How a crowdfunding homebrewer started Detroit’s funkiest brewery
“I don’t come to the table with deep pockets, and I’m coming into all this with creative and very interesting funding models,” Roginson said. “I have to do it very incrementally.”
Roginson said the Ford announcement “has underlined the importance of having growth plans in place to accommodate more people in the tap room, as well as more production space.”
And despite the success with beer, he said he’s keeping his mind open.
“I drink beer at work all day long,” Roginson said. “And when I go home, I’m typically drinking wine, or I’m drinking bourbon. And I love all of these things, and if I get a chance to make them also, and if I can make them well, game on. Let’s party.”
‘What blew my mind’
Roginson, 41, didn’t always like beer.
“It turned out, it was because I just wasn’t a fan of, like, the yellow, fizzy, American lagers,” he said. “But I had a couple of things that piqued my curiosity. Things that were kind of craft back then, you know, Pete’s Wicked Ale, Samuel Adams, some European stuff.
“Then I had Maudite from Unibroue (a Canadian brewery known for its Belgian-style beers), and that was what blew my mind … I was like, ‘Oh my god, what — I need to know how to do this.'”
When he was 19 and attending Oakland University, he started homebrewing.
“I got a part-time job at a party store in Rochester called Mr. Pizza Bootleg,” he said. There, a beer and wine buyer convinced the owners to sell homebrew supplies in one of the aisles. “I was working one day and started talking to him about it.”
The brewery also won $50,000 from Comerica Bank through the Hatch Detroit contest in 2013. That year, Hatch Detroit, a nonprofit group that seeks to encourage Detroit retail businesses, had narrowed the contestants from about 200 submissions to 10, then four. Batch was selected by a panel of judges and popular vote.
It opened its existing location, which also serves food, in 2015 at 1400 Porter St. Roginson said he’s the primary owner, with operational business partner Jason Williams and three minority investors.
The brewery and restaurant, with its communal seating on long tables, regularly gets busy on weekends as people come in to taste about 20 beers it keeps on tap.
“German Oktoberfest is as close as we have to beer religion — we do that with a lot of reverence,” Roginson said. “And then we also make beer slushies, which is a total spit in the face of any beer tradition that has ever been, especially craft.”
Those distinctively non-traditional slushies — Marta Rita margarita-style gose, Mocha Oatmeal Stout or the Blood In Orange Out Creamsicle hefeweizen — draw some of the longest lines at summer festivals.
In 2017, the brewery won a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival for Antwerp’s Placebo, a Belgian strong dark ale, in the Other Strong Beer category.
Six Michigan HopCat locations all offer Feelgood Taps, and Knape said they’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars with them in the past couple years. The special tap is labeled on the menu, and the servers and bartenders help explain it to customers.
“It’s a fun way for them to kind of engage the guests and explain how a pretty simple decision can make an impact,” he said.
This month, the taps have helped support Michigan Humane Society. Charities served through Feelgood Tap donations are rotated to help local and regional nonprofits.
“It raises money through craft-beer sales and deploys it to other nonprofits; basically, it is a micro-grant-creating entity,” Roginson said. “There’s no shortage of need in the world, no shortage of issues. There’s just shortage of resources.”
Spirits of Detroit columnist Robert Allen covers craft alcohol for the Free Press. Contact him: email@example.com or on Untappd, raDetroit and Twitter, @rallenMI.
Batch Brewing Co.
10th Annual Detroit Fall Beer Festival
Presented by Michigan Brewers Guild
5-9 p.m. Fri. ($40 in advance, $45 at the gate if available)
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