I love small town breweries. There’s so much to be gained from being tucked away in a more remote area and so much personality that gets pulled out of a brewery when it’s not in the spotlight of a major city. Located just north of Ann Arbor in the great beer state of Michigan is the town of South Lyon. Not only does Danny Spanos, legendary drummer of the band Redbone, hail from this fine town but so does Witch’s Hat Brewing Company. Witch’s Hat, or simply “The Hat”, was established in 2011 in South Lyon and in a short time has grown into one of the most reputable brewing companies in the state of Michigan.
That reputation was completely grown in South Lyon. Like many brewers, Ryan and Erin Cottongim started brewing beers as homebrewers and that passion grew, and as it grew that passion that eventually turned into a business. The name Witch’s Hat has local roots, inspired by a local landmark that has stood for over 100 years and was named the Witch’s Hat due to it’s conical design. Witch’s Hat, when they originally opened in 2011, started in a smaller facility just up the road from where the current tap-room is located. It would not be too long before the brewery outgrew its original production facility. After 3 short years, in 2014 the Hat would move just up the street to where the current taproom is located. There is a real passion for the local area and supporting the area with the Witch’s Hat crew. Collectively the company has raised over $30,000 for local charities including the Humane Society of Huron Valley, Gleaners Food Bank, Blessings in a Backpack as well as many others. The local charm and pride only enhances the overall experience of making a trip to the South Lyon brewery and it makes me more than happy to spend my time and money there.
After you walk in the door at Witch’s Hat you are immediately greeted with a beautiful view of the production area. It’s especially cool if you show up during the day because then you get the privilege of enjoying the aroma of fresh brewed beer. I’ve had a few trips in which I’ve decided that making a trip to Witch’s Hat was a better use of my day than going to work, and I can guarantee you that walking through a door and being met with the earthy scent of aromatic malts confirmed that I was in the right place. Once you make your way into the taproom you get a good view of some pretty beautiful hand blown mugs that hang on the wall behind the bar. These of course belong to the mug club members, but the varying shapes and colors of mugs almost transform a simple wall of mugs and pegs into a work of art. Each mug hangs on an individual back-lit peg that adds to the overall vibe of the taproom. The taproom has a very traditional coziness to it, it’s not overly bright inside but instead inviting and comfortable. The bar is laid out in a way that encourages a real community feel and the staff is quick to engage customers and start conversation as well.
The staff is great to talk to, each person behind the bar has a good working knowledge of the beer at Witch’s Hat as well as a lot of more popular beers to compare to and make recommendations. Witch’s Hat is a brewery that a lot of people think of as a place for the hardcore beer lovers, and the beer lives up to that expectation. The staff is what really sells the beer to people new to craft beer. They make solid recommendations and in the rare instance in which someone isn’t a fan of a recommendation they have a backup plan that makes sure each customer has the right beer in their glass. Everyone on staff has their own personality too, and it shows, regardless if you want to chat about beer, music, or whatever else happens to come up it’s easy to get caught up in conversation with anyone on staff at the Hat.
Talking beer of course then leads to drinking beer, and there is no shortage of beer at this fine establishment. There’s something for everyone at Witch’s Hat, the tap list is expansive and filled with some of my favorite beers in the state. Regardless if you want something crisp and malty like the red lager Under the Red light or if you’re looking for a hopped up well-balanced sweet IPA Witch’s Hat has you covered. Every beer that is ran through the tap lines is a well crafted piece of fermented art. Even the gluten-free IPA “Bootin the Gluten“ is full of flavor and body. If that wasn’t enough there are also cider’s and wine available making sure that no matter what you’re into Witch’s Hat can make sure you are well accommodated.
There’s no way I could narrow a recommendation down to a single beer at Witch’s Hat, in fact I would much be much more likely to recommend getting a flight and saying that you should try everything on the menu at the Hat. Still the beer I find myself going back to, practically every time I stop in and make a visit, is Sweet Lou. Sweet Lou is a hearty sweet stout that is loaded up with chocolate and dark malts and brewed with lactose that finishes dry and sweet without being overpowering. Depending on the time of year you can catch different variants of Sweet Lou on draft as well, (Sweet Lou with Coffee is so good I could drink it every day without hesitation) each one adds new complexity and depth to the beer but keeps true to the original. Sweet Lou is extremely well-balanced and full of flavor without putting you down for the evening, it’s smooth and exceptionally easy to drink and is a must try for anyone who loves stouts.
As I’ve mentioned before on Sommbeer, I think the three things a brewery really needs to be praiseworthy are a great staff, good environment, and above all good beer. Witch’s Hat blends a unique environment and a well-informed and educated staff together with ease making the each trip into the Hat more fun and entertaining than your last visit. The beer is among the best brews in the state of Michigan, which in my opinion puts them in the conversation with the best beers in the Country. Michigan is home to craft beer juggernauts like Bell’s Brewing, Founders, and Shorts; the beer at Witch’s Hat not only meet’s the standards of the bigger breweries, in many cases it completely exceeds those breweries. The flagship beers on tap are always well executed and extremely enjoyable and the limited releases that come off the bottling line completely live up to expectations. I first discovered Witch’s Hat somewhere around 2012, and from my personal experience it was love at first pint. Now, 4 years later, the Hat is still one of my favorite spots to grab a beer. The passion for making great beer has never dissipated, Ryan and his crew continue to crank out world-class beers and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of them slowing down.
Witch’s Hat Brewing Company
601 S Lafayette
South Lyon, MI 48178
Pub Room Hours
Monday – 2pm-10pm
Wednesday – 2pm-10pm
Thursday – 12pm-12am
Friday – 12pm-12am
Saturday – 12pm-12am
Sunday – 12pm-10pm