Axle Brewery Founder Warms Library Guests with Humor, History and Beer

Axle Brewery Founder Warms Library Guests with Humor, History and Beer

(Rebecca Hammond, Jan. 8, 2018)

Ferndale, MI – If you live in Ferndale you already know this is a cool city, but when your local library invites one of the city’s newest microbreweries in for an evening of sharing its history AND samples of three great beers (and their house-made chips and dips), no further proof is needed.

No people are more interesting to listen to than people who love their work. A microbrewing team that loves its work and shares a wry sense of humor about the industry’s pitfalls is an hour of pure fun, with beer. The Ferndale Area District Library hosted Axle Brewing Company on a bitterly cold Thursday night, but despite temps near zero the room was packed. Being a sensible bunch, the staff of Axle started us off with snacks and a hefty sample of one of three beers, their Long Cut IPA (India Pale Ale, this one being a “standard west coast IPA”), Noble Ghost, a Grungeist Blonde (this is a German hop cultivar with fruity and floral notes), and their “roasty, toasty, chocolatey, sweet and delicious” Milk Stout. Ahhhh. We settled in for the slide show and fast-paced story of Axle’s Livernois Tap.

Why so far off the beaten path, president and founder Dan Riley is often asked? “It’s not,” is Riley’s answer. Dan grew up in Detroit, and now lives in Pleasant Ridge where his son attends Ferndale Schools. The building and the locale’s big trees and residential “just felt right”, although the former Diamond Drilling site was, at first, “a disaster.” The slides showed an amazing transformation that must have been engrossing, exciting, and at times discouraging. Head brewer Adam Beratta and cellar manager and brewer Rob Henry brew everything on-site on Livernois.

Audience Q and A was as interesting as the official presentation, the crowd including many home brewers. How long does the commercial craft beer process take? Answer: 25 days from “boil to bottle.” We learned that cleanliness is important, that the second wave of craft breweries was more scientific than the first, and that the third wave is “very science driven.” Another question: how to take the next step from brewing your own to bottling your brew. Rob got a burst of laughter when he told the crowd “don’t ruin a good hobby.” He highly recommended the book How to Brew, which “tells you everything you need to know.” Dan told me “a lot of people have been home brewing, and they want us to try their beers and give feedback. Everyone wants to open a brewery. But it’s an extremely difficult and challenging business.”

Some of their brews are intentionally the same every batch. Some change every year. Trends take off, breweries keep up. New England IPAs, cloudy, hazy beers, became popular a year or so ago, so Axle added one. And while stray yeast can contaminate a batch, bad batches can be distilled and aged.

Scott Warrens, Axle’s sales manager is “our social conscience,” Dan told the crowd. And a social conscience could not be more obvious. Although the timing of Livernois Tap’s opening on Pride weekend was not specifically intentional, they flew a Gay Pride flag out front, and their 14th Amendment brew is “our salute to due process and equal protection” according to the website. 50 cents from each pint goes to Affirmations, Ferndale’s LGBT community center on 9 Mile. “Things we feel strongly about, we support,” Dan said, those things including the gay and lesbian community and NPR. An interesting topic was something many of us have noticed: the craft beer world exhibits a fair amount of sexism (as well as some juvenile crassness) on labels, but given the huge number of women enthusiasts, this misogyny is “tone deaf,” as Dan put it. Much of the marketing of craft beer fails to appeal to people of color as well. But Dan described having tears in his eyes as he surveyed the brewery their second weekend open: he saw kids in at least six high chairs (you don’t have to see parents with young kids present to notice the family-friendliness of the place) as well as a large group of African-American women from Sherwood Forest enjoying their beers.

Livernois Tap sells beer and food, which Dan described as “elevated beer food, stoner food, and childhood food reimagined.” One fun part of their website is the “Beer that opened my eyes” part of each team member’s bio, as is the baffling Hype Man, whose job is, well, being Hype Man.

Axle team members that were present said this is a dream job, that “Dan articulated the vision and we believed in it.”“I don’t even think that we’ve gotten started yet. I’m really looking forward to getting better,” Rob said.

Axle Brewing Company Livernois Tap, 567 Livernois Avenue
Closed on Mondays

Open TuesdayThursday, 4-10
Friday, 4-11
Saturday, 12-11
Sunday, 10-9

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