Tuesday, August 28, 2012

[HOT LIST] Ypsilanti

Summer Beer Fest in Ypsilanti's Riverside Park. Photo by EID western beerespondent David Bardallis.
No longer willing to accept its position as Ann Arbor's uncultured country cousin, Ypsilanti has been making a name for itself as a more affordable version of Ann Arbor with a whole lot of craft beer bars and not a whole lot else. I *love* that. Pretty much every place you might happen to stumble into serves Michigan craft beer (or other craft beverages of excellence). What else could you expect from the home of the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival? The craft beer culture here has been many years in the making (if Summer Beer Fest were human, it would now be a pimply teenager sneaking beers from his parents' fridge). Recently-opened hotspots like the Wurst Bar and Red Rock are proving to be major draws, while old stand-bys like Sidetrack and Aubree's are perennial favorites. Yack-town? Try YUM-town! (...sorry.)

The Wurst Bar's beer board.
#1 Wurst Bar
Don't let the phonetic pronunciation of the name fool you -- the Wurst Bar is actually the best bar. First because they're doing something no one else in the area is really doing. Oh, sure, some places get all fancy and make their own charcuterie, and there are definitely a few spots that make their own sausage and brats. But the Wurst Bar is nothing but sausage and brats, from the "usual"(so designated on the menu) -- PBR-poached bratwurst, smoked andouille, mettwurst (made with beef, pork, celery seed and mustard seed), even a couple of vegetarian options -- to the "unusual" -- alligator and crawfish boudin, rattlesnake chorizo. They also have burgers. And more sausage. All made in-house. You can also buy some to go. If that don't beat all they also have a huge craft beer selection, regularly host local brewery tap takeovers, and every Friday after 8 p.m. is $2 pints.

#2 Cafe Ollie / MI General Store
Cafe Ollie was once a casual breakfast and lunch spot offering vegetarian and vegan items, coffee and tea. It is still that, but the recent addition of a wine and beer license now means that in addition to vegetarian and vegan items you can also enjoy a Michigan craft beer or wine. (Try their Black Star Farms Bedazzled strawberry mimosa for brunch, or a stout or porter milkshake for dessert.) Husband and wife Mark Teachout and Danielle Schwerin own both Cafe Ollie and the MI General Store, which just opened last December next to Cafe Ollie. The MI General Store is a gourmet market specializing in products made in Michigan -- beer, wine, cheese, chocolate, and a wide variety of specialty food and gift items.

#3 The Ugly Mug Cafe and Roastery
Okay, so not a beer place, but a totally important coffee place. (Because sometimes it's morning and beer isn't an option. Unless you have the best job EVER.) Part of the post-third-wave coffee movement (which goes beyond simply sourcing from respected roasters to sustainably sourcing from small farms and roasting in-house) which has been gaining huge momentum in metro Detroit, the Ugly Mug has been a "small batch artisanal roaster" since 2004 (you know, before it was cool) and continues to roast some of the best coffee in metro Detroit. They serve a wide selection of coffees from blasé lattes to the mad scientist marvels of Chemex, a small selection of pastries and an inventive selection of bagel sandwiches. And as a throw-back to those archaic second-wave coffeehouses we all first fell in love with, they also host art shows and acoustic nights.

#4 Corner Brewery
The sister brewpub of Ann Arbor's Arbor Brewing Company as well as Arbor's production brewery, Corner Brewery has exactly that kind of vibe -- the friendly bar on the corner. Located in an old schoolhouse with a biergarten in the summer (beware the 'skeeters) and a fireplace in the winter, Corner serves Arbor beer and a selection of pub food (pizza, sammies, apps) with pub-style service (as in you order at the bar and they buzz you when your food is ready). Play board games or darts, use the WiFi, stop in for one of their many special events (like the Halcyon Sundaze BBQ, coming up again Sept. 9) or for a boozy Sunday brunch; Corner is another one of Ypsilanti's many fine beer-drinking establishments for enthusiastic beer drinkers. Also, be there for one of their Rat Pad releases.

#5 Sidetrack
Sidetrack is Ypsilanti's granddaddy craft beer bar, and it has the best fake backstory you'll ever read. An Ypsilanti staple for nearly 30 years, Sidetrack serves Michigan craft beers and Belgian imports as well as One of the 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die (according to Alan Richman circa 2006). This is the kind of place that has a LOT of personality. What exactly that means you need to find out for yourself.

Bubbling under Woodruff's, Tap Room, Beezy's, Cafe Racer, MIX Marketplace, Frenchie's, Aubree's Pizzeria, Cuppy's Best Soulful Deli, Red Rock Downtown Barbecue, B-24's

 The Wurst Bar on Urbanspoon