Batch Brewing Co., the 2013 winner of a Hatch Detroit award of $50,000 in seed money for new businesses, is thriving in Corktown after its February opening. And it proves once again what can be accomplished on a relatively small budget.
You know Batch is something out of the ordinary as soon as you enter the nano-brewery, where the first thing you see is a list of “Rules of the House,” which include “Sit next to someone you don’t know.” That’s easy, because all of the seating is at communal picnic-style tables or high-legged bar stools overlooking the active beer production going on as a backdrop to lunch or dinner.
There is no TV to distract, and although not even Batch can keep people from staring at their electronic devices, conversation is meant to be an integral part of the experience, according to the affable, hands-on proprietors, Jason Williams and Stephen Roginson, who pitch in wherever needed.
Both were dedicated home brewers whose dream has come true in the low-slung building (once Porter Street Station) rehabbed with their own hard work. About the only attempt at “décor” is open filament bulbs strung overhead festival fashion.
The premise here is simple and efficient: patrons order at one of the two registers at the end of the bar, and are given a number to put at their table or at the bar. Then the drinks, and the food that comes out of the kitchen behind the scenes, are delivered by the T-shirted staff. It’s all pretty basic and down-to-earth, as befits the setting in which the gleaming metal fermenting tanks are the backdrop.
So what’s a nano-brewery doing in a restaurant review? It’s because the food is surprisingly good, fresh, well-prepared and much more creative than what might be expected. Overlook the fact that it is served on waxed paper-lined plastic baskets and with paper napkins. Chef Matt Johnson’s creations have style and substance.
He changes the menu on a weekly basis, but some items stay. Thankfully, one of them is the housemade Bavarian pretzels, served with a dark Belgian mustard and a cheese dip the house calls Vienna munster fondue. The warm bread-like twists, two per order, pull apart easily and team especially well with the spicy mustard. One order ($6) is enough to share — though you probably won’t want to.
Among other dishes that are perennials are the ribeye bolillo (the crusty bread that is the Mexican version of the French baguette) that is topped with sliced steak, onion confit and served with blue cheese/horseradish slaw ($9). The chef has an interesting take on salad: he lightly grills romaine for either the fattoush (cucumber, tomato and house-pickled beets with lemon-sparked oil and vinegar dressing) or the classic Caesar.
There’s also a golden brown pasty of the week, sometimes filled with a Reuben mixture, arrancini (risotto balls filled with either meat or in a vegetarian version) and bread pudding, perhaps chocolate raspberry or blueberry. Like the savory dishes, desserts come with a sauce, such as the offbeat anise/hyssop cream with the blueberry version.
The only other beverages in addition to 12 housemade brews on tap — such as the interesting Cerveza de Tamarindo, a delicious wheat beer flavored with tamarind pods, and Batch Hefeweizen, a traditional German style beer — are hometown favorites Faygo pop and Vernor’s ginger ale.
The proprietors have applied for a license to make mead and cider, which will add some variety to the already very appealing lineup.
Batch Brewing Co.
1400 Porter, Detroit
Call: (313) 338-8008
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Wed.,
11 a.m.-midnight Thurs.-Sat.
Prices: Appetizers, main dishes and desserts $6-$12 across the board
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: House-brewed beer only
Noise level: High
Parking: Attached lot
Wheelchair access: No barriers