Griffin Claw will be primarily a brewery, but there will also be a distilling operation on site. Dan will be making high-end liquors like vodka, gin, whiskey, and rum, along with his celebrated brews. A canning line will be installed, enabling them to can and distribute 16 oz. snapshots of their work throughout Michigan. They will have four standard beers always in distribution, along with a seasonal. Dan prefers cans to bottles for a couple of reasons: the cost, as procuring and storing cans is cheaper than bottling, and his belief that cans are better than bottles for preserving the quality of the beer.
There will be three separate and distinct areas for patrons: a taproom/restaurant with seating for 100, a traditional outdoor German-style biergarten in a gravel-covered yard with seating for about 75 at mostly communal tables, and a 40-seat speakeasy-style taproom for liquor and high-end beer tasting. The main taproom will have 8-10 beers on tap, and a new menu is in development. There will be something for everyone (of drinking age, naturally) at this new gem of the Birmingham Rail District.
For the ground-up construction of the building and the sourcing of brewing and distilling equipment, it was paramount to Norm, Bonnie, and Dan that Michigan resources be used whenever possible. The state-of-the-art 20 bbl brewing system was purchased from Craftwerk Brewing Systems in Lake Orion, and most of the other fixtures are Michigan-based as well. The only exceptions are the canning equipment (purchased from a company whose owner grew up in Birmingham), and the distilling equipment, which will be retrofitted on site.
For an operation of this size, the principals decided to install their own grain silo and milling room, and added an enormous walk-in cooler for storing kegs, cans, and other perishable commodities. And with parking in Birmingham always at a premium, the loading dock was kept at surface level in order to preserve as many parking spaces as possible behind the building.
Dan is excited about the installation of a specialized mash filter tun which will promote water conservation and enable him to brew much more frequently (up to 4 times a day!). It’s a very efficient system and will allow for smaller batches as well. His hope is to brew 5,000 barrels in the first year, with the goal of doubling production in the second year.
Topping off the tour, a specialty beer and food tasting was held at nearby The Reserve, also a LePage property. We had the opportunity to sample nine amazing Belgian beers, including selections from Brasserie d’Achouffe, Dupont, Bosteels, and Liefmans. All had ratings of at least 95 from Rate Beer, so needless to say, it was quite enjoyable. There were also three of Dan’s beers on tap: Berliner Weisse, Saison St. Clair, and Red Rock Flanders Red Ale. The Saison was the best of that style that I’ve tried, and the others were excellent as well. All in all, it was a great way to end the evening.
The planned opening of Griffin Claw is April 2013. And it will definitely be must-see, must-drink territory for craft beer mavens statewide.