Brewery/ Brewpub of the Month – November
As I mentioned in a previous blog, I would be featuring monthly one of the many fine breweries and brewpubs from across the U.P. I can’t think of a better place to start than in one of the Escanaba area’s finest, Hereford and Hops. This old building was a hangout for bootleggers and gangsters during prohibition. There was even a speakeasy in the basement!
Located not far from the waterfront, it would have been easy to smuggle booze in. Originally a hotel it would have been filled with sailors, passengers, smugglers and gangsters. Al Capone’s fingers stretched well into the U.P. There is a tradition of alcohol here that goes back 100 years. Now, with the brewpub, the tradition continues, but with a much quieter and relaxing atmosphere.
It was a ten-minute drive along M-35—past the end of the airport runway, the Escanaba golf course, the public and Catholic high schools to Ludington Avenue, Escanaba’s main street, and then east along Ludington—to the next stop on this ale trail: a building of double historical importance. Built in 1914 as a luxury hotel, the Delta Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to Hereford & Hops Steakhouse and Brewpub, the Upper Peninsula’s first craft brewery. Since the late 1990s, I’d been enjoying lunch here during my annual day trips to the city known as the center of the UP’s “banana belt.” On one of my visits, I’d sampled my first Upper Peninsula version of Kolsch, a German-style beer that was relatively unknown across the United States at that time, but has since become very popular among craft beer drinkers.
I first met the owner of Hereford & Hops, the late Don Moody, in 2017, when I arrived to do an interview with brewer Mike Sattem. Mike was brewing and while we were waiting, Don showed me around the brewpub, which occupies most of the first floor of the building (the upper floors house apartments). At the front was the seven-barrel brewhouse, visible behind the floor-to-ceiling plate glass panels that formed one of the walls beside an elegant, full-service bar. Next to the bar was a cozy pub area that had a pool table, oversized easy chairs and a sofa, a gas fireplace, and, above it, one of the establishment’s four TVs. A formal dining room, featuring tables set with white cloths and a fully-restored player grand piano, was behind the pub area, and, next to it, a large grill where patrons could cook their own steaks. Past the grill was a room nicknamed “The Other Grill,” a Mongolian grill where patrons filled bowls with ingredients that would be handed to a chef to be grilled.
Many years ago, Don, a native of Kankakee, Illinois, and his wife and young family spent summers in Rock, a small community north of Escanaba. “We had a small farm. I decided to raise Hereford cattle at the farm, and we moved to the UP permanently.” He and a neighbor purchased the Delta Hotel building and, when, in 1992, the Michigan Government changed its liquor laws to allow brewpubs, they decided to build one. He also took a crash course in brewing. In the months after the December 1994 opening, the idea of grilling your own steak and drinking beer brewed on premises became so popular that there were lineups of people waiting to get in: locals, day-trippers from as far away as Marquette and Green Bay, and, in the summer, tourists, including an increasing number of beer tourists.
One of the people who had worked on the renovations of the Delta Hotel in the early 1990 was Mike Sattem, a recent high school graduate. “I never thought it would happen,” he said as he joined Don Mooney and me in the dining room. “Now here we are, twenty-five years later, two people who’d had no experience brewing, an owner and a head brewer.” After Hereford & Hops had opened, Mike began hanging around John Malchow, who’d taken over from Moody as the brewer, picking up as much information he could about the brewing process. He apprenticed in the brewery of a sister restaurant in Wausau, Wisconsin and was part of the brewing team that won three World Beer Cup and two Great American Beer Festival medals. When Malchow moved on, Mike returned to Escanaba and has been there since, making him, along with Derek “Chumley” Anderson of Vierling Restaurant and Marquette Harbor Brewery and Lark Ludlow of Tahquamenon Falls Brewery, the longest-serving brewers in the UP.
When I met Mike Sattem again in 2022, the beer list included many of the styles I recognized from my earlier visits. There had been some changes, Mike noted. He now often brewed lesser-known styles, including the growingly popular sour beers, which he said he stored in a different part of the brewery’s basement to prevent any contamination. He also has lowered the alcohol percentage of most of the beers as patrons’ tastes evolved. “Most people enjoy something that complements their food, not something over the top.” But he also noted that as people’s familiarity with craft beers evolved, they were more accepting of hoppy beers.
“When we started out, we developed Whitetail as a gentle beer, but people thought it was too hoppy.” Whitetail Golden Ale (ABV 4.7 percent) is one of Hereford & Hops’ flagship beers. A gold medal winner at the World Beer Cup, it has a light-to-medium malt body and a crisp hop finish that has earthy, pine, and citrus notes. Another beer designed for novice drinkers of craft beer is the very low ABV Bluegrass Wheat Ale (ABV 3.1 percent), a blueberry-flavored ale that uses lemongrass instead of hops. This unusual ingredient provides ginger and lemon flavors that balance the fairly unassertive two-row barley and wheat malts and complement the hint of blueberries.
Cleary Irish Red Ale (ABV 4.8 percent), winner of a Great American Beer Festival bronze medal, and Blackbird Oatmeal Stout (ABV 6.1 percent), winner of a World Beer Cup bronze, are two of Hereford & Hops darker brews. Cleary Red is a medium-bodied amber given a malty sweetness by the caramel malts and touch of candy apple-flavoring. The stout is a medium- to full-bodied version of the style given a silky, creamy texture by the oats, and roasted and coffee notes by the dark malts. Redemption IPA originally started at 5.5 percent ABV, but, Sattem told me, “I gradually ramped up the ABV to 7.5 percent as people’s palates developed. Medium-to full-bodied, it has an array of hops, including Simcoe, Cascade, and Amarillo, that contribute citrus, earthy, piney, spicy, and floral notes to complement the malty backbone. The Kolsch (no ABV available) is light-bodied, crisp, and clean-finishing. It follows the German recipe as closely as possible and is a refreshing, almost lager-like drink.
I’d visited the brewhouse on my previous trip, but asked Mike if we could tour it again. “I’ve just finished cleaning everything, including the windows. People are much more worried,” he added, “if all the equipment isn’t clean, the beer will be no good.” Between the mash tun and brew kettle hung a sign that I remembered from my earlier visit. “Blessed is the mother who gives birth to a brewer.” Mike laughed and told me that, although his mother is proud of him, she doesn’t drink any alcohol. I remarked that I was sure that many, many of the people who had enjoyed his beer had probably blessed her.
For more information like this, please check out our book “Yooper Ale Trails” by Mikel B. Classen and Jon C. Stott.