Urbanrest brings organic touch, craft beer to Ferndale

Dawn Riffenburg
The Detroit News

If there are two things Michiganians love, it's craft beer and organic ingredients.

Urbanrest Brewing Company aims to join those two things in its Ferndale startup. There will be kombucha, too, when the microbrewery opens its doors in the spring.

Zach and Mary Typinski, along with partner Scott O'Keefe, launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $25,000 for their venture; it runs through Aug. 19. As of Friday evening, they've raised more than $14,000, with a variety of pledge levels with rewards ranging from a mug club to growlers, a pre-opening party and "Name Your Own Seasonal Beer."

"We wanted to give everyone a chance to get involved," Mary Typinski said.

To raise interest and awareness in their project and their Belgian-focused, open-fermented, organic ales, they've been hosting a series of preview parties at area craft beer bars. At a recent event at Clubhouse BFD in Rochester Hills, they handed out samples of their brews to enthusiastic supporters as well as people dining and waiting for tables, listened to feedback and explained their plans and the Kickstarter campaign.

The partners are transforming an old paint filter manufacturing facility at Woodward Heights and Wolcott Street. "It's an open warehouse with great industrial feeling -- that's kind of what we're going for," Mary said. The 5,000-square-foot space offers "lots of room for expansion and 60 parking spaces," she said.

Urbanrest head brewer Chris Kimber pours samples at Clubhouse BFD in Rochester Hills on Tuesday, July 29, 2015.

The team -- including the Typinskis, O'Keefe and head brewer Chris Kimber -- has a collective 50-plus years of brewing experience. Zach, 28, started as a distributor out of college seven years ago and currently manages Michigan sales for Oskar Blues Brewery. He has his cicerone certification, the beer equivalent of being a wine sommelier, and has been a home brewer for five years. Mary, who has a background in the service industry and teaches art at two Troy middle schools, brews kombucha, a fermented black tea drink.

O'Keefe works for an automotive supplier and has been home-brewing since 1975. He and Zach Typinski met on an airplane, got to talking and hit it off. Their shared passion in brewing ultimately led to their joint venture.

"We don't necessarily want to be just another brewpub," Zach said. "We want our focus to be great beer and great food, and welcoming for families."

Urbanrest's tap room will feature both of their beverages as well as light snacks.

The team grows eight varieties of hops on their half-acre organic farm in Warren, as well as a variety of other vegetables and fruits in raised beds using reclaimed furniture wood. The produce from their farm will be used in beer and food items.They're into pickling and fermenting and plan to serve charcuterie using local products.

"Zach has won a few awards for his beer, which convinced us there's a valid market for what we want to do," said Mary, 29. "It's been our dream for a number of years. Now this is the natural progression."

Urbanrest head brewer Chris Kimber and owner Zach Typinski look at a lettuce bed at the Warren farm.

Urbanrest will brew its ales in repurposed stainless tanks obtained from dairy farms in the Thumb -- what O'Keefe calls a "Franken-brewing" system. The tanks came from retiring farmers whose families didn't intend to carry on the tradition, O'Keefe said, so it puts old materials to new use.

The microbrewery's name harkens back to the early 1900s when Ferndale was divided into two communities, Urbanrest and Ferndale. Originally planning to name the brewery Neighborhood Brewing Co., the couple changed it to avoid a trademark dispute with a New Hampshire brewery. "Our brewery is located where historical Urbanrest once stood," Mary said.

"We really dug into what neighborhood we wanted to be in," said Zach, and Ferndale "really opened its arms to us." In a video on their Kickstarter page, he said, "We chose Ferndale because of what the town represents. It's a place where artists, free spirits and musicians have made their home for decades."

O'Keefe estimates Urbanrest will brew about 1,000 barrels a year in an open fermentation process he describes as less stressful on the yeast, easier to harvest and the process brewers have used historically, O'Keefe said. It takes a little more control and is best for small-volume brewers. Urbanrest estimates it will

Craft beer is almost like a collector's thing, said childhood friend Tracy Metivier, who attended a preview party at Clubhouse BFD last week. She's excited to see Urbanrest moving toward opening its doors. "It's something good for the area," she said. "There aren't a lot of adult things to do in Michigan."

A recent tasting started with a saison featuring orange peel and coriander. It features a Belgian base and French yeast, which Kimber said gives dryness and pepperness to a brew he calls a "summer thirst quencher." It's 7% ABV "but does not drink like 7%," he said. They brewed the first batch in February and then twice more, wanting more orange aroma and more coriander. "Zach and I, one thing that brings us together is how balanced we like our beer," Kimber said.

A sneak peek at some of the brews that will make Urbanrest's lineup:

  • IPA brewed with Centennial and Equinox hops
  • Pale ale -- described by Scott as "the little brother of the IPA" -- using homegrown Cascade hops from the Typinskis' Warren farm. Around 5% ABV, Kimber described it as "light and session-y." "We wanted you to be able to drink a lot of it without getting wasted." he said.
  • Dark saison, a newer style for the Urbanrest team. "This particular one is awesome because it takes the monastic dark beer and blends it into a farmhouse ale style," Kimber said, pointing out its fig and cherry notes. It had a definite raisin quality. "I really, really dig this beer because there's nothing quite like it," Zach said.
  • Belgian quad at 11.5%: "Figs, bready notes, toast, not a lot of malt," Kimber said. "It's warming but not hot. It's dangerously smooth and complex. You can see why monks would brew these while on a fast to keep them going." "We're in love with this beer," Zach said.
  • Gose, a tart, refreshing beer with an herbal note
  • The black-tea based kombucha, very fruity, lightly effervescent, with a very low alcohol content (not to be confused with kombucha beer). "It's really good for your gut, it has probiotics, it helps your digestion," Mary said.