Ale Mary's to serve up craft suds in Royal Oak this spring

Tom's Oyster Bar in downtown Royal Oak is spinning off a new concept in Ale Mary's, which will give props to craft beer through a wide selection of brews and beer-influenced food.

Ale Mary's Craft Beer Hall will open in a renovated space formerly used as an extra dining area and party room by Tom's. Ale Mary's will take up about half the restaurant space, which covers two storefronts and will seat about 50-60 indoors and out, says general manager Justin Pries.

Remodeling is expected to be completed within a few weeks, in time for a spring opening, he says. Tom's and Ale Mary's will operate separately, including staffs and kitchens. Ale Mary's is in the heart of downtown Royal Oak, at 316 South Main St.

This Thursday, a master brewer from Grand Rapids' Perrin Brewing will host a beer-themed meal at Ale Mary's communal table, the first of several special craft beer knowledge dinners that will be a feature at Ale Mary's. The intimate dinner is for Ale Mary's founding members, investors who will be entitled to special privileges such as first dibs on limited-seating special events. A handful of founding memberships are still available, Pries says.

In addition, Ale Mary's has 20-30 craft beers on tap and about 100 bottled beers from around the world, Pries says.

Owners Nick and Heather Ritts are fans of craft beer -- the drink and the industry -- and want to be a part of it, says Pries. They, Pries and staff have been educating themselves through tastings, brewery visits and certification training. Heather is working on one of the highest certifications in craft beer service, and the Ale Mary's staff must be certified as at least Level 1 certified beer servers, he says.

"People know so much about the craft beers now or they're learning," says Pries. "It's now very similar to wine, the different styles and different flavors. My background is mostly in wine. It's fascinating learning about craft beer. I have a whole new level of respect."

Besides serving beer to drink, Ale Mary's will serve food cooked with beer or influenced by beer, Pries says. Executive Chef Geoff Woodman is creating the menu.

"We'll be doing things with food and beer that you can't really find; not on the scale we'll be doing it," says Pries.

Source: Justin Pries, general manager, Tom's Oyster Bar and Ale Mary's
Writer: Kim North Shine
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