Royal Oak pays tribute to Glenn Frey, with beer and road

The Detroit News

Royal Oak toasted Glenn Frey, the city-bred Eagles co-founder who died last month at age 67, in grand style Thursday night.

Rosie Reilly pours a Lyin' Eyes beer Thursday at Roak.

A portion of Willis Avenue was renamed after Frey, who graduated in 1966 from Dondero High, which now is Royal Oak Middle School. The street running along its south side between N. West Street and N. Washington Avenue now will be known as Glenn Frey Drive. The unveiling of the street Thursday attracted a crowd, officials said.

"It's been a wonderful event," said John Leone, co-owner of Roak Brewery in Royal Oak, which named a beer in Glenn Frey's honor and hosted a tribute event Thursday night. "We honored one of the greatest songwriters an musicians of classic rock, and a Royal Oak resident."

Mena Murray, Lisa Ortlieb and Bob Ortlieb came to Roak to raise a glass to Glenn Frey Thursday.

The brewery was hopping after the street dedication Thursday night, with people clamoring to try the English golden ale dubbed Lyin' Eyes.

Leone said the partnership between the street renaming effort and the brewery was a natural.

"The brewery features classic rock, and we thought it would be great to brew a beer in honor of Glen Frey and be part of the event," he said. The vision for Roak is to make great craft beer, but Leone said he loves classic music and the brewery features it every day, so it seemed like a natural match.

Roak tapped Lyin' Eyes Thursday night.

"It's a crowd-pleaser, easy drinking," said Leone, describing the beer as having a sweet malt flavor and clocking in around 4% ABV and 20 IBUs.

Why Lyin' Eyes?

"I love the song," Leone said.

Lyin' Eyes is a one-off for the brewery, a special beer that is available in the taproom but won't be distributed in retail stores. They brewed around 12 half-barrels of the 4.5-ABV ale, and when it's gone, it's gone. Leone estimated it would last around a month, although they were pouring it heavily Thursday night.

"Classic rock just appeals to me," Leone said, explaining why Royal Oak's Glenn Frey tribute hit home. "This great music meant everything to me as a young man growing up. And it still does."

Leone said that while many people think of craft beer as a young person's favorite, he's seen that isn't true. "We talk a lot about millennials and craft beer, but a lot of seniors love craft beer," he said. (And those in between those two groups do as well, it's worth noting.)

WCSX disc jockey Jim O'Brien, a driving force behind the efforts, was thrilled about the response to the Glenn Frey tributes Thursday night. He started the effort to honor Frey on social media. "At one point we had 6 million posts with the hashtag glennfreydrive on Instagram."

People flocked to Roak Thursday night to taste the beer named Lyin' Eyes in tribute to Glenn Frey.

O'Brien, the morning co-host who's been with WCSX for 13 years, said members of Frey's family were on hand Thursday sending photos to Frey's wife in California. Thursday's event, not by planning but by happenstance, was a month to the day of Frey's passing. Frey never let go of his Detroit roots, O'Brien said, remaining a Tigers fan who always wanted to sing the national anthem at a game.

"That's why the Eagles played at Tigers Stadium in 1994," he said. O'Brien spoke knowledgeably about Frey's career evolution in Metro Detroit and beyond, describing his relationship with Bob Seger and other area musicians. He said that members of Frey's family took photos Thursday at the street dedication and sent them to Frey's wife in California.

If he named a beer in Frey's honor, O'Brien said, he would have called it "Old 55," after his favorite cover song by the Eagles.

Royal Oak Mayor Jim Ellison stopped by the brewery after the street unveiling. "I'm very proud of my city tonight," he said.

A group of Royal Oak residents and Eagles fans came to Roak Thursday to honor Glenn Frey and taste Lyin' Eyes. They all gave the ale and the brewery a thumbs-up.

"I like it," said Bob Ortlieb, who described himself as a big Eagles fan. "I came here tonight to raise a glass to Glenn Frey."

Ortlieb plays guitar and does some vocals for a band that does Eagles covers.

Fellow Dondero graduate Mena Murray said she came to check out the brew inspired by the man who attended her alma mater.

"He was already a legend there," said Murray, who attended the school well after Frey

Her husband, Mike Murray, said "Hotel California" was the first album he ever bought and that he came to Roak Thursday to join the recognition of Glenn Frey's artistry.

"I'm from Royal Oak and I understand the significance of what he meant here," Murray said.

In another rock and roll tribute, Roak is brewing a double IPA called Blow Your Face Out, inspired by Peter Wolf and the J. Geils Band. At 10% ABV and more than 100 IBUs, it's heftier than Lyin' Eyes but with a pleasant floral hoppiness that belies its strength.