Stout – along with three seasonals: American Lager, Citrus? We Don’t Need No Stinking Citrus Hefeweizen, and English Summer Ale. A fourth seasonal, Northern English Brown Ale, had just run out, and the guest tap was Lindeman’s Framboise.
I had time only for a few beers, but I’ll say if you enjoy kolsch and helles, Redwood's are great examples of each style, relatively light and refreshing with good hoppiness at 4.8% and 5.6% ABV and 22 and 30 IBUs (a measure of a beer’s bitterness) respectively. I never miss a chance to have the helles in particular whenever I drop in for a pint or two; it’s really delicious. The English “Summer Ale” was actually a tasty English bitter, renamed because people who don’t know that English bitters aren’t particularly bitter (18 IBUs for this one) avoided ordering it. (Assistant brewer Dan Case says once they began calling it “Summer Ale,” sales picked up dramatically.) The cream stout was a GABF gold medalist and it’s quite good, but on this visit I eschewed it for its crisper and lighter tapmates.
Redwood’s menu, which by now is probably completely different following an impending revamp, can be a wee bit pricey, reflecting the upscale heritage of the restaurant. But in my limited experience, Redwood’s food remains quite a bit better than what one often encounters at brewpubs. I was assured one of my favorite items, the smoked chicken wings appetizer, would likely remain untouched by the menu revamp. Woo-hoo!
But if you’re reading this, you’re doubtless more interested in beer than food anyway. And if you live close enough to get to Redwood regularly, you’ll definitely want to check out their mug club as well as the Beer Appreciation Society events that take place the second Monday of each month. The cost for the latter is $16 and includes appetizers and samples of a featured beer style that brewer Connor will discuss. (The Society is on summer hiatus, however, with the next event scheduled for Sept. 12.)
The adjoining bar, dubbed the Sequoia Lounge, is less formal than the main dining area and, though it’s billed as a wine and martini place, it also has the same beers as the main bar. Live music and TVs lend a much more cozy “pub” feel to the space, and happy hour from 3-7 p.m. Monday through Friday certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
So the next time you’re traveling that long highway, why not take a break for a bite and a pint at Redwood? It’s definitely worth the short side trip down the exit ramp.
The Redwood Lodge, 5304 Gateway Center Dr., Flint, (810) 233-8000. Hours (restaurant): Mon. – Thurs., 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Fri., 11 a.m. to Midnight; Sat., Noon to Midnight; Sun. Noon to 1 p.m. Hours (Sequoia Lounge): Mon. – Thurs, 11 a.m. to Midnight, Fri., 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Sat., 3 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Sun., 3-10 p.m. Web: theredwoodlodge.com.