Friday, October 19, 2012

Fenton Winery & Brewery: “A Classy Place to Drink Some Beer”

Written by  Jeff Priskorn
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Fenton Winery & Brewery: “A Classy Place to Drink Some Beer”

Fenton Winery & Brewery has the feel of an upscale coffeehouse without the pretentiousness you’ve come to expect from your local beanery. From the comfy environment to the staff and all the way up to the owners, Matt & Ginny Sherrow, this place is just plain friendly (with nary a beret or pencil-thin goatee in sight). Intimate, yet not overbearing, FWB has many good things going for it, not the least of which is the beer and wine.
Opened in January 2007 as a winery, the Sherrows quickly decided to incorporate Matt’s love of brewing into the mix. Today, there are regularly 12 beers on tap, including 4 rotating/seasonal taps, to go along with a selection of more than a dozen house-made wines. A favorite of this author is the St. Gin’s Irish Imperial Stout, which is made with an infusion of Jameson whiskey. Other favorites include the Honey Amber and the Head-On Collision BIPA. Using a 15 gallon (1/2 bbl) system, Matt brews just about every day in order to produce the variety of styles he desires.

Painted in soothing wine red and earth tones, the current tap room sports a 14-seat L-shaped bar and a small stage, on which musical acts of all genres can be heard each month. Local artwork is displayed on the walls, and can be purchased. A decorative (and functional!) highlight is the collection of custom-made glazed pottery mugs for mug club members (16 oz. for the price of 12 oz.). And for those more inclined to the juice of the grape, don’t despair: FWB has a “stem club” for you!

In addition to the beers and wines, FWB also makes their own lemon-lime soda and root beer, the latter of which is used in their excellent root beer floats. The rather large (for a microbrewery) menu includes sandwiches, chili, artisan meats and cheeses, and dessert wines, among other delicacies. Bottled wine and, of course, growlers, can be purchased as well.

My last visit coincided with a special blind tasting of six new beers for Oktoberfest. Patrons were encouraged to rate each beer and add their thoughts, which Matt will use when deciding what beers to make next. Construction on the road fronting the FWB led to a fairly light turnout, but that just meant there was more for the rest of us. It also offered even more opportunity than usual to speak with Matt and Joe, an employee who’s been with FWB from the start. They had just returned from the site of what will become the new home of Fenton Winery & Brewery, a much larger property only 1.5 miles up the road in Fenton.

The new space will feature a brewery and wine-making supply store, as well as more than doubling the size of the current tap room. It will also afford them a storefront that is much more recognizable and unique than their current strip mall location. They deigned to show me some photos, and it was definitely impressive: with 20 ft. ceilings, skylights, and the false façade of a house inside the building, it will have the feel of an outdoor beer garden year round. Now that’s something to look forward to! The Sherrows plan on opening the supply store in late 2012, with the brewing and wine-making operations and the tap room moving to the new location in 2013.

As their plans for expansion show, Matt and Ginny dream big. With an excellent array of hand-crafted beer and wine, and a dose of good old-fashioned friendliness, Fenton Winery & Brewery seems poised for even more growth and success. I’ll drink to that!

Jeff Priskorn

Jeff Priskorn

Jeff Priskorn is a guy who didn’t even like beer until he was 25, which isn’t all that surprising given that the family fridge was stocked with Goebel and Carling Black Label during his tender years. Now an elderly young man, he can finally say that Bud Light is swill and is a proud proselyte to the microbrew world and a loud (and sometimes annoying) advocate for Michigan-made beer. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 100+ Michigan microbreweries and brewpubs, and he’s at least 60% there. In addition to drinking and writing about beer, Jeff is a software guy, actor, voice artist, and musician. Check him out at JeffPriskorn.com, come see his band Mad Rabbit (Michigan’s Live Jukebox™) at a bar near you, and sample his fledgling beer blog at phruityonbeer.blogspot.com.