Royal Oak Brewery (Royal Oak, MI)

Well, after several weeks of relaxing at home, the traveling is starting up again in earnest. Last week, we went to Michigan for Carol’s sister’s wedding. While the wedding itself was in Howell, MI, we arrived a day early to go visit some of her family up in St Clair, MI (and after the wedding, we spend several extra days in Detroit due to Hurricane Irene, but that’s another story). Along the way, we stopped in Royal Oak, MI, to meet up with Carol’s sister and her fiance and hand off the wedding veil Carol made. And get some beers and sandwiches.

The primary attraction to me of Royal Oak Brewery is well, the beer. Royal Oak Brewery is known for their beers, and typically has about half a dozen varieties on tap, ranging from their standard IPA, porter, wheat, and amber, as well as a handful of seasonals. I’ve always enjoyed their porter, but seeing that they had a black IPA, I decided to try one. In 2010, I think just about every craft brewery did a black IPA, although some of them decided to call them things like “Cascadian Dark Ales” instead, but after a year, the hype has died down and only the strong contenders seem to still be out there. Royal Oak’s Black IPA was quite nicely done. A nice overall flavor like an IPA, with perhaps a bit of a resin note, the beer shifts slowly to a dark malty flavor with a bit of nut. Not quite as good as my favorite (Otter Creek’s Black IPA), it was well done. So was the porter I followed it with.

Moving on to the food, I ended up settling on a sandwich, the “Pastrugula” in particular. Aside from the slightly awkward name (“arugula” by itself is slightly awkward, “pastrugula” slightly more so), it was quite a good sandwich. Those that know me well know that I really like the slightly bitter taste of arugula, especially after discovering the combination of thin-sliced Spanish chorizo and “rocket” (the British name for arugula) at an EAT in London. This worked in a very similar way: an ample slab of deli pastrami, topped with a hearty portion of fresh arugula, lightly dressed in a horseradish aioli on a thick toasted slab of white bread. The focus was on the arugula, with some nice salty, spicy, and smoky notes from the pastrami, a bit of moisture and bite from the aioli, and some crunch from the bread. A good sandwich, and a great match to the Black IPA I was drinking. Coupled with a nicely executed crunch and not-overdressed cole slaw, and it was a nice way to have lunch and catch up with Carol’s family.

Overall, I enjoyed the Royal Oak Brewery. This wasn’t my first visit (that was in 2006, when I was in Detroit for almost two weeks for training, and had a chance to really explore some of the suburbs), but the quality is still there, riding high. I’ll be back.

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