Saturday, December 15, 2012

Clubhouse BFD: “Craft Beer, Food, and Other Drinks Done Right”

Written by  Jeff Priskorn
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Clubhouse BFD

Clubhouse BFD in Rochester Hills is a truly a mighty bastion of craft beer. The “BFD” stands for “beer, food, drink”, and while that might seem a little redundant, the beer part of the acronym rightly does deserve its own recognition at the Clubhouse. The business is owned by Scott LePage, whose father you may know as the owner of Big Rock Chop House and the forthcoming Griffin Claw Brewing Company in Birmingham, so there’s definitely a pedigree of success and beer knowledge in play here.
Scott set out to create the best beer bar in Michigan (and beyond!), and Clubhouse BFD seems well on its way, as they’ve already been rated #2 on Rate Beer, behind only Oak Café in Wyandotte. At the time of this author’s visit, there were 40 craft beer taps, including 14 from Michigan, and an almost unwieldy selection of nearly 150 bottles. And that’s not even considering the cider and mead offerings. Present on every table, as well as at several spots along the 20-seat bar, are clipboards containing large legal-sized sheets displaying the draft and bottle choices (Michigan selections are in blue, with a cute state of Michigan logo). The draft menu changes several times a week as kegs are blown and new ones arrive.

Creating a top-notch beer bar demands a commitment to excellence and a vast knowledge of craft beers from around the world. Helping Scott meet his goal are two of the most beer-savvy bar managers around, Brad and Jason. At the time of my visit, Jason was at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, attesting to their commitment to stay on top of everything crafty, but I was fortunate to speak with Brad for a time. Brad worked as a banker for 32 years before leaving the rat race and hooking up with the Kuhnhenn brothers to become the manager at Kuhnhenn Brewing Company for a couple of years. Always looking for new and fun things within the beer realm, he found Clubhouse an easy and righteous fit for his skills and knowledge. Brad states that the mission of Clubhouse BFD is to serve great beer and food and make people feel comfortable and want to return again and again. “We’re definitely beer geeks and we love being around other beer lovers,” he said.

Both Brad and Jason stay very active in the craft beer industry, using social sites and mailing lists to keep in tune with customers and enthusiasts. In addition to that, Brad knows the vast majority of professional brewers in Michigan, and maintains a great relationship with the distributors and representatives, which leads to Clubhouse being able to procure newer and rarer products from time to time. A couple of rarities he proudly mentioned were Kasteel Rouge and Duchesse de Bourgogne from Belgium.

Scott, Brad, and Jason feel that it’s important to represent as many beer styles as possible at Clubhouse, while still proudly representing Michigan strongly. Their stated ambition is to have Michigan beers on half of their 40 taps at any given time, though this is not always possible due to supply. They also want to introduce people to beers they’ve never tried – and with close to 200 options, customers shouldn’t have a problem doing that! And while Clubhouse is ostensibly a craft beer bar, they also have options for the beginner and the less intrepid drinker, including Carling Black Label, Stroh’s, and Genny Cream Ale.

Brad told me that Clubhouse covets their high ratings on sites such as Yelp, Beer Advocate, and Rate Beer, and strives to maintain and increase their popularity and customer satisfaction. They also make it easy for customers to stay in touch with the goings-on at the bar. Making clever use of technology, an iPad is stationed near the hostess stand on which people can sign up for the Clubhouse BFD e-mail club, and like/follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

It’s certainly a beer bar and restaurant, but Clubhouse also has the feel of a sports bar, with around 20 TVs arrayed on the walls. Housing the 40 taps and 150+ bottles is a beautiful bar area with a full array of custom tap handles. The tap facing and server nook contain very unique touches, which were handmade by Scott himself. These facings contain thousands of pennies covered in clear epoxy, including several rare World War II steel pennies. Brad estimated that between the two there may be close to $500 in pennies buried under that epoxy (leave your chisels and jackhammers at home, please). Above the bar is a moose head sporting a 64” rack, which was actually driven to Rochester Hills from Idaho (or Montana, somewhere out that way) by the seller. Now that’s commitment to beer!

On top of the amazing beer selection, Clubhouse also has an excellent full menu. This author and his wife are partial to the “Corn Flake Crusted and Deep-Fried PB & J”, available during happy hour only. No joke, this is one of the best desserts I’ve ever had, and I don’t even like PB & J. Also available, excellent pulled pork sliders, pasta, and burgers and sandwiches on delectable pretzel buns, to name just a few.

Clubhouse BFD is located just north of M-59 on Crooks, in a fairly industrial area of Rochester Hills, with few office buildings surrounding. For this reason they are not open for lunch, but open at 2 pm on weekdays and noon on weekends. They are closed on Mondays.

When one sets out to create the best beer bar in Michigan, one had better know what one is doing. Luckily for Clubhouse BFD, it’s clear that everyone in their crew is at the top of their game when it comes to beer, food, and customer satisfaction. The next time you scan their beer list looking for that old favorite or something you’ve never tried before, take a moment to thank Scott, Brad, or Jason for doing yeoman’s work in bringing some kick butt beers into your wheelhouse.

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.