The Michigan Beer Blog has had the privilege of traveling the state visiting breweries, but we have a special place in our heart for our city and our neighborhood. As proud West Siders, it’s with no small joy that we can write about a brewery that’s in our own neighborhood. Indeed, the Mitten is our neighborhood bar. Built inside a Fire House that dates back to 1891, the Mitten has tried at every turn to be a great fit with the existing community while simultaneously bringing their passion for beer and baseball to a local and dedicated audience.
The renovations to the interior keep the firehouse look while adding baseball themed elements; uncovered old brick walls and a refinished concrete floor reinforce that notion that half a century ago, this room was home to beefy red fire engines and the people who rode them. The seating has a simple, no frills design that nonetheless lends an elegance from the polished wood tables. The bar, while small, echoes the craftwork on the table, giving those bellied up to it a comfortable and inviting experience.
Brewer Robert “Wob” Wanhatalo heads up The Mitten’s brewing stable. The very popular Peanuts and Crackerjack Porter is a great mainstay and – like all their beers – riffs on the Mitten’s close connection to baseball. Our favorite, however, has to be the Country Strong IPA – a simple, no fuss American IPA with light citrus notes that drinks well either at Comerica Park on a hot summer day or with two elbows propped at the bar during the winter-that-won’t-end. We also enjoyed the Mitten’s session ale; the Triple Crown Brown brought plenty of sweet and roasted flavor for a soft-on-the-liver 4.2% abv. If you want a low alcohol gateway beer for the “hops are too bitter!” crowd, this is my choice. That said, if you want to go big, the Rye Baby Double IPA amazed us, with a spicy rye note fleshing out the body of this booze-smooth beer.
In case you weren't aware, The Mitten has pioneered an idea so perfect it’s a little dumbfounding we don’t see it more often: pizza flights. What else would go with the time honored tradition of sampling a half dozen beers at once than sampling a half dozen of The Mitten’s excellent pizza choices? Bring a couple friends, though, as the flight easily feeds four…or one gluttonous Adam Richman impersonator. We tried six specialty pizzas, and frankly we couldn’t pick a winner. This is truly a stellar pizza menu, blending original ideas with great takes on traditional pies.
The Mitten was built with the vision of being a neighborhood brewery. The owners and brewers are neighbors. I recently wrote an article detailing how this type of pub wasn’t in danger of being eclipse, but rather this type of pub was rolling full steam ahead through neighborhood watering holes that offering little other than domestic macros and popcorn. The Mitten exemplifies that, providing a comfortable and popular neighborhood hangout. And for those of you still unconvinced: it only took the Mitten a year to begin an expansion.