(Comstock Park, MI) — With SheFed out of town, I’m looking for a solo adventure one night. My buddy T-Bone informs me Perrin Brewing Company in Comstock Park just opened their doors to the public so that settles it. I put out the word to anyone who wants to join a bachelor for dinner, then drive out to the relatively rural environs near 7 Mile Road...
At first, I’m not sure I got the address right. Turning down 7 Mile from Alpine is like going through a portal to another dimension...one where there’s trees and farmland. I slow down, sure I must have passed the building. I’m looking for a small microbrewery, maybe adjunct to one of these industrial farm buildings? Wrong. Suddenly, a space opens up on the south side of the road and this massive building rises up. “Perrin Brewing”, a sign along the rooftop reads proudly.
The monstrous parking lot is packed but I find a space and walk inside. Again, I am struck by how huge this structure is. There are some folks enjoying beer on the patio, one of the first features that reminds me immediately of the Founders building. Inside, the bar is relatively small but there are many tables. People are happily drinking and eating, while servers scurry to and fro. Straight ahead are large windows looking into the production facility, which is also cavernous. Brewers are clearly hard at work. To the right of the main dining area is an alcove of sorts that houses a permanent trailer kitchen, where all the food is prepared.
I find T-Bone at the bar and we retire to a table to await our friends, who show up shortly. Although there is no sampler to order, you can order individual samples from each of the three beer tiers. Each tier is more expensive and a more complex brew. Old E and I decide to go “round the horn”, ordering 3 ounce samples of the eight beers. Perrin’s philosophy is to call the beer what it is, rather than conjuring some fancy name so an IPA is an IPA, a stout is a stout, etc. It’s a bold maneuver in a market saturated with sometimes too-clever beer monikers, and allows both the beer style and the main brand (Perrin) to speak for themselves.
Although I poke fun at T-Bone for sticking with the Golden Ale, I actually find it to be a delicious, quaffable beer. In fact, all the styles—including Black Lager, Strong Pale, IPA, Imperial Stout, Raspberry Blonde—are rock solid versions. My favorite is the Extra Pale Ale, which has a nice round mouthfeel, a little bitterness from the 100% Michigan hops, and is light enough to drink for a while. I’m happy to report there is none of that “brand new microbrewery” taste one encounters at a freshly-opened facility. All styles are mature, drinkable, but do lack a through-line that gives a brewery’s output a unifying characteristic. I’ll be curious to find out if a defining identity emerges over time.
We are all hungry so decide to order a variety of starters. Homemade chips are crisp and thick, perfect dippers for the chili cheese fries. Onion rings are likewise crispy, not too greasy, and the breading is used sparingly. The onion rings come with a spicy buffalo sauce that tastes great with everything. Just as we’re nearing the end of apps, JoJo joins us for dinner. I go with the corn dog (one of my weaknesses) and a loaded hot dog. Unfortunately the corn dog is pale and flaccid in the breading, something that could have been purchased at GFS or in the freezer section at the grocery store. I’m not real keen on the hot dog either (if you’re going to put a hot dog on the menu in Grand Rapids, it better be Koegel’s or something as impressive), though the toppings are nice: chili, melted cheese, and a slice of dill pickle.
Our server is pretty overwhelmed but does her level best to keep us happy. Other servers and managers check in on us from time to time, which I found to be a good touch, especially considering they just opened. I’m sure, after a while, service and food will smooth out. Meantime, I have no problem stopping in for a fresh beer occasionally.