Monday, August 16, 2010

The Livery

Within the wheelhouse of every high schooler straining to perfect the questionable skill of writing a 5 point essay, there lies a desire to begin every one of those essays with a definition of a word, and then cleverly tie it to the point of the paper. Much to my dismay, I meekly acknowledge that my first impulse was to begin this piece with a definition of a livery. “After all,” my high school brain implored, “people should have a starting place from which to understand why this delightful brewery got its name.”

My post high school brain, tempered with experience with wielding a peerless command of the language, replied: “dude. It's still lame.” Plus, it turns out that “livery” has several, barely related definitions. . .and also, you can google it yourself.

The Livery is located in an old, old building that a century ago actually did function as a stable. Re patriated as a brewpub, the downstairs area provides a pleasant and inviting atmosphere that nonetheless maintains a minimalistic approach to d├ęcor. The bar greets you as you descend the stairs, stocked with several taps, an inviting bartender, and some of the local wine. The open kitchen is across the room of wooden tables and chairs, with an animated and friendly chef working the grill. The feeling is that of a local watering hole with enough special attractiveness to let you know they serve more than rice lagers.

The highlight of the trip was the tour provided to us by the General Manager, Wally. Wally gave us a special peek into the inner working of the Livery's setup; it's a smaller brewery than I had originally thought, with no bottle service (but loyal draft accounts all over Michigan). They measure their annual beer sales in the hundreds of barrels, but given the quality of their wares this is sure to increase sharply. I realize dealing with large groups of strangers is strenuous at best, and Wally I want to thank you personally for making the effort to show us around the Livery's inner working parts.

several of their beers aging. . .

Speaking of their beer, we sampled just about everything they had on tap. Their master brewer (and owner), Steve Berthel, has a definite signature flavor for his beers – it's not a problem like for the Jamesport Brewery, where the beers had a hard time distinguishing themselves one from another, though. Instead, it's more of an intentional and slight aroma that existed in every one of his creations, from the red to the stout and even the IPA. Laura's and my personal favorite was the Jak Imperial Pale Ale. This assertive, bold concoction made of a generous helping of Belgian malts and Amarillo hops stifled any sense of sour the amber or ESB contained, and replaced them with sweet caramel and an alcohol finish.

The food was another high point of the place, and one that I found genuinely fantastic and well priced. Their pub nachos are generous and delicious, and a particular point of pride for the chef. They also offer the soup pictured below, which (despite its unholy appearance) is a thick and spicy guacamole soup that served to both refresh us on a hot afternoon and challenge our tastebuds with a powerfully spicy punch. My main course, the Italian sub, was one of the best Italian sandwiches I've had in years. Admittedly, it's tough to ruin an Italian, but it's also tough to make one stand out. From the spicy ham and pepperoni to the perfect balance of seasonings and fresh, locally grown lettuce, it was so excellent that, despite my intent to save the other half for the following day, I finished it while driving home. And I'm not ashamed of that.

.The Livery is a charming piece of local, home grown culture peering out from beneath the questionable reputation of the city in which is resides. With its dark, yet inviting atmosphere and its collection of diverse and friendly regulars, this should be on everyone's list to visit. I rate the Livery Brewery as a 30 mile establishment; well worth a 30 mile trip out of your way to visit.

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