Jolly Pumpkin in Midtown Detroit

Detroit Beer City: A Legacy of Motor City Brews


Here’s why beer is so important in Detroit.

Jolly Pumpkin in Midtown Detroit

Bernhard Stroh immigrated to Detroit from Germany in the late 1800s with $150 and his family’s recipe for beer. One hundred years later, the Stroh’s were the third largest national beer distributors as well as a household name in ice cream and malt flavors. Yet, these days, the Stroh company has mostly been sold off and isn’t much under control of the family. The Stroh Brewing Company is owned by Pabst.

Still, the name is synonymous with Detroit. And it’s making a comeback.

A new low-alcohol lager called Stroh’s Detroit Lager debuted this summer in celebration of the Detroit City Football Club. Fan’s of Stroh’s hold out for the possibility that the beer will make an even bigger splash in its hometown. However, the biggest legacy for the Stroh Brewing Company may be its influence on future generations of brewers.


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Founders Brewing Co.

Since 1997, Founders Brewing Co., has been cranking out delicious beers that they eventually dub, “brewed for us.” The company started small with co-founders Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers opening their 9800 square-foot brewery in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In the years since, Founders experienced phenomenal growth. As a leader in the craft beer movement, the company’s growth would almost double every year since 2007. Now, more than 20 years since their creation, Founder’s can be found on shelves across the country, and they opened a second taproom this time in the city of Detroit joining their fellow Michigan brewers in the revitalization of a city that in remaining true to its “common man” roots is still a place that loves to crack open a cold brew.

Founders Brewing Co., co-founder Dave Engbers got the taste for craft beer at a young age, but he really fell in love with beer culture doing pub crawls in London. “Beer is unpretentious,” Engbers says, “You can just feel comfortable drinking a beer with whoever you’re with.” Native to Grand Rapids, Engbers states that he and his partner Mike Stevens are true Michiganders. They had a lot of challenges over the first dozen years of their existence. But, eventually the craft brew industry caught up with them. “Our beers are bigger, bolder, and more complex,” he says, “Consistency is really key to us. We hired the right team, the right brewers, and our beer has gotten better and stayed better.”

As early as 2007, Founders had their eye on moving into Detroit and being a part of the rebirth of the city. Inside the Detroit outpost for Founders Brewing, the taproom has the authentic Grand Rapids Founders feel,but with a Detroit attitude, come on in for Detroit-inspired food fare, taproom exclusives, or private events in the Barrel Room. Every Monday is Service Industry Day where service folks get $1.50 off class one and $2.00 off class two brews with proof.

“The beer enthusiast community is so wide and so vast, and tastes go up and down,” Engbers says, “Founders really wants to make drinking beer sexy again.”

The food menu features uniquely Detroit items like reuben sandwiches and spinach pie. Try the beer cheese dip that’s made in house featuring smoked gouda, cream cheese, fresh garlic and a blend of Centennial IPA and Red’s Rye IPA. Severed with warm tortilla chips and seasoned crostinis, it’s a must have.

Motor City Brewing Works

Since 1994, Motor City Brewing Works has been producing hand-crafted superior beer. As one of the oldest local breweries, they offer up delicious fresh brews and brick oven pizzas in the heart of Detroit’s cultural center.

With custom fabricated brewery equipment made in part from salvaged equipment and scrap from Detroit’s great industrial era, Motor City Brewing Works features designs touched by the hands of Detroit’s finest artists, fabricators, and craftsmen.

Try any of the many beers on tap and give their hot spiced hard cider a sip. To eat, try the roasted pear and fig pizza — olive oil, gorgonzola, oven roasted pear, fig, and a red onion blend topped with spices. For an additional charge, fans add bacon.


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Photo by: Emily Berger

Photo courtesy of Motor City Brewing Works

“Beer is unpretentious,” Engbers says, “You can just feel comfortable drinking a beer with whoever you’re with.”
Pouring a beer at the Brakeman

Batch Brewing Co.

Batch has a great taproom and handcrafted scratch kitchen pub cuisine that delights the masses. The ribeye bolillo features sliced ribeye steak with a stout onion confit & bleu cheese horseradish slaw all on top of bolillo bread served up with a side of their house salt and pepper kettle chips.

Batch keeps a ton of tasty and colorfully named beers on tap. Handsome Stranger is 7.2 percent ABV and is brewed with hibiscus, black currant and grains of paradise. The floral, Belgian-inspired brew is light tan and reminiscent of a Cabernet Sauvignon wine.

Their Feelgood Tap raises funds that support local and regional nonprofits throughout Michigan with a focus on community, culture and wellness. When you buy a beer from the Feelgood Tap, you’re donating $2 to a local nonprofit doing good work, $1 from you and $1 from Batch.


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Detroit Beer Co.

Since 2003, Detroit Beer Co., has occupied the first two floors of the historic Hart’s Building on Broadway. In a historic setting, DBC serves up state-of-the-art brewing technology and 21st century finishes wrapped in a unique dining experience.

The menu features a broad selection of eclectic American cuisine from appetizers, salad, pizza, and sandwiches. Located close to Comerica Park and Ford Field, Detroit Beer Co. is a great choice for before or after the big game. Try the Black and White Dip a combination of house made black bean and Asiago cheese dips. The burgers at Detroit Beer Co., are some of the best in the city, the dagwood is a half-pound of certified angus beef with barbecue sauce, Canadian bacon, cheddar cheese and an onion ring. But, the lamb burger is a crowd favorite. A yummy seasoned ground lamb patty topped with chopped onions, beets, feta and tzatziki.

Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria & Brewery

Brewmaster Ron Jeffries came up with the name Jolly Pumpkin on rare warm Michigan March day. After a long, cold winter, sipping beers in the soon-to-be-Spring-sun, Jeffries found the name he had been searching for. His brewery’s products are fantastic beers at an artisan quality. Small-scale production has been key to keep a simple, yet complex brew.

With seven locations, each Jolly Pumpkin is unique. While you’re in the city, try one of the several sour brews on tap like the Citrus Commander a collaboration with Jester King. If sour isn’t your flavor, there are still more than two dozen others on tap.

The food menu is admirable and unique too with options that pair perfectly with one of the beers on tap. Try the red chicken nachos. The chicken is marinated in red chile, and the fresh chips are topped with black beans, pickled red onion, cheddar cheese, cilantro, avocado and tomatillo salsa.

The Brakeman

This taproom is a beer hall located adjacent to the Shinola Hotel. Feature rotating drafts of craft beers, their downtown hangout is stocked with big screen TVs, shuffleboard and beer pong. Grab a bucket of chicken from Penny Red’s next door, and use your tokens to buy beer. The cocktail bar does accept cash or plastic.

Story by: Biba Adams

Photos by: Noah Fecks

Photos courtesy of: Detroit Beer Co.