Wednesday, December 30, 2015

First Look Inside the New Ypsi Alehouse

The Ypsi Alehouse, 124 Pearl Street, is set to officially open in early January

Note: This post was updated on 12/31/15 to reflect new official opening date and hours.

More than 30 years after co-founding Michigan's first modern microbrewery – the Real Ale Company of Chelsea – Ted Badgerow has returned to commercial brewing with the launch of the Ypsi Alehouse in Downtown Ypsilanti, tentatively scheduled to open January 1 scheduled to open Saturday, January 2, at 3 p.m. The Alehouse will be the first brewery to open in Ypsilanti since the Arbor Brewing Co. Microbrewery, née Corner Brewery, opened in 2006, and the city's second overall.

Ted and co. held a soft opening the evening of December 29, which I infiltrated in the interests of investigative journalism. Here are a few nuggets from my visit.

  • Ted's brewing on a five-barrel system from G.W. Kent. The system has been heavily "brewguyvered" by none other than Ann Arbor Brewers Guild stalwart Mike "Brewguyver" O'Brien, meaning it has a lot of after-market bells and whistles rigged up by Ypsilanti's favorite brewery tinkerer. The assistant brewer and cellarman is Chris Fraleigh, formerly of Grizzly Peak.
  • Mike's happy to help because three decades ago Ted told him what he was doing wrong during his first few homebrew attempts, which Mike says resembled cider more than beer. He sought out Ted at the Real Ale Company, who told him he was adding too much sugar. (Homebrewing was definitely not as polished back then as it is now.)

Brewguyver in his natural habitat.

  • There are 16 taps altogether, with a couple earmarked for cider and possibly some homemade soda flavors. The cider will initially be sourced from a farm near Traverse City, but Ted's family owns some orchards so that is likely to change in the future. Wines will also be served, sourced from a TBD Michigan winery.
  • Local sourcing of ingredients will be a priority, when feasible and/or appropriate. Several beers included hops from Michigan hop farms.
  • Speaking of beers, eight were on tap: Isle Royale, a hoppy amber ale; Woodruff's Porter, a smoked honey porter; JimmyJack's Normal Beer, an "XPA" brewed with German malt and hops; Trollbridge ESB, brewed with all English ingredients; Mishabooz, a big stout hopped with Michigan Zeus, Chinook, and Nugget hops; Hop Head Ypsi IPA, made with hops from its namesake farm; Groovy Hopster Pale, an experimental collaboration with newcomers to hop farming from Chelsea; and Blue Racer, a honey wheat ale poured in a lava lamp-shaped glass with Michigan blueberries mesmerizingly bobbing up and down. (Read more about the beers here.) All beers are $6 for a pint; smaller sampler sizes are also available.

It really is like a blueberry lava lamp.

  • Though a microbrewery, Ypsi Alehouse will sport what looks to be a robust food menu. Mary Potts, veteran of places like Blue Tractor and Lena, is heading up the kitchen team to serve up dishes including Smoked Brisket Chili, Smoked Chicken Wings, Smoked Brisket Pot Pie, Cider and Ale Braised Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder, Warm German Potato Salad with Bacon, House Smoked Ribs, and a build-your-own-burger option. Vegetarian snacks include Roasted Peppadew Peppers Stuffed with Basil and Feta, Roasted Onion Dip, Pretzel Bites, Sweet Potato Enchiladas, Whiskey Braised Brussels Sprouts with Chili and Maple, and a Winter Salad of lentils, eggplant, zucchini, red peppers, and a lotta other stuff. (Read more about the menu and Mary here.)

Ted Badgerow brings recipes from three decades of homebrewing to the Alehouse menu.

  • At first blush, the prices for both the beer and food appear on the high side; however, in lieu of tipping, the Ypsi Alehouse is opting to actually pay their staff a real wage. So all prices have what would normally be a gratuity baked into them and there is no need to tip anyone.
  • The Alehouse occupies part of the first floor in the historic Huron Hotel building. It was last a Buffalo Wild Wings, and the Alehouse kept the B-Dubs bar. The taproom as of my visit was very unpolished, with bare walls and unfinished tile evident, and can accommodate up to 165. Overall, it's kind of an awkward space; at least for now, don't expect the most elegant ambiance.

Brewguyvered fermentation vessels.

The Ypsi Alehouse is located at the corner of Washington and Pearl streets, 124 Pearl. Listed hours are 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday Monday - Thursday, 3-10 p.m.; Friday, 3 p.m. to midnight; Saturday, noon to midnight; and Sunday, noon to 9 p.m. Phone: 734-477-1555. Web: Official opening date is TBD at this writing, but is tentatively set for New Year's Day Saturday, January 2, at 3pm.

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