Brewer Edward Stencel's eclectic background and Michigan heritage have made a stamp on his new River Rouge Brewing Company, which opened three weeks ago in Royal Oak.
The brewery and tasting room is named after the Michigan city where his grandfather moved after immigrating from Poland in the early 1910s. Stencel went to college in Britain where he learned to enjoy the brown ales made there. He also traveled the world during his 20-year stint in the film industry as a cinematographer and producer (he founded the Royal Oak Film Society).
In the Fall of 2013 (after the state's film incentives had significantly dropped) he started making plans with his brother, Chip Stencel, wife Martha Stencel and partner Joanne Engwright to open the River Rouge Brewery, which employs a three-and-a-half barrel system and has a tasting room open to the public.
"My wife tells me I went from Armani to Carhartt," jokes Stencel, referring to his transition from businessman to beer maker.
For his brewing education, Stencel studied under Alex Van Horne, owner and head brewer of San Diego's Intergalactic Brewing Company (Stencel proudly wears this brewery's patch on his work shirt alongside the River Rouge Brewery logo).
Pop in to the River Rouge tasting room — which is open for sipping Tuesday to Thursday 3 to 8 p.m., 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday — and you may catch Stencel brewing a batch of blond ale made with Michigan honey, or a vanilla coffee stout featuring a local coffee company.
One his most popular beers is the Mango Explosion, an easy-to-drink fruity beer with a bright, sweet tropical flavor. The flagship beer is the Stencel Stout Extra, an American-style stout that clocks in at 7.7 percent alcohol by volume.
Visit the tasting room at 406 E. 4th in Royal Oak (it used to be a Knights of Columbus hall) and try one of the freshly made brews. It's likely that one of the Stencel brothers will be behind the bar, and more than willing to have a good conversation about beer.
Get a taster flight of five beers, four ounces each, for $8, or sip a pint from $5-$6. River Rouge sells growlers to-go, too.
Right now there are about a dozen seats at the bar, which is decked-out like a casual and home-y basement bar. There are also a few picnic tables. Outdoor seating may be added in the future.
Bubble Tea pops into Ferndale
Alycia Prasad was tired of making bubble tea for her husband, Arun, who fell in love with the Taiwanese drink as a college student at Michigan State University. She told him and his friends to go to a local bubble tea cafe instead, but found there weren't any in their Ferndale neighborhood. A business idea was born.
"So we decided instead of living a normal life after we got married — buying a house, taking a honeymoon — to just jump into this," says Prasad of her new business, Detroit Bubble Tea, which opened at 22821 Woodward just north of Nine Mile in Ferndale last week.
The colorful and clean cafe sets up the beverage menu in three steps. First decide between a slush, smoothie, iced tea or milk tea. Then choose a flavor — anything from bubble gum to taro — or mix two flavors. The most fun is step three: adding the bubbles. Detroit Bubble Tea has the classic tapioca pearls, and also jelly-like bubbles and popping pearls, which are juice-filled tiny balls that explode in your mouth.
The Prasads also serve Chazzano coffee, iced or hot, gluten-free (and gorgeous-looking) French macaroons and vegan cupcakes.
■Congratulations to Ferndale's Valentine Distilling, named "Best American Gin Distillery" at the Berlin International Spirits Competition in March. They can add this to their many other trophies on the mantel. Valentine's Liberator Old Tom was named "World's Best Cask Gin" at the 2014 World Gin Awards.
Food & beverage events
Local Roots Spring Evening Dining at Michigan Cafe at The Henry Ford: A locally-sourced five-course dinner paired with Michigan wines. Entree is lamb two ways, chop and osso buco with morel mushroom, pea and spring ramps with polenta and wild leek pesto. 6:30 p.m. Fri. $68. 20900 Oakwood, Dearborn. (313) 982-6001.
Yalla Eat! Walking Tours in Eastern Market: Culinary walking tours explore Arab-American history in Eastern Market. Tours run about 21/2 hours. 10 a.m. Sat. and June 13 and 1 p.m. Tues. $20, $15 Arab American National Museum members. Tours start at Germack Coffee Roasting Company, 2517 Russell, Detroit. arabamericanmuseum.org/yallaeat.
Garden Terrace Tasting at Rattlesnake Club: The summer-long wine tasting series kicks off June 11 with sparkling wines. Tickets include eight wines paired with small plates. 6 p.m. June 11. $45, plus tax and tip. 300 River Place, Detroit. (313) 567-4400.
Sarap Pop-Up Menu at Checker's Bar: The chefs of Sarap will bring a menu of Filipino-inspired finger food to the Checker Bar including fried lumpia, longaniza corn dog with banana ketchup, pork adobo quesadilla and more. 7-11 p.m. June 11. Prices are per item, $2-$7. 124 Cadillac Square, Detroit. (313) 961-9249.
Chef Jordan Ceresnie from The Root Restaurant & Bar at Yemans Street: This five-course dinner starts with asparagus soup with creme fraiche, chive blossom and black garlic oil. Chef Ceresnie will also serve a local greens salad, pea and ricotta tortellini, smoked lake trout and roasted strawberry and matcha shortcake. 7 p.m. June 18. $50. 2995 Yemans, Hamtramck. yemansstreet.com.
Founders Fest 2015 in Downtown Grand Rapids: A celebration of craft beer and music with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and more. 3-11 p.m. June 20. Tickets on sale at foundersbrewing.com.
Michigan Brewers Guild's 2015 Summer Beer Festival at Riverside Park: Sample from 800 products from 80 Michigan breweries at this popular annual beer fest. 5-9 p.m. July 24, 1-6 p.m. July 25. $35-$40 in advance, $40-$45 at the gate. W. Cross and N. Huron, Ypsilanti. michiganbrewersguild.org.