The Oakland in Ferndale recently began serving its own private barrel of Four Roses barrel-strength bourbon. (Sandy Levine)
Last week, the Oakland craft cocktail lounge in Ferndale began serving its own private barrel of Four Roses barrel-strength bourbon, the first of its kind to be served in Michigan.
Oakland owner Sandy Levine approached the Kentucky distillery last year about purchasing a barrel to be bottled and served solely at the Nine Mile lounge. In November, a representative of Four Roses met with Levine, his bartending staff and one lucky member of the press (ahem) to taste samples from a dozen barrels ready for bottling. Though they had the same ingredients and were all aged roughly the same number of years, there were still subtle differences in smell and taste.
“The process has been pretty special in a few ways,” says Levine, who opened the Oakland at 201 W. Nine Mile in 2011. “The fact that we were the ones who reached out to Four Roses and actually made it happen feels pretty good.”
He says experiences like this have helped his adept staff become even more knowledgeable.
“We’ve been really lucky over the past two years to have had very little turnover in our core staff, and because of that, our bartenders have excelled and thrived far more than I could have hoped,” he says. “I now trust their opinion as much as my own, if not more.”
Levine has created a small and simple menu for serving his Four Roses, which ended up clocking in at 125 proof. He’ll serve it in a whiskey sour with lemon and sugar or as an Old Fashioned with sugar, bitters and orange peel. You can also order it neat, as a 2-ounce pour.
“We wanted to keep things simple and only do a couple of cocktails that people were used to, so that the aspects of the whiskey were highlighted and people had a frame of reference to begin from.”
Levine’s barrel yielded just over 32 gallons (it started out at 55 gallons, but after 11 years of aging there will be some evaporation, which distillers refer to as the “angel’s share”), so while that should last a while, it won’t be available indefinitely.
The Oakland opens at 5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Call (248) 291-5259.
Michigan is tops at RateBeer.com
Last week, the craft beer website RateBeer.com unleashed its awards for the best brews of the past year.
Several products were from Michigan breweries: Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout was awarded No. 1 stout in the world, and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale was picked as the top IPA.
Michigan dominated the mead category, too, with products from Warren’s Kuhnhenn Brewery and B. Nektar and Schramm’s, both of Ferndale, all listed in the top 15. Kuhnhenn’s Bourbon Barrel French Toast Mead came in first.
The survey also named HopCat beer bar and brewery as one of the best beer retailers in the world. The Grand Rapids brew pub was also recently named Most Popular Bar in Michigan by FourSquare social networking app and No. 2 beer bar in the country by CraftBeer.com. HopCat announced last week it would expand to include locations in East Lansing and in Midtown Detroit. The craft beer bar is expected to open at 4265 Woodward in August.
Food and beverage calendar
Belgian Beer Festival at Ashley’s: A 10-day festival with discussions, special guests, happy hours and beer dinners. Tickets, starting at $10, are required for some events. Thurs.-Sun. 7525 Wayne, Westland. (734) 525-1667.
Dabble: The Wine Tasting at Rust Belt Market: Sample wine and craft cocktails while browsing the wares of more than 30 vendors, plus strolling appetizers and chocolates and music from Ben Sharkey. Proceeds benefit Camp Casey. 7-10 p.m. Fri. $40 in advance, $50 at the door. 22801 Woodward, Ferndale. (313) 622-7374 or www.dabbledetroit.com.
Indulgence at Petruzzello’s: Cocktails, liqueur, wine and martini sampling with hors d’oeuvres and DJs. 7 p.m. Fri. $30-$59. 6950 Rochester, Troy. (248) 227-5559 or www.indulgenceevent.com.
National Drink Wine Day at Eddie Merlot’s: Half off glasses of branded vintages from 4-11 p.m. Feb. 18. 37000 Woodward, Bloomfield Hills. (248) 712-4095.
Michigan Beer Tasting at Champane’s Wine Cellars: Sample beer from Atwater, Founders, New Holland, Jolly Pumpkin, Bell’s and other Michigan breweries. Proceeds benefit the 1/24 Marines Memorial. 6 p.m. Feb. 20. $20. 7007 Chicago, Warren. (586) 978-9463.
Whiskey Business II at Royal Oak Farmers Market: Sample from more than 100 whiskeys from around the world. 8-11 p.m. Fri. $45-$65, $10 designated driver. 316 E. 11 Mile, Royal Oak. www.whiskeybusinessmi.com.
“Michigan Beer Film” at John Cowley & Sons Pub: Screen “Michigan Beer Film” with director Kevin Romeo, beer expert Rex Halfpenny and Trevor Kilmek of Paw Paw Brewing. 6 p.m. Feb. 25. $23 (includes film and three beers). 33338 Grand River, Farmington. beersnobby.com/FarmingtonBeerFilm.