Custom brewery opens today in Royal Oak

Steve Pardo
The Detroit News

Royal Oak — ROAK Brewing Co, a brewhouse featuring more than a half-dozen custom beers made on the site, officially opens for business Thursday.

The 18,000-square-foot former warehouse, at 332 E. Lincoln, boasts 30-foot ceilings and has a capacity of about 120 people, including nearly 30 seats on an outdoor deck. Behind the bar area is the brewing and bottling plant. A Grand Opening is expected around mid-July and ROAK already has the capacity to make 13,500 barrels a year — the equivalent of more than 35,400 gallons a month — of beer. They're already working on getting more tanks and, by the end of the year, the company expects capacity to rise to 20,000 barrels annually.

The craft beer market continues to grow, according to the Brewers Association, the trade association representing small and independent American craft brewers. Craft brews have been gaining market share for years and in 2013, the last year available, accounted for nearly 8 percent of the volume in the U.S. beer market, up from 6.5 percent the previous year, according to the association.

"It's very challenging, but at the same time it's a growing category and it's still underserved," said John Leone, one of the ROAK owners, along with Chuck Mascari and Chuck Mascari Jr. "The key is you have to make the best possible beer you can make."

ROAK — a wordplay on Royal Oak — represents an investment of about $4 million and employs 25 people, the brewery owners said.

It takes about seven to eight hours for a 30-barrel batch to be mixed with hops and other ingredients and processed before it makes it's way to the massive fermenting containers in the rear of the site. There it will react for around 20 days before it's ready to be served or bottled, said Trace Redmond, who handles quality control of the products.

The company is already shipping bottled beers to about 300 retailers in the region, Leone said. At the bar are seven varieties, ranging from an India pale ale called "Around the Clock" that ticks in at 4.7 percent alcohol, to the "Kasmir," a Belgian strong dark ale with an alcohol content of 9.5 percent.

ROAK Brewing Company sets roots in Royal Oak as news media toured the brew house on June 17, 2015. The 18,000-square-root facility bottles seven Michigan craft brews as they also include a 70 seat tap room with 28-person outdoor area. Three of the signature beers (from left) Around the Clock, Kashmir, and Devil Dog are seen in the tap room at the Royal Oak brewhouse. (Max Ortiz/The Detroit News) 2015

Other beers on hand are:

¦"Devil Dog" — an oatmeal stout at 8.5 percent alcohol.

¦"Live Wire" — and India pale ale with an alcohol content of 7.5 percent.

¦"Melonfest" — a seasonal American wheat beer infused with cantaloupe at 5.5 percent alcohol.

¦"Powerboat" — Belgian white ale with a 5.2 percent alcohol content.

¦"Mean Street" — an American amber ale at 5.5 percent alcohol.

John Hackett oversees the bottling process at ROAK Brewing Company in Royal Oak. The facility includes brewing, an outdoor area and a 70-seat tap room.

ROAK will serve bar fare including pizzas, salads, cheese plates and charcuterie, paninis and beer-infused ice cream floats.

The company is also experimenting on smaller-batch brews they'll serve on tap at the site. A "Lemon Drop" pale ale is set to be ready by the end of the month, officials said.

"Yesterday, (the Lemon Drop batch) smelled like pineapple and mangoes," said Brandon MacClaren, the head brewer and partner. The brew is also expected to have citrus notes. "It will be interesting to see how it turns out," he said.

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