Monday, April 20, 2015

North Center Brewing Company- Northville’s First Microbrewery

Written by  Erik Smith
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When I met up with North Center Brewing Company owner Kevin DeGrood, during their investor soft opening, I asked about their brewing philosophy. “For us it’s pretty simple- If you like it, it’s a good beer”, he said. That phrase is featured on the backs of their brewery t-shirts, and is a good summary of this new brewery that wants to approach beer in 'a less pretentious way'.
DeGrood, still an engineer with an automotive company, began homebrewing 5 years ago on a system he bought with winnings from an NCAA Tournament pool. With the opening on April 15th, his dream has become a reality. North Center has a fine team in place. Along with DeGrood, it includes Head Brewmaster Drew Tunnell and General Manager Bob Schreiber.

With the typical hurdles to jump over when opening a brewery, North Center’s location just north of Northville’s downtown also provided some issues to work out. “Concerns over parking proved to the most difficult part”, DeGrood said. He noted that the neighbors had been very understanding while the brewery worked out separate agreements with many of the local business so they could set the resident’s minds at ease. It was an important step in being a community-focused brewery.

Unlike many other new breweries, North Center’s building is new, not a rehabilitated building that previous had other uses. The large windows in front face Center Street, and the open interior features a gorgeous, hand made indoor shuffleboard table with the brewery’s logo.

DeGrood told me one of his inspirations was the book “Brewing Up a Business” by Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione, a pioneer in the world of craft beer. He also said that Joe Walters of Liberty Street Brewing in Plymouth had also been a huge help to them in showing them some of the ins-and-outs of starting a new brewery.

Getting the brewery and taproom up and running is obviously their first priority, but the team at North Center has a clear vision for the future. “We’ll start with our taproom, then hopefully move to and off-site production facility at some point. After that, we’d like to move in to distribution and getting our own bottling line,” says DeGrood, noting that while there is no specific time frame, it’s always good to be looking toward the future.

Already a member of the Michigan Brewer’s Guild, North Center doesn't offer the traditional ‘Mug Club’, instead they intend to have a “Beer Club”. This will include a discount on pours in the taproom, a t-shirt, and the unique opportunity to nominate an idea, or even recipe, on different beers that would be brewed once a month.

At the time of my visit, there were 6 beers on tap, including the Tunn-Ale Pale ale, named for Brewmaster Drew Tunnell, the True North Summer Wheat, and the nicely fruity Blueberry Wheat Wine. They had both an IPA and a stout in the fermenters, which they were waiting on to be ready, hoping to add both to the list shortly after opening. The team expressed their desire to brew some ‘gateway beers’, styles that can help drinkers of common beers find their way into the craft beer world.

North Center’s hours are Wednesday and Thursday from 5-11pm, Friday 5-midnight, Saturday noon-midnight, and Sunday from noon-8pm. Food is not available at the brewery but guests are welcome to bring in food or have it delivered from any of Northville’s eclectic food scene.

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/