by Larry Lehna
Craft beer isn't just for cakes at the WAB.
Launched in 1997, Woodward Avenue Brewers (aka “the WAB”) was a pioneer in the craft beer industry. Opening the business entailed remodeling a decrepit old building and turning it into a modern microbrewery. Sixteen years later, the spot is a fixture in what has become one of the country’s greatest craft beer states. The WAB brews beers for every taste bud, even including root beer for those who want a non-alcoholic beverage. The brews run the gamut from blond and pale ales to darker and heavier porters and stouts. The products are so successful that they are in the process of getting the licenses and finding space to open their own bottling plant. They have been here long enough to have many avid devotees. The bottling would allow more people to enjoy the fine taste of their lovingly crafted hometown creations. As it stands, their fans must be content with purchasing half-gallon jugs called “growlers” directly from the WAB. If you phone ahead your growler will be ready when you arrive, although most people want to enjoy at least one pint of WAB’s distinctive brews when they come for their carryout.
The atmosphere is informal and relaxed. WAB is not a sports bar, but there are enough TVs so that you can keep an eye on the local games from almost any seat in the house. They offer two bars: the downstairs area features two huge garage doors that are open when weather permits and connect to their sidewalk café area. WAB was the first to originally petition the city of Ferndale to allow sidewalk seating. Once it was allowed, many other eateries in Ferndale were quick to open their own sidewalk serving areas, which brought a quaint aura to the whole town. Few remember that WAB was at the forefront of this initiative.
The WAB helped bring sidewalk seating to Ferndale.
The upstairs bar is a wonderful area. It is partitioned with several different levels and an area with pool tables and games. The partitions create many almost intimate sections that, though connected, offer a modicum of privacy. The best tables are against the windows. The WAB is situated perfectly in the middle of downtown Ferndale. This second floor crow’s-nest provides a beautiful view of a totally cosmopolitan city. Ferndale is an example of how a melting pot should work, and you can watch it operate from this glassed-in patio. The traffic on Woodward is another attraction. It does not have to be the “cruise week” to enjoy watching the vehicles drive by. There is no telling what may appear.
The second floor has plenty of room for fun and games.
Some people think they can’t afford to go to a microbrewery. They might think it can be too expensive for a blue-collar person. Often it is these same people who are beer’s most passionate advocates. But such worries are overblown: At the WAB you can indulge your thirst for truly great beer without breaking your budget. Keep in mind that it costs more to brew good beer in smaller quantities. Best, the WAB even offers specials cut beer drinkers some extra slack. On Sundays, all pints are only $2. If you can afford some shot-and-a-beer dive, you can afford great beer at the WAB on Sundays. They also offer half-off on all food items on Mondays after 4 p.m. Real people can afford to eat and drink here.
All food is half-off on Mondays after 4 p.m.
You will find the staff friendly and knowledgeable. If you can describe the type of beer you enjoy, they will steer you to the craft beers that’s best for you. Their general manager, Kevin, will go out of his way to help you. He may not look like your typical general manager. You are just as likely to find him with a broom or a mop in his hand as you are to find him with a ledger. That just sends a message that he will do whatever it takes to make the WAB run smoothly.
The WAB entered a new and risky business. And the place has really thrived, in the process bringing a whole new look to the city of Ferndale. Stop in and try a pint of beer with real flavor, or try their 4 oz. samplers. If you enjoy good beer you will be back.
Woodward Avenue Brewers is at 22646 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-546-3696; thewabsite.com.