After more than 25 years, John Linardos isn’t interested in sending his craft beer all over the world. He knows his skills, he’s honed his craft, and he isn’t into the newest fads in beer — what he refers to as DYI, or “Do-Yourself-In.”
Linardos established the city’s first microbrewery on Canfield Avenue in 1994, well before Cass Corridor became Midtown and before tap rooms started cranking out watermelon seltzers. He started Motor City Brewing Works with a few simple beers and a wood-fired pizza oven. When he first opened, Linardos wanted to preside over a comfortable neighborhood gathering spot, brew some interesting products with his buddies, and boost creative young talent. At the brewing company’s new tap house on Livernois Avenue, which opened on Monday, July 12, Linardos has the opportunity to grow and refine that dream.
The expansion is a long time coming. Linardos began scouting for a second location for MCBW in 2016, finally homing in on the Avenue of Fashion around 2018. Since then, with the help of friends and a grant from Motor City Match, he’s refurbished the interior of the former Hunter’s Supper Club with meticulous attention to detail. Linardos shored up the exposed wooden roof beams and repaired bricks, windows, and the fieldstone fireplace. The hardwood floors, likely original to the 100-plus-year-old building, have been sanded and polished to a shine.
The Livernois taproom’s cavernous space was left open to foster conversation and mingling. Linardos aims for the spot to be a neighborhood anchor, bolstering the retail establishments and restaurants that already line the Avenue of Fashion. “We don’t want to be a destination where you’re counting on people to drive in. We’d rather just be steady and serve the community around us,” Linardos says. To that end, he’s filled the menu with unfussy but fresh and shareable items, like the Banh Mi Oh My sandwich, vegetarian “beef” nachos, and a full line of brick-oven pizzas.
As part of his determination to provide a community benefit, Linardos is also keen to foster new talent in Detroit’s brewing scene. “We’re looking to host younger brewers so they can experiment and we can give them some tutelage,” he says. “And then other brewers can come in and work on some collaborative projects. When you have a system this small you can screw around and even if you mess up the consequences aren’t that huge.”
Linardos’s longtime friends and Detroit brewing legends Scott King (founder of King Brewing, Milking It Productions, and Axle Brewing) and Pat Scanlon (Rochester Mills, Detroit Brew Factory, Royal Oak Brewing) join Linardos in crafting MCBW’s beers. To allow for a roomier kitchen and a focus on fresh, simple food, most of the beer served at the Livernois location will continue to be brewed at the Canfield Avenue microbrewery. In addition to perennial favorites Ghettoblaster Pale Ale and Nut Brown Ale, the Livernois taproom offers a small-run cider, a new summer ale, and a few canned cocktails.
But Linardos and friends aren’t resting entirely on their beer-making laurels. The trio are eager to unveil the new Motor City Mettle Series, a limited-run series of high-gravity India Pale Ales. The artwork for each of the beers was designed by Detroit artist Chris Turner. The Mettle series will consist of four different small-batch IPAs: Dank and Hazy, Notorious, Gigawatt, and Notorious Pineapple Jalapeno. The Notorious, currently on tap at the Livernois location, is a double-dry-hopped, double-riced IPA whose tart crispness and smooth finish belies the substantial 8.7 percent ABV. None of the Mettle Series IPA is a weakling. The Dank & Hazy IPA also packs a punch at 7.8 percent and features double oat and wheat in addition to Amarillo, Cascade, Citra, and Mosaic hops.
After successfully exporting MCBW’s Ghettoblaster to several other states, Linardos is tightening the focus of the brewing company’s operations. Ghettoblaster will now be limited to southeast Michigan, and the Mettle series will be available only through two distributors at a small number of bars and stores. “The whole origin of the craft movement was to make small batches that were fresh to be consumed quickly,” he says. “What’s happening in our industry is that we’re going from micro to macro. The highly successful breweries are distributing beer now outside of the country. So we had to sit and think, ‘Can we do that? Is that us? What are our roots?’”
The goal, he says, is for each ounce of the Mettle Series to be produced, bottled, or kegged, then distributed, sold, and consumed within days of its creation. “Our roots are in this hyper-fresh beer that folks can get right away. We’re a company that’s at 25 years and we’re figuring out what we’re going to do for the next 25. So we’ve throttled back to concentrate on our back yard.”
Motor City Brewing Works, 19350 Livernois, initially opens with limited hours: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.