I’ll admit to being a little leery of choosing restaurants that are in strip malls. The same holds true for a brewery/restaurant. But consider this: If Dragonmead Brewery in Warren can produce world-class, award-winning beers out of what looks like a former machine shop on the I-696 industrial corridor service drive, who am I to pre-judge?
Still, it was with a bit of skepticism that I visited Sherwood Brewing Co. in Shelby Township.
First things first. The beer. It’s good.
Ray Sherwood has been brewing what they call “obnoxiously unpretentious beers” for 11 years now. He began home brewing 20-plus years ago, shadowed at East Lansing’s Harper’s Brewpub, then managed Brewing World, a store owned by the Kuhnhenn brothers (yes, the ones who turned a hardware store into yet another world-class Warren brewery).
My go-to is an India Pale Ale, but I’ll wander off occasionally. Sherwood’s frequently changing pathways include names like Hell Road Hefeweizen (a backhanded homage to the congested mess otherwise known as Hall Road/M-59), the Entire Buzz Honey Porter, and a Lawnmower IPA (a lower-alcohol beer you might quaff a few of after cutting the grass).
More adventurous tastes run to the coffee-infused Kona Porter or a Bourbon Barrel Aged SourWood Smoked Pumpkin Porter (at 5.5 percent ABV, it’s not as strong as it sounds). For their 10th “Abbyversary” last year, there was even more of a mouthful: Agua Fresca Watermelon Mint Lime Ale. They also make wine and meads with similarly whimsical names, including a White Rabbit Moscato and a 50 Shades of Earl Grey mead.
So now that the brewery part of the equation passed muster nicely, what about the food? The first bite of a pizza was so good, it raised a question. The menu advertised a Scotch Egg as being wrapped in Corridor Sausage. Was the sausage used on our pizza also from those Eastern Market artisans?
Our server confirmed our suspicions.
That attention to detail and use of other quality ingredients raising Sherwood’s fare to well above its self-described goal to serve “elevated pub grub.”
The man behind the kitchen is Corey Paul, a onetime aspiring psychologist who was also a home brewer. He started at Sherwood as a cook, but became a part owner — and brewer, too.
Paul says his goal is to support “as many other local businesses as possible.” There’s the House Beer Chili (adapted from Sherwood’s grandmother’s recipe, Paul says). They use Better Made potato chips to crust their fish and chips. Corridor sausage makes a few more appearances — on the “Michigander” sandwich served on a pretzel roll (fresh from Hamtramck’s Metropolitan Baking Co.) or atop the “Bangers and Mac” four-cheese blend.
Heartier fare sounds tempting, too. Especially the Hackbraten — a pork and beef meatloaf with onion gravy. Homemade extends to dessert, including gelato made with their beer, wine, or sodas.
A third leg of the Sherwood team is Lisa Sherwood, who handles the business side of things. But her background in youth development and family services shows in the brewery’s connections to the community, from donating to school events to holding an annual Presents for Pints program, where Sherwood customers trade wishes (gifts) for beer and pizza to benefit local children.
Good beer. Good food. Good neighbors. Add in some live music, trivia nights, and other special events, and you’ve got the makings of a very nice place to hang out.
Even though it is in a strip mall.