Monday, April 13, 2015

Batch Brewing- Constantly Evolving Beer

Written by  Erik Smith
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batch brewing article

For years, downtown Detroit’s microbrewery scene has lagged behind the rest of the state. There has been a recent influx of new restaurants and bars into the city, and, in February, two breweries in the Corktown neighborhood located just west of downtown.
Batch Brewing Company opened to much fan fare in a building that formerly held the infamous restaurant/ late night hot spot, The Porter Street Station. The building sat abandoned for almost a decade before Stephen Roginson, Batch’s co-founder purchased it with the intention of making it Detroit’s first nanobrewery. Roginson’s long history as a homebrewer (19 years), combined with his passion for good food, made the building a perfect fit. The only issue is, it’s wasn’t Batch’s intended location.

“We were supposed to open closer to the corner of Michigan and Trumbell, and relocation did cause some delays,” Roginson told me when I caught up with him on a Friday afternoon. While the change in location pushed back their opening, it’s easy to see how this building fits the personality and mission of the brewery. The rehabilitation of the building has created a perfect communal space, one with an open floor plan and natural light streaming in through the large windows and garage door on the building’s west side. The long tables require guests to share the space, and striking up conversation with those around them. “I’ve had people who come back and told me they became friends with people they sat next to here.” The original location did not have a kitchen, and while extensive rehabilitation was in need on the one at this location, it’s allowed Batch to offer a variety of eclectic dishes that pair perfectly with that artisan nature of the beer they brew.

Roginson has teamed up with former Motor City Brew Works Cellarman, Patrick Aherns, who serves as head brewer and Alex Maggetti, cicerone & jack-of-all-trades, to create a team that believe in the same brewing philosophy, one that is not the norm in the business. As the name states, they specializes in small batch beers, which allows the team to look at each beer with a critical eye. Many of the beers that were on tap when I visited were second edition of beers they’d previously brewed. “We’re not saying there was anything was wrong with the previous versions,” Roginson said, “but we like to get to know our ingredients, and be thoughtful about how to assemble a beer.” That kind of critical eye allows them to slightly change recipes to make beers close to what they want it to be.

The team at Batch has a really good grasp on the microbrewery scene. They made it clear that they’d seen and heard of breweries putting beers out that weren’t ready, but they vowed early to let their beers age properly rather than pushing it through. I noticed they didn’t currently have a beer on that tap an IBU over 60. When I asked about it, Aherns and Roginson chuckled a bit and broke out in big smiles. “Sometimes subtlety is lost on enthusiasm in craft beer world”, Roginson said. Most of the samples I tried achieved nice balance, and certainly were not lacking in hop profile. They are also ardent about serving each of their beers in appropriate glassware, a small touch, but one that is often overlooked.

Besides being fiercely proud to be a part of Corktown, Batch wanted to find a way to give back to the community- so the idea of the Feel Good Tap was born. Each month, the brewery would partner with a local charity, and two dollars on every pint that was poured from the Feel Good Tap would be donated to that cause. The first charity, The Michigan Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, is one close to the heart of Roginson, who has family members affected by MS. Between the proceeds from the tap, and a fundraising walk they are hosting at Comerica Park on May 3rd, they expect to easily clear their goal of raising $5000 in donations. Their partner for May has already been announced, The Detroit Area Hispanic Development Corporation. It’s admirable seeing Batch give back, since some of their own funding came from a grant from Hatch Detroit in 2013 and a successful crowd funding campaign.

The goal at Batch is to keep all 12 taps pouring. After 2 month they are closing in on their 30th batch, and there have been at least 8 beers on tap at all times. Not yet offering sales of beer in growlers has helped them keep enough beer on site, and recently, even expand their hours to include being open for lunch every day. The crew at Batch told me their Wheated Kolsch and balanced, west coast style IPA, Son of a Batch, had seemed to be the most popular of the beers so far. Among those I liked were the Handsome Stranger, a saison with just the right amount of hibiscus, and the DAPA Dan, a double American pale ale with fruity notes.

With their diverse menu and philosophy of constantly evolving beers, as well as a strong bond with the community, it’s not hard to see Batch Brewing as a mainstay in the city for years to come.

Erik Smith

Erik Smith

Erik Smith is a relative newcomer to craft beer, having first been turned on to the scene by a chance encounter with "The End of The World" (Unibroue's La Fin du Monde) during the summer of 2011. Since then, he has increased that love of beer by serving as the 'un-official' photographer for the many beer events at Ashley's in Westland, MI. His goal is to visit every Michigan brewery. An avid traveler, beer tourism has played a prominent role in his travels since 2012. 

Find him on Untapped at eriksmithdotcom and at his blog at http://onmyfeetorinmymind.com/