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Are Microbreweries the New Wineries?

Royal Oak's brewpubs benefit from nationwide trend as more customers begin to appreciate the diverse flavors and nuances of craft beer.

There's something to be said about what's brewing in Royal Oak. Within a few blocks of Main Street, one can find at least three brewpubs – ,  and . 

Although wine sales are still strong – take for example the popularity of Royal Oak's , and – the National Brewers Association said that in the last year about 100 breweries have opened across the nation and craft beer sales are continually rising.

So, are breweries the new wineries?

"The funny thing that is happening with beer right now is that it's being appreciated a lot more than wine is," said Scott Morton, part owner of Lily's Seafood on Washington.

is a family owned and operated brewpub, characterized as a restaurant-brewery with more than 25 percent of beer sales created on site. Morton, who is in charge of the brewing, has run the operation with his brother Bob for the last 11 years. 

"I think wine connoisseurs are starting to try all these beers and say this is great," Morton said. "This is another opportunity to try a different kind of beverage and still have all this diversity and be able to sit and taste and appreciate."

Seven very different craft beers can always be found at Lily's, with two seasonal beers always in rotation. Royal Oak Brewery also offers seven house beers, and at Bastone there are at least six on tap. 

Like wine, craft beer offers customers an opportunity to sit and savor the subtle flavors and nuances in each glass.

"Beer appeals to a broader base of people," said John Sleamon, who has been a manager at Bastone for three years. "Not everyone enjoys drinking wine." 

Bastone, a brewpub that opened in 2004, seeks to add sophistication to its beer drinking with art deco decor and Belgian-style brews. Except for Sam Adams, Bastone has won more awards for its beers than any other brewery in the country,  Sleamon said.

The popularity of the craft beer industry can be attributed to its wide availability. Many local grocery stores carry Michigan microbrews on their shelves and instead of visiting a bar where your selection maybe limited to a lager style, customers now can choose between wheats, IPAs, blondes, porters, stouts, etc. The varieties and flavors are endless.

"People who drink beer are now aware that they have more choices and they are starting to appreciate the nuances that beer can now offer them," said Morton, who admits he had to first develop his palette to appreciate a wheat beer. 

Each brewery offers their customers beer samplers to encourage trying a brew they might not otherwise choose.

"There was a time when beer was only associated with the 'beer guy,'" Morton said. "It's not like that anymore."

Julia Herz December 08, 2010 at 07:03 PM
Great article. On the statement in the beginning: 'wine sales still surpass that of beer' this is not correct. You can take the sales of wine and spirits in the U.S., combine them, and you still don't match the sales of beer. We are a beer loving nation first and foremost. Nice to see the smaller guys featured. Julia Herz Craft Beer Program Director Brewers Association-Boulder, Colorado http://www.craftbeer.com
Beth Reeber Valone December 09, 2010 at 02:53 AM
Writer says, to clarify: The statement "wine sales still surpass that of beer" is in regard to craft beer sales. While Ms. Herz is completely correct that beer sales trump wine sales not only in the United States, but globally as well, and have for quite sometime. However, in regard to craft beer, while wine sales for the last few years have bounced around $30 billion – California wine sales alone were $17.9 billion, according to the Wine Institute – craft beer sales in 2009 were about $6.98 billion, according to the National Brewers Association. Sorry about the misunderstanding!

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