Though Ann Arbor is already known for its many ale breweries, a new business is planning to make its mark in town with its homemade lagers. Wolverine State Brewing Company, which will be the city’s first tap room and specialize in premium American lagers, is set to open this spring.
Ann Arbor residents and University graduates Matt Roy and Trevor Thrall began Wolverine State Brewing Company three years ago in Ann Arbor. Since entering the beer business, the company has been contracting its production with Michigan Brewing Company — a brewery in Webberville near East Lansing.
But it is through the upcoming bar that the two entrepreneurs plan to market their production on a different and larger scale.
“We want to be a household name around the state of Michigan so that people know who we are and what we are,” Roy said. “We are distinguishing ourselves from all the other microbreweries because they are all primarily making ales, and we are a lager company.”
This distinction could be significant in Ann Arbor because the city is already saturated with breweries like Grizzly Peak Brewing Company and Arbor Brewing Company.
E.T. Crowe, Wolverine State’s director of sales and marketing, said Wolverine State Brewing Company will place its tap room on West Stadium Boulevard, in hopes of attracting a local demographic that doesn’t want to head downtown and also targets University students.
“There’s really no bar out there,” Crowe said. “It’s going to be a hang out place. What I want to attract is anyone willing to try something a little different, whether they are students or locals. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from local people who want to be able to walk and have a few beers and walk home in the summer.”
Roy agreed with Crowe, saying, “there is really no place to just go sit down and have a beer” in town.
Like many other brewers, Roy and Thrall entered the micro-brewing business by creating their own recipes and home brewing. The company now sells its beer through more than 100 vendors. In Ann Arbor, it can be found at several bars like Scorekeepers Bar & Grille and the Blue Leprechaun.
Roy and Thrall said they are hoping to have the tap room open by the Michigan Football team’s annual spring football game. But because they are four to six weeks behind schedule, they think it’s more realistic that they will be fully operational by mid-May.
Because the tap room will be more of a brewery than a restaurant, Chris Carrington, Grizzly Peak’s general manager, said he doesn’t think the company will create much competition because Grizzly Peak is a restaurant in addition to a brewery.
“I’m sure there will be a few people going out there to try it, but most of our regulars are very loyal, and I don’t think we’ll take a big hit,” Carrington said.
But, Grizzly Peak will lose its assistant brewer Oliver Roberts, who is leaving the restaurant to become the head brewer at Wolverine State Brewing Company.
Roberts said he chose to take this position after meeting Thrall and Roy, adding that he has plans already in the works to enrich Wolverine State’s product and entice locals to try it.
“We’re definitely going to have dark lager and Wolverine Beer,” Roberts said. “We’re going to be doing a lot of experimental lagers as well as some wheat beers.”
In addition, Roberts will be working with local home brewers on a tap called Liquid Soundtrack.
“We are going to have eight or nine taps and going to showcase what people in the state are brewing,” Roberts said.
He added that he aims to have Wolverine State’s beers encapsulate the “craft brew spirit.”
Medical School student Paul Marinec wrote in an e-mail interview that he would be interested in going to the tap room because the idea of a brewery specializing in lagers could be “fantastic” if the lagers are good.
“I have tried their beer, and it’s pretty good,” he added.
LSA senior Ross Smith wrote in an e-mail interview, that the tap room would be appealing to graduate students and beer aficionados, but might be less attractive to most undergraduates because many students “simply have the mindset that beer is beer.”
“Graduate students can typically coincide with professionals or families in a brewpub type setting where a group of undergraduates would not,” he wrote in the e-mail. “I am also a craft beer enthusiast, which means trying new beer and in general well made beer is very attractive to me. Also an ‘ordinary’ undergraduate really doesn’t care what exactly they’re being served as long as it is cheap.”