Featured contributor Patti @TeacherPatti
If you read anything about Detroit during that sad time known as “Prohibition”, you have probably heard street names like Riopelle, Jos Campau, and Atwater. These were some of the streets that bootleggers traveled on to get to the Detroit River, on which Canadian whiskey was being shipped in copious amounts. I happen to know that my great-grandma was a bootlegger, and I have to wonder if she was ever down at the docks to lend a hand as they unloaded. I’ve also heard that if the Detroit River dried up, there would be enough whiskey bottles down there to start a few bars.
There is still liquor found amongst these streets—thankfully, it is legal liquor and even more thankfully, some of it is in the form of beers from Atwater Brewery. Atwater has been around since 1997, but I was late to the party and didn’t discover the place until 2011. I knew about Atwater beer, of course, but my first concrete memory of feeling love towards Atwater was at one of the great Beer Todd’s beer symposiums at Copper Canyon in Southfield. It was around Valentine’s Day, and the theme was “chocolate beer”. My fiancé, Ken, loves him some chocolate and so we made the drive out to Southfield to see what was available.
Most of the beers were good, and with palates ranging from chocolate-coffee to chocolate-oatmeal to chocolate-fruit. Then, Todd opened the Decadent Dark Chocolate Ale from Atwater. The Heavens opened, and God in His splendor sang and danced. Yeah, okay, probably not but we could smell the chocolate from across the table. Pure, delicious chocolate—like Willy Wonka himself smiled upon it. Since that time, we have made many trips from our home in Ann Arbor to the brewery in Detroit to get growlers of this fantastic beer. And every time Ken opens a growler or a bottle, I can smell the chocolate across the room.
Atwater has many other charms, not the least of which is its taproom. When we first walked inside, Ken and I figured we had accidentally wandered into the brewing facility and decided to ask where the taproom was. Then we slowly realized that the taproom was in the brewhouse and that made us fall in love instantly. It is a comfortable place to hang out and enjoy a pint or five. During the summer, there are outside tables and in the winter, it feels nice and cozy. There is no food other than some little bags of snacks, but who cares when the beer is so great?
Most likely, you can find what you are looking for at Atwater. Want a good IPA? Try the Grand Circus IPA. Feeling like a pilsner? They have a good one. Their seasonal beers are some of the best I’ve had, especially the cherry stout, the Bloktober (available now at the pub!), and the blueberry ale. In fact, the latter has been difficult to find in bottles, so Ken and I have been searching the beer stores and squirreling some away for the long winter ahead.
So head on down to the area known as Rivertown. There won’t be any members of the Purple Gang or any crates of illegal whiskey, but there will be outstanding beers and a welcoming place to drink them. Great-Grandma would approve.
Thanks Patti ! Sounds like Atwater is a good example of a brewery that get’s it. As customers we want both good beer and a fun/nice place to enjoy it. Personally, I enjoy their seasonal stuff and it’s relatively easy to find it in the Detroit area.
Patti Smith Bio:
Very happy special education teacher. I like beer, brewing & drinking.
Twitter Bio @TeacherPatti
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