Fort Street Brewery

Downriver is the redheaded stepchild of suburban Detroit. It’s like everything bad about the region gets sucked down the Detroit River and drifts ashore on the banks of the Ecorse and the Rouge – rednecks, smelly factories, trailers, light beer, and even the threat of nuclear meltdown. Any driver heading south on I-75 is greeted to Downriver by a noxious potpourri of heavy industry, a skyline of grimy smokestacks.

It’s all you ever supposedly hated about Metro Detroit, concentrated in one tidy, easy to avoid area.

In reality, Downriver is just exceedingly average, as functional as it is unglamorous. Cleansed of the yuppifying influences of Woodward Avenue and East Jefferson, it’s Detroit purified. Here, life revolves around the auto plant, the bowling alley, and the high school football team. Diner fare and Budweiser are the chief forms of sustenance.

Or so we’re told. But like with almost any rule, there are exceptions, and Fort Street Brewery in Lincoln Park is one such exception. Located just south of Detroit within a historic commercial district that dates back to the 1800s, Fort Street Brewery’s unstated goal is to bring quality microbrews to the Downriver community.

The owners tore down the remains of an old drug store to construct their unassuming brick building on the corner of Fort & Warwick back in the mid-2000s, hanging banners for local sport teams from the exposed ceiling and liberally affixing TVs to the walls. With long wooden tables and vats in clear view, the brewery’s look is a perfect mix between a Detroit sports bar and a typical brewpub.

The beers on tap try to strike a similar balance. Brewmaster Doug Beedy specifically designed the brewery’s flagship beer, the Lincoln Lager, to appeal to the taste buds of working stiffs. It’s a classic American pale lager similar to Budweiser and Miller, but with a quality level a big corporate conglomerate could never afford to indulge in. Sure enough, it was a runaway success.

But Beedy didn’t just want to appease local palettes; he wanted to expand people’s palettes, to open Downriver up to the wide, wonderful world of craft beer. The brewery’s other mainstay, Doug’s Turbo Sarsaparilla, is a literal take on A&W and Mug and a definite step into a more adventurous direction. Doug calls it a “malt beverage”, but with an alcohol content of 4.2%, it’s basically a darker beer that smells like root beer. Though it’s unlikely to bowl over a beer snob, it’s a top seller with the right amount of twist for its audience.

The rest of the beer lineup is a rotating mix of IPAs, ales, pilsners, and various seasonal brews, all solid but maybe not as bold as the drinks on tap at many competing breweries. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Falling Down Beer Company, a new brewpub in a down on its luck neighborhood in Warren, two miles north of Detroit. It’s hard to say if Beedy is intentionally holding back, or if he’s simple brewing what he likes. Either way, it’s working.

And, oh yeah – Fort Street Brewery serves food, too, an appropriately quirky menu with sausages from the Detroit-based Spanitz Brothers, pirogies, and a variety of sandwiches, from sliders to a Reuben. Again, none of it is Michelin material, but after a few beers, it hits the spot.

At the end of the day, Fort Street Brewery is fighting the good fight. Almost everything on the menu is under $10, with some of the cheapest microbrews around. You’ve got to love what they’re doing on their little stretch of Fort, an old downtown that could use some serious investment.


11 thoughts on “Fort Street Brewery

  1. Doug has really done a great job as a Beer Brewer,,, I’m sad to say I was a regular until a few years ago,,, service sucks and many times he has no IPA’s on tap. He was at first very personable and the last 6 plus times I visited with others he had no time to talk or answer questions. Too bad his plate is over loaded from buying out a partner in the place. I now drive the great craft brews in Wyandotte at the Famous Sports Brew Pub which is and always been so much better than this place. Let me know if you visit downriver again I’ll take you to the best downriver offers,,,, here’s link. ENJOY

  2. I was planning on checking out that bar in Wyandotte soon, actually. I live closer to the Downriver area now (the near west side of Detroit, basically), so I’ll be making some trips to the area.

    Actually, on my visit, the service was so-so and they were out of one of the beers listed on the chalkboard, but I didn’t want to hold that against them. I don’t put much stock in service unless it’s exceptionally bad or exceptionally great, and I didn’t find Fort Street Brewery to be too extreme one way or the other. Plus, it’s common (in my experience) for small-time breweries to run out of beers, especially breweries that change the menu now and then.

    If I had to rate Fort Street, I’d give it a 3 out of 5, and hopefully what I wrote reflected that.

  3. Thanks for the compliment. I’ll definitely check out your blog and I’m always down for beer. My e-mail is on the About page. We could figure out the details through that.

  4. Great article. But the graphic at the top of your Home Page??? What the %$#% are those letters (or I assume they’re letters). I can’t make anything intelligent out of them. Or maybe I’m not supposed to??

  5. I vomited shortly after viewing the picture of the Chicken and Waffles. Not because it looks bad, but because I had just eaten a frozen dinner that expired in 2012. Serves me right.

  6. Well, Andrew, frozen foods are only safe indefinitely if stored properly. 2012 is a long time ago. Maybe some evil bacteria had an orgy on your dinner on the drive home from the grocery store. Perhaps your power went out a few times, and each time the bacteria multiplied like Corona swilling kids on Spring Break.

    Meat is dangerous, man.

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