Craft Beer Conversation: Nain Rouge Brewery In Midtown Detroit Pays Homage To Legend

By WWJ Newsradio 950
WWJ’s Zach Clark is searching metro Detroit for the best of the best when it comes to craft beer. On a quest for the best tastes, funkiest brews and most unique experiences on the craft beer scene, “Craft Beer Conversation” will be a weekly series highlighting the area’s best. Be sure to check it out every Friday.

DETROIT (WWJ) – Nain Rouge Brewery is set to open up its own brewing facility and a taproom within the next few months, but head brewer Dave Hale already has a head start.

With the opening of Smith & Co., a New American restaurant inside the old Smith Welding Supply & Equipment Company building near the intersection of Selden Street and 2nd Avenue in Midtown Detroit, Hale’s beer has its first home.

Nain Rouge is currently brewing at another facility, but exclusively serving its beer at the newly opened Smith & Co. until they open their own microbrewery across the courtyard. While Hale says that is set to open soon, he’s excited to focus on his craft.

“I’ve always been a beer-first, beer flavor and ingredient type of brewer,” Hale told WWJ’s Zach Clark. “As years have gone by, I’ve had to step outside of that box and get a little more creative with all the different types of natural additives and ingredients that all of us craft brewers are getting into.”

Hale’s operation gets its name from the Nain Rouge – or the Red Dwarf of Detroit, said to be a harbinger of doom to the city. Legend says seeing the Nain Rouge is a sign of bad things to come. That’s why Detroiters chase the spirit away every spring with the Marche du Nain Rouge in Midtown.

“It’s got such an interesting history and background to it. We’re really into the legends and folklore and we’re really fortunate to have the city of Detroit and the people behind the Nain Rouge movement here. They wrapped their arms around us.”

Hale says he had to get a little creative with his three beers currently on-tap at Smith & Co. -- the Detroit Hibiscus Wheat, Confus Guava IPA and 644 amber.

“With the hibiscus, we thought about the Nain Rouge and the rouge and the color and that hibiscus gives the nice red, pinkish hue to the beer. I wanted a very approachable beer for that, and that’s why I chose the American wheat style,” Hale said.

As for the Confus Guava IPA, Hale says it’s a New England-style IPA, a style that’s beginning to take off on the craft beer scene.

He says he’s hoping the 644 Amber – named for the restaurant’s address of 644 Selden Street – will become Nain Rouge’s signature beer.

“My introduction to the craft beer world were ambers. So I’m really looking to pay homage to those beers and put a nice personal and Detroit spin to the styles,” Hale said.

While the brewery’s official opening date has not yet been determined, Smith & Co. is not only pouring Nain Rouge, but features 20 taps and craft cocktails are on their way. The restaurant, which opened in mid-September, is dishing out a wide range of options, from empanadas, to corned beef sandwiches, to shrimp and grits.

Zach's Brew Review:

"The Nain Rouge Detroit Hibiscus Wheat is the ethos of Smith & Co. A tribute to not only the Rouge River but a modern twist to a classic style. The Detroit Wheat has a distinct flavor without being heavy on the palette. It excuses itself with a clean finish. If you're going to attach yourself to the lore that is Nain Rouge, you better bring the funk. If you're going to have  a beer in a building that's over a century old, let it be the Nain Rouge Detroit Hibiscus Wheat."

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Listen to more of Zach Clark's conversation with Dave Hale: