Tucked behind Holiday Market, just a few blocks from Royal Oak's bustling downtown, Roak Brewing Co. opened its doors to the public last week. The place is owned and operated by a few guys who had admittedly never brewed an ounce of beer in their lives, but the business is no amateur fete. Co-owners John Leone, Chuck Mascari, and Chuck Mascari Jr. brought on Brandon MacClaren, who's worked at New Holland, among other craft breweries, as head brewer and business partner. MacClaren got to work right away, manipulating's Roak's custom-built 30-barrel brewing system.
The results of MacClaren's initial efforts are six signature brews. Live Wire IPA, Kashmir Belgian strong dark ale, Powerboat Belgian white ale, Around the Clock session IPA, Mean Street American amber ale, and Devil Dog oatmeal stout are all available at the brewpub and are already being distributed. A limited run of Melonfest, a seasonal cantaloupe-based beer is also available at the brewery.
One beer in particular is very close to Leone's heart. Devil Dog is dedicated to troops who served in World War I and also to Leone's late and much beloved Doberman Pinscher, Primo. Proceeds from sales of the beer will go to the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit and, according to Leone, Roak is also hoping to find a suitable animal-related charity to share the proceeds with.
While Roak's signature brews are made inside huge tanks capable of producing 13,500 barrels a year, another, smaller system is also in place to make limited run beers that will be featured for short intervals inside the brewpub. A few are already in the works.
Beer is the focal point at Roak, but the facility will also offer deck oven pizzas, appetizers, salads, and charcuterie. Mascari says they plan to keep the menu small, and may even restrict it further in the future. The kitchen is run by Leone's brother, chef Ralph Leone, who can talk at length about everything from cheese to bread to prosciutto to his years of making pizza.
The tasting room is an intimate, 70-seat room with an outdoor eating area. Unlike other breweries that go for a more rustic theme inside their tasting rooms, Roak opted for an artistic concept.
A 30-foot glass sculpture designed by local artist Mark Bommarito soars above the tap handles behind the bar. A crystal chandelier hangs in the middle of the room. The room is filled with four-seater tables complemented by modern brown leather chairs. Sure, it sounds fancy but Mascari says it's the kind of place families can show up to in T-shirts and jeans. Kids are more than welcome at Roak.
A fledgling business, brewery, and brewpub Roak has all the parts to make a spectacular whole.