Arbor Brewing

Open three and a half years in a beer-friendly college town, Arbor Brewing offers a wide variety of house brews at prices even a starving college student can afford. The two-story white brick building lies an easy walk from other downtown attractions. Inside, dark wood floors and red brick walls create a rugged look, one set to take what the night-time crowds have to throw at it. A dark green and brown color theme dominated the interior, with framed beer-related prints dotting the walls. The bar stools and the booth benches share a patterned upholstered look. Two silent TVs display attractions such as World Cup soccer matches. The small copper full bar sports two stainless steel beer engines as nearby tables and bench seating are candle-lit and wall posters track-lighted. Pilsner Urquell and a wide selection of Scotches complement the house beer menu. Behind the bar, and visible from the lounge, the seven-barrel DME brewhouse feeds four unitank fermenters and numerous serving tanks. Three of those tanks are located in the cellar, very appropriate for maintaining the right temperature for the house cask-conditioned brews. The other house beers are served at one of two temperatures, depending on their style.

The Big Ben House Mild is a gold color with a light body, slight graininess, and delicate hops. The Red Snapper Special Bitter is a dark amber with a medium body and a malty flavor that moves from slightly sweet to dry as the hops come through and last into the finish. The Blackheath Sweet Stout, at $5.50, is light-bodied, with a slight malty sweetness, hint of roasted barley, and short finish. The Fairy Fest Irish Stout offers a creamy mouthfeel, even flavor balance with chocolate and roasted notes, both leading into a dry, roasted finish. The Steam Roller Russian Imperial Stout comes in at 11% alcohol by volume (abv) and has a one pint limit. The dark creamy head hides a big body with a slight licorice character, noticeable alcohol presence, very smooth mouthfeel, great complexity, and well-done synergy between the roasted and chocolate malts. The cask-conditioned Sacred Cow I.P.A. is amber with a rich, malty flavor, very smooth mouthfeel, and memorable lingering hop bitterness. The Jackhammer Old Ale is a deep reddish amber with a fruity/estery aroma that's followed by a malty-sweet flavor accompanied by a slight sourness. Unfortunately the Terminator Dopple Bock was unavailable.

Happy Hour runs Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. and gets you a 20-ounce draught for $2.25. Other specials include the all-day Happy Hour Mondays ($2.50 pints), the 9-5'er Lunch, and daily 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. discounts. A calendar displays the upcoming beer tastings by style. Two thirds of the bar and lounge area is designated non-smoking while sports trophies turn tar-colored over in the smoking section. Three dartboards and a shuffle board table allow customers to demonstrate their deteriorating hand-eye coordination. Visual decorations continue out of public view as murals cover the restroom walls. Sundays feature live music as well as growler sales after noon: $12 initial - $8 refill. Other beer-to-go prices include 5-gallon kegs for $40, 1/4 barrels for $50, and 1/2 barrels for $85. Other merchandise includes Sweats ($28), Ts ($15), shirts ($27), and long-sleeves ($22). Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday. Once a month the brewpub hosts a breakfast for the local homeless community. The informed staff is attentive and willing to talk about the beers and the business. After the failure of Brewbakers in town people became anxious, but Arbor Brewing makes a good impression with their product and their delivery, this should give them a fighting chance at surviving any alleged downturn in the craftbrewing industry.

Arbor Brewing
114 E. Washington
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1905

Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - March 1999

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