In an unassuming strip mall on Pontiac Trail, a small-town Oakland County brewery (and destination spot for beer geeks from afar) awaits the opening of its new location, less than a mile to the north. "We're super excited," says owner Ryan Cottongim. "The new bar will be twice as long, and we're increasing from a three-barrel to a 15-barrel system at our new brewhouse. We believe in not going too far from home. We want to stay as a southeast Michigan brewery. No bottling. You gotta come here to get it." Indeed, going from a 1,600-square-foot strip-mall location to a huge 8,000-square-foot standalone location with seating for 80 and private parking is a serious upgrade. "No food yet," says manager Mandy Gaedtke. "We have unlimited baskets of popcorn, and we're in discussion with some food trucks though."
Witch's Hat is run by husband-and-wife owners Ryan and Erin Cottongim, both South Lyon natives. "Witch's Hat Depot was a Queen Anne train depot back in 1909 in South Lyon. Now it's a museum in McHattie Park, where we got married," says Ryan. "My wife and I shared a passion for Michigan beer. We loved the hell out of it. A few years ago, we were both laid off, so we set up a business plan, and Witch's Hat was born December 2011, the day after Christmas."
Witch's Hat currently has 12 beers on tap. In total, they offer six year-round beers, 17 seasonals, and nine bourbon barrel-aged beers. All beer can also be purchased to go in 32-ounce or 64-ounce growlers. Longtime home brewer and co-owner Ryan is also the brewmaster, overseeing two apprentice brewers. "Our top sellers are Train Hopper IPA, our flagship beer, Night Fury with Vanilla Bean, and a Russian Imperial Stout aged on Madagascar vanilla beans and brewed with molasses," Ryan tells us. Other beers include Edward Portly Brown, Sir Edward's Double Brown, Demon Clean Tripel, seasonal Pumpkin Porter brewed with organic Michigan pumpkins, and more.
At the annual World Expo of Beer earlier this year, Witch's Hat won a silver medal for Train Hopper and a bronze for its Night Fury Vanilla Bean. The brewery's Mug Club membership is quite popular, as well. Gaedtke says, "People love it. We have over 400 mugs owned by customers and custom-made by the Dearborn Glass Academy." Witch's Hat also does "collab beers" such as Dank Wasser with Unity Vibration in Ypsilanti, and Baltic Porter with Liberty Street in Plymouth. In Detroit, Witch's Hat is on tap at Slows, Grand Trunk, and Woodbridge Pub.
"We're like one big family. I'm a lifer," Gaedtke says. "Our coworkers and clientele are so kickass, I don't want to leave."
"We're grateful for our community and all the beer fans in Southeast Michigan supporting us," says Ryan. "Thank you for putting up with the cramped-ness and the smallness. We're leaving the strip mall and having our own identity now. We open Nov. 15, and our official grand opening will be Friday, Dec. 26, 2014 to celebrate our third anniversary."
The opening party takes place noon to midnight Nov. 15, at Witch's Hat Brewing Company, 601 S. Lafayette St., South Lyon; witchshatbrewing.com.