I've written before concerning the trend in Michigan breweries regarding beer and food. Among those that offer both, there's typically two types of establishments: breweries that serve food, and restaurants that make beer. Many times, Michigan breweries seem to focus more on one or the other portions of the food/beer equation, and that's not entirely a bad thing. If every Michigan brewery was the same, there wouldn't be a point to visiting them all, and I'd be out of a hobby. Rarely, however, you will find a place that really combines delicious, original food preparation with the delicate task of making great beer.
Bastone is one of those places.
Located on the corner of Main St and 5th St in bustling downtown Royal Oak, the Bastone Brewery is named for the Belgian town of Bastogne (slightly massaged into English, of course). The restaurant gives its patrons some front row seating to people watch in one of the most attractive downtowns in Michigan. Inside, the brewery evokes feeling of spacious intimacy, with high ceilings contrasting with private booths and tables. It's comfortable without being claustrophobic.
|Rockne, being awesome|
Downstairs past the nightclub (yeah, they have a nightclub) is Rockne Van Meter's brewing facility. I can say this with confidence: the head brewer of Bastone is one of the hardest working people in the craft brew industry. First, he's the only brewer at Bastone. With no assistant brewers or beer staff, every Bastone beer you drink started as an idea in Van Meter's mind and every step along the process from grain to glass was accomplished solely by Van Meter. Second, the equipment he uses to create his Belgian style beer isn't exactly the most user friendly. Most breweries, for example, use a gravity powered system of tubes to get the freshly created wort from the mash tun to the kettle. Van Meter's too bad ass for that: he transfers the wort manually. With a bucket. Every drop of beer produced at Bastone – all 750 barrels annually – has been lifted by one guy. He is also solely responsible for cleaning every piece of equipment in the facility by hand. In other words...yeah he works a lot harder than you do.
|Mash tun on the right|
Their food does not disappoint. In fact Bastone is one of the few places that does a fantastic job producing food of a high enough caliber to truly complement the beer, and allow the beer to complement the food.
Laura ordered a cup of their potato leek soup, followed by pan seared scallops and mustard glazed pork loin. While the soup ended up being a bit too creamy for what we were expecting, the taste was bold and delicious, well matched to Bastone's IPA. The scallops were cooked perfectly; there's about a 10 second window between raw scallops, perfect scallops, and rubber scallops, and the chef hit that perfect window. The scallops were seared with leek and tomatoes, making for a great dish that played well with Bastone's Tripel. Her entree was the spectacular mustard glazed pork loin. The thick, stone ground mustard gave the pork loin an aggressive bite, and the apple compote added a sweet balance. All of that made the smooth Bastone Dubbel a perfect pair.
I had the soup of the day, a spicy Southwestern chicken soup in a tomato base which was spicy and full of delicious chunks of chicken. My burger was made of buffalo, cooked medium (exactly how I like my ground meat), topped with Wisconsin Cheddar, garlic aioli and wild mushrooms and served with pommes frites. This was a masterpiece. I'm not super familiar with bison, but I will be ordering it regularly from now on. The ground meat had a smooth texture with a healthy portion of pink inside the burger; the garlic and mushrooms mixed with the sharp cheddar to create a really excellent complement to the meat. I really enjoyed the bite of the IPA with my burger, although the Witface was definitely a close second.
|Want to see what the inside looks like?|
This is a beer blog, so unfortunately I'm not equipped to handle speaking about the sister restaurants tied to Bastone in depth: but I should point out that if beer is not your thing (why are you reading our blog if it is not your thing?), Bastone is right next door to a wine bar called Vinotecca, which offers dozens of wines by the glass, as well as Cafe Habana, a Cuban styled cafe known for its mojitos and margaritas.
Brewmaster Rockne Van Meter works hard to bring Michigan a selection of Belgian inspired beer that could be put up against the best breweries around. The food at Bastone is excellent, and pairs well with the selections Van Meter is pumping out of his basement brewery. The atmosphere is intimate without being confining, and the waitstaff is friendly. I won't be visiting Royal Oak again without making a stop at Bastone Brewing.
More photos available at our Facebook page.