It’s time for our Badgers to hit the road again and with that a throng of cardinal and white clad fans will surely follow. Presumably once you arrive in Michigan you’ll be thirsty and I am here to help you slake that thirst. Located a mere 1.5 miles from the most underground and quiet stadium in the B1G, Wolverine State Brewing Company has enough beer to make sure you won’t remember yelling at some dude wearing khakis, thinking he was actually Jim Harbaugh.
Wolverine State brews lagers and lagers only, which is pretty cool. Lagers are more difficult to brew than ales (these are the two overarching styles of beer and have to do with what type of yeast the brewer is using and what temperature the beer is fermenting at, for those wondering) as the brewer can’t hide impurities in the beer with a healthy dose of whatever fruit brewers are using in their milkshake IPAs these days. This is not a knock on milkshake IPAs, mind you, I love them dearly but it is worth noting that choosing to only brew lagers is choosing a more difficult path.
Michigan is an excellent state for drinking beer and there are a number of wonderful breweries that don’t make it to Wisconsin that you should seek out when you go to the liquor store. Just ask the friendly staff at the store for something local and tasty and then tell them you’re from Wisconsin so they know to direct you to the high-octane stuff.
Name: Wolverine State Brewing Company
Location: 2019 W Stadium Blvd, Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Key Beers: Wolverine Premium Lager; District 16 Amber Lager; Big House Brown Lager; see the interview below for a special beer being released this weekend!
Are you ready to tailgate!? These folks are! Make sure you tailgate is rocking with Wolverine State Brewing Co. #tailgate #pregame #footballseason #fall #annarbor #wolverine pic.twitter.com/i05IXZon4y— Wolverine Beer (@wolverinebeer) September 7, 2018
Awards Won: They won seven medals at the 2018 World Expo of Beer and won a silver and a bronze at the Great American Beer Festival this year. You can see some of their older awards here.
Here is my interview, conducted via email and lightly edited, with brewmaster Oliver Roberts.
What got you started in the brewing industry?
I got started in brewing at home in 2001. It was a revelation and the process of making beer became quite an obsession.
When did you change your career path to brewing?
I was working in the family business which was large scale embroidery production, and homebrewing on the side, winning some medals around 2005. That’s when I decided I wanted to see if I could get hired at a local brewpub. I actually didn’t get the job at first, talk about devastation! But the head brewer called me just a month or so after because there was an opening for an assistant position. The rest is history.
What is your favorite beer that your brewery makes?
The favorites come and go, but I am typically enamored with our pilsners and our malt-forward beers. Like our Maibock and our other amber lagers. There’s such a purity in their overall profile, no trickery, pure beer.
What is your favorite beer that another brewery in Michigan makes?
Again, I don’t really have favorites. I am always interested in lagers that other breweries make since that is my specialty. I try not to drink the trends but I am guilty as anyone of trying someone’s NEIPA.
What is your favorite beer that a brewery in Wisconsin makes?
Spotted Cow of course! And Totally Naked, both from New Glarus. That answer might be generic but I the first time I had a New Glarus beer I knew I would drink one whenever I could get my hands on one!
Do you follow college football?
I wish I had time to follow anything! Running a brewery takes up a lot of mind share, but I watch every Michigan game I can. Growing up my dad and grandfather worked in the press box at Michigan Stadium so I have some very fond memories of seeing games from up there.
If so, how do you think the Wisconsin vs. Michigan game will turn out?
Go Blue! It should be a good game though, Big Ten match up with the number ones (Author’s note: Michigan hasn’t finished higher than third in the B1G East while Jim Harbaugh is the head coach) from each division. Heck yeah!
Is your beer distributed in Wisconsin?
It is not sadly. We only distribute in southern and mid-Michigan.
Do you offer tours of the brewery?
We do offer tours on Sundays after 3 p.m. if the bartenders aren’t too busy and you ask. We don’t advertise it!
Which of your beers should Badgers fans drink before/after the game while tailgating?
Definitely try our Premium Lager which is a perfect game day beer, and we are also releasing our Squishy Squashy Lager for this weekend. It is brewed with pumpkin and aged on roasted/pureed butternut squash. It has a very distinct body that is really smooth and just a kiss of squash sweetness. Perfect Fall beer!
What do you listen to while brewing?
I usually listen to podcasts. I am a news junkie but once I get through the headlines, I do food podcasts, storytelling and I love TED Talks. I really just love podcasts.
Why is beer important to you?
When I first discovered beer it was the first organic thing I had ever created. I was a big tinkerer as a kid, building stuff, fixing things, but I wasn’t into food or cooking really. When I discovered brewing it was a way for me to take that energy and translate it into both creating something but I also got to play with the equipment. The foundation of it all is in the history of brewing. Humans have been making beer for thousands of years, and I felt like when I looked back on my life someday I could say that I spent my time adding to an ingrained aspect of human civilization. To feel like I was carrying on a tradition that has been bringing people and communities together throughout recorded time. If someone could tell me that’s not pretty cool, they’ve never had a beer.