The Ann Arbor area's newest brewery has taken a few years to get off the ground, but some of its beer recipes have been literally centuries in the making.
Edelbrau Brewing Co. owner and master brewer Teo Watson-Ahlbrandt originally anticipated releasing his beers in 2017, but opening his business took longer than expected. He says the brewery had a couple "soft openings" to friends and family with limited hours in January. The 4,300-square-foot production facility and bottle shop officially opened in mid-February at 719 W. Ellsworth Rd., Suite 2, in Pittsfield Township.
The brewery focuses on traditional English and German beers, including the currently available Edelbrau IPA and Oat Malt Brown Ale. Watson-Ahlbrandt says the brown ale recipe dates back to the 1850s, derived from the work of beer history blogger Ron Pattinson.
"(Pattinson) talked about going into the (British archives), because the old tax records were based around ingredients," Watson-Ahlbrandt says. "At the time, they were concerned about diverting ingredients from the food supply, and beer was considered either a vice or at least not as vital, and was taxed differently than bread. So recipes were more or less spelled out in tax laws."
He notes that grains have been bred and cross-bred since then, and malt producers have changed over time. Although his beer may not be an exact duplicate of those old recipes, he can come pretty close.
Watson-Ahlbrandt got his start in the industry through working in specialty foods and teaching himself homebrewing. He deliberated over whether to pursue brewing as a full-time job or keep it as a hobby and get a "real job," as his father had suggested.
He decided he would try to make 100 batches of beer and then get a job in a brewery, but it only took 80 batches before his friends began encouraging him to go for it. He studied biochemistry at Eastern Michigan University and put that knowledge to use working as head brewer for several different microbreweries in Michigan, including Ann Arbor's Biercamp and Big Hart Brewing Company in Hart. He also continues to work as a brewing consultant around the state.
Aside from the focus on historic beer styles, Watson-Ahlbrandt says Edelbrau sets itself apart by focusing on supply chain. Following recent reports of weedkiller being found in major beer brands, Watson-Ahlbrandt says he would "pay a little more for grain if they don't have to spray something on it."
Edelbrau bottle shop hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by Spike Oliver.